Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

 


Can the Attorney General’s Office give me personal legal advice or represent me in court?

The primary role of the Attorney General's Office is to provide legal representation to the State of Washington, its agencies, and state officials acting in their official capacities. The office is not authorized to advise or represent private citizens on personal legal matters. If you need help with a personal legal matter-such as filing a lawsuit, creating a will, or defending against a criminal charge-you may want to contact a private attorney. If you do not know an attorney in your area, the Washington State Bar Association's website provides information on attorney referral services for persons of varying income levels. You may also contact the Bar by calling 1-800-945-WSBA (9722).

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Can I obtain an Attorney General’s Opinion on a legal matter?

The Attorney General’s Office provides formal written opinions about constitutional or legal questions when requested by statewide elected officials, members of the Legislature, appointed heads of state agencies, and county prosecuting attorneys. The office does not prepare opinions for private citizens, state agency employees, or employees of local agencies other than county prosecutors. An official opinion expresses the Attorney General’s position on a point of law. Opinions are considered persuasive but not binding by the courts. To review recent opinions issued by the office visit www.atg.wa.gov/ago-opinions.

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Does the Attorney General’s Office investigate or prosecute alleged crimes?

The AGO has no original criminal jurisdiction.  Specifically, the Attorney General’s Office may only exercise criminal jurisdiction upon the written request of an elected county prosecutor, the governor, or a majority of the committee charged with the oversight of the organized crime intelligence unit.  Absent such a written request, the county prosecutors are the only ones with original criminal jurisdiction in Washington state.  Most criminal cases in Washington are investigated by local law enforcement agencies and prosecuted by city or county prosecutors.  If you wish to report a criminal matter please contact your local law enforcement or prosecutor's office.

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I want to look up a state law. Where can I find it?

Many public libraries have copies of state statutes, known collectively as the Revised Code of Washington. Another easy way to research state laws is to access the Legislature's website.

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How can I request a public record from a government agency?

By requesting it from the government agency which has the document. You may be asked to put your request in writing, and there may be a charge for copying. Washington’s Open Records Act governs the inspection and copying of public records held by state and local government agencies. The law requires that its provisions be "liberally construed…to promote full access to public records" by members of the public."  However, the law also exempts certain records from disclosure. Members of the public who are denied access to a record held by a state agency (not a local agency)  may ask the Attorney General’s Office to review the decision. The office will independently review your request and the agency’s denial, and provide you with a written opinion as to whether the record you requested is exempt from disclosure. This review by the Attorney General is not binding on the agency or upon you.  For additional information about state open records and open meetings issues, visit the AGO's Public Records and Open Public Meetings site at: www.atg.wa.gov/public-records-and-open-public-meetings.

The federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) governs the disclosure of documents held by U.S. government agencies.  A good source of information about FOIA is the National Freedom of Information Center, www.nfoic.org/foi-center.

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I need a copy of a legal document. Where can I go to find it?

Depending on the type of document, there are several possibilities.

If the document is part of a judicial proceeding, you will need to visit the Court Clerk’s office in the county or federal jurisdiction where the case was filed.

Copies of birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates may be available through the county health office where the event occurred, or through the state Department of Health.

For copies of federal documents, you will need to contact the federal agency that issued the document. To replace a lost Social Security card, for example, you should contact the Social Security Administration by visiting one of their local offices or their website. For a lost passport, contact the United States Department of State Passport Services Division at travel.state.gov/passport/lost/us/us_848.html.

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Where can I file a complaint against a public official I believe is guilty of misconduct?

You may wish to contact the state Auditor’s Office, which reviews operations of state and local agencies to ensure that public funds are spent and accounted for in accordance with the law. If you are a state employee, you may wish to report suspected improper governmental activity under the state Auditor’s Whistleblower Program.

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Where can I file a complaint against an attorney?

Grievances against lawyers who are licensed to practice law in Washington should be filed with the Washington State Bar Association. For information on whether a grievance might be appropriate in your situation, visit http://www.wsba.org/Licensing-and-Lawyer-Conduct/Discipline/File-a-Complaint-Against-a-Lawyer. To discuss filing a grievance, call 1-800-945-9722 or write to this address:

Washington State Bar Association
1325 Fourth Avenue Ste 600
Seattle, WA 98101-2539

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Where can I file a complaint against a judge? 

