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Texas Public Records

The Texas Public Information Act comprises a set of laws that regulate the disclosure of public information from government agencies in Texas. This Act ensures the public’s right to access government records while establishing guidelines for the release of these records. It also includes measures to safeguard confidential or sensitive information. If a governmental agency chooses to withhold requested information, it is required to provide the requester with a written justification for this decision within ten business days of receiving the request for records.

How to request Texas Public Records?

Requesting public records in Texas under the Texas Public Information Act involves a straightforward process. The Texas Public Information Act is designed to ensure public access to government records, with certain exceptions for sensitive or confidential information. For more detailed guidance, you may refer to resources provided by the Texas Attorney General’s Office.

Table of Contents

To request Texas public records, proceed with the steps below:

Where to find Public Records in Texas

Depending on the type of record you are seeking, there are numerous options for where you can find public records in Texas:

Vital Records (Birth, Death, Marriage, Divorce):

Texas vital records, including birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates, can be requested from the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Property Records:

Property records in Texas can be accessed through individual county appraisal district websites, where each county maintains its own records.

Business Records:

Information on business entities in Texas, including filings and status, can be found on the Texas Secretary of State's website.

Court Records:

Texas court records can be searched through the , which provides access to various levels of court documentation.

Professional Licenses

For information and verification of professional licenses, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation provides resources and search tools.

Texas State Archives:

Historical records, archives, and genealogical resources in Texas can be found at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Are Texas Public Records Available Online?

Numerous Texas public records can be accessed online as government agencies are progressively offering these records on their websites.

The Texas Department of Public Safety, for example, maintains an online database for Criminal History Records, searchable by name or date of birth. Similarly, the Texas Judicial Branch offers an online tool for case lookups, enabling searches by name, case number, or file number for court cases. Additionally, agencies like the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts offer digital access to specific public record types, including unclaimed property searches and sales taxpayer information.

State Public Records Law

The  Texas Public Information Act governs the public’s access to state public records in Texas. Except for certain exceptions and limitations, the Act aims to promote transparency and hold government bodies accountable by allowing individuals the right to access public records. Here are some key aspects:

Which records are public in Texas?

Which Records are Not Public in Texas?

In Texas, while many records are accessible to the public, there are several categories of records that are not public due to privacy, confidentiality, and security reasons. These include:

Texas Background Checks

Texas background checks are processes used to verify an individual’s personal and professional history. These checks are often conducted for employment, housing, licensing, or other purposes where an individual’s background is relevant. 

What Can Be Included In a Background Check Report?

Criminal History

This typically includes records of arrests, convictions, and any criminal history, sourced from Texas Department of Public Safety or local law enforcement agencies.

Employment History

Verification of an individual's past employment, which may involve confirming job titles, dates of employment, and reasons for leaving past positions.

Education Verification

Checking educational credentials, such as degrees and certifications obtained, by contacting educational institutions.

Credit History

For positions that involve financial responsibilities, a credit report might be included to assess financial reliability and history of managing finances.

Driving Records

If the position requires driving, driving records may be reviewed for any traffic violations, accidents, or DUI convictions.

Civil Records

Searching civil litigation records for involvement in lawsuits, which might include bankruptcies, divorces, or other civil cases.

Professional Licenses

Verifying that any professional licenses held are valid and in good standing, which is especially relevant for certain regulated professions.

Sex Offender Registry Check

Checking if the individual is listed on state or national sex offender registries.

Reference Checks

Contacting personal or professional references provided by the individual to gather insights into their character and work ethic.

