"WATCH" stands for Washington Access To Criminal History. This site is maintained by the Washington State Patrol at https://watch.wsp.wa.gov/. To begin to do a criminal history check on a person, you will need to open an account with WATCH using a credit card at https://watch.wsp.wa.gov/pages/newWebUser.jsp. The charge is $10 per search even if no record is turned up. You will need the legal name and the date of birth. WATCH only makes criminal convictions available to the general public. If a charge against someone was dismissed, or if the charge was later vacated, the record will no longer be available to the general public. For example, if a person was charged with DUI or DWI, and they were acquitted, there will not be any record. The same is true with a pending deferred prosecution. When I am working as a defense attorney in my practice in Okanogan, Ferry, and Stevens County, I sometimes run criminal history checks on witnesses to find out their background.
Check at the office of the County Clerk where a person has resided or has been charged in the past.
For further criminal history information, a person may visit the County Clerk to view public court files. Many people are surprised to learn that criminal court files are public records. Felony court files are maintained forever. While misdemeanor records, such a DUI or DWI, are only kept for five years after the case is closed. Misdemeanor records are maintained by District Courts, and felony records are maintained by the Superior Court Clerk. Even many old juvenile records are open for public inspection. To view the file, simply ask the clerk that you want to look at any public court files on a person with a certain name. You do not need to be an attorney or lawyer to see a court file. Certain records such as alcohol assessments in DUI cases are sealed. The same is true with mental health evaluations on felony files. Charges for copies vary, but in Okanogan, Ferry and Stevens County, the cost is typically two dollars for the first page, and a dollar for each additional page.
Mail a public records request to local police department or sheriff.
Once the police conclude an investigation, the police report becomes a public record. Sometimes, the police will withhold records until a court case is completed. Address your letter to the "Records Department." In your letter, explain that you are requesting the records "pursuant to RCW 42.17 & 42.56." Be specific about the records you are requesting. A request might be "for all records in which John A. Doe (date of birth 1/1/81) was a witness, complainant, or suspect from 1990 to today's date." Police departments can charge up to 15 cents per page, and you may need to pay in advance. Police departments are not allowed to charge for time involved in searching for the records. Reports are available to the public even for incidents in which there were no convictions. For example, if a person was arrested for marijuana possession, but the warrant was thrown out of court. Reports for juveniles are usually not public records, and the names of juveniles are often redacted.
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