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Miscellaneous Law Enforcement Records Exemptions and Prohibitions

This page discusses disclosure requirements for miscellaneous police and sheriff records in Washington State. It is part of MRSC's series on Law Enforcement Records Management and Disclosure, created in partnership with the State Auditor's Center for Government Innovation. Always consult with your legal counsel if you are unsure whether a record is exempt or prohibited from disclosure.

In addition to the exemptions and prohibitions covered in more detail elsewhere, state law provides for a number of other exemptions or prohibitions for disclosure of law enforcement records. The more common ones are discussed below.


Booking Photos

Booking photos cannot be disclosed under RCW 70.48.100(2). However, the photo may be disseminated if it depicts a sex offender (under RCW 4.24.550) if the agency has received the written permission of the person in the photo, or for other limited circumstances outlined in the statute.

Exception: If the booking photo is used for another purpose, then it is no longer a jail record and is subject to disclosure. For example, if the booking photo was used in a photo montage, the character of the record has been changed to the extent that it would no longer be exempt.

Concealed Pistol License Applications

RCW 42.56.240(4) exempts concealed pistol license applications from public disclosure, except to law enforcement or corrections agencies.


Confidential Informants

Information revealing the identity of confidential informants is exempt from disclosure under RCW 42.56.240(1) and (2), and rule CrR 4.7(f)(2).


Abuse of Vulnerable Adults

RCW 74.34.095 prohibits the disclosure of information regarding the abuse of vulnerable adults in most instances. This includes:

  • Reports of abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect;
  • The identity of the person making the report; and
  • All files, reports, records, communications, and working papers used or developed in the investigation or provision of protective services.

This information can be disclosed only as outlined in chapters 18.20, 18.51, or 74.39A RCW and other limited circumstances outlined in RCW 74.34.095.


Intelligence Information

RCW 42.56.240(1) exempts “specific intelligence information … the nondisclosure of which is essential to effective law enforcement...” “Intelligence” can include:

  • Information about methods used by law enforcement agency to carry out investigations; or
  • The gathering or distribution of information, especially secret information; information about an enemy; or the evaluated conclusions drawn from such information.

See Fischer v. Dep’t of Corrections; King County v. Sheehan.

To be intelligence information, the information does not need to concern particular individuals, but it must disclose particular methods or procedures for gathering or evaluating intelligence information. See Haines-Marchel v. Dep’t of Corrections.

Potential examples of intelligence information include police training manuals providing tactical information (such as hand signals to use during an incident) or SWAT team tactical maneuvers that are not generally known.

Practice Tip: The officer should provide the agency’s legal counsel with a clear and specific description of why withholding the intelligence information is essential to effective law enforcement. Consider conducting a line-by-line analysis of the record in order to apply this exemption.

Last Modified: February 05, 2019