Thank you for contacting the Attorney General’s Office. Each month our office receives more than 2,000 emails asking for help or information. We have found that many of the constituent inquiries fall into the categories listed below. In some cases, these inquires can more efficiently be handled by the agency that specializes in the area of the complaint. In order to help serve you in a more timely manner, we have provided answers to the most asked questions in each of these categories. Please take a few moments to review the categories, click on the appropriate link and see if the information you need is there. Thank you!
If there is an emergency and the person is in immediate danger, call you local police by dialing 911.
If you suspect abuse, neglect or financial exploitation, or if you are concerned about the quality of care a person is receiving in a long-term care facility that is licensed by the state, contact the state Department of Social and Health Services Complaint Resolution Unit by calling at 1-800-562-6078 or 1-866-ENDHARM (363-4276). Long-term care facilites include adult family homes, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, residential habilitation centers and supported living programs.
Suspected abuse or neglect of an elderly person living in their own home or somewhere other than a residential care facility should be reported to the Adult Protective Services (APS) office in your county. A list of APS offices can be found on DSHS' website at: www.adsa.dshs.wa.gov/Resources/clickmap.htm
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 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
13325 Fourth Avenue, Suite 600
Seattle, WA 98101-2539
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 opinions issued by the AGO visit our website at: www.atg.wa.gov/AGOOpinions/default.aspx.
5. Birth/Death/Marriage/Divorce Certificates
Contact: Washington State Department of Health, Center for Health Statistics
Phone: (360) 236-4313
Website: Center for Health Statistics
Need information on starting a business in Washington State? 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 Revenue's Business Licensing Service website, www.bls.dor.wa.gov/, provides extensive information on business and professional licensing requirements. You may also contact the department at:
State of Washington
Business Licensing Service
PO Box 9034
Olympia, WA 98507-9034
Information about child abuse and neglect can be found at: https://www.dshs.wa.gov/ca/child-safety-and-protection/what-child-abuse-and-neglect
Information about reporting child abuse or neglect can be found at: https://www.dshs.wa.gov/ca/child-safety-and-protection/how-report-child-abuse-or-neglect
Information about Child Protective Services (CPS) and parents rights.
The Criminal Justice Division of our office can review e-mails of this nature to determine if further action is warranted and if so, will forward it on to the proper agency.
It is important to keep in mind that although these e-mails are extremely offensive, they are often not illegal because in many cases there are no minors involved. The ads simply claim to have minors, but instead use young looking adults.
In addition to contacting our office, we encourage those who believe that they have received pornographic e-mail to report it to The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The NCMEC, in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, offers an online reporting form or you may telephone their CyberTipline at 1-800-843-5678.
There are also educational resources for parents available at the NCMEC online library. Topics include information on child abductions, child exploitation and how to help keep your kids safe on the Internet.
It is our goal to protect consumers from deceptive Internet practices and other Internet crimes. Our website is a valuable source of information regarding citizen awareness on the Internet.
The Attorney General's Office does not have the authority to intervene on behalf of private citizens in child custody matters. We can best serve you by suggesting you contact a private attorney for legal advice and assistance. 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).
If your inquiry involves a child in state custody, you can find information about the child protection process at the following links:
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 one. If you are 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/
The following link provides information about a variety of services that are available in the community: http://access.wa.gov/topics/communityservices
12. Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs)
13. Counsel for the Environment
Many forms that are used Washington Courts, including forms related to family law issues, guardianships, criminal law and mental health proceedings are located at the following link:
The Washington State the Department of Labor and Industries administers the Crime Victims Compensation program. For further information, visit: www.lni.wa.gov/ClaimsIns/CrimeVictims/.
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. You should contact your local law enforcement office or prosecutor's office.
17. Disability Determination (SSDI and SSI)
Social Security Disability Insurance pays benefits to you and certain members of your family if (1) you or they have a disability and meet medical criteria (2) you have worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes.
Supplemental Security Income pays benefits based on financial need.
