Washington Public Records
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) gives all United States citizens access to public records, but each state has its own rule and regulations.
Gaining access to these files can be complicated if you don’t have the necessary information to streamline everything.
Every state has different processes, so it’s essential to know the state’s law before requesting any documents.
Table of Contents
- 1 What does the Washington public records law say?
- 2 How can I access public records in Washington?
- 3 Washington criminal records
- 4 Washington Inmate Records
- 5 Washington Court Records
- 6 Washington Vital Records
- 6.1 What information do I need to request a Washington birth certificate?
- 6.2 Where can I find a Washington birth certificate?
- 6.3 What information do I need for a death certificate in Washington?
- 6.4 Where can I find a Washington death certificate?
- 6.5 What information do I need for a marriage certificate in Washington?
- 6.6 Where can I find a Washington marriage certificate?
- 6.7 What information do I need for a divorce certificate in Washington?
- 6.8 Where can I find a Washington divorce certificate?
- 7 Washington Property Records
- 8 FAQs
- 8.1 Can a request be submitted by non-residents of Washington?
- 8.2 Is there a records custodian in Washington?
- 8.3 What exemptions exist for public record requests in Washington?
- 8.4 How long does that Washington have to respond to a public records request?
- 8.5 Is there an appeals process in place for public records requests in Washington?
- 8.6 What fees are associated with requesting public records in Washington?
What does the Washington public records law say?
Washington’s Public Records Act will allow non-citizens to request public records, which is a plus, especially if you seek information on a potential employee.
Washington can deny access to the legislative and judicial branches and have 46 other exemptions. Washington does have a records ombudsman, also known as a public records officer, to aid any requestor’s issue.
Washington’s Public Disclosure Act exemptions include personal documents such as health records, salaries of employees, financial and proprietary information, law enforcement training and investigations, victims of abuse, employment licensing, guardianships for minors, and specific education records.
Fees for your copies will be $.15 per page, but they do not charge for the search.
Washington has five days to respond to a records request.
Denials must be in writing with specific reasons for the denial. If you are denied the records, you can appeal to the county’s Superior Court within one year of your request. You will contact the Superior Court Clerk for forms, fees, and office hours.
You have one year to appeal the denial, and you can recover attorney’s fees.
To learn more about requested records, visit Washington.gov.
How can I access public records in Washington?
Access to some public records can be done online, while others require a more formal request form.
If you need to send a request form to a records center, it can be mailed, emailed, or delivered over the phone.
Every government agency is different, so expect some variation to the rules if you’re accessing records from multiple places.
In general, a public records request should include:
- Your name
- Contact information
- The name of the document
- Details about the document
- A time frame that you would like to receive the materials by
- Document delivery method, mail or email
Washington criminal records
The public may receive limited criminal history records from the Washington State Patrol.
The restricted documents dealt with conviction history and arrests of less than one-year-old and sex/kidnapping records.
Criminal justice agencies have unrestricted access.
What’s on a Washington criminal record?
The criminal record you receive will detail the person’s exchanges with law enforcement.
The records contain documents from arrests, convictions, and incarcerations from Washington State’s ten male and two female prisons.
More specifically, a criminal record or a criminal background check will provide the following information:
- Date of birth
- Criminal charges
- Driver license number
- Current and past addresses
- Former arrest records
- Current and past warrants
Where can I find Washington criminal records?
You will visit the Washington State Patrol to access criminal records.
The search will cost $11.00 per record and $10.00 extra if you require a notary.
A fingerprint search will cost $58.00. Payment can be made with a debit or credit card and you will need to set up an account to use a card.
Or, you can complete the criminal record check application and submit it by mail.
Washington State Patrol
Identification and Background Check Station
PO Box 42633, Olympia, WA 98504-2633
The application fee is $32 in Washington.
Washington Inmate Records
The Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) holds the records and information about the incarcerated person(s) at the state prisons.
What’s on a Washington inmate record
Criminal records are most commonly requested by employers who want to know a potential employee’s background. To help employees find a person’s criminal records, we’ve provided some information and resources for you.
Besides providing the inmate’s name, DOC number, and facility where the inmate is imprisoned, the following information is provided:
- Name and aliases
- Date of Birth
- Height and weight
- DOC ID
- Booking photo
- Assigned location
- Sentence summary
Where can I find Washington inmate records?
You will visit the Department of Corrections of Washington State Inmate Locator to access the inmate record.
You will need to set up a credit card account.
You will input the first and last name of the offender and/or the DOC number.
Washington Court Records
If you are searching for records from court cases in Washington, it is crucial to understand the courts to narrow your search.
- Washington state courts are the Supreme Court which focuses on appeals from the Court of Appeals and supervises the state court system.
- The Court of Appeals hears the requests from the lower courts. The Superior Court caseload includes civil suits, domestic cases, felony charges, and juvenile matters.
- District Courts handle a wide array of records because they have jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases.
- Misdemeanor, traffic, and civil cases are tried in the Courts of Limited Jurisdiction. This court also deals with small claims up to $5,000.
What’s on a Washington court record?
Depending on the length of the trial, the documents you request can be numerous.
Court records are the typical documents you will receive when you complete a court record search:
- Court minutes
- Court rules
- Court case records
- Orders of the court
- Judgment documentation
- Jury records and files
- Witness documentation
- Criminal case information
Where can I find Washington court records?
