There are many laws in Virginia that pertain to background checks. Check out our comprehensive guide below to find all the answers to your questions or concerns about getting a background check conducted in Virginia.
Virginia Background Laws
When a background check for criminal history is performed on an individual in Virginia, the search will include all criminal records found in any county or jurisdiction.
Employers are permitted to conduct a background check on a candidate that includes receiving details from the county records that have been submitted to the Virginia State Police repository.
This gives employers an opportunity to verify any potential employee’s criminal background regardless of which county they currently reside in.
There are some criminal record restrictions in Virginia, including limiting employers from using certain criminal records when making an employment decision.
Every employer in Virginia has the legal right to question an applicant about their previous arrest records. They can also use that information when making an employment decision.
However, most of the background checks performed for employment purposes do not include arrest records. Therefore it is up to the potential employee to reveal those details.
Ban the Box
Several jurisdictions in Virginia have instated the ‘ban the box’ law and policies. The locations that have done so are restricted from asking anything about a candidate’s criminal history, either in person or on an employment application.
The legislation in Virginia for ‘ban the box’ currently only applies to any public employer. The state government and any local government jobs in the following jurisdictions must adhere to the ‘ban the box’ rules set forth in the state of Virginia:
- Arlington County
- Fairfax County
- Henry County
This list is continuously being reviewed and could include more jurisdictions at any time once the legislation has passed for the section proposed.
Note: Many of these jurisdictions require a conditional offer of employment is made prior to a public employer conducting a background check on a potential employee.
Sealed and Expungement Laws
If an applicant has an expunged criminal or arrest record, an employer is prohibited under the law not to ask for any details about any expunged or sealed records.
There should never be any information concerning a conviction that has been removed from all public records when receiving a criminal history background check from the Virginia State Police.
Any employer who requires a potential employee to reveal details about a sealed or expunged record could be charged with a misdemeanor. Virginia takes this offense seriously and could find the employer guilty if such a crime were to happen.
What is Revealed on a Criminal History Search in Virginia?
There are laws in Virginia that regulate what can be reported on a criminal history search. Below are what you can expect to see:
- Date of Filing
- Case Number
- Disposition and Date of Disposition
- Offense Charged (Felony, Misdemeanor, Sex Crimes, etc.)
- Recorded Jurisdiction Record Location
The above information does come with limitations when it comes to employers accessing these details.
How to Get a Background Check in Virginia
All employers will take the initiative to conduct a background check on an applicant when deemed necessary. Other institutions, such as banks, landlords, car dealerships, etc., will also perform a background check when applying for a loan or residence.
If you wanted to get a background check done on yourself or another individual, plenty of websites offer these services. Be careful about which service you use because the results can often be incomplete or incorrect for any ‘instant background checks.
You can search the court records in Virginia; however, this process is quite time-consuming and could leave you frustrated with all the paperwork involved.
You can request records through Virginia’s court system by visiting the Clerk of Court in the county where the records are kept. You will need to have a written request, and you’ll be asked to give as many details as possible about the requested files.
Most court records are compiled of many documents and are filed according to the county or jurisdiction where the incident or crime took place.
You’ll be able to access the following details when obtaining court records:
- Orders of the Court
- Case Files
- Court Minutes
- Documentation of Judgment
- Documentation of Witness(s)
- Jury Files and Records
How to Get a Criminal Background Check in Virginia
If you are looking to get a conviction record or a full arrest background check, you must submit a fingerprint card with your request.
If you do not have the fingerprints, then only conviction details will be made available to you. You can obtain this information through the Virginia Department of State Police.
If you want details about an inmate record, you will need to contact the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC). They are responsible for all the state prisons in Virginia and the parole and probation offices.
You can use the Offender Locator search engine found on the website of VADOC to find inmate records for incarceration.
How Far Back Do Background Checks Go in Virginia?
Depending on the background check type, the information can be limited in years or stay available for a lifetime.
When it comes to education, your degrees or diplomas will be available for any background check for as long as you are alive. There are no restrictions on this type of data.
In Virginia, depending on the jurisdiction you live in, there may be some restrictions on how long records can stay on a background check.
For example, most criminal background checks will only go back seven years. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) also dictates when and how information can be used, especially when it comes to employment.
Credit reports typically show all active accounts, closed accounts, and any accounts in collections. These usually remain available for up to seven years, while a bankruptcy record will be present for ten years.
Juvenile records are sealed and not permitted by law to be disclosed on any background check. If a juvenile were tried and convicted of a crime as an adult, that record would be made available to the public.
In some cases, judges are authorized to seal or expunge certain records; if that should happen, those records will not be available to anyone without a legal right.
How Long Does a Background Check Take in Virginia?
Most employers who run background checks through a third-party can typically have their results back in three to five business days. If a criminal records check was also requested, those results could take a bit longer, generally between ten to fourteen days.
There are many companies online that offer background checks in Virginia. Some will even say they can provide instant results. However, the results could not be as expected and might include misinformation or leave out essential data.
If a fingerprint card is requested, you can expect to wait between 15 to 20 days to receive the results.
