Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 16.1. Courts Not of Record
Chapter 4.1. District Courts
12/3/2022

Article 6. Retention and Disposition of District Court Records.

§ 16.1-69.53. Definitions; construction of references to period of years.

As used in this article, the following terms shall have the following meanings:

"Court records" shall include case records, financial records and administrative records as defined in this section.

"Case records" shall mean all documents, dockets and indices.

"Documents" shall mean all motions for judgment, bills of complaint, answers, bills of particulars, other pleadings, interrogatories, motions in writing, warrants, summonses, petitions, proof of service, witness summonses and subpoenas, documents received in evidence, transcripts, orders, judgments, writs, and any other similar case-related records and papers in the possession of the district courts and filed with the pleadings in the case.

"Financial records" shall mean all papers and records related to the receipt and disbursement of money by the district court.

"Administrative records" shall mean all other court papers and records not otherwise defined.

Whenever a reference to a period of years for the retention of documents is made in this section, it shall be construed to commence on January 2 of the first year following (i) the final adjudication of a civil case or (ii) the final disposition in all other cases, unless otherwise specified herein. In foster care cases, the final disposition date is the date of transfer of custody to a local board of social services or a child welfare agency.

1983, c. 499; 2002, c. 747.

§ 16.1-69.54. General provisions.

A. Each district court shall retain and store its court records as provided in this article. The Committee on District Courts, after consultation with the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia, shall determine the methods of processing, retention, reproduction and disposal of records and information in district courts, including records required to be retained in district courts by statute.

B. Whenever a court record has been reproduced for the purpose of record retention under this article, such original may be disposed of upon completion of the Commonwealth's audit of the court records unless approval is given by the Auditor of Public Accounts for earlier disposition. In the event of such reproduction, the reproduction of the court record shall be retained in accordance with the retention periods specified in this section. The reproduction shall have the same force and effect as the original court record and shall be given the same faith and credit to which the original itself would have been entitled in any judicial or administrative proceeding.

C. Electronic case papers, whether originating in electronic form or converted to electronic form, shall constitute the official record of the case. Such electronic case papers shall also fulfill any statutory requirement that requires an original, original paper, paper, record, document, facsimile, memorandum, exhibit, certification, or transcript if such electronic case papers are in an electronic form approved by the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court. When case papers are transmitted between the district and circuit courts and there is an agreement between the chief judge of the applicable district court and the clerk of the circuit court for the electronic transmission of case papers, the case papers shall be transmitted between the courts by an electronic method approved by the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court, with the exception of any exhibit that cannot be electronically transmitted. The clerk in the appellate court may also request that any paper trial records be forwarded to such clerk.

1983, c. 499; 2018, cc. 32, 134.

§ 16.1-69.54:1. Request for district court records.

A. For the purposes of this section, "confidential court records," "court records," and "nonconfidential court records" shall have the same meaning as set forth in § 17.1-292.

B. Requests for copies of nonconfidential court records maintained in individual case files shall be made to the clerk of a district court.

C. Requests for reports of aggregated, nonconfidential case data fields that are viewable through the online case information systems maintained by the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court shall be made to the Office of the Executive Secretary. Such reports of aggregated case data shall not include the name, date of birth, or social security number of any party and shall not include images of the individual records in the respective case files. However, nothing in this section shall be construed to permit any reports or aggregated case data to be sold or posted on any other website or in any way redistributed to any third party. The Executive Secretary, in his discretion, may deny such request to ensure compliance with these provisions. However, such data may be included in products or services provided to a third party, provided that such data is not made available to the general public.

D. Any clerk or the Executive Secretary, as applicable, may require that the request be in writing and that the requester provide his name and legal address. A request for nonconfidential court records or reports of aggregated nonconfidential case data shall identify the requested records with reasonable specificity. Any clerk or the Executive Secretary, as applicable, may determine the costs to provide the requested records to the requester, advise the requester of such costs, and, before continuing to process the request, require the requester to agree to payment of a deposit not to exceed the amount of the advance determination, which shall be credited to the final cost of supplying the requested records. No clerk, nor the Executive Secretary, shall be required to create a new record if the record does not already exist or provide a report of aggregated, nonconfidential case data in a format not regularly used by the clerk or the Executive Secretary; however, a clerk or the Executive Secretary, as applicable, may abstract or summarize information under such terms and conditions as agreed to by the requester and the clerk or Executive Secretary, as provided herein.

