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Are Arrest Records Public in Washington?

According to the state's Public Records Act, arrest records are public in Washington. Interested persons may request arrest records from record custodians or law enforcement agencies charged with maintaining such records. However, if an arrest record contains confidential information or any piece of information exempt from public access by state or federal laws, such information may be removed or redacted.

What is Considered an Arrest Record in Washington?

An arrest record in Washington is a report that contains information about an arrest. Law enforcement agents create arrest records after an arrest, and they typically include details about the alleged offense, including offense classification. Additionally, Washington arrest records contain personal information about the subject, booking details, and information about any interrogation in connection to the arrest.

Although arrest records are not proof of criminal behavior, these records are essential components of criminal justice processes in the state.

Generally, arrest records are not proof of criminal behavior, even though they form part of a person's Washington criminal records. The records merely provide information about the subject's apprehension, detention, or questioning. Where the subject of an arrest record gets charged to court, the details in the arrest record may be essential to the court case. Since arrests do not always result in convictions, Washington allows record subjects to erase arrest records under certain circumstances.

What is Contained in a Washington Arrest Record?

Arrest records contain written accounts of a person's arrest. The information in such records include:

  • Personal information: The alleged offender's full name, aliases, birth date, residential address, nationality or ethnicity, and gender are typically in an arrest record.
  • Booking information: Arrest records contain the date and time of the arrest, arrest type, the booking officer's name, signature, arresting agency, release time, bail amount, the address of the holding facility, and information about any interrogation sessions. The records also contain booking numbers, photographs, and fingerprints.
  • Offense information: Details of the offense, including the classification, a detailed description of the alleged offense, including statements from witnesses and victims, any charges brought against the arrestee, and court dates.
  • Physical description: Weight, race, height, eye color, hair color, marks, tattoos, and other distinctive features of the record's subject are included in an arrest record.

Who Can Access Arrest Records in Washington?

As earlier stated, Washington arrest records are public. Therefore, residents and citizens of the state and any interested party requesting from law enforcement agencies and other designated record custodians may access arrest records. Typically, subjects of arrest records, the subjects' parent, guardian, or authorized representatives, and legal counsel can access arrest records. Additionally, law enforcement and criminal justice agencies may access arrest records in Washington.

In most cases, interested members of the public do not require authorization to access arrest records; state laws allow access to public records under reasonable conditions. However, it is important to note that some records are exempt from the public records act. The exemptions exist to protect individuals' privacy, other citizens' business interests, investigative responsibilities and functions of law enforcement agencies, trade secrets, financial information, confidential communication, amongst other things. An arrest record may contain exempt information; in this case, the custodian may remove or redact the information when the record is requested.

Unlike most states, Washington makes juvenile records accessible to the public under certain circumstances. According to RCW 13.50.050, official juvenile court files are accessible to the public, except the court seals such records. All other juvenile records and information that do not appear on the court file may only be released according to the provisions of state laws and when the juvenile and their family's identity are not at risk of exposure.

Washington laws allow law enforcement agencies to release records of arrested juveniles, including incident reports that pertain to the investigation, to schools that the juveniles attend.

Washington Arrest Statistics

In Washington, the Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs administer the Uniform Crime Reporting program and compile crime data submitted by various law enforcement agencies. The crime statistics data in the yearly crime report comprises the number and classes of criminal offenses, arrests, and law enforcement officers assaulted or killed.

Arrest records in the Crime in Washington report include the number of persons arrested, including persons taken into custody but not charged. The total number of arrests in 2020 was 147,061 at the rate of 19.2 per 1,000 persons. Adult arrestees were 140, 144, while juvenile arrestees were 6,917. Washington records different categories of arrests such as persons arrested with warrants (on-view) and without, and persons summoned to court or cited as in the case of a juvenile. Out of the total number of arrested persons, 17.7% were between ages 18 and 24.

Offenses with the highest adult arrest numbers include simple assault (20,369), larceny or theft offenses (15,597), driving under the influence (21,895), and other offenses (22,615). Of the total number of DUI arrests in the state, adult arrests were 99.2%. Similarly, adult arrestees made up 95.8% of all drug arrests in the state in 2020. The highest-ranking offenses for juvenile arrests include simple assault, larceny or theft, destruction of property, and burglary.

