The State of Washington abides by the Washington Public Records Act, which allows all citizens to obtain Washington records. Records consist of any governmental information on a state and local level. All citizens are permitted to request access to this information. This is a template form for requesting public records in Washington under the Washington Public Records Act.
Name of State Act:
Public Records Act
Personal student/patient information, employee files, investigative records
5 Business Days
We have curated some of the most commonly asked questions for you.
How can I request a public record from a government agency?
By requesting it from the government agency which has the document. You may be asked to put your request in writing, and there may be a charge for copying. Washington’s Open Records Act governs the inspection and copying of public records held by state and local government agencies. The law requires that its provisions be "liberally construed…to promote full access to public records" by members of the public." However, the law also exempts certain records from disclosure. Members of the public who are denied access to a record held by a state agency (not a local agency) may ask the Attorney General’s Office to review the decision. The office will independently review your request and the agency’s denial, and provide you with a written opinion as to whether the record you requested is exempt from disclosure. This review by the Attorney General is not binding on the agency or upon you.
What Public Records are available for inspection?
All records maintained by state and local agencies are available for public inspection unless law specifically exempts them. You are entitled to access to public records under reasonable conditions, and to copies of those records upon paying the costs of making the copy. In most cases, you do not have to explain why you want the records. However, specific information may be necessary to process your request. An agency may require information necessary to establish if disclosure would violate certain provisions of law.
What records are exempt?
While the state strongly encourages disclosure of public records, state law does allow for some information to be withheld. These “exemptions” are listed in the Public Records Act. Other exemptions are found elsewhere in Washington law, and in federal law.
Many of the exemptions are designed to protect the privacy rights of other individuals. Other exemptions are designed to protect the investigative functions of law enforcement and other agencies with investigative responsibilities, as well as the legitimate business interests of other citizens.
You should refer to the Public Records Act itself for specific exemptions. You may also wish to consult with an agency’s records officer.
Just because part of a record may be exempt does not mean the entire record can be withheld. In those cases, the agency has the obligation to black out or otherwise remove the information it believes is exempt from disclosure and provide you the rest.
If you are denied access to a public record, the agency must identify the specific exemption or other law it believes justifies its denial and explain how that exemption applies to your request.
Is an agency required to create records?
While, in general, an agency must provide access to existing public records in its possession, an agency is not required to collect information or organize data to create a record not existing at the time of the request. The more precisely you an identify the record you seek, the more responsive the agency can be.
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