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 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.
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 U.S.C. § 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
The month and year of birth of public agency employees, contained in personnel files, 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:
- Phone number
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
RCW 10.97.130 (see also RCW 42.56.240(5)) protects information about both proven and alleged child sexual assault victims as follows:
- Information revealing the specific details that describe the child victim
- Identity of the victim, to include:
- Relationship between the victim alleged perpetrator, if the victim is a relative, stepchild, or stepsibling of the alleged perpetrator)
- Contact information of the victim, to include:
- Phone numbers
- Email addresses
- Social media profiles
- User names and passwords
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 18.