Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why don't you publish booking photos when someone is arrested?

In Washington state, booking photos are protected from disclosure under RCW 70.48.100(2), the City and County Jails Act. That statute provides that records of persons confined in jail are to be “held in confidence” and “made available only to criminal justice agencies,” with limited exceptions.

Exceptions include:

  • Assisting law enforcement in conducting investigations of crimes (RCW 70.48.100(3)(a)), and
  • For public notification of registered sex offenders being released into the community.

Q: Why are most people who get arrested and go to jail released on bail?

Washington is a right to bail state. Washington Court Rules (article I, section 20) state that criminal defendants “shall be bailable by sufficient sureties”, except if:

  • The charge is a capital crime (“when the proof is evident or the presumption great”) OR:
  • The crime is punishable by the possibility of life in prison (if “clear and convincing evidence of a propensity for violence”).

More information:

Q: Why, if someone is arrested and has prior criminal convictions for non-violent crimes, aren't they automatically sent to prison for life under the “Three Strikes” law?

“Three Strikes and You’re Out” is a criminal law that went into effect with the passage of Washington’s Initiative 593 in 1993. The law hands down the penalty of life in prison without the possibility of release for “persistent offenders.” “Persistent offenders” are those persons that commit three “most serious” offenses.

“Most serious” offenses are listed in RCW 9.94A.030(33). “Most serious” are felonies like:

  • Murder in the first or second degree
  • Child molestation in the first or second degree
  • Controlled substance homicide
  • Incest when committed against a child under age fourteen
  • Indecent liberties
  • Kidnapping in the first or second degree
  •  Manslaughter in the first degree
  • Promoting prostitution in the first degree
  • Rape in the first, second, or third-degree

Note that offenders convicted of two separate sex offenses are also considered “persistent offenders.” This means that they are also subject to life in prison without the possibility of release.