Texas Public Records

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The following is for informational purposes only

What are Texas Public Records, and How are They Created?

Texas Public Records

The Texas Public Information Act (the "Public Information Act" or the "Act") gives the public the right to request access to government information. The state of Texas makes it very easy to request public records. The Texas Attorney General has a page on their website that explains the process. You must request records in writing from the government agency that has them. They offer the following four methods to make your request:

  • United States mail.
  • Electronic mail.
  • Hand delivery.
  • Or any other method approved by the governmental body.

All government agencies in Texas create, store, maintain, and share public records. Some examples might be the courts, local town offices, police stations, the Department of Corrections, and the mayor's office.

Texas defines public records as "information that is written, produced, collected, assembled, or maintained under a law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business, by a governmental body, for a governmental body and the governmental body, owns the information, has a right of access to the information, or spends or contributes public money for the purpose of writing, producing, collecting, assembling, or maintaining the information, or by an individual officer or employee of a governmental body in the officer's or employee's official capacity and the information pertains to official business of the governmental body."

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission is the government agency in charge of historical public records. They have vast libraries of information, including old vital records, military information, manuscripts, genealogy resources, and various other historical local and state government documents. They have most of their collections online for searching. You can also visit them in person to see their entire storehouse of information.

 

How to Access Texas Public Records?

How to Access Texas Public Records

The Texas Attorney General's Office provides excellent tips for making a public records request. Their guidelines are as follows:

  • Determine the government body that has the records you need.
  • Be sure to make your records request in writing.
  • Request records that are already in existence.
  • Submit your request via mail, e-mail, or in person.
  • Await your records.

They also warn that: "A governmental body is not required to answer questions, perform legal research, or create new information in response to your public information request."

 

Different Types of Public Records in Texas

Texas Criminal Records

The Texas Department of Public Safety has a web portal for criminal records pulled from the DPS Computerized Criminal History System (CCH). You can easily search for public records with this system to find: "Arrests, prosecutions and the disposition of the case for persons arrested for Class B misdemeanor or greater violation of Texas criminal statutes, as well as Class C convictions or deferred adjudications that are reported to the Department. The statute identifies many of the actual data elements. In addition, although not required by statute, CCH has traditionally included limited supervision data reported to DPSby TDCJ." You must purchase credits to use with this system.

Some common types of criminal records in Texas include (but are not limited to):

  • Felony and Misdemeanor Records - some common misdemeanors in Texas are drug crimes (small possession of controlled substances) petty theft, first DWI, disorderly conduct, and weapons offenses. Some popular felonies in Texas include aggravated assault, kidnapping, robbery, attempted murder, arson, and burglary.
  • Jail and Inmate Records - both jails and prisons keep inmate records, and those too are public records. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has an online search tool you can use to locate criminals and their records.
  • Police Records - local police can provide copies of incident reports, police reports, sometimes mugshots, and even crime scene photos upon request.

Texas Court Records

Different Types of Public Records in Texas

The Texas Judicial Branch is the government agency that creates, stores, and maintains Court records in Texas. Texas is an unusual state in that its "Courts and Judicial Branch agencies are not subject to the Texas Public Information Act nor to the federal Freedom of Information Act." Therefore, they do not store court records online for public access. However, you can visit the courthouse to request court public records that fall under federal open records law.

Some types of court records in Texas include:

  • Civil Court Records - domestic relations cases such as divorces, marriages, paternity lawsuits, custody and child support cases, estates, conservatorships, wills, civil lawsuits, and small claims lawsuits.
  • Criminal Court Records - criminal filings for misdemeanors, felonies, and other citations. These may include things like trial paperwork, sentencing, prison transfers, and evidence related to the court case.
  • Financial Court Records - bankruptcies, liens, tax issues, company stock filings, and corporate financial reports.
  • Other Court Records - such as bench warrants, arrest warrants, judgments, traffic tickets, and other traffic violations, worker's compensation cases, and name changes.

The court system in Texas consists of five levels. The top-level has the Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals. The next level has the Court of Civil Appeals and then the District Court. The last two levels include the County and Probate Court and then Municipal and Justice Court.

Texas Arrest Records

The Texas Department of Public Safety offers the pubic a portal to search for Texas arrest records and other criminal files. You can also consult the local police to find arrest records. The courts have arrest records as do the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Some different types of arrests records in Texas are:

  • Drug charges.
  • Murder.
  • Shoplifting.
  • Simple assault.
  • Arson.
  • Misrepresenting the age of a minor.
  • Kidnapping.
  • DUIs.
  • Sexual abuse.
  • Booking details like fingerprints and mugshots.
  • Arrest warrants granted by a judge.
  • Bench warrants for not appearing in court.
  • Crime scene photos.
  • Witness statements.
  • Property crimes and accompanying paperwork.
  • Vehicle records if one was used during the crime.

Texas Vital Records

The Texas Health and Human Services department is the government agency that preserves all vital records for the state. Not only do they keep all birth certificates, but they also have death, marriage, and divorce records as well. They also maintain paternity and adoption records. You can order copies of vital records online or by visiting a local office.

 

Other Public Records in Texas

Other Public Records in Texas

Along with criminal, court, arrest, and vital records, other types of public records you can find in the state of Texas include, but are not limited to:

  • Government budgets and annual reports.
  • Driving records (without personally identifiable information).
  • Home addresses.
  • Maps, books, and tapes.
  • State health and wellness statistics.
  • Air and water quality (pollution reports).
  • Property records, real estate deals, and land deeds.
  • Home phone numbers.
  • Police and accident reports.
  • Liens & tax issues.
  • Company incorporation records.
  • Demographics.
  • Library Research.
  • Personnel records for state agencies.
  • Permits, licenses, and certifications.
  • Government employee salaries.
  • * 911 time response logs.
  • Grant applications.
  • Contracts involving government agencies.
  • Settlement agreements.
  • Agency decisions.
  • Name, title, and salary of public employees and officials.
 

What Information is Not Public Record in Texas?

In Texas, not all government records are public. Some things that are on the exemption list are: