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Disclosure of Personal Identifying Information in Law Enforcement Records

This page discusses the disclosure of personal identifying information in the possession of police and sheriff departments in Washington State, including driver's license numbers, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and crime victim or witness identity. 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.

For information regarding the disclosure of other types of records, see Common Prohibitions and Exemptions for Law Enforcement Records.

Driver's License Numbers

Driver’s license numbers may be generally exempt from disclosure under RCW 42.56.230(5). (This statute exempts certain bank or financial information as defined in RCW 9.35.005; that definition includes driver’s license numbers.) Other statutes that may apply to driver's license numbers are:

  • RCW 42.56.240(1) (if in an investigative file, agencies can assert the individual's right to privacy);
  • RCW 46.52.120 (if obtained from the Department of Licensing); and
  • 18 USC § 2721(a)(2) (if retrieved from a database).

Social Security Numbers

Social Security numbers are exempt from disclosure under RCW 42.56.230(5).

Dates of Birth

There is no general statutory exemption for dates of birth. However, the month and year of birth of a criminal justice employee, contained in a personnel file, is exempt under RCW 42.56.250(8) (unless the requestor is the news media, which may access the employee's full date of birth).

Identity of Victims or Witnesses Generally

The identifying information of a crime victim or witness is exempt from disclosure under RCW 42.56.240(2) if (1) the victim or witness indicates a desire for nondisclosure at the time of the complaint, or (2) disclosure would endanger the person’s life, physical safety, or property. The agency must show, with specific evidence, that one or both of these conditions are met. See Sargent v. Seattle Police Department.

State law does not define “identifying information,” but it likely includes:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Photographs

Practice Tip: Consider having a prompt or check box in your forms that ask whether the victim or witness does not want their identity disclosed.

Identity of Child Victims or Witnesses Generally

RCW 7.69A.030 may provide a basis for redacting the identity of child victims or witnesses, including their names, addresses, and photographs, unless the victim or the victim’s parents/guardians have authorized disclosure.

RCW 7.69A.050 provides to child victims or witnesses of violent crimes, sex crimes, or child abuse, as well to the child’s parents, a right to not have their address disclosed.

For an example of possible redactions related to a child witness, see MRSC's sample witness statement.

Identity of Child Sexual Assault Victims

New Legislation: Effective July 28, 2019, HB 1505 exempts from public inspection and copying any information revealing the contact information for, or the specific details that describe, an alleged or proven child victim of sexual assault under the age of 18. We will be updating this page soon with more details.

RCW 10.97.130 (see also RCW 42.56.240(5)) prohibits the disclosure of identifying information for sexual assault victims under the age of 18 without the permission of the victim or the victim’s legal guardian. This information specifically includes:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Location
  • Photographs
  • Relationship between the victim and the alleged perpetrator, if the victim is a relative or stepchild of the alleged perpetrator

This information may not be disclosed even after the victim turns 18, as long as the sexual assault occurred when the victim was younger than eighteen.

Note: These statutes do not allow the entire investigative report to be withheld. They only allow redaction of the victim’s identifying information. See Koenig v. City of Des Moines.

Last Modified: July 03, 2019