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Background Checks in Washington

Table of Contents

Need more information? Check out our guides to Washington arrest records and Washington public records.


What is a background check?

A background check is an investigation into an individual’s criminal record, employment history, driving record, education, finances, or other aspects of their personal history. 

Background checks are often performed by an organization or company in order to screen a subject before a significant financial or legal agreement. However, individuals regularly perform background checks on themselves to make sure that the public information on them matches their personal records.

For more general information on background checks, consult our Background Checks FAQS page.  

How do I run a criminal background check in Washington?

Individuals can run a criminal background check on anyone online using the Washington Access to Criminal History (WATCH) service provided by the Washington State Patrol that is open to the general public.  

Here’s some key information about WATCH:

  • One name-based search costs $11 and can be paid for with a major debit or credit card.
  • Searches are non-refundable
  • The database includes arrest records less than one-year-old, conviction records, and kidnap and sex offender information from Washington state only.   
  • Results will deliver either a candidate list of records, a “NO RECORD FOUND” response, or a “DUPLICATE MATCH” response indicating that there are two or more candidates with the same exact name. 
  • Certain non-profit organizations are exempt from paying for the service. 

Alternatively, you can order a fingerprint-based criminal background check for $58. Visit this page for participating fingerprint locations. 

What can I do if my Washington criminal history record has incomplete or inaccurate information?

If your Washington criminal history record contains incorrect or incomplete information, follow this process to submit a challenge and have the record corrected:

  1. Highlight the mistake on a copy of a Washington State Patrol Criminal History Records Section RAPsheet.
  2. Download and print a Request for Modification of Record form.
  3. Fill out the form with your personal information and describe the mistake. 
  4. Have your fingerprints taken on the form at a local law enforcement agency.
  5. Mail the form and RAPsheet copy to:

Washington State Patrol Criminal History Records Section

PO Box 42633

Olympia, WA 98504-2633

If you have any questions, contact the Identification and Criminal History Section at (360) 534-2000 Option 5 or [email protected]

How do I search for Washington court records online?

Court records from Washington’s district, superior, municipal, and appellate courts can be searched using the Washington Courts: Search Case Records tool. 

The search includes the following options:

  • Search for a case
  • Search for a person

The Search Case Records database is vast, however, court records yielded by a search will offer limited information. In order to view the full record, you must make a request to the court clerk of the court where the case originated. 

Click here for a court directory with the contact information of every Washington state court.  

Where can I find Washington driving records online? 

Washington residents can buy a copy of their driving record online for $13 through the License eXpress service provided by the Washington Department of Licensing

Here’s some information about the Request Your Record service:

  • Joining License eXpress is a required step, however,  License creating an account is free.
  • You must a Washington resident to order a copy of your driving record online. 
  • One driving record costs $13.

Another option is mailing a Driving Record Request form, along with payment, to the Driving Records office (address included on the form).

Buying the driving record of another person in Washington

Requesting the driving record of another person is restricted to the authorized individuals and entities listed on this page. If you are authorized to purchase another person’s record, it can be done online or through the mail. 

How do I obtain Washington vital records such as birth certificates and marriage licenses?

Vital records are records of important life events such as births, deaths, marriages, and divorces that are kept by government agencies and accessible upon request. 

Vital records are not public records that can be viewed by anyone, but the subject(s) of the record and authorized family members can view them in-person or order copies through a number of means. Additionally, one or more vital records may be required to complete a background check. 

The Washington State Department of Health enlists the services of the third-party vendor Vital Chek to enable individuals to order copies of vital records online. The government-endorsed service offers vital records from 50 U.S. states and territories. 

Available vital records include: 

  • birth certificates
  • death certificates
  • marriage records
  • divorce records

Click here to place an order with Vital Chek

For more information, contact the Washington State Department of Health at 360-236-4300.

How do I look up a person’s sex offender status in Washington?

Those convicted of sex-related crimes or certain crimes against children in Washington are required by law to register as sex offenders. Additionally, offenders in the registry are required to notify law enforcement as soon as possible in the case of a physical address change or email address change, or they will be labeled “non-compliant”.

The Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs makes the Washington Sex Offender Registry available online to the general public in the interest of public safety. Users may search by name, city, area, or perform a non-compliant offenders search. However, certain low-risk offenders may not be viewable in the online database.

Click here to perform a search of the Washington Sex Offender Registry. It’s important to stay informed about potential threats in your neighborhood in order to take the necessary precautions. 

How do I perform a credit history background check in Washington?

Performing a credit check in Washington State follows the same process as in other states. A federal law known as the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) grants every American one free annual credit report each from the three main U.S. credit bureaus:

In order to obtain your free credit report from one of these three bureaus, you must provide the following information:

  • Full name
  • Address
  • Date of birth 
  • Social security number