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79 Wash. L. Rev. 693 (2004)
Private Rap Sheet or Public Record? Reconciling the Disclosure or Nonconviction Information under Washington's Public Disclosure and Criminal Records Privacy Acts

handle is hein.journals/washlr79 and id is 703 raw text is: Copyright 0 2004 by Washington Law Review Association

Lynette Meachum
Abstract: Division I of the Washington State Court of Appeals misapplies Washington's
Criminal Records Privacy Act (CRPA) in determining whether entire files of police
investigative information should be available for public review. The plain text and legislative
history of the CRPA indicate that the Washington State Legislature intended the CRPA to
apply only to the disclosure of criminal history record information, or the data that appears on
a subject's criminal rap sheet. Washington courts should interpret the CRPA narrowly, as an
exemption to the broad policy of disclosure established by the state's Public Disclosure Act
(PDA). This approach would reconcile the two statutes in a manner consistent with
Washington State Supreme Court precedent. This Comment argues that the Washington State
Supreme Court should curtail Division I's improper application of the CRPA. Specifically,
the court should declare that for records subject to public disclosure, the overlap between the
CRPA and PDA requires agencies to redact nonconviction criminal history record
information while disclosing the remaining record.
Late one night, two police officers respond to a 911 call from an off-
duty police officer's home in Western Washington.1 The officer's wife
runs outside to meet them, holding her head in obvious pain. Neighbors
watching the scene are not surprised at the police's arrival-they have
considered calling 911 when they have overheard previous fights
between the couple escalate. The neighbors are, however, surprised
when the officers depart after a few minutes and leave the couple alone
for the night. One neighbor wonders whether the officers mishandled the
events of the evening because a fellow law enforcement officer was
involved. The neighbor requests the officers' investigative reports from
the police department under Washington's Public Disclosure Act
(PDA).2 The chief of police refuses to release the reports. The chief
informs her that the department forwarded the case to the county
prosecutor, who declined to charge the suspect, and so the matter is
1. Hypothetical created by the author.
2. WASH. REV. CODE §§ 42.17.250-.348 (2000); see id. § 42.17.260(1) (Each agency, in
accordance with published rules, shall make available for public inspection and copying all public
records ... ).

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