Background Check: Washington State (Criminal Records & More)

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Background Checks | May 23, 2024

Criminal with magnifying glass conducting a background check, Washington State records request as well.


Washington Background Check
Washington background check to look for criminal records, background history, court documents, and search all public records in Washington.

When using a background check, Washington state has specific laws concerning criminal record lookup for employers and rental property owners, but these rules also apply to personal background checks. The Washington State Patrol’s background check will help you find everything about a person for such purposes. This guide explains criminal records, ways of obtaining a police background check in Washington, and detailed information that most people miss completely their first time (costing them money and time).

Washington State has some of the most stringent background checks in place, especially in the regulation of firearms.1 These checks can show things like criminal records and convictions, sex offender status, and additional information.

Overview of Washington State Background Check

A background check is used to gather public records of an individual’s background, usually for hiring purposes or in the interests of safety. Background checks are conducted by private investigators or by individuals through state agencies that provide background check information.

In addition, depending on your background check needs, you can find background check services for general use, federal background checks, and sexual offender background checks. The following resources can help.

Washington State criminal records background checks are available from the Department of Licensing (DOL), law enforcement agencies, and court records. Anyone can request a free DOL background check online.2 The results will only contain adult offenses in which the applicant has been involved since turning 18 years old.

To protect your private information, background checks are only available to the background-checked individual or their representative. For background checks for businesses, you will need to contact DOL directly.

The Accessibility of Washington State Background Checks

The main thing about background check records in Washington State is they are open to the public unless closed by a court order. There are instances where the Court may remove sex offender information from background checks, Washington State records following successful treatment, and proof that an individual has been rehabilitated. 

An  image showing a computer screen displaying a "Criminal Records" form.

In these cases, background check records, provided if an address change occurs before background removal procedures have been completed, can disclose address history during background check processes. Additionally, when employers use background checks, the DOL will indicate employment information.

The background check can include all adult offenses listed under Washington State laws. These are separated into felonies and misdemeanors for ease of use. Some background-checking services are also available to search federal background checks for crimes committed outside of Washington State, except for federal background checks that contain sealed records or family court background checks.

It is important to note that few law enforcement agencies provide online access to their background files. For more details about how a background check works, contact a local police department in your area.

What You Need To Know About a Criminal Record in Washington State

Washington State background check laws are in place to protect the public from criminal activity. Each background check law has specific requirements for the background check process to be legal.

Criminal background checks are conducted by local authorities, which will record arrests, convictions, persons of interest, and outstanding warrants. Statewide agency uniform screening standards are what regulate Washington State background checks.3

Statewide Uniform Screening Standards

These uniform standards exist throughout all levels of law enforcement. Requirements for conducting statewide uniform screening standards include, but are not limited to:

  • face-to-face interview with relevant personal history information
  • fingerprinting for national criminal background check processing
  • approval by the Washington State Patrol or an agent assigned by the Washington State Patrol background check unit
  • a complete name-based background check on all non-criminal justice applicants.

The Washington state gun background check form is limited to criminal records when criminal history information exists in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and can include local and state.

Washington state criminal background checks are available through county lists of sex offenders, vital records, social service agencies, and private databases. It is important to note that some counties do not require sex offender registration. If they did, these individuals would still have to register with the police department in their new location within three business days of moving there.

How Does a Washington State Criminal Background Check Work?

In a typical no-cost records check, Washington state enforcement databases are used to discover any criminal records associated with the applicant. Some background check companies use more specific information like social security numbers, addresses, and aliases to conduct a level 1 background screening.

Washington State Background Check for Employment

Most employers will use background checks that include criminal background information as well as driving records. Some criminal background checks Washington state companies provide drug testing and work history reports as well. The content of specific background checks depends on the needs of each employer, but many do require an in-depth background screening as part of hiring protocols.

An image showing several documents related to employee personnel files and employment processes.

Employers may access all background screening reports in Washington State, but should always consult with their human resources team before making a final decision about the applicant. For background checks to be completed correctly, companies often require document images or original copies of the documents from the source and photocopies.

Federal law regulates how employers can use some parts of criminal reports. The U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission explains that the information may not be used to discriminate against applicants,10 in a way that would violate Federal law, such as the terms outlined in the Civil Rights Act.

Moreover, all professional-related checks must be conducted with the consent of the person being checked, and the applicant must also be made aware of the scope of the background investigation.

In addition, many states regulate the amount of information and the time frame used to search criminal records, like California records check statutes.

Employment background checks in Washington may also provide current and past addresses where a person has lived along with other public records that reveal any legal issues they’ve been involved in, such as criminal charges or bankruptcy filings.

How Employers Perform Background Checks in Washington

Employers verify background information by matching it to information available through public court, county, state, and federal records. For example, information found in background check reports may be due to criminal charges that were dismissed or did not result in a conviction, criminal charges that were expunged or sealed by the courts, incarceration for minor offenses where no charges are brought upon release from prison plus other types of issues which might indicate why someone is unfit for particular employment.

An image of manager looking at different cv resume.

Depending on what type of background check people order, companies will often use several different databases to collect background data, including:

There are also times when background screening reports reveal additional background information that employers might not have known about, such as an individual’s Social Security number or if they were registered with the Federal Election Commission.

While background screening through background check reports is not required for employment, more and more companies are adopting background screening policies to weed out undesirable candidates that might otherwise cause problems.

Generally speaking, background checks reveal past behaviors such as criminal records, driving violations, past employment background, financial background, and interview background.