According to the 2021 arrest statistics reported in the SAC “CrimeStats Online” database,120,675 adult arrests and 4,624 juvenile arrests were made in Washington in 2021. The database also subdivides the 2021 arrest statistics into crime categories. Some of the crime categories with the highest frequency of arrests in 2021 include the following:

Adults arrests

  • Group B offenses: 49,143 arrests
  • Assault: 27,930 arrests
  • Theft: 17,059 arrests
  • Violation of no contact/protection order: 8,505 arrests
  • Burglary: 4,874 arrests
  • Destruction of property: 4,397 arrests
  • Drug violations: 3,430 arrests

Juvenile arrests

  • Assault: 1,993 arrests
  • Group B offenses: 797 arrests
  • Theft: 555 arrests
  • Destruction of property: 430 arrests
  • Burglary: 188 arrests
  • Robbery: 155 arrests
  • Drug violations: 133 arrests

Compared to the 2020 arrest statistics reported by SAC, Washington state had a 13.9 % decrease in adult arrests and a 33.1% decrease in juvenile arrests in 2021.

Obtaining Washington Public Arrest Records

Washington arrest search is a procedure that provides interested persons with information about individuals who were arrested and incarcerated within the state’s jurisdiction. Through Washington arrest search, inquirers are supplied information regarding arrests in the state, such as arrest records and reports.

Interested persons can conduct an arrest search to find information about a specific arrest in Washington by querying the law enforcement agency responsible for the arrest. These agencies are typically local police departments and County Sheriff’s Offices. Queries can be made in person at the agency’s physical office, by mail, or via phone call, depending on what the agency permits.

Some law enforcement agencies also provide online resources, such as daily logs and inmate listings, which inquirers can use to obtain information about arrests the agency conducted. For instance, interested persons can find basic information about arrests the Whitman County Sheriff’s Office conducted on a particular date by reviewing the office’s daily log. Inquirers should note that they are typically required to provide details about the arrest they wish to look up when making arrest search queries. These details include and are not limited to the arrestee’s name and the arrest date.

How Do I Lookup Someone's Arrest Records in Washington?

Interested parties may look up personal and third-party arrest records through the Washington State Patrol's Access to Criminal History (WATCH) website. It offers requesting parties the opportunity to conduct name searches for arrest records in the state and receive results immediately. The WATCH database contains sex offender and kidnap information, conviction records, and arrest records less than one (1) year old. One search costs $11, and the fee is payable by credit card. WATCH does not refund requests, even if the results return no match. So, requesting parties must have the necessary information, including the subject record's name, date of birth, and middle initial.

Persons interested in looking up others' arrest records in Washington may search the Washington State Archives using the case number on the record of interest. Requesting parties may use case number search or case year search to look up Washington arrest records. Interested parties may also search the digital archives by name, keyword, or details. To initiate a name search, requesting parties must enter the subject's first and last names in the appropriate fields.

Keyword search works similarly; requesting parties may conduct keyword searches by entering a keyword in the appropriate field and selecting the collection to which the record in question belongs. Persons without internet access or who are otherwise unable to access the state's digital archives may send written records requests to the state archives at the address below:

Washington Secretary of State
Washington State Archives
Digital Archives
960 Washington Street
Cheney, WA 99004
(509) 235-7500

Another way to look up someone's arrest record in Washington is to request Criminal History Record Information (CHRI). To do this, requesting parties must submit a request form with applicable fees by mail to the Identification and Background Check Section of the Washington State Patrol at the following address:

Washington State Patrol
Identification and Background Check Section
P.O. Box 42633
Olympia, WA 98504-2633

Washington State Patrol also allows requesting parties to make CHRI requests in person by submitting request forms along with complete sets of fingerprints. Information based on name and date of birth costs $32, while information based on fingerprints costs $58.

While certified criminal justice agencies may request unlimited access to criminal history record information for criminal justice purposes, members of the public may request for non-criminal justice purposes. However, members of the public receive limited information, including arrests less than a year old with pending dispositions, conviction information, and information about kidnappers or registered sex offenders.

Requesting parties may also lookup arrest records in person or by mail at the courts. To look up an arrest record in person, the requesting party may visit the Clerk's Office in the county where the arrest was made for where a case was filed. Interested parties may also submit request forms for arrest records by mail. Washington counties like Snohomish offer guidelines on how interested parties may request public records online.

How to Subpoena Arrest Records in Washington

Suppose all or part of an arrest record maintained by a law enforcement agency or criminal justice organization in Washington is required for law enforcement or criminal justice reasons. In that case, the concerned case party may need to request a court order to get the record. A subpoena duces tecum is a court order that directs a person, organization, or agency to send a record directly to court.

Although the state's Public Records Act guarantees access to public records, some records are exempt from the public records act. As such, such records are restricted from public access. Case parties may need the subpoena to get such records. To subpoena an arrest record in Washington, a requesting party must first file a request form and submit it to the court clerk along with an affidavit. The requesting party must then ensure that the respondent receives a copy of the subpoena.

