What is FOIA and why does it matter for your Virginia car accident case?

If you’ve been in a Virginia car accident case, one thing you may want to consider is the Freedom of Information Act, also known as “FOIA.”  Under Virginia Code Section 2.2-3700 (and the following chapters), Virginia provides its citizens access various government documents, including records related to car accident investigations.   

If you were seriously injured, information obtained by FOIA may be invaluable to establishing how your accident happened and provide useful information to help establish your injuries.  This information may include accident photographs, witness statements and interviews, 911 calls, etc. 

How do I make a FOIA request?

It’s easy.  In fact, there’s no specific form to make a FOIA request.  Under Virginia Code Section 2.2-3704 (B), you simply need to make a request that “shall identify the requested records with reasonable specificity.” To make a request, you can simply find the appropriate FOIA Officer’s contact and email them, fax them, or write them. 

Usually, you can find the FOIA Officer you need by a simple Google search.  Once you make the request, they have five to sixty working days (depending on what you’re requesting) to respond. 

What should I request in my FOIA request?

While what will be available will depend on what happened in your case, you can ask for a lot of information. This includes:

  • Booking Photographs (Punitive DUI Cases). 2.2-3706(A)(1).
  • Entire Criminal Investigative File. (“to include all records as noted in Section 2.2-3706.1(2):
    • Complaints
    • Court Orders
    • Memorandum
    • Notes
    • Incident Reports
    • Filings through any incident-based reporting system
    • Diagrams
    • Maps
    • Photographs/video
    • Correspondence
    • Reports
    • Witness Statements
    • Evidence (trial exhibits, etc.)
  • 911 Calls & CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) Records. Section 2.2-3706 (D & E).
  • Cruiser/Body Cam Video (Watch the entire video even the ride to the station).
  • Timing of Intersection Lights.

For an example of a FOIA request, here’s a redacted request that we’ve sent in the past, for informational purposes only:

Still have questions?

Make sure to check out our Personal Injury & Criminal Defense Practice Pages where we’ve answered many other questions you likely have.  James Abrenio is a Fairfax-Based Personal Injury & Criminal Defense attorney who practices throughout Northern Virginia. You can learn more about James Abrenio, some of our Prior Results, and Read Our Reviews.  Make sure to contact us at Ph. 703-570-4180 for your Free Consultation.