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Washington Public Records

Located in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, Washington state is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and Canada to the north.  Washington state is a leading lumber producer and is also known for its commercial fishing, high-tech industry, and unique music scene.  With a population of just over 7 million, it is the second most populous state on the country’s west coast and does make provisions for the sharing of public records.

Washington Public Records Laws

 

Washington’s public records law was passed in 1972 and is called the Public Disclosure Act, covered in RCW 42.56.  The original intent of the law was to reform lobbying and campaign finance, but it was expanded in 2006 to broaden access to additional public records.  The law says that “any person” can request public records in Washington yet there are some restrictions when individuals request records for a commercial purpose.

Records that are covered under the law are those for all state agencies and departments, including the executive branch and the legislature.  The judicial branch is not included under this Act, nor are any private entities that are supported by state funds.  Other records that are not included, or are exempt, under the Act, are:

  • Health care records
  • Library records
  • Proprietary information
  • Security-related records
  • Coroner records
  • Juvenile records


Washington Criminal Records, Arrest Records and Background Checks

 

Background checks in the state of Washington are administered by the Washington State Patrol, Criminal History Section.  There are two kinds of reports that can be issued.  An unrestricted criminal history record is limited to certified criminal justice agencies and includes all arrests regardless of the disposition.  The public may request a criminal records report on anyone through the online Washington Access to Criminal History (WATCH) website and the results are instant.  This will provide a report on all incidents that have led to a conviction and any arrests that are less than one-year-old without a disposition.

If applying for a job in the state of Washington, private employers may ask about convictions, but are not permitted to ask about convictions that are unrelated to the job or are more than ten years old.  Also, juvenile convictions are returned on Washington background checks so are considered public record.

Washington Jail and Inmate Records

The Washington state Department of Corrections is the place to get information on inmate records, services for victims, and information on correctional facilities in the state.  If you want to locate an inmate, they have their own Offender Info page where you can enter a DOC Number or Last Name to get information that is available to the general public.  In the alternative, you can search through Vinelink.com.  Either of these sites will provide you with the offender’s current location and estimated release date.


Washington Court Records

Information about any of the courts in the state of Washington can be found on its administrator of the courts website.  The website also links to a search engine called eService Center for Washington Courts, where you can do public records searches for all district, municipal, superior, and appellate court cases.  You can learn calendar dates, parties involved, attorneys of record, and case numbers.  You may need to contact the particular court for the complete case file.


Washington Vital Records

Vital records in the state of Washington, such as birth, death, marriage and divorce records are kept by the Washington State Department of Health.   How to request each of these depends on the type of certificate and the date.

Birth Certificates:  The state Department of Health has birth certificates from July 1, 1907 to present.  Anyone can order a birth certificate, but they must have all of the pertinent information to do this.    If the birth took place before July 1, 1907, you would need to contact the county where the event occurred.

Death Certificates: The state Department of Health issues death certificates from July 1, 1907 to present.  Anyone can order a death certificate if they have all of the pertinent information to fill out the request.  If the death took place before July 1, 1907, the specific county of record is the place to contact for the information.

Marriage Certificates: The state Department of Health keeps Washington marriage certificates for marriages taking place from January 1, 1968 to present.  If the marriage took place before this date, you can request the information from the county auditor’s office where the marriage took place.

Divorce Certificates: The state Department of Health keeps Washington divorce certificates from January 1, 1968 to present.  For divorces that took place before this date, the information can be requested from the county auditor’s office where the final decree was made.

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