Texas Court Records
Are Criminal Records Public In Texas?
Under Texas Government Code Chapter 552, criminal records are accessible to the public for inspection and copying. By the law, deferred adjudication and conviction records are regarded as public information and may be made available to the general public.
However, criminal records that have been expunged or placed under an order of nondisclosure are restricted from public access. Copies of criminal records can be obtained from the Texas Department of Public Safety or from the county where the charges were filed.
What Is Included In A Criminal Record In Texas?
A criminal record is an official document stating the criminal activities of an individual. It is a list of a person’s every contact with law enforcement agencies, from arrests to convictions. In Texas, the information contained in a criminal record includes:
- The subject’s full name and known aliases
- A mugshot
- Details of unique physical descriptors
- The complete set of the fingerprints of the subject
- The subject’s date of birth, gender, and nationality/ethnicity
- Details of the subject’s arrests, dispositions, and convictions
- Information on criminal offenses and indictments
How To Look Up My Criminal Records In Texas?
In the State of Texas, the Texas Department of Public Safety keeps and maintains criminal records. To get a copy of the criminal records, the subject in question must provide a set of fingerprints to the Department. The Department provides fingerprinting services that are run by a third party vendor, IDEMIA.
To access the Fingerprint Applicant Services of Texas (FAST), the requester can schedule an appointment online, call 1–888–467–2080 or visit a FAST location. When calling to schedule an appointment, the applicant should have the Texas Fingerprint Service Code, 11FT12, for a personal review. This is as provided by the Crime Records Personal Review guidelines.
The fingerprint service costs $10 in addition to a $15 fee for the criminal record history information. Acceptable means of payment are Visa/MasterCard/Discover/American Express, business checks, money orders, and coupon codes (employer accounts). Payment made online can, however, only be by credit card or coupon code. On getting to the scheduled appointment, the applicant provides a valid means of identification and fee payment.
To submit the fingerprints by mail, the requester must obtain and complete a fingerprint card, then register online to submit the fingerprint card.
The fingerprint submission can be done by mail or electronically. The applicant can mail the fingerprint card to:
Texas Department of Public Safety
5805 North Lamar Blvd
P. O. Box 4087
Austin, TX 78773–0001
The Department of Public Safety provides a list of instructions to facilitate the completion of this process. As soon as the Department receives the required information, the applicant would receive the requested criminal record. This process would usually take ten days.
How Can I Get My Criminal Records For Free In Texas?
There are also no provisions for obtaining Texas criminal records for free. Such records can be obtained by mail or electronically from the Texas Department of Public Safety at the cost of $24.95.
The requester can also get the criminal records from the county where the charges were brought. While some counties like Harris County allow requesters to view the records for free after registration, obtaining a copy still attracts a fee.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How To Search Criminal Records Online In Texas?
The duty to maintain a computerized criminal history system for the State of Texas is placed upon the Department of Public Safety. This is in accordance with Art. 66.101 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. As such, the State Department of Public Safety has a Criminal Records Service that operates as a repository of all the criminal information within the state.
The site has a Criminal History Search Service that enables requesters to find information on the Department of Public Safety database. The service provides information on arrests, prosecutions, and dispositions, as well as convictions, adjudications, and probation.
To search for criminal records on the website, the requester is mandated to create a Criminal Records Service Public Website account. The requester must also purchase credits for every intended search. Each search credit costs $3, and payment can be made by mailing a check or with a credit card.
Paying with a credit card attracts a convenience fee of 2.25% per credit, which amounts to approximately $3.07 per search credit. For every credit purchased by credit card, there is a transaction fee of $0.25 regardless of the number of credits bought. This payment method has the advantage of making credits available immediately payment is made.
On the other hand, a requester paying by check would not have to pay any additional fee other than the $3 required for each credit. However, a credit purchased by a mailed check becomes available after the Department has received the payment.
One search credit allows the requester to enter in a search and view one matching record if there are any. If there are no matches or if the matching record is not viewed, the search credit will still be used. Repeating a search with or without different search information requires additional credits. So does viewing more than one person’s record in the search results list.
In carrying out the search, the requester can enter the subject’s
- First and last name
- Middle or maiden name
- Complete or partial birth date
The search results obtained cannot be guaranteed to be related to the intended individual. The only way to get guaranteed results is through fingerprint identification. If the information sought isn’t a public record, the database will produce no results. The requester can, however, call (512) 424–2474 in such situations.
How To Get Criminal Records Expunged In Texas?
