Washington Court Records
Are Criminal Records Public In Washington?
By Section 10.97.050 of the Revised Code of Washington, criminal records that resulted in a conviction, as well as arrest records that are less than one year old, are public records and may be disseminated without any restrictions. On the other hand, criminal records which did not lead to a conviction are not public records and are only accessible by a select few including:
- Criminal Investigation agencies
- Individuals or agencies contracted for the administration of criminal justice
- Individuals or agencies for research, statistical, or evaluative purposes
Washington criminal records that have been sealed or expunged are also restricted from public access. The Washington State Patrol collects Washington state criminal records from local and county enforcement agencies and courts and distributes to interested eligible members of the public.
What Is Included In A Criminal Record In Washington?
A criminal record, also known as a rap sheet, is an official compilation of a person’s arrests, detentions, indictments, and criminal convictions. It includes any formal criminal charges, and criminal convictions, as well as any disposition that arises from it. There are two types of criminal records in Washington State:
- Conviction records: These are criminal history information concerning an incident that led to the conviction of the subject.
- Non-conviction records: This refers to criminal history information concerning an incident which did not lead to a conviction, and for which court proceedings are no longer actively pending.
Generally, the information on the subject provided on the criminal record includes:
- Personal information, such as full name, sex, race, height, weight, date, place of birth, etc.
- The type and degree of the (alleged) crimes
- The date of conviction
- The sentence imposed
- The law enforcement agency that made the arrest, and other contributing agencies
- The statute or law that was allegedly violated
How To Look Up My Criminal Records In Washington?
In the State of Washington, eligible persons can obtain a copy of Washington criminal records from the Washington State Patrol. The subject in question may request for a copy of the conviction record online, by mail or in person. To get an online copy, visit the WATCH online portal. Mail and walk-in requests are only possible after submitting a set of fingerprints.
Obtain a set of fingerprints from the Olympia Office of the WSP, which is located at 106 11th Ave SW Suite 1300, Olympia WA 98501. The office is open from 8 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday. Alternatively, visit any of the closest WSP approved fingerprinting locations.
Securing a set of fingerprints requires a valid government-issued identification card and a fee of $16.00. The acceptable means of payment are check, cash, and credit/debit card (Visa, MasterCard, and American Express).
The WSP also charges an additional fingerprint processing fee of $58.00 payable by check, money order, or by filling the Bankcard Authorization form. After obtaining the full set of fingerprints, submit the fingerprint card and appropriate payment by mail or in-person to:
Washington State Patrol, Identification and Background Check Section
PO Box 42633,
Olympia, WA 98504–2633
Eligible third parties can also request for Washington conviction records by mail, or in-person by completing the Request for Conviction Criminal History Form and submitting to the address given above. An interested third party may also make the request online. There is a $32.00 charge attached to the request, which can be paid using a check, cash, or debit/credit card.
On the other hand, members of the public can not readily access non-conviction records in Washington. The subject of a non-conviction record may request for a copy by sending a fingerprint card and a $12 fee to:
Washington State Patrol, Identification and Background Check Section
PO Box 42633,
Olympia, WA 98504–2633
How Can I Get My Criminal Records For Free In Washington?
Obtaining criminal records in the State of Washington requires paying a fee. However, the Criminal Justice Information Services Division of the FBI supplies fingerprint cards free of charge to agencies that have been issued an Originating Agency Identification Number (ORI). To order fingerprint cards, fill the CJIS Requisition Form 1–178a. The request may be completed by phone on (304) 623–5590, by fax to the CJIS Division, Fingerprint Supply Center (304) 625–3984, or electronically.
How To Search Criminal Records Online In Washington?
The Washington State Patrol allows online access to Washington criminal records. Interested persons can search for a criminal record and receive the results using WATCH (Washington Access to Criminal History). The online database provides information on:
- Conviction records
- Arrests that are less than a year old with pending dispositions
- Information about registered sex and kidnap offenders
To access the online database, the user must first create an account on the website by providing the following personal information:
- First and last name
- Email address
- Phone number
- Zip Code
After creating the account, search for a criminal record by entering the subject’s name and date of birth. The search results provide a list of records with candidates that fit or closely fit the search criteria used. However, if there are no conviction records in the database that match the search requirements used, the site produces a “no record” or “no exact match found” result. The user may save a copy of the desired criminal record after finding it.
Each name search costs $11.00 regardless of the outcome of the search. Users can pay the fee using a credit/debit card or by billing an already established account.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that the person resides in or was accused in
Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How To Get Criminal Records Expunged In Washington?
