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Disclosure of Juvenile Law Enforcement Records

This page discusses the disclosure of juvenile records in the possession of police and sheriff departments in Washington State.

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.

Juvenile Criminal Records

Note that disclosure of juvenile criminal records is controlled by Chapter 13.50 RCW – not Chapter 42.56 RCW – although requests may be tracked and/or processed under the agency’s public records act policies and procedures.

The disclosure of juvenile criminal records is prohibited in most circumstances. RCW 13.50.050(3) states that “all [juvenile] records other than the official juvenile court file are confidential and may be released only under limited circumstances.” Juvenile records may not be disclosed even after the accused reaches adulthood, since RCW 13.50.050 concerns “records relating to the commission of a juvenile offense” (emphasis added).

RCW 13.50.050(5) states, “Except as provided in RCW 4.24.550 [pertaining to sex offenders and kidnappers], information not in an official juvenile court file concerning a juvenile or a juvenile’s family may be released to the public only when that information could not reasonably be expected to identify the juvenile or the juvenile’s family.”

However, RCW 13.50.050(9) requires disclosure of the “identity” of the offender and the “circumstance” of the crime to the victim or the victim's immediate family if requested by them. The juvenile’s school can also obtain otherwise confidential information about the investigation once law enforcement has made a decision to arrest the juvenile. See RCW 13.50.050(7).

Parents of juveniles and the juvenile’s attorney are not included in the list of agencies or individuals who can receive the juvenile records through a records request. RCW 13.50.050(6) indicates that release of the records to the juvenile or the juvenile’s attorney “shall be governed by the rules of discovery and other rules of law applicable in adult criminal investigations and prosecutions.”

Note that the juvenile records may be sealed by court order pursuant to RCW 13.50.260. If they are sealed, RCW 13.50.260(6)(a) states that “[a]ny agency shall reply to any inquiry concerning confidential or sealed records that records are confidential, and no information can be given about the existence or nonexistence of records concerning an individual.” Check with your prosecutor if you do not know whether the records are sealed or unsealed.

Practice Tip: Based on these statutes, some agencies withhold the entire investigative file related to a juvenile’s commission of a crime, while others release the investigative file if they are able to redact information that would identify the juvenile or the juvenile’s family.

Non-Criminal Juvenile Records

RCW 13.50.100 generally prohibits the disclosure of juvenile records not related to the commission of a crime. Potential examples include records from the Department of Social and Health Services related to services provided to a juvenile domestic violence victim, runaway reports, or records from the juvenile’s school related to school services and truancy.

However, the statute provides some exceptions. The records may be released to the juvenile, the juvenile’s attorney, the parents, and/or the parents’ attorney upon request, unless the agency determines the information is likely to cause severe psychological or physical harm to the juvenile or the parents, or under certain circumstances related to counseling, psychological, psychiatric, or medical services provided to the juvenile. See RCW 13.50.100(7).

In addition, the records may be released to Child Protective Services or another juvenile justice or care system if they are pursuing an investigation or case on the juvenile, or when the other agency is assigned responsibility for supervising the juvenile. See RCW 13.50.100(3).

Attorney’s fees, costs, and penalties of $5 to $100 per day are authorized under RCW 13.50.100(10) when an agency wrongfully denies a request made through discovery for juvenile justice and care agency records, but only if the request is made by a party to a proceeding seeking a declaration of dependency or termination of the parent-child relationship.

Last Modified: December 30, 2022