E. Except where the nature or size of the request would interfere with the business of the court or with its use by the general public, or as otherwise provided by law, the requested court records or reports of aggregated, nonconfidential case data shall be provided to the requester within a reasonable period of time, given the nature of the request and the availability of staff to respond to the request, but in no event longer than 30 days from the date of a complete request made by a requester that is fully compliant with the requirements of this section and other applicable law. Any objection or assertion of confidentiality shall be provided to the requester within a reasonable period of time, but in no event longer than 30 days from the date of a complete request made by a requester.

F. Any clerk, or the Executive Secretary, may require payment in advance of all reasonable costs, not to exceed the actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, reviewing, supplying, or searching for the requested court records or reports of aggregated, nonconfidential case data, including removing any confidential information contained in the court records from the nonconfidential court records being provided, excluding any extraneous, intermediary, or surplus fees or expenses to recoup the general overhead costs associated with creating or maintaining records or transacting the general business of the clerk or the Office of the Executive Secretary. Before processing a request for court records or reports of aggregated, nonconfidential case data, any clerk or the Executive Secretary may require the requester to pay any amounts owed to the clerk or the Office of the Executive Secretary for previous requests for court records or reports of aggregated, nonconfidential case data that remain unpaid 30 days or more after billing.

G. Any clerk and the Executive Secretary shall be immune from any suit arising from the production of court records or reports of aggregated nonconfidential case data in accordance with this section absent gross negligence or willful misconduct.

2018, cc. 127, 584.

§ 16.1-69.55. Retention of case records; limitations on enforcement of judgments; extensions.

A. Criminal and traffic infraction proceedings:

1. In misdemeanor and traffic infraction cases, except misdemeanor cases under § 16.1-253.2, 18.2-57.2, or 18.2-60.4, all documents shall be retained for 10 years, including cases sealed in expungement proceedings under § 19.2-392.2. In misdemeanor cases under § 16.1-253.2, 18.2-57.2, or 18.2-60.4, all documents shall be retained for 20 years. In misdemeanor cases under §§ 18.2-67.4, 18.2-67.4:1, 18.2-67.4:2, 18.2-346, 18.2-346.01, 18.2-347, 18.2-348, 18.2-349, 18.2-370, 18.2-370.01, 18.2-374, 18.2-386.1, 18.2-387, and 18.2-387.1, all documents shall be retained for 50 years. Documents in misdemeanor and traffic infraction cases for which an appeal has been made shall be returned to and filed with the clerk of the appropriate circuit court pursuant to § 16.1-135;

2. In felony cases that are certified to the grand jury, all documents shall be certified to the clerk of the appropriate circuit court pursuant to §§ 19.2-186 and 19.2-190. All other felony case documents shall be handled as provided in subdivision 1;

3. Dockets and indices shall be retained for 10 years.

B. Civil proceedings:

1. All documents in civil proceedings in district court that are dismissed, including dismissal under § 8.01-335, shall be retained until completion of the Commonwealth's audit of the court records. Notwithstanding § 8.01-275.1, the clerks of the district courts may destroy documents in civil proceedings in which no service of process is had 24 months after the last return date;

2. In civil actions that result in a judgment, all documents in the possession of the general district court shall be retained for 10 years and, unless sooner satisfied, the judgment shall remain in force for a period of 10 years;

3. In civil cases that are appealed to the circuit court pursuant to § 16.1-112, all documents pertaining thereto shall be transferred to the circuit court in accordance with those sections;

4. The limitations on enforcement of general district court judgments provided in § 16.1-94.1 shall not apply if the plaintiff, prior to the expiration of that period for enforcement, pays the circuit court docketing and indexing fees on judgments from other courts together with any other required filing fees and dockets the judgment in the circuit court having jurisdiction in the same geographic area as the general district court. However, a judgment debtor wishing to discharge a judgment pursuant to the provisions of § 8.01-456, when the judgment creditor cannot be located, may, prior to the expiration of that period for enforcement, pay the circuit court docketing and indexing fees on judgments from other courts together with any other required filing fees and docket the judgment in the circuit court having jurisdiction in the same geographic area as the general district court. After the expiration of the period provided in § 16.1-94.1, executions on such docketed civil judgments may issue from the general district court wherein the judgment was obtained upon the filing in the general district court of an abstract from the circuit court. In all other respects, the docketing of a general district court judgment in a circuit court confers upon such judgment the same status as if the judgment were a circuit court judgment;

