People in Virginia who have been arrested for and convicted of a criminal offense commonly have their fingerprints taken at some point. This often happens when a person is booked into a prison or jail or when they begin a probation sentence. Most people who have had their fingerprints taken assume that the records will be in the state criminal justice system and that these prints are part of the information reviewed during a background search.
Background searches may be used in a variety of situations including pre-employment checks and pre-gun purchase checks. The Washington Post recently reported that the state of Virginia has discovered that its criminal records accessed in these background checks are missing as many as 750,000 entries. Of those, nine out of ten are said to not be in the system because there are no accompanying fingerprints.
Even if prints have been taken, a person's record might not be in the appropriate system. One reason this might happen is because a person is charged with multiple offenses, but their prints are linked to a specific charge that is eventually dropped. A change in a charge due to a plea agreement may also lead to prints not being properly associated with a record.
The state is said to be investigating this matter and taking steps to sync other records with the State Crime Commission so that more criminal records will be in the background check system. Even if a charge is dropped, a person's fingerprints will remain in the system once they have been entered. This database is not able to be accessed by the public.