There are times when you need a background check for a job, a professional license, or a security clearance. West Virginia has some of the broadest public records laws and there is little kept out of the public’s eye.
Those seeking background check information aren’t required to be West Virginia residents. They also do not need to state why they want the information. There are no restrictions on obtaining information, other than requiring approval from the person targeted in the background check in some instances.
Understanding the Different Record Systems
There are several types of records involved in doing a background check. There are driving records, criminal records, inmate records, and court records. While one check will give you a status on many of these things, it will not include the details of all records.
For instance, it may have a felony driving conviction listed but wouldn’t include misdemeanor traffic convictions. It may have a criminal count, but wouldn’t include a final court resolution if it was still in court or may not have inmate records showing incarceration dates.
Criminal records cover every case where a person has a police interaction that ends with charges or an arrest. They are the most extensive but do not include specific reports of the incident. For that, you would need to get the incident report.
Incident reports must be obtained through the local police or sheriff’s agency handling the original case. You will need to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with that agency to obtain that report.
Inmate records contain details about a person’s criminal history including details of the charges and the sentence. It also details when the person about their release.
Driving records are also handled by the West Virginia State Patrol and can be obtained through them. A complete driving record will include both criminal and non-criminal records for traffic violations and typically will go back seven years.
Getting a Background Check in West Virginia
Those wishing to get a background check in West Virginia must get them from IndentoGO, a third-party vendor serving the public.
IndentoGO serves West Virginia in almost all of its record searches used for most common purposes like passports, employment, housing requirements, and adoptions. It can also provide you with any vital records in West Virginia.
The Criminal Identification Bureau, which is under the West Virginia State Police, is the repository for all records but it doesn’t accept people submitting requests for background checks nor does it accept those coming in person with requests.
West Virginia is also different from other states in that it doesn’t do “soft” background checks which are also called name-based checks. It only provides information on criminal background checks which includes fingerprints. A criminal background check is different from a name-based check in other ways.
A criminal background check is also run through the FBI database while a name-based check is typically run only through state agencies.
Accuracy is more certain in the criminal background check because fingerprints are unique while names are not always unique to a person.
Most of those needing a background check for things like employment or professional licensing are going to need a criminal background check. Employers and licensing associations always require the fingerprint version for their approval.
What Does a Background Check Show?
Criminal background checks are much more thorough than name-based checks. It will contain information about every criminal charge you faced, the dates of the arrests and charges, and the outcome of the cases.
A background check will always include:
West Virginia background checks also include any reports relating to sex offender status as well as a “most wanted” check to make sure the subject isn’t on a wanted list either with the state or with the FBI.
It could include other information that can be sent to any private or public agency, person, association, firm, or corporation. The person who is the subject of the background check has their privacy protected by a stipulation that anyone requesting information must have written permission from the subject of the check to obtain their records.
What If My Case Was Dismissed or I Was Acquitted?
Whether or not this shows up on your criminal records depends on the state. In West Virginia, these types of incidents will still appear on your record even if the case was dismissed or you were acquitted of the crime.
The fact is that you were still initially charged and that becomes a part of your permanent criminal background report.
The report should still show the result of the case and that you were either acquitted or the case was dismissed.
What About Juvenile Records?
Under state law, most juvenile criminal records are sealed and not available to the public. That means they
also would not be available to show on criminal background checks.
Obtaining Inmate Reports
Inmate records are a lot more accessible as some of this information is available free online at the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority (RJA) site. Those wanting hard copies of a complete inmate history must obtain them from RJA directly.
You must fill out a written request to obtain a printed version of the records. To find information online, you can go to the website and look under offender search. Some basic information is required including their legal name and an inmate identification number.
You can print the information from the online search.
Obtaining Court Records
Those who are involved in litigation, needing more information for a high-level security clearance or professional license, or those trying to adopt may need to also obtain court records.
Another reason to look at court records is if the job applicant needed to further explain a criminal charge to an employer or is trying to get a charge sealed or get an expungement. Obtaining court records can be a bit more complicated in West Virginia but can be done online for free in many cases.
This is especially true if you are just looking for the final judge’s order or result. You will need to go to the county website where the incident took place to begin your search. In some cases, you may need to call the court or even visit the local courthouse to obtain files.
The person in charge of fulfilling your request is the Clerk of Court so that is the person you will need to speak with to get specific information on how to obtain court records. Federal court cases are handled differently.
The place to start there is online looking at West Virginia’s federal district courts. Some have online searches for cases while others don’t. You may need to call the district court that handled the case to find out details of how to look for and obtain those records.