5. Dockets for civil cases shall be retained for 10 years;

6. Indices in civil cases shall be retained for 10 years.

C. Juvenile and domestic relations district court proceedings:

1. In adult criminal cases, all records shall be retained as provided in subdivision A 1;

2. In juvenile cases, all documents and indices shall be governed by the provisions of § 16.1-306;

3. In all cases involving support arising under Title 16.1, 20, or 63.2, all documents and indices shall be retained until the last juvenile involved, if any, has reached 19 years of age and 10 years have elapsed from either dismissal or termination of the case by court order or by operation of law. Financial records in connection with such cases shall be subject to the provisions of § 16.1-69.56;

4. In all cases involving sexually violent offenses, as defined in § 37.2-900, and in all misdemeanor cases under §§ 18.2-67.4, 18.2-67.4:1, 18.2-67.4:2, 18.2-346, 18.2-346.01, 18.2-347, 18.2-348, 18.2-349, 18.2-370, 18.2-370.01, 18.2-374, 18.2-386.1, 18.2-387, and 18.2-387.1, all documents shall be retained for 50 years;

5. In cases transferred to circuit court for trial as an adult or appealed to circuit court, all documents pertaining thereto shall be transferred to circuit court;

6. All dockets in juvenile cases shall be governed by the provisions of subsection F of § 16.1-306.

D. At the direction of the chief judge of a district court, the clerk of that court may cause any or all papers or documents pertaining to civil and criminal cases that have been ended to be destroyed if such records, papers, or documents will no longer have administrative, fiscal, historical, or legal value to warrant continued retention, provided such records, papers, or documents have been microfilmed or converted to an electronic format. Such microfilm and microphotographic processes and equipment shall meet state archival microfilm standards pursuant to § 42.1-82, or such electronic format shall follow state electronic records guidelines, and such records, papers, or documents so converted shall be placed in conveniently accessible files and provisions made for examining and using the same. The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to the documents for misdemeanor cases under §§ 16.1-253.2, 18.2-57.2, 18.2-60.4, 18.2-67.4, 18.2-67.4:1, 18.2-67.4:2, 18.2-346, 18.2-346.01, 18.2-347, 18.2-348, 18.2-349, 18.2-370, 18.2-370.01, 18.2-374, 18.2-386.1, 18.2-387, and 18.2-387.1, which shall be retained as provided in subsection A.

1983, c. 499; 1990, c. 258; 1996, c. 463; 2003, c. 126; 2005, c. 135; 2007, cc. 369, 468, 869; 2008, c. 749; 2009, c. 740; 2011, cc. 445, 480; 2013, cc. 187, 377; 2014, c. 287; 2018, c. 128; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 188.

§ 16.1-69.56. Retention of financial and administrative records.

Appropriate retention periods for the financial and administrative records of the district courts and magistrates shall be prescribed by the Supreme Court of Virginia. In the case of financial records only, the retention period prescribed by the court shall be subject to approval by the Auditor of Public Accounts.

1983, c. 499; 1987, c. 160.

§ 16.1-69.57. Destruction of court records.

The clerk of each district court shall destroy the court records upon expiration of the appropriate retention period as set forth in §§ 16.1-69.55 and 16.1-69.56 and consistent with the requirements of confidentiality for juvenile records. The Supreme Court shall determine the methods to be used in destroying court records. Likewise, magistrates shall destroy records retained in the office of the magistrate upon the expiration of the appropriate retention period as set forth in § 16.1-69.56.

1983, c. 499; 1987, c. 160.

§ 16.1-69.58. Processing, retention and reproduction of court records; retention and destruction of records in which final disposition was entered before January 1, 1985.

The Committee on District Courts, after consultation with the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court, shall determine the methods for processing, retention and reproduction of court records and all other records required by statute to be retained in the district courts and for records retained in the office of the magistrate.

The provisions for retention and destruction of records contained in §§ 16.1-117, 16.1-118 and 16.1-118.1 shall apply to court records in district court cases in which a final disposition was entered before January 1, 1985.

1983, c. 499; 1987, c. 160.