In Washington, the subpoena must contain the name of the issuing court, the case number, and the title of the action. The court may also instruct the record custodian to appear in court simultaneously as the record. A court clerk, a case party's attorney, or other persons authorized by state statutes may issue and sign a subpoena. However, suppose the court finds that compliance to a subpoena would be illegal or that the subpoena does not allow reasonable time for the respondent to comply. In that case, the court may modify or quash the subpoena.

Peace officers or county sheriffs may serve subpoenas in Washington. Subpoenas may also be served through first-class mail, prepaid postage, or sending to the respondent's last known address. Subpoenas served by mail are deemed complete on the third day after the subpoena is mailed. It is also possible for other process servers apart from county sheriffs and peace officers, such as persons over 18 years old, to serve subpoenas. When such parties do, there must be proof of service by affidavit.

Record custodians must respond to subpoenas within 14 days of service or any other specified time in the order.

How to Search for an Inmate in the Washington Prison System

Washington's Department of Corrections (DOC) oversees the corrective systems for persons convicted of violating state laws. The agency exists to enact positive change, improve lives, and work with other agencies and the citizens to ensure safe communities. DOC aims to operate correction systems in safe and humane ways to ensure people's safety. There are 14 incarceration facilities in Washington, including work or training release centers; these facilities are under the administrative purview of DOC.

In Washington, interested parties may access currently incarcerated inmates' information through the public information service that the DOC provides. Apart from information about currently incarcerated inmates, the DOC websites offer information about persons wanted for arrest.

The DOC provides an Inmate Search Tool on its website where interested parties may search for currently incarcerated inmates in the Washington Prison System or request information about the inmates. The website lists Washington inmates' names, ages, DOC numbers, and the facilities where they are incarcerated. To filter through the list, incarceration facilities, interested parties may enter the inmate's name and DOC number in the appropriate fields. Victims of crime may sign up to receive notifications about inmates in the Washington Prison System.

To find inmates in the city, regional, and county jails, interested parties may contact county or city sheriffs, local police departments, or other agencies that oversee local prisons. Some of these local authorities have inmate rosters or inmate locators on their websites. Requesting parties may search using the inmates' names and numbers.

How Do I Find Out if Someone Was in Jail in Washington

The DOC's inmate search tool offers information on current and former inmates. Persons who require inmate information not available on the search tool may contact the DOC directly for additional information. The DOC can provide the following information about an inmate:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Age
  • Race
  • DOC number
  • Commitment and release date
  • County jail credit time
  • Facility assignment
  • Imposed fines
  • Parole date
  • Conditions for supervision
  • Date of conditional discharge from supervision
  • Execution date
  • Mandatory release date
  • Good time

To find out if someone was in jail in Washington, interested parties may visit the DOC to make inquiries in person at the headquarters, which is located at:

7345 Linderson Way SW
Tumwater, WA 98501-6504

The department also accepts requests by mail; interested parties may send records requests to:

P.O. Box 41100,
Mail Stop 41100
WA 98504-1100

Other ways to request inmate information from the Department of Corrections is by email (DOCCorrespondenceUnit@doc.wa.gov) or by Phone: ((360) 725-8213).

Requesting parties may also visit local law enforcement offices such as local police departments, sheriff's offices, and other local jail authorities. Some local jails publish inmate rosters on their websites; interested parties may visit these websites to find information about persons who were in jail.

How to Find Recent Arrests in Washington

Interested persons can find recent arrests in Washington through jail rosters or arrest logs maintained by law enforcement agencies in cities and counties across Washington state. For instance, inquirers can find recent arrests in Kings County through the online subject lookup portal provided by King County’s Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention (DAJD). On the portal, inquirers can search for and find individuals recently arrested and booked into a correctional facility in King County. To search for a subject on the portal, users must provide the subject name or UCN number. Users are also provided the option to view a list of arrestees booked in the last 24 hours. Arrestee details that are provided on the portal include the subject’s full name, bail amount, holding facility, UCN number, booking number, booking/arrest date and time, and charges details.

Likewise, interested parties can look up recent arrests in Pierce County through the jail roster provided by the County’s Sheriff’s Department Correctional Bureau. In this case, the roster lists all persons currently held in Pierce County jail, Yakima facility, the hospital, and on temporary release. The roster also lists individuals who were released in the last 48 hours. Unfortunately, a search input field is not provided on the roster. As a result, inquirers would need to skim through the roster to find an arrestee. Fortunately, arrestees’ names are listed in alphabetical order.