The state Commission on Judicial Conduct considers complaints against judges and court commissioners in Washington. For additional information on filing a complaint, visit the commission’s website at www.cjc.state.wa.us/Filing_complaint/filing_complaint.htm. You may also call the Commission at (360) 753-4585 or write to:

Commission on Judicial Conduct
PO Box 1817
Olympia, WA 98507

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I have a complaint about a consumer product I recently bought from a business. Who should I contact about my problem? 

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division enforces the state’s Consumer Protection Act and may take legal action against businesses that engage in unfair or deceptive practices. Remedies sought may include consumer refunds and civil penalties. The division also assists consumers and businesses in resolving disputes by notifying businesses of written consumer complaints and mediating complaints.

For additional information on filing a complaint, and for tips on how to avoid consumer ripoffs, visit the Consumer Protection Division website at www.atg.wa.gov/file-complaint. You may also call the Consumer Hotline at 1-800-551-4636 (1-800-833-6384 TTD). Include your U.S. mail address with any complaint.

You may also want to register a consumer complaint with the Better Business Bureau. For information on filing a complaint or on contacting a Better Business Bureau office near you, visit www.bbb.org.

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I keep getting junk email. What can I do about it?

In Washington State, it is illegal to send unsolicited commercial email that advertises consumer products with false or misleading subject lines or return addresses. Such email is commonly called "spam." If you’ve already received spam, notify your Internet Service Provider to block all future email from the sender. To discourage such email in the future, register your Washington email address with the Washington Association of Internet Service Providers by visiting registry.waisp.org/newreg1.html.

If you continue to have problems, you may wish to consult a private attorney or file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office. For further information about filing a complaint and protecting yourself from unwanted email, visit the Attorney General’s website at http://www.atg.wa.gov/ConsumerIssues/JunkMail.aspx

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How do I report abuse, neglect or financial exploitation of an elderly or disabled person?

You may contact  any of the following:

  • DSHS’s ENDHARM hotline   Report your concerns about any elderly or disabled person to the Department of Social and Health Services by calling 1-866-ENDHARM (1-866-363-4276);  or    
  • Adult Protective Services   Contact Adult Protective Services by calling a toll-free number you will find on the following website:  https://www.dshs.wa.gov/altsa/home-and-community-services/reporting-abuse; or
  • Complaint Resolution Unit   If the person is living in a long-term care facility, call  the Department of Social and Health Services at 1-800-562-6078.    (Long-term care facilities and programs include nursing homes,  assisted living facilities, adult family homes, residential habilitation centers (Fircrest, Lakeland Village, Rainier, and Yakima Valley)  and community residential services and support (“supported living”) programs; or

If you suspect that an individual may be the victim of a crime,  contact  the local police or sheriff.  In case of an emergency, call 911.

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How do I report concerns about child abuse or neglect?

The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) receives and investigates reports of suspected child abuse and neglect.There are several ways to report abuse:

  • DSHS’s ENDHARM hotline    Washington  State has a  toll-free, 24 hour, 7 day-a-week hotline that will connect you directly to the appropriate local office to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Call 1-866-ENDHARM (1-866-363-4276),
  • During the Day  -  Contact your local CPS office.  You can find the “local office number”  using the following  link:    number https://www.dshs.wa.gov/ca/child-safety-and-protection/how-report-child-abuse-or-neglect
  • Nights & Weekends - call 1-800-562-5624 
  • TTY Callers - call 1-800-624-6186 to place a direct TTY call. 

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How do I find services?

The following site has links to a wide variety of services, including medical services, domestic violence, legal assistance, transportation, emergency shelters,and food programs: https://www.washingtonconnection.org/home/exploreoptions.go

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How do I find help for my children?

The following links may help you find programs that could help children or their parents:

https://www.dshs.wa.gov/ca/advancing-child-welfare/getting-help

https://www.dshs.wa.gov/ca/child-safety-and-protection

The following links may help you find programs that could help teenagers or parents of teenagers.  

https://www.dshs.wa.gov/youth-services

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Where do I find information about child support?

