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Washington Court Records

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Washington Arrest Records

Washington arrest records contain information about the detention of an individual. A lawful arrest is made when the police officer has probable cause to believe that the individual being arrested has committed an offense. This arrest can be made with or without a warrant. 

While arrest records help citizens keep track of arrests made by their local law enforcement agencies, they should not be used as determinants of guilt against the arrestee. The arrestee should be assumed innocent until they have undergone a trial in a court with jurisdiction and are declared guilty by a judge. Notwithstanding, arrest records are an important part of the state's judicial system. They are typically held alongside Washington criminal court records and made accessible to the public.

Offenses in Washington are classified into three main categories: felonies, misdemeanors, and gross misdemeanors. According to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation Crime Data Explorer, 131,897 arrests were made in Washington in 2022. This signifies a 6% increase from the previous year's 123,787 arrests. Some of the most popular reasons for arrest, according to these arrest statistics, include simple assault (23,614 arrests), Driving under the influence (22,179 arrests), and larceny/theft (15,362 arrests). A typical arrest record will contain personal information about the arrestee, a description of the charge, booking details, and details of the arresting Agency.

Are Arrest Records Public in Washington?

Yes. According to the Revised Code of Washington, RCW 42.56.010, written documents prepared, owned, used, or retained by local agencies are classified as public records. As arrest records are generated and maintained by local law enforcement agencies, they are classified as public records. The arresting Agency or record custodian makes them available to the public for inspection and copying. 

Anyone can access the arrest record through their local county law enforcement website or third-party search tools. Although arrest records are open for public viewing according to the law, some may be exempted from public view to protect the parties' right to privacy. RCW 42.56.240 mandates the exemption of active police investigation records, records containing witness information, sex offenses, health matters, and identifying information of juveniles or minors.  

What is Included in Washington Arrest Records?

Washington arrest records typically contain the following:

  • Arrestee's personal information (Name, Gender, and Age)
  • Picture of the Arrestee
  • Booking Information (Booking number, booking date)
  • Date of the arrest
  • Case number
  • Warrant information
  • Details of the arresting Agency and officer
  • Description of the charge or offense 
  • Time and place of the arrest. 

Find Public Arrest Records in Washington

Interested individuals can find public arrest records in Washington by contacting the law enforcement agency that made the arrest. These typically include the Washington State Police Department, county sheriff's offices, and local police departments. It is possible to obtain arrest records from these custodians in person, through mail, online databases maintained by the Agency, or third-party websites. 

Online databases are the most convenient way to find arrest records due to their accessibility from any location with an internet connection. It is important to note that the specific procedures and requirements of each Agency must be followed before an arrest record can be obtained.

The general process for obtaining an arrest record in Washington includes:

  1. Identify the government agency maintaining the record: The custodian of the arrest record is primarily the Agency that made the arrest. Determining which local police department processed the arrestee will help determine who the requester will contact for the record. Requesters can also obtain arrest records from county courthouses, as an arrested individual is documented in the Washington criminal justice system.
  2. Contact the Agency: The requester contacts the Agency with the arrest record through the channels they specify and with the required information necessary to complete the request. The required information includes the arrestee's name and date of birth. The Washington State Patrol (WSP) can be the primary contact for arrest records, as they maintain records submitted by law enforcement agencies and courts throughout Washington. Contact can be in person, through mail, or online.

For in-person and mail requests, the requester must complete and submit a record request form in person at the Agency's office. For the Washington State Patrol, a Request for Conviction Criminal History Form or a full set of fingerprints can also be submitted to Criminal History Record Information (CHRI) in person to request a conviction record. Applicable fees must be paid to complete the request. Request forms can be completed and mailed to the custodian agency along with applicable fees. Payment can be made by check, money order, or by completing a Bank Card Authorization form.

Meanwhile, records custodians offer an online search tool through their website to obtain criminal history information. Washington Access to Criminal History (WATCH) is the official internet source of criminal history conviction records in Washington. Applicable fees must be paid by debit or credit card to complete the request.

Obtaining Restricted Arrest Records in Washington

Some arrest records may be restricted from unauthorized access by law to protect personal information, juveniles, witnesses, or the integrity of an ongoing case. Records that have been sealed or expunged are also inaccessible to the public but available to other criminal justice agencies upon request. Access to restricted records can only be granted by a court.  

According to Criminal Court Rules 4.8, a court can issue a subpoena for production, which is an order to permit inspection, copying, testing, or sampling of a record even though it is restricted. After the application has been granted, an individual can fill out the Proof of Personal Service form and have the subpoena served for them. The server will deliver a copy of the subpoena to the custodian agency, and upon receipt, they are required to deliver the documents specified in the subpoena within a reasonable time.

