Disclosure of Criminal History and Arrest Records
This page discusses the disclosure of criminal history records information (CHRI) in the possession of police and sheriff departments in Washington State, covering conviction data, nonconviction data, and rap sheets.
It is part of MRSC's Law Enforcement Records Tool Kit, 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 or certain information within the record is exempt or prohibited from disclosure.
No exemptions or prohibitions exist in state law for conviction data, so the portion of an individual’s criminal history records information (CHRI) showing convictions may be copied and disseminated without restriction (RCW 10.97.050).
Rap Sheets and Nonconviction Data Generally
As a general matter, a person's CHRI showing nonconviction data is prohibited from disclosure. If an individual has not been convicted, then their CHRI showing nonconviction data cannot be copied or disseminated, although it may be viewed by a member of the public. See RCW 10.97.080, Bainbridge Island Police Guild v. City of Puyallup (2011). Note, however, that the definition of CHRI excludes "intelligence, analytical, or investigative reports or files," as discussed below.
The prohibition on copying and dissemination of nonconviction data primarily applies to an individual’s record of arrests, or rap sheet. If a rap sheet includes a mix of conviction and nonconviction data, the nonconviction data should be redacted and the remainder produced. See Bainbridge Island Police Guild v. City of Puyallup (2011).
Note that individuals may obtain copies of their own nonconviction data.
Rap Sheets and Nonconviction Data Located in an Investigative File
Under RCW 10.97.030(1), the definition of CHRI includes information located in criminal justice agency records that identify an individual’s record of involvement in the criminal justice system, except when contained in, among other places, “intelligence, analytical, or investigative reports or files.”
There is no case law on this exclusion and agencies interpret this definition in different ways. Some interpret the definition to allow release of all nonconviction data in an investigative file, including rap sheets, while others withhold nonconviction data appearing in rap sheets and other records located in the file unless they have actual knowledge the person was subsequently convicted. Check with your agency’s legal counsel when dealing with a request for records that includes nonconviction data located in an intelligence or investigative file.
For an example of nonconviction data in an investigative record, see MRSC's sample arrest report.
- Pending cases: Those portions of a person’s rap sheet pertaining to cases that are actively pending but do not yet have a final disposition may be copied and disseminated. Under RCW 10.97.030(2), cases are presumed to no longer be pending if more than one year has elapsed since the arrest, citation, charge, or service of warrant.
- Victims: RCW 10.97.070(1) gives agencies the discretion to disclose to a victim the identity of a person suspected to be responsible for physical loss, property damage, or injury, together with such information as the agency believes may be of assistance to the victim in obtaining civil redress, even if this includes nonconviction data.