Attorney General's Opinion 1974-75 #583


May 7, 1975

Commonwealth's Attorney for York County

74-75 583

This is in reply to your recent letter wherein you inquire:

"The question has arisen in my jurisdiction as to whether or not the jail book maintained by the Sheriff of the County of York should be open to inspection by the public and the news media under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. The jail book cnntains the name of every prisoner incarcerated in the York County Jail. In addition to his name it records the color of his eyes, sex, age, weight, height, charge, his or her reason for being in jail, the date of his trial, the Court he is to be tried in, the sentence that he receives including the number of days, months, years, his fine, his costs, the date that he was admitted, the date that he was released, whether or not he has been distributed to a State, County, City, Town or Federal institution for confinement, or whether or not he was distributed to an institution for the insane, the time admitted, the time released, his arresting officers, the nativity, his address, occupation, marital status, and at the end there is a place for remarks."

Section 2.1-342(a), Code of Virginia (1960), as amended, provides:

"Except as otherwise specifically provided by law, all official records shall be open to inspection and copying by any citizens of this State during the regular office hours of the custodian of such records. Access to such records shall not be denied to any such citizen of this State, nor to representatives of newspapers and magazines with circulation in this State, and representatives of radio and television stations broadcasting in or into this State; provided, that the custodian of such records shall take all necessary precautions for their preservation and safeguarding."

Section 2.1-341 (b) defines "official records" as:

"[A]ll written or printed books, papers, letters, documents, maps and tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings, reports or other material, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made and received in pursuance of law by the public officers of the state and its counties, municipalities and subdivisions of government in the transaction of public business."

I am, therefore, of the view that a county sheriffs jail book is an "official record" within the meaning of §2.1-341(b) and would be subject to the public disclosure requirements of §2.1-342(a), unless specifically exempted pursuant to §2.1-342(b), subsections (1) through (6), or other provisions of law. I find none of the exceptions to the general disclosure rule provided for in §2.1-342(b), subsections (1) through (5) applicable. I, furthermore, find no other provision of law exempting jail books from public disclosure. Accordingly, I am of the opinion that the sheriff's jail book is an "official record" subject to the public disclosure requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.