Texas Court Records
What are Texas Juvenile Court Records?
Under Section 51.02 of the Texas Family Code (F.C.), a juvenile is an individual between 10 and 17 years of age who is charged, convicted, or adjudicated of an offense. In Texas, juvenile cases are heard before juvenile court judges. Texas Courts have limited or general jurisdiction over juvenile matters. This, because the severity of the offense determines the court with jurisdiction and not all juvenile cases require court appearances. §51.04(b), §51.04(c), §51.04(i) F.C. outline the designation of juvenile courts in counties of the state. When a child is referred to court for delinquent conduct or a status offense, a juvenile court record is created. The clerk of the juvenile court where the case was handled maintains these records.
What Information is Contained in a Texas Juvenile Record?
Typically, a Texas juvenile record may contain the following information:
- The juvenile's name and aliases
- Physical descriptions such as gender, size, ethnicity, eye color, hair color, scars, and tattoos
- Identifying information such as last residential address, state identification number, photograph, date of birth, and fingerprints
- Offense(s) (including level and degree of offense)
- Court dispositions
- Probationary and detention information
- Intake or referral information
Under Chapter 58 of the Family Code, juvenile records, especially identifying information of juveniles, are mostly confidential and may only be disclosed to eligible agencies and parties under certain conditions. However, certain records such as traffic-related records, sex offender registration records, criminal street gang records are exempt from this law.
What Cases are Heard by Texas Juvenile Courts?
The type of juvenile case heard by a Texas juvenile court depends on the court's jurisdiction over the offense committed and the juvenile's age. In Texas, there are two offenses that may result in a referral to a court by an arresting agency. These offenses include:
- Delinquency conduct
- Status offenses (also known as CINS, conduct indicating a need for supervision)
Delinquency conduct: These are offenses that are not traffic offenses (as defined by Chapter 729, Transportation Code) and are considered more serious than status offenses for which the punishment is a term of imprisonment. These offenses, as stated by §51.03 F.C., include:
- Felony offenses or jailable misdemeanors
- Violation of a lawful court order in situations that would constitute contempt of a court. These courts include:
- A justice or municipal court
- A county court for conduct punishable by fine alone
- A truancy court
- A third (or subsequent) offense under Section 106.041 of the Alcoholic Beverage Code,
- Driving, flying, or boating under intoxication, intoxication assault, or intoxication manslaughter
Status offenses: These offenses occur when a juvenile is charged for conduct that would not be illegal if committed by an adult. These offenses are punishable by a fine. They include:
- Running away from home
- Any fineable offense
- Violation of standards of student conduct
- Abuse of inhalants
Who is Eligible to View Juvenile Records in Texas
The Texas Juvenile Justice System has several state agencies that cater to juvenile matters. Some of these agencies include:
- Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD)
- Department of Family and Protective Services
- Juvenile Probation Departments
- Department of Public Safety
- Law enforcement agencies
- Office of the Attorney General
- Department of State Health Services
As a result, these agencies have distinct rules given by Texas statutes on the dissemination of the juvenile records under their jurisdiction. Chapter 5 of the Family Code guides the creation, dissemination, and confidentiality of juvenile records. For juvenile records maintained by the juvenile courts, individuals that have the right of access include:
- The subject of the record
- The judge of a juvenile court
- A juvenile justice agency
- Probation officers
- Education agencies
- Professional staff or consultants of a juvenile court
- Attorneys of the juvenile or juvenile's parents
- Health and human services agencies
- Supervisory agencies
- Other individuals or agencies with legitimate interest and permitted by a court order
In addition, under §58.007 F.C., a juvenile court may divulge information of a juvenile to the public when a warrant of arrest is issued or for the purposes of apprehension when a party cannot be found. The information that may be released include:
- Name and alias
- Physical description
- A description of the alleged offense(s)
How to Find Juvenile Records in Texas
Juvenile records are maintained by the juvenile courts and probation departments, and the Texas Department of Public Safety (TxDPS). Only eligible parties may inspect or obtain these records. Texas does not have centralized guidelines on how to obtain these records from each entity, as such, parties who wish to do so must contact the relevant agency or court with jurisdiction over the records.
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.
Can you Lookup Texas Juvenile Records Online?
Yes, Texas juvenile records can be accessed online. However, persons who may have access must be eligible under Chapter 5 of the Family Code. These records can be accessed locally via the local juvenile justice information system maintained by juvenile courts or statewide via the Juvenile Justice Information System (JJIS) maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety (TxDPS). To gain access, eligible parties may contact the juvenile court(s) in the applicable county or visit the JJIS site to sign up. The Crime Records Service of the TxDPS can be contacted for more information or assistance on (512) 424-2474. Under §58.306 F.C., there are 3 levels of access given to parties using the JJIS: Level 1, 2, and 3, according to the offense committed by the juvenile and the agency with jurisdiction.
Do Texas Juvenile Records Show up on Background Checks?
No, Texas juvenile records do not show up on background checks. Juvenile records are confidential in the State of Texas. As a result, employers or other interested parties cannot obtain information on criminal activities before the age of 18.
How Long are Juvenile Records Kept in Texas?
Certain juvenile records are automatically destroyed after a period of time under §58.263 F.C. and §58.264 F.C. and expunged under Article 45.0216 of the Criminal Code of Procedure (CCP). According to the law, a juvenile record can be destroyed when there is a determination of no probable cause that an individual committed an offense, or when the individual is at least 18, 21, or 31 years of age, provided they meet criteria set by law.