The Department of Social Services,  Division of Child Support  has general information and answers for FAQ on their website at: https://www.dshs.wa.gov/esa/division-child-support

Additional information about child support can be found at Washington Law Help: http://www.washingtonlawhelp.org/issues/family-law/child-support­­­­­­­­

For questions about collecting child support,  you should call your support enforcement officer or find information at https://www.dshs.wa.gov/esa/division-child-support/apply-child-support-services

If you are upset about what is happening on your case, you can contact the DSHS Community Relations Unit by calling 1-800-457-6202, or you can ask for a “conference board” so your case can be reviewed by a lawyer who works in the Division of Child Support.

If your case is in court, and a government attorney is participating, you can contact that attorney for information.  If you want an attorney to represent you, you will need to find an attorney.  When looking for a private attorney,  a lawyer who is skilled in family law may be best able to help you.  If you cannot afford a private attorney, you may be able to make an appointment with the county courthouse facilitator who can help you navigate through the court process. You may also search for free or reduced cost attorneys by contacting the CLEAR  toll-free hotline at  1-888-201-1014.     https://nwjustice.org/clear-hotline ­­­­­­­­­­­­­

The legal forms you need for child support court cases can be found at: https://www.courts.wa.gov/forms/

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How do I find information about services for the elderly or disabled?

https://www.dshs.wa.gov/adult-care

https://www.dshs.wa.gov/disability-support

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I’m a member of a profession going into business for myself. Where can I find out what licenses I need?

Depending on the nature of your business and profession, licenses issued by a variety of state, county or city agencies may be required. The state Department of Licensing website, www.dol.wa.gov/business/ provides extensive information on business and professional licensing requirements. You may also contact the Department by phone at (360) 664-1400.

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Where can I apply for a marriage license?

From your county Auditor’s office.

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Where can I apply for a license to carry a concealed pistol?

From the local police or sheriff’s department that has jurisdiction over the area in which you live.

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I work with a charitable trust. Am I required to send a copy of my federal form 990, or 990-PF, to the Attorney General?
 
Federal law says that a copy of each informational tax return, form 990, 990-PF, 990-EZ, is to be sent to the Attorney General of the home state of the trust.  These can be mailed to the Office of the Attorney General, PO Box 40100, Olympia, WA 98504-0100.  State law also requires that many trusts register with the Secretary of State.  Information concerning this process is available at www.sos.wa.gov/charities.
 

 
I work with a nonprofit corporation, which is dissolving.  Am I supposed to send a plan of distribution of assets to the Attorney General?
 
If the corporation holds assets that are limited to a charitable use, state law requires that after certain debts and liabilities of the corporation are paid, the remaining charitable assets be transferred to another charitable organization with a similar purpose.  It also requires that a plan for the distribution of assets, identifying the charity that will receive them, be sent to the Attorney General before the assets are transferred or the corporation is dissolved.  There is no required form for this plan, and it can be as simple as a letter, provided that it identifies both the dissolving nonprofit and the charity that will receive the assets.  It can be mailed to the Office of the Attorney General, PO Box 40100, Olympia, WA 98504-0100.
 

How do I find help with mental health issues?

The following links may help you find information about services related to mental health:

https://www.dshs.wa.gov/mental-health-and-addiction-services

https://www.dshs.wa.gov/bhsia/faq?field_bhsia_topics_value=Substance%20Abuse%20Treatment%20Services

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How do I find help with substance abuse issues?

The following links may help you find information about substance abuse issues and services:

https://www.dshs.wa.gov/bhsia/faq?field_bhsia_topics_value=Substance%20Abuse%20Treatment%20Services

https://www.dshs.wa.gov/mental-health-and-addiction-services

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Deaf and Hard of Hearing

The following links may help you find information about services for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing.

https://www.dshs.wa.gov/altsa/office-deaf-and-hard-hearing

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How do I find servies for the blind?

The following links may help you find information about services for individuals who are blind

http://www.dsb.wa.gov/services/index.shtml

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 How do I find help for veterans?

http://www.dva.wa.gov/

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How do I find out about assistance with food stamps, medical benefits, employment or emergencies?

https://www.dshs.wa.gov/food-cash-medical

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How do I find information about housing assistance?

https://www.dshs.wa.gov/housing-assistance

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