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Washington Arrest Records: How to Find Arrest Records in Washington

Washington Arrest Records: How to Find Arrest Records in Washington
September 20, 2022

Washington is the 18th largest U.S. state, with a population of over six million people. The state spans over 71,000 square miles and comprises 39 counties and 281 cities. 


One of the ways residents of the state stay informed about government activities is through the Washington Public Records Act. 


Enacted in 1972 by the state’s legislature, the act mandates public agencies to maintain a public record that every resident of the state can access. 

In Washington, an arrest record (a type of public document) is a document prepared by the Washington State’s Department of Police and other law enforcement agencies providing the details of a particular arrest. 


The records are drafted when an individual is taken into custody for alleged involvement in a crime. 


While arrest records render details of apprehension and detention, they aren’t proof of indictment or culpability. 


Arrest records are only included in a person’s criminal history when such arrests lead to detention or indictment. 

handcuffs lying on an illustration of the Washington flag

Arrest Warrants in Washington

Before an arrest is made in Washington, a warrant for arrest must have been signed. 


An arrest warrant is a document issued by the court authorizing the arrest of an individual suspected of criminal behavior. 


Only magistrates and judges are competent to issue arrest warrants in Washington. 

Before a judge or magistrate can issue a warrant, they must decide if there is probable cause for such arrest. 


Arrest warrants usually contain strict guidelines concerning execution, like the validity of the warrant, the date for the arrest, and the time of the day the suspect should be arrested. 

a gavel next to handcuffs lying on a piece of paper

Persons that can Access a Washington Arrest Records 
According to the Washington State’s Public Records Act, arrest records in Washington are open to every member of the public. 


Therefore, interested parties can apply for arrest records from law enforcement agencies tasked with maintaining such records. 


However, such information will be redacted or removed if an arrest record includes confidential or any information exempted by federal or state laws from public access. 

These exemptions are provided to protect the person’s privacy, trade secrets, financial details, and business interests, amongst other things. 


Unlike other U.S. states, Washington permits public access to the arrest records of juveniles under specific circumstances. 


According to the provisions of RCW 13.50.050, juvenile court files are retrievable by members of the public except sealed by the court.

How to Find Arrest Records in Washington

Interested persons can look up personal or third-party arrest records through the Washington State Patrol’s Access to Criminal History (WATCH) site. 

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The website allows members of the public to search for arrest records and receive immediate results. The WATCH database contains:

* Kidnapping and sex offender information
* Conviction details
* Arrests records that are less than one year old

A single search costs $11, and the cost is payable by credit card. Unfortunately, the platform does not entertain refund requests, even if your search results do not tally. 


Therefore, you must endeavor to provide the arrestee’s information, including their full name, middle initials, and date of birth. 

Secondly, persons looking for arrest records in Washington can also browse through the Washington State Archives using the case number of the arrest record. 


Interested parties can search the digital archives using keywords or the case year. 

To commence a search, requesting parties must input the arrestee’s first and last names in the requisite fields. 


Persons without internet access or unable to access the state’s online archives can send a written request to the Washington State’s Archives using the address below: 

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

Furthermore, another technique you can employ in finding Washington arrest records is the Criminal History Record Information (CHRI). 

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Requesting parties are expected to submit a request form with the relevant fees by mail to the office of the Identification and Background Check Section of the Washington State Patrol using the following address:

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

Interested parties can also find arrest records by mail or in person at the courts. 


To find an arrest record in person, visit the clerk’s office in the county where the arrest was made. You can also submit a request by mail. 


In addition, Washington counties, such as Pacific County, provide detailed guidelines on accessing arrest records online. 

Arrest records are stored indefinitely in Washington, with the exception of non-conviction data. 


In Washington, arrest records over three years old that didn’t end up with favorable dispositions or convictions are deleted. 

All other details are stored permanently unless expunged. 
Incorrect details contained in arrest records can also be removed or amended. 


The Washington State Patrol (WSP) provides a Request for Modification of Records form that can be used to challenge inaccurate information. 


Attach the relevant documents from the arresting agencies or court (s). The data will be deleted once approved by the WSP.


Washington arrest records are public information accessible to every member of the public. 


Searching for arrest records in Washington can be accomplished using several techniques, such as those discussed above. 

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