How to Lookup Arrest Records Online in Washington

A person can look at arrest records online in Washington by visiting the website or using the online search tool provided by the records custodian. The inquirer can use official state search tools (local county tools and state tools) or third-party resources to search for arrest records online.

  • Local police department: The websites of some counties' local police departments have search tools that can be used to look through their arrest logs. Examples include Whatcom County Jail Bookings and Pacific County Jail Bookings update the database daily when new arrests are made. 
  • Washington Access to Criminal History (WATCH): WATCH is the official online repository of criminal history for the State of Washington, maintained by the Washington State Patrol (WSP). It receives records from courts and law enforcement agencies statewide and is the fastest way to access your criminal history record information (CHRI) online. Information about arrests that took place within the past year and are still pending in the criminal justice system can be retrieved from this database. A search using this tool costs $11 per name, payable by credit card regardless of the search results. Information required to complete the search includes the arrestee's name and date of birth.
  • Washington State Digital Archives: As the online data repository for Washington, historical information, including arrest records, can be found here. A case search that can yield arrest records can be conducted for free using this tool.
  • Third-party search tools: Third-party search tools can be used if the inquirer is not sure which county is the arresting Agency, as that is a key detail for completing local and state online searches. Although they help conduct generalized online searches, it is important to double-check the completeness and correctness of the results, as they may not be as up-to-date as official government sources.
  • DOC Inmate Search: To check if someone is in jail or was in jail, the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) can be contacted. Their online Inmate Search tool is an up-to-date statewide database that provides information on all current and formerly incarcerated individuals. Inquirers can search for inmates by entering their DOC number, first name, or last name in the search fields provided.

How Long Do Arrests Stay on Your Record in Washington?

In Washington, arrests stay on record forever unless they are expunged, deleted, sealed, or vacated by a court. Depending on the type of crime and the Agency handling the case, there are varying timelines and conditions for expunging arrests. 

  • Arrests by the Washington State Patrol (WSP): They can be expunged after 2 years have passed and a final disposition is received of the arrest. 
  • Criminal History Record Information (CHRI): Records stored in the Washington State Identification System (WASIS) are retained for up to 120 years. 
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI): The National Crime Information Center (NCIC), which the FBI maintains, contains nationwide criminal records voluntarily supplied by states. Records here cannot be expunged except by presidential pardon. 

Expunge an Arrest Record in Washington

Individuals who meet certain eligibility requirements can vacate, seal, or expunge their records. Expunged records are destroyed, sealed records are inaccessible to unauthorized access and vacated records mean that the conviction has been removed from the individual's criminal records. 

Per RCW 10.97.060, only non-conviction records can be deleted from the criminal justice agency's records if two years have passed since the record became a non-conviction record and if three years have passed from the date of the arrest. The process for getting a record expunged can include either of the following:

  • Writing a letter: An arrestee can write a letter appealing to the law enforcement agency holding the record and requesting that they delete it. The Agency may deny the request if it is a case of deferred prosecution, if the requester has been convicted before for a felony or gross misdemeanor, or if the requester was charged with another crime during their waiting period.
  • Obtaining a Court Order: An arrestee can apply for a court order instructing the Agency to destroy their records. A court's order for expungement is absolute. 
  • Submitting a WSP Request for Expungement: The arrestee can fill and sign the expungement request form, including proof that they own the identifying data being requested for expungement and other details about the case that led to the collection of the personal data.

Expunged records delete the records kept by the Washington State Patrol, but to completely clear the arrest record, the physical and electronic court files relating to the case have to be sealed. Sealing the record closes it to public viewing, meaning that if a background search is run, only the arrestee's name and case number will be available. All other arrest details will be restricted from unauthorized viewing. 

How Do I Find Recent Arrests in Washington?

An individual can find recent arrest records in Washington using one of the following methods:

  • Police and County Sheriff websites: Local police departments and county sheriff websites have daily arrest logs available on their websites, which can be used to find recent booking information in Washington. Examples include Whatcom County jail bookings and Pacific County jail bookings.
  • Washington Department of Corrections Inmate Search Tool: They maintain information on all current incarcerations in the state, so individuals can find recent arrest records here. Key details needed to complete the record search include first name, last name, and DOC number of the arrestee.
  • In-person visits to law enforcement agencies: An inquirer can pay a visit to the particular law enforcement agency that is the custodian of the arrest record they are looking for to obtain the most up-to-date version of the record.

Are Washington Arrest Records Free?

Yes. Washington arrest records can be obtained for free online through the local county sheriff's websites. For more detailed arrest records, an individual can visit the sheriff or police department in person, but it is important to note that while inspection of these records is free, copying them may attract a fee. Third-party websites may also offer subscription-based access to arrest records. However, because these sources are not affiliated with the government, there is no guarantee of the accuracy or completeness of the documents obtained.

Washington Arrest Records
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