You will visit the Washington Court Records Center for Health Statistics to locate the court record.
You must enter the first and the last name of the person involved in the case you are seeking.
Washington Vital Records
The Department of Health Center for Health Statistics maintains vital records in Washington.
Washington’s vital records include:
- Birth Certificates
- Death Certificates
- Marriage Licenses
- Divorce Decrees
Public record requests for vital records in Washington will vary depending on the document you are requesting.
Washington Department of Health Center for Health Statistics
Department of Health
Center for Health Statistics
P.O. Box 47814
Olympia, WA 98504-7814
Phone number: 360-236-4300
What information do I need to request a Washington birth certificate?
The Birth Certificate Order Form will ask for specific information when ordering a birth record.
- Full name on the birth certificate
- Date of birth
- City of birth
- County of birth
- Country of birth
- Parents’ full name
Where can I find a Washington birth certificate?
You can order a Washington birth certificate online by using VitalCheck.
Or, you can request a certified copy of a Washington birth record by completing the Death Certificate Mail Order Form and submitting it by mail or in person.
The cost of a certified birth certificate in Washington is $20.
What information do I need for a death certificate in Washington?
The Death Certificate Order Form will ask for specific information when ordering a copy of a death certificate.
- Full name on the death record
- Date of death
- City or county of death
- Spouse’s full name before marriage
Where can I find a Washington death certificate?
You can order a Washington death certificate online by using VitalCheck.
Or, you can request a certified copy of a Washington death record by completing the Birth Certificate Mail Order Form and submitting it by mail or in person.
The cost of a certified birth certificate in Washington is $20.
What information do I need for a marriage certificate in Washington?
The Marriage Certificate Mail Order Form will ask for specific information when requesting a marriage license.
- Spouses’ full name before marriage
- Date of marriage
Where can I find a Washington marriage certificate?
You can order a Washington marriage certificate online by using VitalCheck.
Or, you can request a certified copy of a Washington marriage record by completing the Marriage Certificate Mail Order Form and submitting it by mail or in person.
The cost of a certified marriage certificate in Washington is $20.
What information do I need for a divorce certificate in Washington?
The Divorce Certificate Mail Order Form will ask for specific information when requesting a marriage license.
- Spouses’ full name before marriage
- Date of divorce
- The county the divorce was filed
Where can I find a Washington divorce certificate?
You can order a Washington divorce record online using VitalCheck.
Or, you can request a certified copy of a Washington divorce record by completing the Divorce Certificate Mail Order Form and submitting it by mail or in person.
The cost of a certified divorce decree in Washington is $20.
Washington Property Records
The County Recorder’s Office and County Assessors maintain all property records in Washington State.
The property records you can access include:
- Land records
- Property deeds
- Real estate information
- Property tax assessment records
- Zoning information
- Ordinance violations
For data, parcel, and land use maps, you will need to contact the Geographic Information System(GIS) to ask about public access.
What information do I need to request property records in Washington?
You will need basic information to access a property record in Washington.
Public request forms, fee schedules, and office hours will vary depending on the County Recorder Clerk’s Office or Assessor’s Office where the property record is maintained.
Where can I find a Washington property record?
You will need to contact the County Recorder or Assessor where the property record is maintained.
Example – Thurston County Office of the Assessor
Thurston County Assessor Public Records Request
Building 1, Room 127
2000 Lakeridge Drive SW
Olympia, WA 98502
Phone number: 360-867-2200
Example – King County Recorder’s Office
King County Recorder Public Records Requests
King County Courthouse
516 Third Avenue
Seattle, WA 98104
Phone number: 206-296-0100
Can a request be submitted by non-residents of Washington?
One of the most frequently asked questions is whether you can request public records as a non-resident of the state of Washington.
You do not have to be a resident of Washington to request a public record.
Is there a records custodian in Washington?
Washington does not have an appointed public record custodian.
Washington has a records ombudsman who facilitates requests and will aid when there are questions or confusion. However, the person cannot rule on requests.
What exemptions exist for public record requests in Washington?
The Washington Public Disclosure Act does not open all records in the state for searches or photocopying.
The Washington legislature and judicial branch are exempt.
The other 46 exemptions pertain to various personal information, for example, physical and mental health records, financial accounts, and tax files.
Law enforcement training and investigations and victims of abuse records are not shared. There are specific exemptions for records for minor children, employment licensing, guardianships, and employees’ salaries.
The Exemptions and Prohibitions for Local Government Records (PRA) will provide you with a full list of public record exemptions in Washington.
How long does that Washington have to respond to a public records request?
Washington state agencies have five business days to respond to your records request. If the request is unclear, they may contact the requestor to determine what documents they need.
Agencies with records available online will encourage the requestor to use this option for immediate access.
Is there an appeals process in place for public records requests in Washington?
If your request for public government records is denied, RCW 42.56 states that the denial must be in writing. When this occurs, you have the option to ask for the attorney general to review the disclaimer. The attorney general will decide whether the records you requested are exempt or not.
State law states that you have one year to file an appeal with the attorney general. It is possible to collect your attorney’s fees if the case is decided in your favor.
What fees are associated with requesting public records in Washington?
Fees for searching for your records are not charged in Washington. But the agency will charge $.15 a page for photocopying, $.10 a page for scanning, and $.05 per four electronic files. Some agencies will charge a flat $2.00 fee for specific records.
A customized fee can be charged if the documents require technological assistance to prepare data.