Texas Court Records

Overview of the Texas court system and its Structure

The Texas court system is a complex structure with multiple levels, each serving a specific function in the administration of justice. Here’s an overview of its hierarchy and structure:

  • Supreme Court: At the top of the Texas court system is the Supreme Court, which is the highest court for civil matters in the state. It primarily handles appeals from lower courts and has the final word on state civil law.
  • Court of Criminal Appeals: This is the highest court for criminal cases in Texas. It reviews decisions in criminal cases from the lower courts and has the final say on state criminal law.
  • Courts of Appeals: Below the two high courts are the intermediate Courts of Appeals. Texas has 14 Courts of Appeals that handle both civil and criminal appeals from the lower courts. These courts review the trial court’s application of the law and facts.
  • District Courts: These are the main trial courts for major civil and criminal cases. District courts have general jurisdiction over a wide range of cases, including felony criminal cases, larger civil cases, family law matters, and contested probate issues.
  • County-Level Courts: This tier includes County Courts at Law, Constitutional County Courts, and Probate Courts. They have jurisdiction over lesser civil and criminal matters, such as misdemeanors, smaller civil disputes, juvenile matters, and, in some counties, probate cases.
  • Justice of the Peace and Municipal Courts: These are local trial courts with limited jurisdiction. Justice of the Peace Courts handle small claims and minor criminal offenses, while Municipal Courts deal primarily with municipal ordinance violations and very minor criminal misdemeanors.

Types of Texas Court Records

Texas Civil and Small Claims Records

Texas Criminal Records

Texas Property Lien Records

Family Court Records​

Texas Probate Records

Texas Traffic Records

Texas Bankruptcy Records

Restrictions, Limitations, and Confidentiality

In Texas, while court records are generally public and accessible, there are specific restrictions, limitations, and confidentiality rules to protect sensitive information and privacy. Personal information such as social security numbers, financial account details, and information concerning minors is often redacted or sealed to safeguard individual privacy.

Records involving sensitive cases, like child custody, adoption, and mental health proceedings, may also be confidential or have restricted access. In criminal cases, details of ongoing investigations, juvenile offender records, and certain law enforcement documents can be withheld from public view. Additionally, Texas law allows for the sealing of certain court records under specific circumstances, such as in the case of deferred adjudication or non-disclosure orders.

These confidentiality measures are designed to balance the public’s right to information with the protection of individual rights and the integrity of the judicial process. As such, access to certain court records may require a court order or specific authorization, ensuring that sensitive information is disclosed only when legally appropriate.

What do these records contain

Texas Public Vital Records

Marriage and Divorce Records: Marriage and divorce records in Texas are vital records that provide information about marriage licenses and divorce decrees issued in the state. These records are used for legal purposes, genealogical research, and personal documentation. Marriage records since 1966 and divorce records since 1968 can be requested through the Texas Department of State Health Services. However, for certified copies or specific details, contacting the county clerk’s office where the marriage license was issued or the divorce was decreed is necessary.

Birth and Death Records:Birth and death records in Texas are fundamental documents recording the births and deaths of individuals within the state. These records are crucial for personal identification, legal processes, and genealogical research. Birth records since 1903 and death records since 1903 are available from the Texas Department of State Health Services. For more detailed information or certified copies, contacting the local registrar or county clerk in the county where the event occurred is advised.

Texas Public Criminal Records

Definition and Types of criminal records in Texas

Texas criminal records, commonly known as rap sheets, are official documents detailing an individual’s criminal history within the state. These records are compiled from various sources, including police departments, sheriff’s offices, and the courts, and typically contain the following information:

  • Personal Identification: This includes the individual’s name, date of birth, physical descriptors (such as height, weight, and distinguishing marks or tattoos), fingerprints, and sometimes a photograph or mugshot.
  • Arrest Records: Information on arrests, including dates, the arresting agencies, and the locations of the arrests. It may also detail the circumstances leading to the arrest.
  • Charges: The records outline the specific criminal charges filed against the individual, whether they are misdemeanors or felonies.
  • Court Records: Details of court proceedings related to the criminal charges, such as trial dates, charges and counts, plea details, and information about judgments or verdicts.
  • Incarceration Records: If the individual was incarcerated, the record will include details about the incarceration, such as the facility where they were held, duration of incarceration, and release date.
  • Probation or Parole Information: For those sentenced to probation or parole, the records include terms of the probation or parole, duration, and information about any violations.

