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The Public Records Act (Chapter 42.56 RCW) in Washington State allows citizens to review and obtain copies of government public records. According to the Washington State Department of Commerce, "Public records include documents in all formats, whether electronic or paper, that relate to government operations or conduct. All of Commerce's documents are considered public records, and are subject to public review, unless a law specifically exempts certain information from disclosure."
Many government agencies, such as the Department of Commerce, has a specific person who handles public records requests. When looking for records, you may need to contact them directly through email, by phone, or in person.
In Washington, many different types of agencies and offices create, store, maintain, and share public records. For example, hospitals may create birth certificates, then the courts or town offices file them to make them official. Later, a vital records department may add them to the state's repository. Law enforcement, the courts, local and state government offices, and others are all examples of where public records come from and where you can go to retrieve them.
"Public record" includes any writing containing information relating to the conduct of government or the performance of any governmental or proprietary function prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics. For the office of the secretary of the senate and the office of the chief clerk of the house of representatives, public records mean legislative records as defined in RCW 40.14.100 and also means the following: All budget and financial records; personnel leave, travel, and payroll records; records of legislative sessions; reports submitted to the legislature; and any other record designated a public record by any official action of the senate or the house of representatives."
Washington State's Secretary of State has a division called the Washington State Archives that preserves all historical public records for the state. They have various offices throughout the state you can visit to search and review collections. They also have an extensive array of documents online for easy access and searching. Along with vital records, they store historical documents, government records, tribal records, and more.
The Washington State Department of Commerce has simple instructions on how to obtain public records. They provide an email address or mailing address to use when making a request. Their general instructions are:
In some cases, you can visit the government agency in person to request records. The government agency has five business days to respond to your inquiry.
The Washington State Patrol has set up a helpful website for the public to request criminal records. You can use their system called WATCH (Washington Access to Criminal History) to search online and obtain results within minutes. You can also order a criminal history report by phone or in person. This is what they say about the "Criminal History Records, or background checks, consist of fingerprint-based records and disposition information submitted by law enforcement agencies and courts throughout Washington." You can also search Washington court records or the Washington State Department of Corrections to find criminal information on offenders.
Some common types of criminal records in Washington include (but are not limited to):
Washington Court is the government agency in charge of Court records in Washington. They have an area on their website, that allows the general public to search court records. You may search by case or person. They update the court records every 24 hours at 3:00 p.m. However, if you need official copies, you must visit the courthouse in person to purchase them. The courts have the right to charge you a small fee for copies of court documents.
Some types of court records in Washington include:
The court system in Washington consists of four levels starting with the Supreme Court. After that is the Court of Appeals, then the Superior Court, and finally Municipal and District Courts.
Anyone can find Washington arrest records pretty easily. First, the Washington State Patrol has set up a website where you can search for criminal records, including arrest data. After that, you have the option of searching court records for arrest records or contacting the Washington State Department of Corrections to find arrest details on convicted felons.
Some different types of arrests records in Washington are:
Washington State's Department of Health is the government agency in charge of all vital records for the state. They store all birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates, and you can easily request copies through the mail, in person, or online. This agency also handles adoption information and Apostilles.
Along with criminal, court, arrest, and vital records, other types of public records you can find in the state of Washington include, but are not limited to:
Washington State has a list of things that are not public records. Some of them are: