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Washington Public Records

The Washington Public Records Act is the state law governing the disclosure of public records in the state. It is one of the most expensive public records laws in the country. It gives the public the right to access virtually any document or record maintained by a Washington state agency.

The Act has some exemptions, however, including records considered confidential under state or federal law, or those deemed to be trade secrets.

How to Find Washington Public Records

A public record is any document or information maintained by a state agency and available for public inspection. This includes everything from birth and death certificates, to environmental impact and police disciplinary reports.

To request records, contact the agency directly through any of these methods:

  • In person
  • By mail, email, or fax; or
  • Over the telephone

The law requires agencies to respond to requests within five business days. However, they may extend that time by an additional 14 days if the records are particularly voluminous or challenging to locate.

An excellent place to start is the Washington State Archives, which has a comprehensive database of public records that is searchable by type, name, date, and other criteria.

You can also try the website of the state agency you are interested in, as many have online public records databases that can be searched or browsed.

Are Washington Public Records Available Online?

The answer to this question depends on the agency you are asking.

Some agencies, such as the Department of Health, make all their public records available online. Others, such as the Department of Corrections, only provide certain records (such as inmate search) online.

If unsure where to find the records you seek, contact the agency directly and ask.

Third-party websites may also have some Washington public records available online for a fee.

What Records are Available in Washington?

Generally speaking, any document or information maintained by a state agency is considered a public record and is available for inspection. This includes everything from birth certificates to divorce records and more.

Some types of records that are commonly requested in Washington include:

  • Birth, death, and marriage certificates
  • Divorce records
  • Property records
  • Inmate and criminal records
  • Business licenses
  • Court records

The Washington State Archives also has a wide variety of historical records available, including:

  • Census records
  • Military records
  • Naturalization records
  • Maps and photographs

You do not need any reason or justification to request public records in Washington. However, the law does allow agencies to charge a reasonable fee for the cost of reproducing and mailing records.

What Records are Non-Public in Washington?

There are a few exceptions to the general rule that all state agency records are public. Records considered confidential under state or federal law, or trade secrets are exempt from disclosure.

Other exempted records include:

  • Certain medical and mental health records
  • Personnel records
  • Student records
  • Law enforcement investigation records
  • Some types of environmental records

Types of Public Records Available in Washington

The following are some of the most frequently requested types of public records in Washington:

Washington Public Criminal Records

The Washington State Patrol (WSP) is Washington's central repository for criminal records. You can request criminal history records from the WSP by mail and in person.

They also have an online search tool that allows you to view criminal history conviction records in Washington. However, non-conviction information is not available through this online search.

You can find the following information in a Washington criminal history record:

  • Identifying information, such as the name, date of birth, race, and gender of the subject
  • The offense(s) for which the subject was convicted
  • The date of conviction
  • The sentence imposed
  • Mugshots
  • Fingerprints

Police Departments and Sheriffe Office in Washington :

King County Sheriff's Office516 3rd Ave, Seattle, WA
Pierce County Sheriff's Office930 Tacoma Ave. S., Tacoma, WA
Snohomish County Sheriff's Office3000 Rockefeller Ave. MS 606, Everett, WA
Spokane County Sheriff's Office1100 W Mallon Avenue, Spokane, WA
Clark County Sheriff's Office505 NW 179th St, Ridgefield, WA
Thurston County Sheriff's Office2000 Lakeridge Dr SW building 3, Olympia, WA
Kitsap County Sheriff's Office614 Division St, Port Orchard, WA
Yakima County Sheriff's Office1822 S 1st St, Yakima, WA
Whatcom County Sheriff's Office311 Grand Avenue, Bellingham, WA
Benton County Sheriff's Office7122 W. Okanogan Place, Building A, Kennewick, WA

Arrest Records and Warrants

The Department of Corrections in Washington has an online warrant search tool that allows you to check for wanted persons.

You can easily input a name or DOC number to determine if someone has an outstanding warrant in Washington. However, this search tool will not provide information on federal warrants.

Local law enforcement agencies maintain public arrest records in Washington. You will need to contact the arresting agency to request a copy of the record.

If you know the county where the arrest occurred, you can find contact information for local police departments on the County Sheriff's Office website.

Details that may be included in an arrest record include:

  • The name, date of birth, gender, and race of the subject
  • The offense(s) for which the subject was arrested
  • The date of arrest
  • Identity of the Arresting Officer
  • Official that issued the warrant, if any
  • Location where the arrest was made

Inmate and Jail Records

If you are looking for someone currently incarcerated in a Washington state prison, you can use the online inmate search tool maintained by the Department of Corrections.

Jails and Prisons in Washington :

Seattle RRM2425 SOUTH 200 ST (AT FDC), SEATTLE, WA
King County WA Youth Service Center1211 East Alder Avenue, Seattle, WA
Redmond Booking Facility8701 160th Avenue Northeast, Redmond, WA
Pierce County WA Main Jail - New Facility701 Nollmeyer Ln., Tacoma, WA
Pierce County WA Main Jail - Main Facility910 Tacoma Avenue South, Tacoma, WA
Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW)9601 Bujacich Rd. NW, Gig Harbor, WA
Tacoma ICE Processing Center1623 East J Street, Tacoma, WA

Washington Background Checks

Washington has a law similar to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) that regulates how background checks can be conducted. The law requires businesses to get permission from job applicants or employees before ordering a background check.