Texas criminal records are used for various purposes, including background checks, employment screenings, and legal proceedings. These records are accessible to the public through the Texas Department of Public Safety, which maintains a central repository of criminal history information. Requests for criminal records can be made through the Texas Department of Public Safety’s website, where individuals or authorized entities can conduct name-based or fingerprint-based checks.

Police Records and Reports

Police records and reports in Texas encompass details of incidents and encounters with law enforcement, including arrests, investigations, and accident reports. These records are crucial for legal proceedings, insurance claims, and personal records. They can be requested from the specific police department involved in the incident, and many Texas police departments provide online portals for requests. For instance, the Houston Police Department allows for the online request of certain police reports.

Booking Records and Reports

Booking records in Texas document the process of an individual being processed into jail, containing personal information, mugshots, and the charges against them. These records are maintained by the law enforcement agency that made the arrest and are used in criminal investigations and court cases. Access to these records can typically be obtained through the respective county sheriff's office, such as the Harris County Sheriff's Office, which provides online access to booking information.

DUI Records

DUI records in Texas contain information regarding arrests and convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These records include details like the date of the offense, blood alcohol content levels, and court outcomes. They are accessible through the Texas Department of Public Safety for legal and insurance purposes. For driving records, including DUI offenses, individuals can visit the Texas DPS Driver Record Request page.

Felony and Misdemeanor Records

Felony and misdemeanor records in Texas detail criminal convictions and are essential for background checks and legal purposes. These records include information about the offense, court outcomes, and sentencing. They can be accessed through the Texas Department of Public Safety or local court records. For a broader search, the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Records Service provides access to various criminal records.

Parole Records

Parole records in Texas track individuals released from prison on parole, including terms of release, compliance status, and any violations. These records are managed by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and are used to monitor parolees and ensure public safety. To access parole information, one can visit the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Offender Search.

Probation Records

Probation records in Texas document an individual's time under court-ordered probation, including conditions, compliance, and any violations. These records are maintained by local probation offices or the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. For specific probation information, contacting the relevant county probation department is necessary, as there's no centralized online database for probation records.

Warrant Search

Warrant searches in Texas allow individuals to check for active arrest warrants issued by Texas courts. This information is essential for legal compliance and personal awareness. Many Texas counties provide online warrant search tools, like the Harris County Warrant Search portal.

Inmate And Jail Records

Inmate and jail records in Texas provide information on individuals incarcerated in state or county facilities, including profiles, incarceration details, and release dates. These records are vital for tracking inmates and for legal proceedings. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Offender Search offers a statewide database for inmate searches.

What you can find

In Texas, inmate and jail records provide detailed information about individuals who are incarcerated or have been in the custody of jail or prison facilities. These records typically contain the following details:

  • Personal Information: This includes the inmate’s name, date of birth, physical description (such as height, weight, and any distinguishing marks or tattoos), and sometimes a photograph or mugshot.
  • Incarceration Details: Records show the date and location of incarceration, including the specific jail or prison facility where the inmate is being held.
  • Booking Information: Details about the inmate’s booking, including the booking number, time of booking, and the law enforcement agency that made the arrest.
  • Criminal Charges: Information on the charges for which the inmate was arrested or convicted, including the nature of the offenses and any associated case numbers.
  • Sentence Information: For convicted inmates, records include details about their sentence, such as the length of the sentence, any fines or restitution ordered, and the sentencing court.
  • Bail/Bond Information: If applicable, details about bail or bond posted for the inmate’s release.
  • Release Date: The scheduled release date for the inmate, if applicable, or information on parole eligibility.
  • Behavioral Records: Records may include information about the inmate’s behavior while incarcerated, including participation in rehabilitation programs, educational achievements, or any disciplinary actions.
  • Transfer Information: Details about any transfers between different jail or prison facilities.

