Texas Public Records
The Texas Public Information Act is a series of laws governing public information release from governmental agencies in Texas. These laws give the public the right to request access to government records and set rules and regulations for how those records must be released. The Act also contains provisions for protecting information that is considered confidential or sensitive.
Suppose an agency decides to withhold information that has been requested. In that case, it must give the requester a written explanation of why the information is being withheld within ten days of receiving the records request.
How to Find Texas Public Records
A public record is a document or piece of information created or maintained by a governmental agency during its official business. This can include birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, court, tax, and property records.
Records requests or inspections can be made online, by mail, or in person.
If you request records from a state agency, you can find contact information for each agency on the State Agency List of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC).
Are Texas Public Records Available Online?
There are several ways to find Texas public records online as governmental agencies are increasingly making them available through their websites.
For instance, the Texas Department of Public Safety has an online database of Criminal History Records that can be searched by name or date of birth. The Texas Judicial Branch also has an online case lookup tool that allows users to search for court cases by name, case number, or file number.
Other agencies, such as the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, provide online access to specific types of public records such as unclaimed properties and sales taxpayer searches.
What Records are Available in Texas?
As stipulated in the Texas Public Information Act, public records are available for inspection and copying unless they are excepted by law.
Texas state agencies must maintain records that document their activities and functions, as well as records that are created while doing business with the public.
Some common types of public records include:
- Birth and death certificates
- Marriage licenses
- Court records
- Tax records
- Property records
- Criminal records
- And more
TSLAC also has public records that maintain an archive of state records, including maps, photographs, manuscripts, vital records, and more.
What Records are Non-Public in Texas?
As with any other state, some records are exempt from disclosure under Texas public records law.
Some of the most common exemptions include:
- Information that is considered confidential under state or federal law
- Trade secrets
- License plate numbers
- Social security numbers
- Driver's license numbers
- Certain financial information
- And more
Additionally, there may be circumstances where an agency can withhold information even if it is not specifically exempt from disclosure.
For example, if the release of the information would interfere with an ongoing investigation or put someone's safety at risk, the agency may choose to withhold the information.
Types of Public Records Available in Texas
Here are some examples of the types of public records that are available in Texas:
Texas Public Criminal Records
As mentioned above, the Texas Department of Public Safety has a statewide database of criminal history records that is available to the public.
These records include information such as:
- Full name and alias of the individual
- Date of birth
- Details of offenses and arrests
- Arrest records
You need to open an account with the DPS to access these records. Once you have done so, you can search the database by name or date of birth. This is free of charge and can only occur through their website.
Police Departments and Sheriffe Office in Texas :
Arrest Records and Warrants
Arrest records are public information in Texas and are typically maintained by local law enforcement agencies.
On the other hand, warrants typically come from a judge and are therefore part of the court record. You can search for warrants and arrest records through the statewide Crime Record Search Service maintained by the DPS.
You may also choose to visit the local Sheriff's office in the county where the arrest was made to request copies of arrest records.
Inmate and Jail Records
Inmate and jail records are documents that contain information about individuals who have been arrested and are being held in detention by local law enforcement.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) maintains these records. You can use their online Inmate Search tool to find information about inmates, including:
- Convicted offense and details
- Sentence information
- Projected release date
- Past convictions and incarcerations
You need to have at least the following information to use the TDCJ Inmate Search tool:
- Last name and first name of the inmate
- TDCJ number (if known)
- SID number
There is no need to create an account to use this tool.
Jails and Prisons in Texas :
Texas Background Checks
Texas follows the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a federal law that regulates how background checks can be performed.
The FCRA allows employers to request a copy of an individual's criminal history from the Texas Department of Public Safety, provided that the individual has given their written consent.
The criminal history report will include information such as:
- Pending criminal cases
- And more
To do a background check, you can go to DPS' Crime Record Search Service by opening an account.
How to find Sex Offenders in Texas
Texas sex offender registry is a public database containing information about individuals convicted of sex crimes.
