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Retention Requirements for Law Enforcement Records

This page provides guidance on how long police and sheriff departments in Washington State must retain various types of commonly requested records.

It is part of MRSC's series on Law Enforcement Records Management and Disclosure, created in partnership with the Washington State Auditor's Performance Center.

Retention Requirements

Police and sheriff departments must retain their records for a specific amount of time, depending on the type of record, as established in the Secretary of State's Records Retention Schedules for Law Enforcement Agencies. Below are the retention requirements for commonly requested law enforcement records, along with the relevant Disposition Authority Number (DAN). Always review the Secretary of State's complete retention schedule to ensure compliance.

After the retention period has expired, the Secretary of State's schedule allows records to be destroyed or transferred. Before destroying a record, check with the prosecutor to make sure the matter has not been appealed. Local agencies may also choose to keep their records longer than the required time period if desired.

Following the time periods in the retention schedule allows agencies to better manage their records and their responses to public records requests. If requested records have already been destroyed in accordance with the retention schedule, the agency can respond that it no longer has the records as they were properly destroyed pursuant to the adopted records retention schedule.

Case Files

Type of Record Retain For... Then... DAN
Homicides (solved) 20 years after conclusion of investigation and until exhaustion of appeals process. Transfer to State Archives for appraisal and selective retention. LE2010-062
Homicides (unsolved) 75 years after case opened and until no longer needed for agency business. Transfer to State Archives for permanent retention. LE2010-061
Notorious or historically significant cases - excludes sex offenses. See Records Management Advice. Until no longer needed for agency business. Transfer to State Archives for permanent retention. LE2010-060
Sex offender and sexually violent cases 5 years after conclusion of investigation and until exhaustion of appeals process. Transfer to Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs for permanent retention. LE2010-063
All other cases not covered by a more specific records series 5 years after conclusion of investigation and until exhaustion of appeals process. Destroy. LE2010-064

Criminal History Records

Type of Record Retain For... Then... DAN
Felonies and gross misdemeanors - Criminal history record information as defined in RCW 10.97.030(1) on individuals who are charged with a felony or gross misdemeanor.

Includes fingerprints recorded under RCW 43.43.735; identifiable descriptions; notations of arrests, charges, and dispositions; and mug shots.
1 year after completion of Washington State Patrol Audit. Destroy. LE07-01-05
Misdemeanors with fingerprints - Criminal history record information as defined in RCW 10.97.030(1) on individuals who are charged with a misdemeanor where fingerprints have been recorded and must be transmitted to Washington State Patrol.

Includes fingerprints recorded under RCW 43.43.735; identifiable descriptions; notations of arrests, charges, and dispositions; and mug shots.
Until transmitted to Washington State Patrol and until no longer needed for agency business. Destroy. LE2010-067
Misdemeanors without fingerprints - Criminal history record information as defined in RCW 10.97.030(1) on individuals who are charged with a misdemeanor where fingerprints have not been recorded.

Includes identifiable descriptions; notations of arrests, charges, and dispositions; and mug shots.
Until offender attains 99 years of age or is deceased, whichever occurs sooner. Destroy. LE2010-068
RAP sheets - retrieved from state or federal criminal history databases Until no longer needed for agency business. Destroy. GS50-02-03

Juvenile Records

Type of Record Retain For... Then... DAN
Juvenile records (general) Until juvenile attains 23 years of age, if agency has adopted procedures for destruction pursuant to RCW 13.50.270(4). Otherwise, retain for same length of time as adult case files. Destroy if agency has adopted policy; otherwise treat the same as adult case files. LE2015-011
Juvenile records (destruction eligibility notification received) Until receipt of notification from Juvenile Court. Destroy within 90 days. LE2015-008
Juvenile records (destruction ordered by court) Until receipt of court order. Destroy. LE2015-010
Juvenile records (pardon notification received) Until receipt of pardon notification from Governor's Office. Destroy within 30 days. LE2015-009

Traffic-Related Records

Type of Record Retain For... Then... DAN
Citations (except DUI) - records relating to criminal or non-criminal citations issued to alleged violators in accordance with RCW 46.64.010(4) 3 years after date of issuance or until completion of State Auditor's report, whichever is sooner. Destroy. LE07-01-06
Citations (DUI) - records relating to citations issued to alleged violators for driving while under the influence as defined in RCW 46.61.502 10 years after date of issuance. Destroy. LE2010-095
Collision reports - reports prepared by law enforcement documenting vehicle collisions resulting in injury, death, or property damage Until submitted to Washington State Patrol. Destroy. LE12-01-13
Impounded or abandoned vehicles - records relating to vehicles impounded by the agency 3 years after disposition of vehicle or until completion of State Auditor's report, whichever is sooner. Destroy. LE21-01-02
Impound logs - logs documenting impounds reported to the agency by registered tow truck operators 3 years after date of log entry. Destroy. LE21-01-04
Major accident response and reconstruction - investigations of major traffic accidents resulting in fatalities or serious injury with a high likelihood of civil litigation. 50 years after conclusion of investigation. Transfer to State Archives for appraisal and selective retention. LE2010-072

Video Footage and Images

Type of Record Retain For... Then... DAN
Automatic license plate recognition images (case-specific) Until exhaustion of appeals process. Destroy. LE2010-054
Automatic license plate recognition images (not case-specific) Until verification that no significant image has been captured. Destroy. LE2010-055
Automated traffic safety camera footage (citation issued) Until exhaustion of appeals process. Destroy. LE2010-052
Automated traffic safety camera footage (no citation issued) Until verification that no infraction has been captured. Destroy. LE2010-053
Body camera footage (incident identified) Until matter is resolved and until exhaustion of appeals process. Destroy. LE09-01-08
Body camera footage (no incident identified) 90 days after date of recording. Destroy. LE09-01-09
Dashcam footage (incident identified) Until matter is resolved and until exhaustion of appeals process. Destroy. LE09-01-08
Dashcam footage (no incident identified) 90 days after date of recording Destroy. LE09-01-09

Last Modified: January 22, 2018