Statutory Citation: Chapter 42.56 RCW

Definition of Public Record

Washington law defines records as “any writing containing information relating to the conduct of government or the performance of any governmental or proprietary function prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics.” A recent Supreme Court ruling has said that accident reports are also public records. 1

Exemptions to Public Records

There are 46 exemptions. Most exemptions are versions of what can be found in many other state FOIA laws. These cover subjects such as the discovery exemption, law enforcement investigatory documents are exempt, as are deliberative process records. 2

Who Can Make The Request?


Response Timeframe

5 days. 3

Information on Fees

Search fees may not be charged, and the standard rate for photocopies are fifteen cents per page. 4

Enforcement Mechanisms

The Public Records Act is generally enforced through private litigation. Any person who has been refused to allow inspection or copying of public records may demand judicial review through a civil lawsuit. RCW 42.56.550. Likewise, any person who believes that an agency has not provided a reasonable estimate of time that the agency requires to respond to a public records request may seek judicial review. 5

Attorney Fees

Yes, you can win them.

Do You Want to Make a Public Records Request?

The public records process begins with a public records request. Our guide outlines best practices for drafting well-defined requests for public information.

Arrow Icon
Download our Citizen’s Guide to Public Records Requests
File Icon Download Our Public Records Request Template
request document

Questions? Contact the Goldwater Institute.

If you have any questions regarding this guide or your rights to public information, please contact the Goldwater Institute at info@goldwaterinstitute.org to determine if the Institute can help you access information necessary to hold your government accountable.

Goldwater Institute