How Long Do Washington Arrest Records Stay on File?

Washington has retention schedules for government agency records. These schedules help the agencies determine the minimum retention period for the records and the disposition method. There are state retention schedules that apply to government agencies, and there are local government schedules that apply to courts, counties, municipalities, and other local authorities.

While some records may be destroyed on the expiration of the retention period, some other records may be transferred to other agencies or subject to appraisal by the state's archives before disposition. Records that are part of ongoing litigation or reasonably expected to be part of litigation may not be destroyed.

According to the state's retention schedule for county clerks and superior courts, certain juvenile criminal history records may be destroyed upon meeting certain notification and eligibility criteria. However, the schedule does not mention arrest records as part of the criminal history records. Like many states, Washington does not specify retention periods for arrest records. For this reason, law enforcement agencies manage such records in accordance with the agencies' procedures and policies.

Typically, arrest records in Washington stay on the subject's file until the record is expunged. However, interested parties may contact the record custodian for the appropriate agency to determine specific retention schedules that the agency adopts.

Are Arrest Reports Public in Washington?

An arrest report is a legal document produced by law enforcement agencies that provides information about an arrest conducted by an agency’s official. An arrest report offers a detailed breakdown of an arrest, such as the circumstances surrounding the arrest, the time, date, and place of arrest as well as other important details. Details contained in an arrest report may also include the arrestee and witness statements, information about charges related to the arrest, and evidence found during the arrest.

Given the fact that an arrest report can give a complete picture of an arrest, these records can be of great significance to prosecutors and defendants during a court case. Prosecutors may use the information in an arrest report to strengthen a prosecution case. Meanwhile, defendants may use details of an arrest report to prove that an arrest was unwarranted. Arrest reports are subject to Washington Public Record Act (RCW 42.56), making these reports publicly accessible. Hence, members of the general public may review arrest reports to discover details of an arrest. However, state statutes or court orders can limit public access to arrest reports.

A common misconception is mistaking arrest records and arrest reports as the same thing. Contrarily, these documents are different. While an arrest report details and provides information on a specific arrest, an arrest record details every instance an individual has been arrested in a particular jurisdiction.

How to Obtain Arrest Records for Free in Washington?

Washington offers various means to access arrest records, including the WATCH website, mail, and in-person requests. However, these methods require fees. Persons requesting arrest records online through WATCH must pay $11 for each search. Similarly, records requests sent by mail and made in person must be accompanied by required fees.

Persons who wish to obtain arrest records for free in Washington may contact court clerks in the county where the arrest warrant was issued, or if the arrest resulted in a charge or a conviction, the county where the case was filed. State laws allow interested parties to access court records at no charge in the courthouse or record custodian's office. However, the court charges fees to produce copies of public records.

Washington courts also provide an online search system for court records where interested parties may search for arrest records at no charge. Requesting parties may search using names or case information. However, requesting parties must note that information available on the website are only for informational purposes and are not official court records.

How to Search for a Washington Arrest Record Online Using a Third-Party Search Service

Third-party search services offer alternatives to government-owned channels. Where government agencies do not provide arrest records online, third-party search services are a way to obtain required information without visiting government agencies in person. Additionally, requests from government agencies often have processing times, especially in-person requests or those sent in by mail. Third-party search services are a way to circumvent these processing times as they return search results instantly.

Persons interested in searching for Washington arrest records online using third-party search services may navigate to their preferred search services and enter the required information in the appropriate fields. Requesting parties can expect to submit the record subject's full name, date of birth, case number, or date of arrest. Some third-party search services offer record search for free, while others require subscriptions or one-time payments.

How to Correct an Arrest Record in Washington

Persons who need to correct mistakes on arrest records must contact the Washington State Patrol directly, as the agency is the central repository for criminal records in the state. The requesting party must first obtain a copy of their RAP sheet or criminal history record from the WSP and then highlight the mistakes in the record.

A Request for Modification of Record form is also required to correct a mistake on an arrest record. The requesting party must submit a completed form with fingerprints in person or by mail to the Identification and Criminal History section of WSP.

How to Expunge Arrest Records in Washington

According to RCW 10.97.060, non-conviction arrest records may be expunged in Washington at least three (3) years after the arrest. Upon the record subject's request, the criminal justice agency that maintains the record may delete the arrest record provided that the agency does not oppose the expungement.

Criminal justice agencies may oppose expungement if the subject of the record has a prior gross misdemeanor or felony conviction. The criminal justice agency may also oppose expungement if the subject of the record has been charged with or arrested for another crime in the three (3) years since the arrest for which the subject is seeking expungement.

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