In the State of Washington, the expungement of criminal records is known as “Vacating of records.” The Revised Code of Washington 10.97.060 makes the expungement of non-conviction records possible in Washington. A non-conviction criminal record is eligible for expungement if:
- Charges were never filed after the arrest, citation, or warrant and three years have passed since the date of the arrest, warrant, or citation
- Charges were filed but did not lead to conviction and two years have elapsed from the date the charges were dismissed
However, a non-conviction record does not qualify for expungement if:
- The prosecution of the case was deferred or similarly diverted
- The petitioner has a previous conviction for a gross misdemeanor or felony
- The petitioner was arrested for or charged with another crime during the mandatory waiting period
Any qualified person may request for the expunction of non-conviction records by completing the Request For Expungement/Deletion Of Non-conviction Records Form and submitting it in person to 3000 Pacific Avenue, Suite 202, Olympia, or by mail to:
Washington State Patrol, Criminal History Records Section,
PO Box 42633,
Olympia WA 98504–2633
By the Revised Code of Washington 9.96.060, a misdemeanor conviction or gross misdemeanor conviction may be expunged if:
- More than three years have elapsed since the completion of all the sentence terms
- There are no pending criminal charges against the petitioner
- The petitioner was not convicted of another crime during the waiting period
- There has been no previous vacation of a conviction record
- The petitioner has not been the subject of a no-contact order, a civil restraining order, an anti-harassment order, or a domestic violence protection order within the past five years
Despite these conditions, the following misdemeanor offenses can not be expunged or vacated:
- A violent offense or attempted violent offense
- A sex offense
- A vehicular offense that has to do with driving under the influence
- A disqualifying domestic violence offense
To apply for the vacation of a misdemeanor conviction, download a Motion and Declaration for Order Vacating Conviction form and a Notice of Hearing to Vacate Conviction form. Complete both forms and file with the clerk of the court where the sentence was passed. After filing the originals, send a copy of the documents to the prosecuting attorney.
Vacating or expunging a felony conviction is slightly different. To qualify for expungement of a felony conviction under RCW 9.94A.640, the petitioner must meet the following requirements:
- There are no pending criminal charges
- There has been no conviction of another crime since completing the sentence
- The conviction was not for a violent offense or a crime against persons
On the other hand, the petitioner is not eligible to expunge a felony conviction if:
- The offense is a Class B felony and less than ten years have elapsed since the completion of the sentence
- The offense is a Class C felony and less than five years have passed elapsed since the completion of the sentence
If eligible for a vacation of a felony conviction, complete the Motion and Declaration for Order Vacating Record of Felony Conviction form. File the completed form with the clerk of the court that passed the sentence on the case. The petition is also required to send a photocopy of the form to the prosecuting attorney.
The court also vacates certain prostitution convictions if the petitioner was convicted as a result of being a victim of:
- Human trafficking
- Trafficking in persons under the trafficking victims protection act
- Promoting commercial sexual abuse of a minor
- Promoting prostitution in the first degree
However, the prostitution conviction can not be vacated if:
- There are pending criminal charges
- If there are any subsequent convictions except prostitution
After filing the motion for an order to vacate a conviction, the court schedules a hearing. If the court grants the motion, the following legal protection applies:
- The court reverses the finding of guilt and dismisses the charge
- The court releases the petitioner from all disabilities and penalties resulting from the conviction
- The conviction is removed from the petitioner’s criminal history and may not be used in determining a sentence in a subsequent conviction
- The petitioner can deny the conviction
- The record becomes unavailable to members of the public
How To Get Criminal Records Sealed In Washington?
Under Washington Courts General Rules 15, a person may request to seal a criminal record. Before granting the request, the court considers if there are significant privacy or safety concerns that surpass the public interest to access the criminal record, or if the conviction has been vacated. This means that the decision to seal a criminal record is completely at the court’s discretion.
To request for sealing a criminal record, file a motion at the court that passed sentence on the case. After filing it, send a Notice of Hearing to Seal to relevant law enforcement agencies, the prosecuting attorney, and the victim, if ascertainable. If the court grants the petition to seal a criminal record, the record is protected from the public and unauthorized court personnel.
Who Can See My Expunged/sealed Criminal Record In Washington?
Under RCW 9.96.060, a criminal record that is expunged or vacated is inaccessible to general members of the public. However, law enforcement agencies or the state patrol may disclose the information contained in a vacated criminal record to other criminal justice enforcement agencies.
On the other hand, a sealed criminal record can be accessed by the appellate court in the event of an appeal. Under that circumstance, the criminal record needs to be resealed by further order of the appellate court.
After a criminal record is sealed, the court may still unseal the record. If the record is unsealed, members of the public regain access to the criminal record. The court unseals a sealed criminal record on the petition of the prosecuting attorney under the following circumstances:
- A new criminal charge was filed, and the existence of the offense contained in the sealed record is an element of the new crime or may provide the basis for an exceptional sentence, or constitute a statutory sentencing enhancement
- The subject of the sealed record is alleged to be a sexually violent predator
- There is proof of other compelling circumstances