In Texas, the sex offender registry is maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety. An online sex offender registry tool allows you to search for offenders by name, SID number, or location.
To search, you must create an email account with the DPS.
Texas Public Vital Records
The Vital Statistics Section (VSS) of Texas Health Services is responsible for the state's public vital records.
Public vital records include birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates. You can request copies of these records through the VSS website. To get certificates online, you need to prove your identity by providing one or two of the following information:
- State-issued driver's license or ID number,
- Social Security Number, AND
- Relationship to individual listed on the record.
You can also request copies by mail or in person. You need to include a notarized application form, a photocopy of your ID, and the required fees for mail requests. In-person requests can be made at a local or central VSS office.
Texas Court Records
There is no online database of Texas court records. However, you can request court records copies from the county clerk's office that filed the case.
To get copies of court records, you need to fill out a request form and submit it to the clerk's office. The clerk will then search for the documents and provide them to you if they are available.
Additionally, some counties in Texas have an online case search tool that allows you to search for court records by name, case number, or other keywords. However, not all counties have this type of tool.
If you need help finding court records, you can contact the clerk's office in the county where the case was filed, and they will assist you.
State Court System in Texas
There are three levels of courts in Texas:
- The Supreme Court is the court of last resort and hears appeals from lower courts.
- The Court of Criminal Appeals is the court of last resort for criminal cases.
- The Intermediate Appellate Courts are the Courts of Appeals.
You can visit the Texas Judicial Branch website to learn more about the Texas court system.
Courts in Texas :
The DPS is also in charge of maintaining driving records in Texas.
A driving record is a document that contains information about your driving history, such as:
- Traffic violations
- DUI/DWI convictions
- License suspensions or revocations
To get a copy of your driving record, you can request it online or by mail. For online requests, you must provide your driver's license number, social security number, and date of birth. A valid credit card is also necessary to pay the required fees. You can request your driving record online here.
For mail requests, you will need to complete the Driver Record Request Form and submit it to the DPS at:
Texas Department of Public Safety
PO Box 149008
Austin, Texas 78714-9008
Civil Driving Infractions
A civil driving infraction is a non-criminal moving violation, such as speeding or running a red light.
You can pay the fine by mail or in person if you have been cited for a civil driving infraction. You can also request a hearing to contest the citation.
These infractions are handled by the Justice of the Peace Court in the county where the violation occurred. You can visit the Justice of the Peace Court website in the relevant county to learn more about contesting a civil driving infraction.
Texas License Plate Lookup
The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles can help you look up the owner of a vehicle with the license plate number.
Third-party websites also offer this service for a fee. These websites claim to have access to DPS databases and can provide you with information about the owner of a vehicle, such as their name, address, and contact information.
Texas Property and Asset Records Online
The county clerk maintains property records in Texas in each county.
You can search for property records online, in-person, or by mail through the county clerk in the relevant county or by setting up an account with a third-party website that offers access to county clerk databases.
Important Government Agencies in Texas
Below are some essential government agencies in Texas that maintain public records:
- Secretary of State
- State Governor
- Texas State Library and Archives Commission
- Texas State Legislature
- Texas Attorney General
- Vital Statistics Section
- Texas Health Services
- Texas Highway Patrol
- Department of Public Safety
- Texas Courts
- Texas Comptroller
- Texas Department of Criminal Justice
- Texas Department of Motor Vehicles
Counties in Texas
- De Witt
- Deaf Smith
- El Paso
- Fort Bend
- Jeff Davis
- Jim Hogg
- Jim Wells
- La Salle
- Live Oak
- Palo Pinto
- Red River
- San Augustine
- San Jacinto
- San Patricio
- San Saba
- Tom Green
- Val Verde
- Van Zandt
List of Content
- How to Find Texas Public Records
- What Records are Available in Texas?
- Types of Public Records Available in Texas
- Important Government Agencies in Texas