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Texas Public Records Laws

Many public records can be obtained relatively easily in Texas, although certain application requirements and fees are often imposed. In some cases, additional measures may also be demanded in order to ensure public safety. Common documents, such as criminal histories, court reports or vital records, can often be requested through a simple online application. The maintenance and delivery of these records fall under multiple government agencies, but many will be overseen by either the Texas Department of Public Safety or the Texas Office of Court Administration.

Additionally, Texas’s Public Information Act, also known as Texas Government Code 522, grants citizens the right to access the records of government bodies and representatives. Although all government information is presumed to be available without questioning, there are some exceptions to the rule. For instance, any information that has been deemed confidential by law, either constitutionally, statutorily or judicially, or any document that currently has an exception pending at the time of the request, is not immediately accessible. Otherwise, all public records, including the voting history of a government employee, can be viewed or copied upon request.For further clarification regarding information availability and exemption, examine Texas Government Code 522 in its entirety.

Texas Criminal Records, Arrest Records and Background Checks

Texas criminal and arrest records for individuals charged with Class B misdemeanor or greater violations are publicly available for viewing and copying. These records include disposition of cases, convictions and deferred adjudications. All documents can be searched for using the website for the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Background and criminal history checks can be obtained through the Department of Public Safety.  These records can be accessed by either utilizing the online name-based search function or by submitting a completed authorized fingerprint card along with the appropriate fee to the Department of Public Safety.

As with criminal and arrest histories, the Texas Department of Public Safety is responsible for issuing official state background checks. In Texas, background checks are conducted by name-based search only through the Department of Public Safety’s Conviction Database, which is populated with the information stored in Texas’s Computerized Criminal History system.

Texas Court Records

State or county level court records can be obtained through the Texas Office of Court Administration. Overseen by the Texas Supreme Court, the Office of Court Administration is responsible for maintaining and providing information, documents and resources involving the court system of the state of Texas. More information regarding the procurement of court records can be found on the official Open Records Policy webpage. Contacting the specific county or municipal court in which the case was tried may also yield results.

Texas Vital Records

Texas Vital Records are overseen by the Texas Department of State Health Services and can be requested either online or in person. Birth, death, marriage and divorce certificates can all be ordered online using this application to order Texas Vital Records. Payment for these orders can be made with a credit card or major debit card, and they are usually processed within 10 to 15 business days. Amendments to Vital Records can be requested by following the guidelines listed on the Texas Vital Statistics website.

Verification of existing records may also be requested through the Texas Department of State Health Services, but the fees associated with locating the document are nonrefundable, even if the documents does not exist.

  • Updated April 20, 2017
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