Disability Determination Services are provided by DSHS on behalf of the Social Security Administration. DDS disability specialists, staff physicians, and psychologists determine eligibility of Washington applicants for three disability programs. Information about these services can be found at the following link: https://www.dshs.wa.gov/esa/disability-determination-services/disability-determination-services
18. Discrimination/Human Rights
The Washington State Human Rights Commission is the agency that responds to human rights complaints. If you wish to file a formal complaint with the Commission, you must do so within six months of the incident. The Commission can be reached at: www.hum.wa.gov/ or:
OLYMPIA HEADQUARTERS OFFICE
|SPOKANE DISTRICT OFFICE
For complaints from Eastern Washington, including Spokane, Whitman, Okanogan, Lincoln, Ferry, and Stevens counties
SEATTLE DISTRICT OFFICE
YAKIMA DISTRICT OFFICE
You can find information about domestic violence and related services at the following links:
Department of Social & Health Services domestic violence services
Department of Social & Health Services emergency shelter programs
Confidential Addresses: The Address Confidentiality Program helps crime victims (specifically victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking and stalking, and certain criminal justice employees who have been targets of felony harassment on the job or due to the job) who have relocated to avoid further abuse. https://www.sos.wa.gov/acp/
20. Financial Service Providers
The Department of Financial Institutions is a state agency that regulates financial enterprises and individuals, including:
- State chartered banks and credit unions
- Mortgage brokers
- Consumer loan companies
- Payday lenders
- Escrow agents
- Money transmitters and currency exchanges
- Securities issuers and salespeople
- Franchise and business opportunity sellers
Complaints about these businesses should be directed to the Department of Financial Institutions at: www.dfi.wa.gov/consumers/complaint.htm, or
Department of Financial Institutions
PO Box 41200
Olympia, WA 98504-1200
(360) 902-8700 or 1-877-RING-DFI (746-4334)
21. Firearms/Concealed Carry Permit/Out of State Visitors
The Attorney General's Office does not have jurisdiction over firearms licensing, enforcement or prosecution. In Washington, firearms enforcement issues are under the jurisdiction of local law enforcement and the prosecutor's office.
We have, however, compiled information you may find useful here.
The Washington State Gambling Commission enforces the state's gambling laws. The Gambling Commission website provides extensive information about gambling laws, licensing of games and tribal gaming. You can contact the commission at: www.wsgc.wa.gov/
You can find information about guardianships at the following links:
Certified Public Guardian Program: https://www.courts.wa.gov/programs_orgs/guardian/
Guardianship Legal Forms: https://www.courts.wa.gov/forms/
24. Health Professional Complaints
Complaints or concerns about doctors, nurses, dentists and other health professionals should be directed to the Washington State Department of Health at: www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/FileComplaintAboutProviderorFacility/ComplaintForms.aspx.
WA State Department of Health
Health Systems Quality Assurance
PO Box 47865
Olympia, WA 98504-7865
The Attorney General's Office does not have jurisdiction or oversight authority over homeowners associations. We can best serve you by suggesting you contact a private attorney for legal advice. 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).
The Washington State Attorney General has no authority over federal immigration matters. You should contact the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for assistance at 1-800-375-5283 or 1-800-767-1833 (TTY). You may also want to visit their website at: www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis. The Seattle office can be reached at:
USCIS Seattle District Office
12500 Tukwila International Boulevard
Seattle, WA 98168
You may also wish to contact your federal representatives. In many cases they are able to provide assistance to citizens in resolving issues involving federal agencies.
Senator Maria Cantwell
915 Second Avenue, Suite 3206
Seattle, WA 98174
Senator Patty Murray
2988 Jackson Federal Building
915 2nd Avenue
Seattle, Washington 98174
28. Insurance Questions or Complaints
The Attorney General's Office does not have jurisdiction over insurance issues. In Washington, all insurance matters are handled by the Office of the Insurance Commissioner at:
Office of the Insurance Commissioner
Consumer Advocacy & Outreach
5000 Capitol Blvd.
PO Box 40256
Tumwater, WA 98501
Insurance Consumer Hotline: 1-800-562-6900
The Office of the Insurance Commissioner also provides Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA), who provide free, unbiased, and confidential assistance with Medicare and health care choices. Here is a link to the program: http://www.insurance.wa.gov/about-oic/what-we-do/advocate-for-consumers/shiba/
30. Judges/Judicial Conduct Complaints
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. You may also call the commission at (360) 753-4585 or write to:
Commission on Judicial Conduct
PO Box 1817
Olympia, WA 98507
31. Labor and Industries Claims
All inquiries concerning Labor and Industries claims and services and workplace safety should be directed to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries at: www.lni.wa.gov/.
WA State Department of Labor & Industries
PO Box 44000
Olympia, WA 98504
(360) 902-5797 (TTY)
For help with residential Landlord-Tenant issues contact the Northwest Justice Project at 211 or 1-877-211-9274.
For help with Manufactured/Mobile Home Landlord-Tenant issues visit our Manufactured Housing Dispute Resolution Program page.
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. While it is our policy to provide information of a general nature whenever possible, we do not have the statutory authority to answer questions that require legal analysis.
We can best serve you by suggesting you contact a private attorney for legal advice. 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).
Copies of Washington laws (RCW) and rules (WAC) can be obtained at http://leg.wa.gov/CodeReviser/Pages/default.aspx
If you are low income, and:
- have a civil legal problem
- do NOT live in King County
Call the Northwest Justice Project's CLEAR Intake phone line: 1-888-201-1014
If you are low income, and:
- have a civil legal problem
- live in King County
Call 211 for information and a referral
If you are NOT low income visit the Washington State Bar Association's Lawyer Referral website at: http://www.wsba.org/Resources-and-Services/Find-Legal-Help
For self-help legal information on a variety of topics, go to www.WashingtonLawHelp.org.
Need to know where to get a copy of a legal document? 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 http://travel.state.gov/passport/lost/lost_848.html.
