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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:
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.
The Texas Attorney General's Office provides excellent tips for making a public records request. Their guidelines are as follows:
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."
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 DPS by TDCJ." You must purchase credits to use this system.
Some common types of criminal records in Texas include (but are not limited to):
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:
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.
The Texas Department of Public Safety offers the public 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:
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.
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:
In Texas, not all government records are public. Some things that are on the exemption list are: