Attorney General's Opinion 1975-76 #418


July 21, 1975

Member, Senate of Virginia

75-76 418

This is in reply to your recent letter wherein you make the following inquiry: "Please give me your formal opinion as to whether or not warrant and arrest records as among those official records designated by the Virginia Freedom of Information Act as being available to the public."

After seeking clarification of your letter I understand the term "warrant records" to mean the actual executed arrest warrants currently held in the Sheriff's office or copies thereof. By the term "arrest records" I understand you to refer to any record which may be maintained in the Sheriff's office which would indicate chronologically the name of an individual who has been arrested pursuant to an arrest warrant, the charge or charges for which the individual was arrested, the date of his arrest, and other routine information including age and address of the individual arrested.

The Freedom of Information Act, in §2.1-342(a), Code of Virginia (1950), as amended, requires that the "official records" of public bodies and agencies of the State or the political subdivisions thereof shall be subject to disclosure, upon request by any citizen of this State, except as provided in §2.1-342(b)(1)-(6), or other applicable statutes.

The records you describe, if maintained by the Sheriff's office, are clearly "official records" within the meaning of §2.1-341(b). I find none of the exceptions to disclosure set forth in §2.1-343(b)(1)-(6) applicable to the records in question, inasmuch as the described records do not relate to criminal investigations, reports submitted to the State police or local police in confidence, or the imprisonment of individuals in a penal institution, exempted from disclosure requirements under §2.1-342(b)(1). Furthermore, I am aware of no other statute which would provide an exception from required disclosure with respect to the records in question. I would note, however, particularly with respect to your inquiry regarding "arrest records," as defined herein, that the Freedom of Information Act requires only disclosure of records which are, in fact, maintained by public officers of the State and its political subdivisions in the normal course of public business. There is no requirement that public agencies or officers gather information or produce records not regularly maintained as a part of their public function.

I am, therefore, of the opinion that the warrant and arrest records, as defined herein, are subject to public disclosure, upon request, as provided in §2.1-342(a), provided that such records are, in fact, maintained by the Sheriff's office.