Background Check Washington State: More Things You Need To Know

Here are some more information that would be helpful to your understanding of how Background Checks in Washington State work.

What Does a Washington State Patrol Background Check Do?

A patrol background check is only as good as the source of information. For instance, an arrest record may not show up on a background check if it was deleted or if charges were dropped. Court records in some jurisdictions may also be incomplete or missing. A background check done in Washington State will include arrest history, criminal convictions, and traffic offenses.

It can also reveal your professional licenses, residential history, financial information, etc. Some background checks will even reveal any hidden assets you may have or warrants for your arrest.

Can Background Checks Reveal Lawsuits?

According to Section 49.94 RCW of the Washington State Legislature, background checks that are done in Washington State may uncover pending and outstanding lawsuits.5 In addition, civil suits and criminal charges will show up on background checks if filed or otherwise disposed of in Court.

What Is the Purpose of a Washington State Background Check?

The purpose of a criminal search varies and can be used for both professional and personal reasons. However, the guidelines involving professional-based searches are much different from those that are conducted for personal reasons.

The Washington State Patrol has an electronic fingerprint system that provides faster results than sending standard paper prints via mail or faxed copies. If you do not live in Washington State, you will need to take your fingerprints to your local law enforcement agency.

Generally, results are usually available within 24 hours, though it may take longer if additional details need to be gathered from various sources. The overall background check process in Washington can take up to 72 hours, although most background check results are ready within a day depending on the Washington criminal records of the person being screened.6

Who Can Access Washington Background Checks?

Washington State background checks are accessible to anyone, including employers and landlords, so it is essential to review your background check report for accuracy before allowing others access to your information.

In addition, an employment background check will reveal any criminal convictions or pending lawsuits, so checking the information from time to time can be a good way to spot any discrepancies or identity fraud.

What Does a Background Check Tell an Employer?

A background check can provide insight into past behaviors and experiences that applicants may not want to be revealed in the hiring process.

Image of a resume showing the summary of experience.

A background check will also disclose such details and other relevant facts about a person’s history, including being arrested but never charged. An employment background check is an employer’s way of knowing everything you’ve done for the past seven years (or 10 years) to help them make a fully informed decision about whether they want to hire you.

However, when background checks are used unfairly, either party can file a claim to the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.7

Tips on Completing a Washington State Background Check Form

Completing the form for Washington state is fairly straightforward. Background checks are legal in all states, but some companies still refuse to hire anyone who has a criminal record no matter how long ago the crime occurred.8

Simply open the state’s Background Check Authorization form, and complete the information required.11

Free Criminal Background Check (Washington State Summary)

When using the free state system, sometimes background reports can turn up information that isn’t relevant or important enough for employers to consider when making their final decision about hiring someone.

If this happens, it’s good to know what kind of information your background report includes before applying for jobs.

It is important to note that background checks can be conducted through a variety of business entities and agencies, and arrest records look-ups can take time. But the important thing to know about performing a background check, in Washington state is that local government sources are your best bet for accurate information.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does a Background Check Show Criminal History From Another State?

Because a federal background report is not impacted by state or county borders, if the applicant moved around to attempt to cover up their federal offense, it will still appear on this report as stated by the Workplace Policies page of the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, but this requires a level 2 records check that utilizes fingerprint searches.4 Federal criminal history will not be shown in state or local background checks.

Do Background Check Results Show Sealed or Expunged Records?

No, background check will reveal sealed or expunged convictions because outside sources can’t access these records, including background check companies. Thus, a background check search only reveals the history as it exists now, regardless of whether those events were sealed, expunged, or erased.

Can You Start a Background Check With Just an Email Address?

No, background checks require both name and date of birth to produce background check results.

What Background Check Information Can Be Trusted?

The most effective searches employ comprehensive search methods to obtain the best results. The background check process must also utilize current databases that are updated regularly because conviction records change frequently. Finally, it would help if you always got background checks from a legitimate background-checking company that is reputable and has been in business for many years.

What Are the Basics of a Background Report?

A background report is an in-depth background investigation that includes personal information such as criminal records, court records, financial profiles, and credit history. It may also reveal business affiliations, professional licenses, and educational validation. Background checks are also referred to as background screening or background investigations.

What Kind of Background Check Do I Need To Run?

Depending on what people may want to background check, several different background check types are available, including education background checks, employment background checks, and criminal background checks. If someone suspects another person is not who they claim they are, a background check on someone else might turn up their true identity.


1Ballot Pedia. (2014). Washington Universal Background Checks for Gun Purchases, Initiative 594. Ballot Pedia. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from <,_Initiative_594_(2014)> (2021). Washington State Background Check. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from <>

3Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. (2021). Fingerprints & Background Checks. Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from <>

4Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. (2021). Termination & Retaliation. Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from <>

5Washington State Legislature. (2024). Chapter 49.94 RCW JOB APPLICANTS—CRIMINAL RECORDS. Washington State Legislature. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from <>

6iProspectCheck. (2021). Washington State Background Checks for Employment: A Complete Guide [2021]. iProspectCheck. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from <>

7Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. (2021). Who Do I Talk To About My Claim? Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from <>

8Crimcheck. (2021). Washington State Background Check Laws. Crimcheck. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from <>

9Federal Trade Commission. (2023, August). Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved May 8, 2024, from <>

10U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (2014, March 11). Background Checks: What Employers Need to Know. Retrieved May 8, 2024, from <>

11Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. (2021, September). Background Check Authorization. Retrieved May 8, 2024, from <>

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