Also, be aware there are still COVID-19 rules in place in many courthouses so some may not accept visitors and others may have a mask mandate and other rules. Be sure to call before you go.
There is a fee for the court to provide you with a printed copy of court records. Fees vary from county to county but generally include a print fee and a processing fee for staff to look up the case.
What Is the Process of Getting a Background Check in West Virginia?
The site IndentoGO.com is the place to start. There, you can make an appointment to get fingerprinted to properly match your background check to those in the system. IdentoGO provides digital fingerprinting for certifications, licensing, identity verification, and employment as well as for background checks.
They have several locations and also provide a mobile service as well as provide vital records. There is a fee and you will need to visit the website to find out the exact cost of the services you need.
The company has paperwork for you to fill out when you make the appointment to get your fingerprints done. Much of that is online, so you can fill it out ahead of time.
At your fingerprint appointment, someone will go over your paperwork to ensure accuracy and will submit the final request for a background check.
Getting a Free Background Check
Most of the free background checks are going to be name-based checks through online services. For these searches, you will need to know the legal name of the person and the state they reside in to get a background check. Many companies provide these types of searches so you have a lot of options. Pick a company that has been around for a few years and has a good reputation.
Be aware that some of these types of checks are not completely accurate as some people have the same name. To narrow down your selections, it would be best if you also had an address, birth date, or other identifying information to get an accurate report.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Background Check?
It could take only a matter of days through the IndentoGO system to get the results of your background check. The longest time to expect to get results back is two weeks. Those not receiving their background checks back by then should call IdentoGO to report it.
They can tell you when it was processed and when it should be mailed to you. This company uses Live Scan fingerprinting to capture fingerprints electronically. Officials said that makes the prints clearer and greatly improves processing time over the old method of getting fingerprints in ink and sending them off.
You will get your results back in the mail. It will either have your criminal history on it or it will state there are no criminal records to show under your name and fingerprints.
What Do Background Checks for Jobs Show?
A background check will include any arrests or convictions within the State of West Virginia. It could also include a corrections background check that includes information from the West Virginia Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (WVDOC).
Driving records and court records are not part of the criminal background checks unless the person is charged in an incident. Those will need to be obtained separately.
Why Is It Important to Check Your Background?
The most obvious reason is for employment as most employers require background checks to get a job. However, another reason to do a background check on yourself is to check the accuracy of the report. It would be best to do this before an employer is requiring a check or before you are submitting for a passport or proceeding with an adoption.
There are times when background checks list things improperly. This could be because of a similar name or birthday to someone else. It could be you rented the same apartment as someone else. In these cases, there is a possibility of someone else’s info getting on your report.
What Do You Do to Correct Issues?
In West Virginia, you send a written request to remove the item from the report to the State Police. You want to get the item expunged from your record. Expungement is different from sealing. Expungement is to completely remove the item from your record while sealing is simply to remove it from public view.
Sealing is typically used when you are convicted but have served the sentence, time has passed, and having it on your record affects your life to the point you need to remove it from public eyes. One reason to proceed with this is to remove the charge from your criminal background check.
Having a charge show up on your criminal record that you were proven innocent of can still hurt your chances of getting a job. This is where you may have to find the entire court case to pursue a court order to have your case sealed or expunged.
How Far Back to Background Checks Go?
States, including West Virginia, keep criminal records indefinitely. However, The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) states that background checks can only be reviewed for the past seven years. There could be specific exceptions in certain categories, such as caregivers working with senior citizens or children, depending on the employer and state law.
One thing to remember about West Virginia background checks is they are only valid for 90 days. So, if you get one and another employer wants one in a few months, then you will need to get an updated version. You can’t use the same one as you had before if it is more than three months old.
There is a fee every time you get a background check because of the required fingerprint services and paperwork.
It doesn’t hurt to have a background check done if you are looking for a job, planning to travel, adopt or want to pursue a career that has professional licensing requirements. Knowing what is on your record, particularly if there is an incident you are aware of, is a solid way to prevent future problems when you apply for various credentials.
It can save you some embarrassment as well.
It is relatively easy to get a background check in West Virginia. Anyone seeking a background check can just set up an appointment to have a digital fingerprint scan done with IdentoGO. Its staff can answer any questions you may have about the process and the cost.
The most complicated part is finding a convenient location and time to have that appointment. This third-party service provider in West Virginia does the rest of the work.
A criminal background check will serve most of your needs regarding applications. Rarely will you need to take extra steps in getting detailed information about your records from other entities like the court system.