36. Lemon Law
The Washington State Liquor Control Board controls liquor and tobacco distribution, and licenses and regulates wholesaler and retailers of liquor and tobacco. The Liquor Control Board website is: www.liq.wa.gov/
38. Local Government, Law Enforcement, Public Official Misconduct
The Attorney General's Office does not have oversight authority over local governmental entities such as the prosecutor or local law enforcement.
In criminal matters, the Attorney General has only limited statutory authority to investigate crimes and initiate prosecutions, and only at the request of a county prosecuting attorney or the governor.
Complaints involving a prosecuting attorney should be directed to the Washington State Bar Association at: http://www.wsba.org/Licensing-and-Lawyer-Conduct/Discipline/File-a-Complaint-Against-a-Lawyer.
Complaints involving local law enforcement should be directed to the local police chief or county sheriff, and to the mayor, city council and/or county commissioners.
Under RCW 43.09.260, the Attorney General's Office is authorized to take action in a matter if an audit examination by the Auditor's Office discloses malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance on the part of a public officer or employee. Concerns of this nature should be directed to 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.
39. Non-Profit Organizations/Charities
Non profit organizations and charities are registered with the Secretary of State at: www.sos.wa.gov/charities.
Secretary of State
PO Box 40234
Olympia, WA 98504
Questions concerning pensions should be directed the U.S. Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration. That agency can assist you or provide appropriate referral information:
US Department of Labor
Employee Benefits Security Administration
1111 Third Ave., Room 860
Seattle, WA 98101-3212
General inquiries regarding state correctional facilities or inmates should be directed to the Department of Corrections at: www.doc.wa.gov.
Department of Corrections
PO Box 41101
Olympia, WA 98504
Offender complaints can only be filed by the offender on his or her own behalf at the facility where they are incarcerated. An Offender Complaint form can be filled out and filed with the facility's Grievance Coordinator, who would then take any appropriate action.
You should request the public record from the 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 our Open Government page.
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.
The Washington State Department of Licensing handles complaints against real estate agents at: www.dol.wa.gov/business/realestate/complaint.html.
Department of Licensing
Real Estate Section Disciplinary Unit
PO Box 9015
Olympia, WA 98507
Issues involving state sales tax are handled by the Washington State Department of Revenue at: dor.wa.gov.
Washington State Department of Revenue
PO Box 47450
Olympia, WA 98504
Social Security programs are operated by the federal government. The State is not involved in administration of the social security program that is related to a person’s retirement. Here is a link to the Social Security Administration’s website.
For information about Social Security Disability Determinations see the “Disability Determination (SSDI and SSI)” topic above.
Inquiries involving K-12 schools and school employees should be directed to the Superintendent of Public Instruction at: www.K12.wa.us.
Superintendent of Public Instruction
PO Box 47200
Olympia, WA 98504-7200
(360) 664-3631 (TTY)
Inquiries about unemployment benefits should be directed to the Department of Employment Security at: www.esd.wa.gov or:
PO Box 9046
Olympia, WA 98507-9046
50. Validity of Marriages Abroad and Foreign Divorces in Washington State
The Attorney General of Washington has received many questions regarding the validity of marriages performed outside of the United States (sometimes referred to as overseas, international, or foreign marriages). Our office also receives questions regarding divorces obtained abroad. This frequently asked questions section provides some general guidance to Washington State residents regarding foreign marriages and divorces and is not a substitute for legal advice. If you are looking for legal advice relating to the status of your marriage or divorce abroad, please consult with a private attorney.
For more information, please click here.
Complaints or concerns involving veterinarians are handled by the Washington State Department of Health at: www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/FileComplaintAboutProviderorFacility/ComplaintForms.aspx.
WA State Department of Health
Health Systems Quality Assurance Services
Veterinary Board of Governors
PO Box 47865
Olympia, WA 98504
Many public libraries have copies of state statutes, known collectively as the Revised Code of Washington. Another easy way to research and obtain copies of state laws is to visit Access Washington’s Laws and Codes page at:
Information about bills that are being (or have been) considered by the legislature can be found at the following link: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/
Contact lawmakers: The legislative hotline can provide you with contact information for your state representatives at: 1-800-562-6000.
53. Washington State Patrol/Criminal History
Background checks and other criminal history inquiries are handled by the Washington State Patrol.
The Department of Social and Health Services conducts background checks for DSHS programs and authorized service providers who serve vulnerable adults, juveniles, and children. Information about this process is available here.
The Whistleblower Program is administered by the Office of the State Auditor. Detailed information about the program and how to file a complaint is available here.
It is an unfair practice for an employer to retaliate against a person for opposing illegal discrimination. If you believe that your employer retaliated against you, you may have a basis to file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.
WA ST Human Rights Commission
PO Box 42490
Olympia WA 98504-2490
Washington LawHelp maintains an informative page with links to resources regarding wills, power of attorney, living wills, probate and inheritance on their website.
Contact the Attorney General
1125 Washington St. SE
PO Box 40100
Olympia, WA 98504-0100
Contact the Attorney General Online