How to Perform an Inmate Search in Texas

Performing an inmate search in Texas can be done using the following steps:

  • Use the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) Inmate Locator: The TDCJ provides an online inmate locator tool on their website. This is the primary resource for finding individuals incarcerated in state prisons in Texas.
  • Enter Inmate Details: On the TDCJ inmate search page, you can search for an inmate using their TDCJ number or their full name. It helps to have as much information as possible for a more accurate search, such as the inmate’s date of birth.
  • Review Search Results: The search results will provide you with a list of inmates matching your query, along with their TDCJ number, unit of assignment, and projected release date.
  • County Jail Inmates: For individuals held in county jails rather than state prisons, you should visit the website of the specific county jail or the county sheriff’s office. Most counties in Texas provide an online inmate search tool or contact information for inmate inquiries.
  • Contacting the Facility for More Information: If you need more detailed information or if your search does not yield results, you can contact the facility where you believe the individual is housed. The TDCJ website provides contact information for each state prison facility.
  • Additional Resources: Other resources such as VINELink can also be used for inmate searches in Texas. VINELink provides information on inmates’ custody status and can send notifications about changes in that status.

State Prisons:

Can I look up mugshots in Texas?

In Texas, accessing mugshots can depend on various factors, including the policies of the law enforcement agency that made the arrest and the nature of the crime. Here’s how you can attempt to look up mugshots:

  • Public Records Requests: Mugshots, as part of arrest records, are generally considered public records in Texas. You can request these records from the law enforcement agency that made the arrest. This could be a local police department or the sheriff’s office.
  • Online Databases: Some law enforcement agencies in Texas provide online databases where mugshots are available. These can often be accessed through the agency’s official website.
  • Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Requests: If the mugshot is not readily available online, you may make a request under the FOIA or a similar state-level law. Be prepared for possible fees associated with processing these requests.
  • Privacy and Legal Restrictions: Be aware that there might be legal restrictions on the distribution of mugshots, especially if the arrest involves a minor, sensitive charges, or if the case is ongoing.
  • Third-Party Websites: There are also commercial websites that aggregate mugshots from different sources. However, the accuracy and legality of these sites can vary, and they might not always have the most current information.

Texas Arrest Records

Texas arrest records are official documents that detail an individual’s encounters with law enforcement leading to an arrest.

What Do These Records Contain:

These records, maintained by various law enforcement agencies across the state, typically contain a range of information:

  • Personal Identification: Arrest records often include the arrested individual’s name, date of birth, physical description (like height, weight, and any distinguishing marks), and sometimes photographs or mugshots.
  • Arrest Details: The records provide specifics about the arrest, including the date, time, and location of the arrest, the arresting agency, and the names of the arresting officers.
  • Charges: The records outline the specific charges that led to the arrest, which could range from minor infractions to serious felonies.
  • Case Information: This includes the case number associated with the arrest, any relevant court information, and the status of the case (such as pending, dismissed, or convicted).
  • Bail/Bond Information: If applicable, the records will detail bail or bond amounts set and whether they were posted.
  • Custody Information: Details about where the individual was held in custody and any transfer information to different detention facilities.

Texas Property and Asset Records Online

To find property and asset records online in Texas, you can utilize the resources provided by the county appraisal districts. Each county in Texas maintains its own database, and many have online search tools accessible through their websites. By entering the address or owner’s name, you can access details such as property ownership, assessed values, and tax information. For example, the Harris County Appraisal District offers an extensive online search tool for property records.

Unclaimed Properties in Texas

For locating unclaimed properties in Texas, the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts manages an unclaimed property program. This program holds unclaimed assets like forgotten bank accounts, uncashed checks, security deposits, and other financial assets that have been turned over to the state. You can search for unclaimed properties by visiting the Texas Unclaimed Property website, where you can enter your name or the name of your business to find any assets that may belong to you. If you find property that you believe is yours, the website provides detailed instructions on how to file a claim and verify your ownership. This service is provided free of charge, and it’s recommended to periodically check for unclaimed property, as new assets are continuously added.

Driving Records

To obtain your driving records in Texas, you can request them through the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). The DPS offers an online service where you can order and pay for your driving record directly through their official website. Alternatively, you can request your driving record by mail or in person at a DPS office, although these methods may take longer. When requesting your driving record, you will need to provide personal identification details, such as your driver’s license number, and there is a fee associated with obtaining these records.