According to Article 55.01 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, an offender can request criminal records expunction if:
- The court dismissed the case, and the statute of limitation has expired
- No formal charges were filed after arrest or detainment, and the statutory waiting period has ended
- The trial ended in an acquittal
- The court overturned the conviction on appeal
- The offender was pardoned after conviction
Whatever the situation, the requester may not seek expungement until the end of a waiting period. For felonies, the waiting period is three years from the date of arrest. On the other hand, class A and B misdemeanors have a waiting period of one year.
For class C misdemeanors, the offender must wait 180 days (six months) before requesting an expungement. If the penalty for the offense was only a fine, then there is no waiting period.
An expunction order under the Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 55.03, prohibits the release or use of the expunged records. The offender can deny the occurrence of the arrest and the existence of the expunction order unless under oath. When under oath, the offender or any other person can simply state that the issue in question has been expunged.
Section 1, Article 55.02 of the Code places a duty on the trial court to grant an expunction order at no cost in certain situations even without a petition being made. In such cases, the attorney for the state prepares an order for expunction for the court to sign. If the subject of the expunction order is in the custody of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the attorney is obliged to inform the Department.
Any qualified person can seek an order of expunction from a district court either in the county:
- where the arrest was made or;
- where the purported offense was said to have occurred.
The petitioner can request an expunction order by filing an ex parte petition. The petition must include the following details:
- The petitioner’s biographical data such as the full name, gender, race, and date of birth
- The driver’s license number and social security number of the petitioner
- The address of the petitioner as at the time of the arrest
- The offense with which the petitioner was petitioner
- The date of the alleged offense
- The date of arrest
- The location of the arrest
- The agency that made the arrest
- The court where the charge was filed as well as the case number
- A list of the agencies speculated to have information on records or files that are subject to expunction
- The physical or email addresses of such agencies
After the applicant has filed the petition, the court must wait thirty days before hearing the matter.
The cost of filing a petition for expunction of criminal records vary by county. In Harris County, the filing fee is $267 minus the other additional charges for service of the petition and of the final expunction order. In Houston County, the base filing fee is $277.
How To Get Criminal Records Sealed In Texas?
In situations where a person is unqualified for an expunction order, the Texas Government Code Section 411.071 can apply. This section provides for the granting of an order of nondisclosure to an offender. The order of nondisclosure can be said to have the same effect as the sealing of documents.
An order of nondisclosure is an order of the court stopping public entities from disclosing information on the sealed criminal record. The public entities include the law enforcement agencies, the courts and the clerks, and prosecutorial offices. The court order does not seal the entire criminal record if there are multiple offenses. It only applies to a specific criminal offense.
A person will be qualified to have the criminal record sealed after pleading guilty or no contest to a crime and being placed on deferred adjudication community supervision. This means that the judge held off further proceedings without entering a guilty verdict. The judge must have also kept the subject under court supervision and discharged the said subject at the end of the supervision.
To qualify for a nondisclosure order, the petitioner must not have been convicted or kept on deferred adjudication for:
- An offense that mandates registration as a sex offender under Chapter 62, Code of Criminal Procedure
- Aggravated kidnapping under Texas Penal Code Section 20.04
- Murder or capital murder
- Trafficking of persons
- Continuous trafficking of persons
- Injury to a Child, Elderly Person, or Disabled Individual
- Abandoning or Endangering a Child
- Contravention of court orders or terms of bond in family violence, sexual assault or abuse, stalking or trafficking cases
- Repeated infringement of certain court orders or conditions of bond in family violence, sexual assault or abuse, stalking or trafficking cases
- Any other offense on family violence, as defined by Section 71.004, Family Code
The Texas Government Code Section 411.074 provides for other requirements. To determine the eligibility of an offender, some of the following documents may be required:
- A copy of the judgment in the case
- An order signed by the court showing completion of any deferred adjudication or probation, as well as any imposed term of confinement and payment of all fines, costs, and restitution imposed
- An order of discharge
- A dismissal order
Who Can See My Expunged/Sealed Criminal Record In Texas?
Pursuant to Texas Government Code Section 411.076, a criminal record that has been sealed by order of nondisclosure is inaccessible to the public. It can, however, be accessed by the subject of the order and criminal justice agencies. Section 411.0765 of the Code states that the sealed criminal record can be shared with some noncriminal justice agencies such as:
- The Texas Medical Board
- The State Bar of Texas
- the Texas Private Security Board
- the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy
- The Texas Department of Insurance
- The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation
- The Texas Education Agency
- The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation
The sealed criminal record can also be accessed in complying with a federal law requirement.