Common Prohibitions and Exemptions for Law Enforcement Records
This page provides information about records disclosure requirements for police and sheriff departments in Washington State, including links to more detailed analysis on whether to disclose certain types of records and information and two sample forms demonstrating potential redactions.
It is part of MRSC's Law Enforcement Records Tool Kit, created in partnership with the Washington State Auditor's Center for Government Innovation.
Always consult with your legal counsel if you are unsure whether a record or certain information within the record is exempt or prohibited from disclosure.
Some law enforcement records are exempt from disclosure (either in whole or in part) under the Public Records Act or other statutes (meaning that the agency has the option to disclose the record but is not required to), some are prohibited from disclosure (meaning that the agency may not disclose the record), and some have no restrictions and must be disclosed when requested. Click on the links below for information about the disclosure requirements for each type of record.
- Investigative Records – Open investigations and investigative records essential to effective law enforcement or a person's right to privacy
- Criminal History and Arrest Records – Conviction data, nonconviction data, and rap sheets
- Juvenile Records – Criminal and non-criminal juvenile records
- Medical and Postmortem Records
- Personal Identifying Information – Driver's license numbers, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and victim or witness identity
- Traffic Accident and Vehicle Records
- Video Footage – Includes dashcams and body cameras
- Other Miscellaneous Records – Addresses common exemptions and prohibitions such as booking photos, concealed pistol license applications, abuse of vulnerable adults, identity of confidential informants, intelligence information
Sample Forms Showing Potential Redactions
MRSC has created two sample police documents to demonstrate information that may (or may not) be exempt or prohibited from disclosure.
Sample Arrest Report. This sample form includes nonconviction data, medical information provided by the suspect, a driver's license number, and a date of birth, as well as references to a dashcam video. Revised with newly added information on body worn cameras and additional clarifications, December 2022.
Sample Witness Statement. This sample form includes a witness who is only 17 years old and has requested anonymity. Revised with additional clarifications, December 2022.