The Texas Public Records Act allows people to access records from state, city, county, and government agencies. Whether you need to run a criminal background check or you want to see the minutes from the county board meeting, the information we have provided here will be extremely helpful. We layout how you can find criminal, inmate, court, and vital records.
Table of Contents
- 1 What does the Texas public records law say?
- 2 How can a person access public records in Texas?
- 3 Texas criminal records
- 4 Texas inmate records
- 5 Texas court records
- 6 Texas vital records
- 7 Frequently asked questions about Texas records
What does the Texas public records law say?
Under the act, you do not have to be a resident to receive records. The records must be produced for you within 10 days, or a written response should be mailed to you explaining when the records will be available.
If the agency is going to deny your request, they need to send a written exemption to the attorney general. This is a benefit because it means the agency will not just automatically deny records requests. The attorney general makes the final decision on the release of the records but this step will also slow down the acquisition of records. That attorney general has 45 days to respond to the denial. There is no appeal option in Texas, but you can file a lawsuit to obtain the records.
There are exemptions within the Texas Public Records Act. The judicial system is exempt although you can obtain records from the executive and state agencies. You can be refused records on audits, confidential records, personnel files, records that are an invasion of privacy, crime or abuse victims records, and certain law enforcement procedures due to security.
The fee associated with copying records in Texas is $.10 per page. If a search is required for your request, you can be charged $15.00 per hour. You may be charged more if the records you request are in different agencies. If an employee needs to redact confidential information, you can be charged for that work.
For more information, visit Texas.gov.
How can a person access public records in Texas?
Some Texas records are available online and some must be requested through a physical form. If a form is required, it can be sent via mail, email, or by phone to the record-holding department.
Every department is different, so expect some variation to the rules if you’re accessing records from multiple places.
In general, a public records request should include:
- Your name and contact information, including an email, phone number, and mailing address
- The name of the document you want access to with as much detail as possible
- A specific time period that you’d like to receive the materials by
- How to deliver the documents, whether by email or mail
Due to COVID-19, some public offices may have limited hours of operation. As a result, online requests are best, but if you want to go in person you should call ahead.
Texas criminal records
A criminal record from Texas provides arrest information, prosecutions, and dispositions for a Class B misdemeanor or greater violation. It will include specific information on the person’s interactions with law enforcement.
What’s on a criminal record?
A criminal record or background check from Texas will contain the following information:
- Criminal history
- A tracking ID number
- Personal information like name and birthdate
- A mugshot
- A physical description
- The type of offense
Where can a person find Texas criminal records?
- Resource: Texas Department of Public Safety
The Texas Department of Public Safety can provide background checks via an online portal. If a person has been convicted of a crime, arrested, or prosecuted, it will show up in the report. This information is considered public information as is a sex offender registry.
You will need to set up an account and supply your name, address, email, phone number and credit card information. You will not receive a refund if there are no records found.
Texas inmate records
Texas has 700 prisons and jails that in 2017 housed 1435,341 inmates. This can make a search for an inmate’s records difficult. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice online search will help you find the information you seek. We have provided you information to help you complete that search.
What’s on an inmate record?
Each state varies in what information it will provide on an inmate’s record. Usually it contains personal details and where the person is incarcerated. Conducting a public records search can provide the following information on an inmate:
- An inmate’s name, date of birth, and gender
- A mug shot
- Inmate registration number
- Inmate location
- Jail transfer information
- Custody status
- Parole information
Where can a person find Texas inmate records?
- Resource: Texas Department of Criminal Justice
The state of Texas provides an easy-to-use online database to access inmate records.
To request an inmate’s records, visit the website listed above and enter the last name and the first initial of the person, or the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) number or the state identification (SID) number. You can enter a gender and a race if you know them.
Texas court records
The courts in Texas are numerous and each court has a specific function. We provide information here so that you can gain an understanding of the court system. Because of its large number of courts, it can be hard to track down records.
Texas courts can be broken down into levels by what type of case they manage. The Supreme Court helps the whole judicial system in Texas run efficiently and creates the rules pertaining to the other courts. The majority of the cases are an appeal from an appellate ruling.
The Court of Criminal Appeals is for criminal matters. Texas has fourteen Courts of Appeals which deal in both civil and criminal cases.
Texas has four levels of trial or district courts, which include civil court, family law, criminal court, and juvenile cases. The Trial Court system uses either a jury trial or a decision by a judge. They handle both criminal cases where the defendant may be sent to prison if a crime has been committed or a civil case where a decision is made on a lawsuit.
Appellate Courts make decisions on appeals that were filed on trials that were previously tried in the state.
Probate Courts rule on court cases involving estates of the deceased, wills, guardianship, mental health and incapacitated persons.
Texas requires each of its 254 counties to have a judge and a county court. There are also 254 justice courts.
What’s on a court record?
Since cases can take a long time to come to trail, court records can be large and unwieldy.
These documents will be the most helpful:
- Case files
- Court minutes
- Orders of the court
- Judgement documentation
- Jury records and files
- Witness documentation
Where can a person find Texas court records?
- Resource: Texas Request for Records Application
In order to receive court documents from Texas, you need to complete an application. The form is short and easy to complete. You must supply your name, address, phone and email. Be specific on the records you want to request.
Typically, the request is sent to the county clerk or county clerk’s office, who maintain records.
Texas vital records
The Vital Statistics Section (VSS) of Texas does provide vital records when you are in need of that missing marriage or birth certificate. The state maintains birth and death certificates, divorce records and marriage applications for its citizens.
What information is needed to request a vital record?
To receive vital records, you must provide specific information to aid in the process. The information for the application form vary by different types of records but includes the following:
- Full name of the person and previous names
- Location of the event
- Date of the event
- A license number for marriage records
- A case file for divorce records
Where can a person find Texas vital records?
- Resource: Texas Vital Records Application Forms
You can request your own records. If you want a different person’s records you must be immediate family (or adoptive), a legal guardian or a legal agent or a representative.
To obtain death records or marriage license, you need to complete the application and have a valid photo ID. The application must be notarized. Enclose a check or money order made out to DSHS Vital Statistics.
You can mail the request to Texas Vital Statistics, Department of State Health Services, P.O. Box 12040, Austin, TX 78711-2040
Due to COVID-19, requesting official public records is taking longer than usual.
Frequently asked questions about Texas records
We have compiled a list of the most common questions about Texas Public Records to provide additional information.
Can a request be submitted by non-residents of the state?
Yes. You can request public records if you are a non-resident.
Is there a records custodian in Texas?
No. Each government official in a county is in custody of the records.
What exemptions exist?
The records of the judicial branch are exempt from the law in Texas. Other records that are exempt often deal with invasion of privacy or confidentiality laws. You cannot receive personnel files, mental health files, trade secrets, academic files, credit card information, or crime and abuse victim records.
How long does that state have to respond?
The agency is supposed to produce records for you within 10 days. If they cannot get you the records within 10 days, the Public Information Act says they must send you a letter stating when the records will be available.
Is there an appeals process in place?
You may file a lawsuit, but there is no appeals process in Texas. If the agency is going to refuse your records, they must send a letter to the attorney general who will either agree with the agency or recommend that the documents are released. The attorney general has up to 45 days to respond to the letter.
What fees are associated with requesting public records?
Texas is required to charge reasonable fees for copying and labor for a record request. If the request is under 50 pages, they are allowed to only charge for photocopying the pages at $0.10 a page. If the pages are over 50, the charge for labor is $15.00 an hour. If the records are housed in two separate buildings, they are allowed to charge for labor.