The Ban-The-Box law in Washington also restricts employers from inquiring about an applicant's criminal history on job applications and during initial interviews.

Businesses can order a variety of types of background checks in Washington, including:

  • Criminal history checks
  • Educational verification
  • Employment verification
  • Professional license verification
  • Credit reports

How to find Sex Offenders in Washington

The Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chief's Association maintains a public sex offender registry on its website.

You can search for registered sex offenders by name, address, city, or county. The registry also provides mapping capabilities that allow you to see where sex offenders live in your area.

Details that may be included in a sex offender registry record include:

  • The name, date of birth, race, and gender of the offender
  • The offense(s) for which the offender is registered
  • The date of registration
  • The offender's current address
  • A photo of the offender

Washington Public Vital Records

The Department of Health in Washington maintains birth, death, marriage, and divorce records.

They also have an online ordering system that allows you to request certified copies of these records. You can order birth and death certificates for events anywhere in Washington state.

To order a marriage or divorce certificate, you will need to know the county where the event took place.

Requesting certified copies of these records typically requires the following:

  1. An application form with required pieces of information
  2. Documents proving identity
  3. Documents proving qualifying relationship
  4. Applicable fee(s)

Washington Court Records

The Washington State Administrative Office of the Courts maintains an online case search tool that allows you to search for court records by court level or through a person's name.

You can also go to the local county courthouse to request copies of court records. The types of documents you can request will depend on the court that has jurisdiction over the case.

For example, criminal cases will be heard in Superior Court, while District Court will handle traffic violations.

General civil cases will be heard in either Superior or District Court, depending on the amount of money in dispute.

To request copies of court records, you will need to:

  • Complete a request form
  • Pay the applicable fee
  • Provide proof of identity

State Court System in Washington

Four levels of courts handle different types of cases in Washington state:

  • Supreme Court
  • Court of Appeals
  • Superior Courts
  • Courts of Limited Jurisdiction

The Supreme Court is the highest in Washington state and facilitates the fair and impartial administration of justice. The Court of Appeals also hears appeals from Superior Courts and some administrative agencies.

Superior Courts are the general trial courts in Washington and have original jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases. They also handle juvenile matters, probate, and mental health commitment proceedings.

Courts of Limited Jurisdiction include District Courts, Municipal Courts, and Traffic Violations Bureaus. These courts have limited jurisdiction over specific cases, such as traffic violations, misdemeanors, and small claims.


Courts in Washington :

Kirkland Municipal Court‎11740 NE 118th Street , Kirkland, WA
Bothell Municipal Court18415 101st Avenue NE, Bothell, WA
Burien City Court601 S.W. 149th St., Burien, WA
Sammamish Municipal Court801 228th Ave SE,, Sammamish, WA
Auburn Municipal Court340 E Main St, Auburn, WA
Renton City Municipal Court1055 S Grady Way, Renton, WA
Seattle Municipal Court600 5th Avenue, Seattle, WA
Kent Municipal Court1220 Central Ave. S, Kent, WA
Issaquah Municipal Court135 E. Sunset Way, Issaquah, WA
Federal-Way Municipal Court33325 8th Ave. S., Federal-Way, WA

Driving Records

Washington's Department of Licensing (DOL) maintains driving records for all licensed drivers in the state.

You can request a copy of your driving record by registering for an account on the DOL website.

You can't request driving records for other people through the DOL unless otherwise authorized by law.

Your driving record will include information such as:

  • Your driver's license number
  • Your name and address
  • Your date of birth
  • A list of traffic violations and accidents you've been involved in
  • The dates these violations and accidents occurred
  • Whether your driver's license is valid or suspended

Civil Driving Infractions

The driving record history will also show any civil driving infractions you may have. These are not criminal offenses, but they will still appear on your driving record.

Some examples of civil driving infractions include:

  • Speeding
  • Running a red light
  • Improper lane change
  • Driving without insurance
  • Accidents that were not your fault but resulted in a citation

Washington License Plate Lookup

Only qualified individuals and businesses can request license plate lookups in Washington state.

DOL-authorized individuals include:

  • Law enforcement officers
  • Government agencies
  • Attorneys
  • Private investigators
  • Businesses with a permissible purpose, such as insurance companies or employers

If you are authorized to request a license plate lookup, you may go to the DOL website and conduct an online search.

If you are not authorized to request a license plate lookup, you can submit a public records request to the DOL.

If you want to look up someone's license plate number to find their contact information, you must have a permissible purpose.

Washington Property and Asset Records Online

Each county in Washington has a website where you can access property and asset records.

For example, if you want to look up property records in Seattle, go to the King County website.

You can search public records on the county website to find someone's assets. This will allow you to search for recorded documents such as:

  • Deeds
  • Mortgages
  • Liens
  • Tax records

You can submit a public records request to the county if there is no online search option.

Important Government Agencies in Washington

Here are the essential government agencies to help you find public records in Washington.

  1. Secretary of State
  2. State Governor
  3. Washington State Legislature
  4. Supreme Court
  5. Department of Justice
  6. Vital Records
  7. Department of Health
  8. Washington State Patrol
  9. Court of Claims
  10. Treasurer’s Office
  11. Department of Licensing
  12. Department of Corrections

Counties in Washington

Other Records in Washington