Civil Driving Infractions

In Texas, civil driving infractions, also known as traffic violations, are non-criminal offenses that pertain to the rules of the road. These infractions include a wide range of violations such as speeding, failing to stop at a stop sign or red light, not using turn signals, illegal lane changes, and seat belt violations. Civil infractions also cover parking violations, like parking in a no-parking zone or an accessible parking spot without proper authorization. Unlike more serious offenses like driving under the influence (DUI) or reckless driving, which can be classified as misdemeanors or felonies, civil driving infractions typically result in fines, points on the driver’s license, and potentially an increase in auto insurance rates, but not jail time.

Texas White Pages - Find People, Addresses, and Other Non-Official Information

Address Search ​

Address searches in Texas can be conducted for various purposes, including obtaining property information, tax assessments, and ownership history. These searches are typically carried out through the respective county appraisal district’s website, where you can enter the address to access detailed property records. For instance, the Harris County Appraisal District provides an online tool for property searches. Additionally, real estate websites and local government portals can also be valuable resources for address-related information in Texas.

People Search​

People searches in Texas can be performed using online public record databases, social media platforms, and professional networking sites. The Texas White Pages and other online directories offer a straightforward way to search for individuals by name, providing contact information and addresses. For more detailed background information, public records accessible through state or county government websites can be utilized, offering access to records like voter registration, criminal histories, and court proceedings. Additionally, third-party people search services are available, though the accuracy and currency of the data should be verified.

Can I Search By a Phone Number and Identify The Owner?

Yes, in Texas, as in other locations, you can search by a phone number to identify the owner through a process known as a reverse phone lookup. This can be done using various online services and platforms. When you enter a phone number into a reverse phone lookup service, it may provide information about the owner, such as their name, address, and other related details. Additionally, caller ID apps and search engines can sometimes yield information about the owner of a phone number. However, it’s important to be mindful of privacy considerations and the potential limitations in the accuracy of the information provided by different services. These tools should be used responsibly, adhering to privacy laws and ethical guidelines.

License Plate Lookup in Texas

Conducting a license plate lookup in Texas for the purpose of obtaining personal information about another individual is restricted due to privacy laws and regulations. Here are the general guidelines for how you might go about a license plate lookup in Texas:

  • Law Enforcement and Legal Purposes: If you need license plate information for law enforcement or legal reasons, such as following a hit-and-run incident, you should report the incident to the police. Law enforcement agencies have the authority to conduct license plate lookups in the course of their investigations.
  • Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV): The Texas DMV can perform license plate lookups, but this information is typically restricted to authorized personnel, such as law enforcement or those with a permissible use under the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA).
  • Legal Requests: If you need license plate information for legal proceedings, your attorney can request this information through the appropriate legal channels.
  • For Personal Use: If you’re looking up a license plate related to your own vehicle, such as checking registration status, you can do this through the Texas DMV. However, accessing someone else’s vehicle information for personal reasons is usually not permitted.
  • Third-Party Websites: Be cautious with online services claiming to provide license plate lookups. Many cannot legally access state DMV records, and the information they provide may be outdated or inaccurate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who and why can request public records?

Any member of the public has the right to request access to public records in Texas, as these records are available to ensure transparency and accountability in government operations.

Are there fees associated with requesting public records?

While accessing public records in Texas may be free, there are often fees associated with copying or processing, especially for large or complex requests.

Are public records Free to access?

Inspecting public records in Texas is typically free, but fees may apply for copying, mailing, or extensive research involved in fulfilling a request.

What is the response time for public records requests?

Texas law mandates that public records requests be responded to “promptly,” usually within 10 business days, though the exact timeframe can depend on the complexity of the request.

Can my request be rejected?

Yes, a request for public records in Texas can be rejected if it involves confidential or exempt information, such as records related to personal privacy, security, or ongoing legal investigations.

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