Washington Freedom of Information Act

Washington Arrest Records and Warrant Search

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The Washington Open Public Meetings Act and the Washington Public Records Act are cumulatively known as the Washington Freedom of Information Laws which were laid down in accordance with the federal FOIA. However, the state legislature varies significantly from its federal counterpart in terms of the time period within which an agency is obligated to process information request, the charges that can be levied on the dissemination of the request, the precise procedure to be followed when seeking information, whether the applicant needs to furnish a reason for wanting such information and the availability of a state ombudsman etc.

Washington Open Public Meetings Act

Section 40 of the Revised Code of Washington State (RCW) also known as the Washington Open Public Meeting Act lays down the attendance framework for meetings conducted by the governing bodies of state owned/run agencies. The Act dictates that every members of the society has the right to attend any event that is deemed as a meeting and is conducted by the governing authorities of a public agency in the state of Washington.
Sections 40.30.1010 to 40.30.920 also offer explanation on events that fall under the meetings category and those that don’t such as trial sessions in court. For the purpose of the application of this Act, a meeting is defined as any gathering where an action is decided upon. Events that are exempt from this law include reviewing process for granting licenses and collective bargaining sessions etc.
It is further stated that the general public should not be subjected to conditions for attending such meetings. The Open Meetings Act does not only apply to government bodies but also to universities, other publicly funded educational institutions, municipal corporations, policy group of political subdivisions and sub agencies of a public agency.

Washington Public Records Act

The Public Records Act of Washington State refers to a series of laws that are designed to offer members of the public the right to access records and documents held by various government agencies including the Department of Justice. This law applies to state agencies of all levels and every member of such an organization is legally obligated to provide information to applicants.
In this case, records are defined as any and all written information pertaining to the conduct and performance of the government or any state run agency, the proprietary functions owned, retained and used by the state or local agency. Not only do members of the public have the right to request criminal history information but also accident reports which have recently been categorized as public records through a Supreme Court ruling.
In simple words, except for pieces of information that are exempted from this law, all other data is accessible to individuals and organizations who may seek this data. Although, you are not required to offer an explanation as to why you need the details you request, all applicants will have to submit personal information like their name, address and telephone numbers when requesting public records.
In the state of Washington, no restrictions are placed on the use of records or on who can access this information.Pursuant to the Washington Public Records Act, government agencies have 5 working days to offer a response to any request made for such information.
Information that is not open for public viewing includes personal student information, medical and health details, employee and patient files and some investigative data. Although a government agency cannot refuse to furnish information on public records, they are authorized to charge a processing fee for the dissemination of such data.
While the Washington Public Records Act does not lay down rules for the method through which such information will be relayed to the public, many agencies like Washington State Patrol now offer public records online for the convenience of applicants.

Warrant Search and Washington Public Records Act

In accordance to the Washington Public Records Act, you can request information on active and outstanding warrants from the local Sherriff’s Department, a judicial entity as well as Washington State Patrol which maintains a central, statewide database of criminal history (WATCH).
However, in most cases, justice agencies will be reluctant to release information about active arrest warrants till such time they are served but you can easily get information on arrest orders that resulted in a conviction.
Washington State Patrol and all other government agencies only offer public records that are held in the state system. In other words, they are not obligated to access or provide federal or out-of-state records for applicants.