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Washington Public Records: How to Perform a Washington Public Records Search

Washington Public Records: How to Perform a Washington Public Records Search
September 28, 2022

Washington public records typically contain detailed information about their subjects. 


Per the Public Records in Washington Act, these records may be obtained by interested members of the public on request. 


Washington public records requests are typically granted by their respective record custodians, but the state may deny access to some records. 


One way or the other, the state of Washington responds to records requests within 5 days, and if a request is denied, the state of Washington must notify the requester by writing, stating the reasons for the denial.


How to Perform a Washington Public Records Search:


Nowadays, you have the choice between performing a Washington free public records search, or a paid per search. 

a man sitting next to a stack of folders


Each method for finding public records in Washington has its pros and cons, and you can decide which method you prefer:


What are Vital Records in Washington?

Birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates, and divorce certificates are collectively known as vital records in Washington. 


These records are maintained by the Department of Health Center for Health Statistics.


People who seek to obtain Washington vital records are typically not required to provide a means of identification with their application. 


Having said that, Washington's vital records are only accessible to persons identified by the record, close family members of theirs, or people legally authorized to access the records.


For those requesters who are unwilling to go the official route, third-party websites are more convenient options. 


The official way to access Washington vital records is to request a certified copy of appropriate records in person or via mail to the Washington State Department of Health. 


To do this, interested parties must fill out the appropriate certificate mail order form and send it, along with a $20 request fee, to:


Washington State Department of Health
Center for Health Statistics
Town Center 1
101 Israel Road SE
Turnwater, WA 98501


Marriage and divorce records in Washington may also be obtained by making in-person requests at the office of the county clerk in the county where the marriage or divorce was finalized. 

a gavel and two wedding bands on a marriage contract

What Are Washington Criminal Records?

Criminal records in Washington are official documents that chronicle an individual's encounter with law enforcement agencies in the state. 


Law enforcement agencies in the state typically create and maintain these records, which makes them Washington public records, per the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).


Since criminal records are public records in Washington, they are mostly accessible to members of the public on request. 


Sealed or expunged records, however, may not be available for public scrutiny. On the other hand, criminal justice agencies may access all types of criminal records in the state. 

How to Find Washington Criminal Records

There are a variety of ways to access or obtain criminal records in Washington. Interested individuals can perform an in-person criminal records search at the Washington State Patrol. 


Fingerprint-based searches attract a $58 charge. Requesters are required to open an online account in order to register a debit or credit card for payment.

a hand signing a paper with fingerprints


For mail requests, fill out the criminal record check application form on the Washington State Patrol website and send it to:


Washington State Patrol
Identification and Background Check Station
PO Box 42633
Olympia, WA 98504-2633


Alternatively, interested parties may access criminal records at the office of their local county sheriff. 

What are Washington Inmate Records?

The Washington Department of Corrections is responsible for keeping track of inmate records in the state. 


These official records provide details about criminal offenders housed in any state correctional facility, including physical characteristics that can be used to identify them and administrative data about their crimes.

a woman's handcuffed hands behind her back

How to Find Washington Inmate Records

The Washington Department of Corrections maintains and provides public access to an inmate search tool. 


Through this online database, interested members of the public can access information relating to specific inmates in the state's correctional system.


To use the Washington Department of Corrections inmate search tool, interested individuals must visit the department's website and locate the offender search tool. 


Next, they must provide a few details about the inmate, such as their name and identification number. 


Once this is done, click the search button next to the text boxes. The system will scour its database and bring up matching records. 

What Are Court Records In Washington?

Washington court records give specific information about people who have run afoul of the law in the state. 


Public access to court records is available upon request because they are public records. 


Court records in Washington typically contain such information as case information, judgment documentation, dockets, court minutes, and witness documentation. 

Finding Washington Court Records

The state of Washington provides an online repository for court records in the state. 


Individuals interested in accessing court records in the state can visit the website of the Washington Court Records arm of the Center for Health Statistics.


To find court records through this database, requesters must provide the full name of the subject of the record.

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