Background Check Gun Laws in Virginia
Any potential buyer of a firearm in the state of Virginia must be approved by the State Police and have undergone a criminal background check.
There is a program, the Virginia Firearms Transaction Program (VFTP), that is operated by the Virginia Department of State Police and handles all firearms transaction approvals.
It was designed to conduct criminal background checks using the Criminal History Record Information (CHRI) results and make a timely decision as to whether or not a potential buyer of a firearm can be approved.
The sale of any firearm in Virginia must go through this program regarding any sale or transfer of a firearm per Virginia Code §18.2-308.2:2.
An individual cannot sell a firearm for anything of value, including money, services, or goods, without first getting verification from a federally licensed dealer about the potential buyer’s background check and police approval.
There is no background check requirement for a state representative or any person in accordance with a gun ‘giveback or buyback’ program.
You are not allowed to give, sell, barter, furnish any firearm to individuals who are:
- Convicted of a Felony
- Acquitted by Reason of Insanity
- Under the Extreme Risk Protection Orders in Virginia
- Not a Legal Citizen of the United States
- Listed on the Virginia Voluntary Do Not Sell Firearms List
You can also not willingly do any of the above if the firearm’s potential receiver is under the age of 18 years old.
If a juvenile of 14 years or older was found guilty of a felony that would have been charged as an adult, then that person cannot purchase a firearm until he or she turns 29 years old.
Note: You must have a valid government-issued photo ID that is older than thirty days to apply for purchasing a firearm in the state of Virginia. This includes driver’s licenses and duplicate copies, where a DMV record must be present to validate the original date of issue.
What Shows Up On a Background Check in Virginia?
Depending on the type of background check performed, the details provided will vary. For instance, an employer usually checks things in an applicant’s background related to their job posting.
Here is what most employers typically look for in a background check:
- Full Name, Alias, and Maiden Names
- Address on File and Previous Addresses History
- Employment History (including locations and dates)
- Verification of Education (diplomas, certificates, and degrees)
- Criminal History
Some employers might also check your driver’s records and or credit report. This is typically done for any position that involves management or handling the company’s finances.
It is also mandatory for any position related to finances, childcare, working with the elderly, and any job that requires driving a company-issued vehicle.
Almost all insurance companies will require employers to run credit reports and obtain an applicant’s driving record when the position being considered involves using a company car or requires handling any of the business’s finances.
Criminal Background Check
Many employers will want to verify if an applicant has a criminal history and to what extent it would impact their business. Some laws protect individuals with criminal records; however, convictions are public records.
Here is what can show up on a criminal background check in Virginia:
- Full Name, Names Used, Maiden Name, and any Alias’
- Date of Birth
- Full Set of Fingerprints
- Mug Shot(s)
- Notable Marks (Distinguished Birth Marks, Tattoos, Scars, Etc.)
- Offense Charged (Felony, Misdemeanor, Sex Crimes, Etc.)
- Details of the Offense
Can You Get a Free Background Check in Virginia?
If you are looking to obtain an official state background check in Virginia, you will not get this for free. The Virginia State Police conduct all background checks, and you must pay a fee.
You’ll have a choice between requesting a background check using the name-based search option or having the fingerprints background check performed, which includes all charges and arrests details.
You do have access to the Library of Virginia, where all the archived records reside. You can request any copy of an archived record by mail or online. You can also go in person to make your inquiry.
You can visit a Virginia courthouse in the proper jurisdiction to access these public records for free:
- Civil Lawsuits
- Marriage and Divorce Records
- Criminal History Records
- Other Miscellaneous Documents
Note: You will need to go to the relevant court to access any records that took place in the city or county you are searching in.
Public Records in Virginia
Virginia has millions of records on file that allow public access to view them. However, you must reside within the state of Virginia to see these records.
When requesting public records in Virginia, the state must respond to your request within five business days. If they believe it cannot be done within that time frame, they can request a seven-day extension, which is typically granted depending on the circumstances.
You can access some public records online; however, others might require a formal request. If that is the case, you will be asked to either email, mail, or call the department for record-holding.
If asked to submit a formal request, you will need to include:
- Your name, address, phone number, and email address
- Details about the document(s) you wish to receive
- The requested deadline for the documents to be received by
- How you want to receive your files (mail or email)
Note: If you want to go in person to make your formal request, you should first call ahead to confirm the hours you can come into that office and make an appointment if required.
Public records you can find include:
Any records that have been sealed or expunged will not be available. These can only be obtained through a court order.
Why Employers Perform Background Checks
Every employer takes some risk when hiring new employees. The best way to reduce that risk is to conduct a background check on a candidate before hiring them. They do this to protect their assets and their employees.
Suppose an individual is applying for a position that requires a certain level of education or a degree to get hired. In that case, an employer will want to verify the applicant’s credentials before bringing them on board.
It isn’t unusual for a person to misrepresent their qualifications when applying for employment. By conducting a background check, an employer can verify all the potential employee details and decide if that person is considered trustworthy.
Almost all companies will do reference checks with past employers to determine how your character is described by people who have already hired you or worked with you.
Once they have considered all these details, along with the interview process, they can decide whether or not you’re a good fit for the position you applied for.