West Virginia has a courthouse in each of its 55 counties and 65 elected judges who are qualified to preside over felony cases, according to the West Virginia Judicial System. In addition, there are two judges in each county assigned to the lower magistrate court (and 10 in the state's largest county), which handles misdemeanor cases and determines whether some cases should proceed to the felony level. All told, there is ample staffing in this relatively rural county to process criminal matters in a timely fashion, so indictment records should be easily accessible.
Gather information on the person or case you want to research. This would include the name of the felon or victim, the estimated date of the incident or arrest, and the place where the crime allegedly occurred. Provide that information to the police to be sure that an arrest was made and the case was or is being prosecuted.
Read More: How Can I Find Out If I Am Under Indictment?
Proceed to the local Magistrate Court, for which there are two per county. According to the West Virginia Judicial System these courts handle the preliminary examination in felony cases. This is where the judge determines whether the felony charges should stick, after which point the defendant can elect to waive the grand jury and have the case proceed directly to Circuit Court. Otherwise, a grand jury at Circuit Court would determine if any of the charges should stick before it hands an indictment to the judge.
Ask the circuit court judge for the file. If the grand jury returned with an indictment, there will be a statement from the prosecutor noting what the defendant has been charged with. Indictment papers typically include a brief description of the crime that took place. Once the defendant has been arraigned in Circuit Court, which usually takes place shortly after the indictment, statements from police and witnesses would be placed in the indictment file.
If the suspect is not indicted, the Circuit Court file on them is no longer available to the public.
- If the suspect is not indicted, the Circuit Court file on them is no longer available to the public.
Aaron Gifford is based in New York. He has been on staff at the "Syracuse Post-Standard," the "Watertown Daily Times" and the "Oneida Daily Dispatch." He's also written for "Long Island Newsday," "Empire State Report" magazine and "In Good Health." He has been writing professionally since 1995. Gifford holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University at Buffalo.