Washington Background Checks and Public Records

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State of Washington 

The State of Washington, known as the Evergreen State, is located in the Pacific Northwest. It is often referred to as Washington State to avoid confusing it with Washington D.C. The state named after George Washington is the 18th largest by area and the 13th by population. Although Olympia is the capital, its largest city and the major center for business and industry is Seattle.

Population in Washington is constantly changing as the technology companies based in the city attract residents not just around the US but around the world. If you plan on running a background check on people residing in the state, you might also want to check on their previous residences, if any.

Counties in Washington 

AdamsDouglasKingPacificStevens
AsotinFerryKitsapPend OreilleThurston
BentonFranklinKittitasPierceWahkiakum
ChelanGarfieldKlickitatSan JuanWalla Walla
ClallamGrantLewisSkagitWhatcom
ClarkGrays HarborLincolnSkamaniaWhitman
ColumbiaIslandMasonSnohomishYakima
CowlitzJeffersonOkanoganSpokane

Where to Get Public Records in Washington 

The Vital Records Information Page managed by the Department of Health is a go-to site for acquiring birth records, death certificates, marriage certificates, and divorce records. A copy of such documents may only be requested by individuals with a specific relationship (spouse, parent, children, sibling, grandparent, and/or legal representative) with the person/s listed on the records.

The Washington State Patrol handles criminal records. The limited records include conviction history, arrest records less than a year old, and sex/kidnapping records; criminal justice agencies have unrestricted access. Inmate records are handled by the  Department of Corrections of Washington State. Washington Court Records include case files, judgment documentation, jury records, and the like from courts across the state.

The Washington Tax Assessors utilize a program powered by Thomas Reuters called TaxSifter which people could utilize to search tax and land records. The included MapSifter program provides GPS photos of land parcels. Property Tax Records and deed records are maintained on the local level. 

Accessing and Acquiring Public Records in Washington 

The Washington Public Records Act is the state’s version of the Freedom of Information Act. Any person in Washington can request records and utilize such without restrictions even without stating the purpose. There are certain exemptions including access to certain legislative and judicial records. Washington’s Public Disclosure Act exemptions list also includes health records, employee salaries, law enforcement training and investigations, victims of abuse, guardianship records, specific education records, and financial and proprietary information.

The number of business days of turnaround times for public agencies is up to 5 days for request responses; a fee of $.15 per page is charged for the copy but there are no charges for the search. Denials could happen but must be done in writing with a specific reason. In case you want to appeal, you may do so to the Superior Court of the county within one year of your request. There may be variations to the rules since every government agency is different; it’s best to consider this especially if you’re accessing records from various agencies. You may also utilize a third-party people search engine.

Washington Background Check Reports

Requesters can get a name-based online background report via the comprehensive and easy-to-use website maintained by the Washington State Patrol. This online service is referred to as WATCH or Washington Access to Criminal History. A fee of $16 is associated with each request and results can be immediately obtained. Take note that WATCH reports consist of state records only.

Requests may also be submitted in person or via mail by filling out a Request for Conviction Criminal History Form. The type of background search can be name-based or fingerprint-based. There is a $38 fee to process a fingerprint card (state-run fingerprinting office is located in Olympia), in addition to the $16 fee. You may also opt to make use of third-party sites offering background check services.

Background checks in Washington are governed by certain laws including the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) which imposes nationwide restrictions regarding the use of information from background reports. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)  which focuses on fair hiring practices is also applicable. Seattle and Spokane used to follow the Fair Chance Act with regards to job applicant’s criminal background inquiries. On June 6, 2018, Washington enacted HB 1298. There are, of course, exemptions from the Ban-the-Box law including if the position entails unsupervised dealings with minors or vulnerable adults; positions in law enforcement and criminal justice; volunteer positions; if employers are required by law to review the candidate’s background.

Washington Official Websites

Frequently Asked Questions About Washington Background Checks

Where can I get a background check in Washington state?

Washington State background checks through the online service called WATCH (Washington Access to Criminal History) handled by the Washington State Police. You may also submit a Request for Conviction Criminal History Form via mail or in person.

What shows up on a background check in Washington state?

Background checks, particularly Washington criminal background checks for employment purposes or the like, may include employment history, education history, identity verification, as well as whether they are on the terrorist watchlist and/or national sex offender registry.

How far back does a background check go in Washington state?

Washington is one of the states that follows the 7-year rule. If, however, the job meets a certain salary threshold, the employers could conduct background checks as far back as ten years.

What states follow the 7-year rule background checks?

The states of California, Colorado, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Texas, and Washington follow the 7-year rule. In some states, this restriction only applies if the position is under a certain salary threshold.

What disqualifies you from a job in a background check?

This would depend on the nature of the job. In general, disqualification may be due to red flags like discrepancies in education and employment history, as well as extensive criminal records (again, depending on the nature of the job).