A background check is an investigation providing information regarding an individual’s employment history, criminal record, finances, driving record, and other details of their personal history.
Background checks are used for many reasons, from employment history to any prior criminal activity. They are typically performed by a company or an organization to screen an individual prior to hiring them. Background checks are commonly conducted by landlords or banks before approving an individual for rentals or mortgages.
Individuals also perform background checks on themselves to confirm that their personal information lines up with public records.
So, are you looking for a background check in Texas? Or perhaps a potential employer is telling you a background check is coming up.
If you need information regarding how background checks work in Texas, you have come to the right place. Our comprehensive article provides all of the details you need to know about background checks in Texas.
Background Check Laws in Texas
The Texas Public Records Act grants people the right to obtain records from city, county, state, and government agencies.
According to the act, both residents and non-residents are able to obtain records. Agencies have ten days to produce the records. If they are not able to, they must notify you within those ten days as to when they will the records will be ready. In the case that a request is denied, the agency responsible must deliver a written request for exemption to the attorney general.
The attorney general has 45 days to determine if the records will be released. If the request is denied, an individual can file a lawsuit in an effort for the records to be released. These actions can take a significant amount of time before any results are seen.
The Texas Public Records Act does have exemptions, which include the judicial system. Access to records can be denied due to security reasons; for example, abuse victim records or law enforcement procedures may not be released. A plaintiff or defendant’s identity may not be released.
To copy records in Texas the fee is $.10 per page. If your request requires a search, the fee is $15.00 per hour. When confidential information must be redacted by an employee, there can be additional charges.
In 1997, Texas passed its version of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) for background checks, limiting consumer reporting agencies from revealing misdemeanors and felonies for criminal background checks that are older than 7 years.
Currently, no statewide ban-the-box laws in Texas are in place.
What are ban-the-box laws?
Ban-the-box laws state that employers are prohibited from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history on an initial job application. Some states take it one step further; employers cannot ask about criminal history until after a preliminary interview is conducted or delivering a contingency offer.
What shows up on a background check in Texas?
A criminal background check details an individual’s criminal history, employment history, financial history, educational background, and more. Criminal history includes past charges as well as any pending charges
An employer running a background check can find the following information when it comes to criminal activity:
- Location of offense
- Offense type
- Case numbers
- Rulings / sentences
Employment history, education, and other personal histories can show up on a background check as well.
Reasons Employers Run Background Checks in Texas
Employers commonly run background checks prior to hiring a new employee. There are several reasons for this, including but not limited to:
- Standard Employment Screening
- Managerial Positions
- Caregiving Fields
Companies perform background checks to confirm an applicant’s employment history and make sure there are no criminal charges. It’s standard practice for employees to conduct a background check.
Jobs that require more responsibility, such as managerial positions, are often subject to additional background check requirements.
For individuals working in health, senior, or childcare, extensive background checks are typically required as they are caring for children, the elderly, disabled, or other vulnerable populations. Background checks, credit checks, criminal records check, education checks, driving record checks, and more are commonly conducted in order to make sure clients, children, and patients are safe.
Individuals in government, public work, and insurance are also subject to more detailed background checks.
How far back do background checks go in Texas?
Criminal background checks in the state of Texas are typically limited to seven years (Texas and Business Commerce Code Sec. 20.05.) If a company hires a third-party background check company, they will also be held to the seven-year requirement as consumer reporting agencies must comply with both state and federal regulations.
However, the code also allows for an exception when an applicant applies to a job offering a salary paying more than $75,000 per year. In this case, an employer has the right to review the applicant’s records from the time they turned eighteen.
Criminal records of minors are generally sealed and are not available to the public.
As a general guideline, a criminal background check in Texas will look past seven years in the event that you are applying for:
- A job with an annual salary exceeding $75,000
- A job with a government agency
- A job requiring deliveries or in-home services
- A job at an insurance company
- A job with a company that conducts background checks internally.
How long does a background check take in Texas?
According to the Public Information Act, an agency is required to deliver records within 10 days. The agency is supposed to produce records for you within 10 days. If they are not able to, agencies are supposed to notify you as to when the records can be delivered.
If a request is denied, the agency must submit a written request for exemption to the attorney general.
How long does a background check take for a gun in Texas?
According to federal law, federally licensed firearms dealers are required to initiate a background check on the buyer before selling a firearm in Texas. Private sellers are exempt.
Because Texas is not a state “point of contact,” which simply means Texas could conduct its own background checks, checks are completed by the FBI using the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database. In other words, Texan firearms dealers must contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI, directly when initiating a background check.
The FBI has three business days to finish a background check after a dealer submits a request. If the FBI does not respond within that time frame, a sale can be completed.
Residents of Texas with a history of alcohol or drug abuse are not allowed to purchase firearms. Individuals convicted of violent crimes in Texas are not allowed to buy firearms. Background checks, which can date back to an applicant’s 18th birthday, will reveal any convictions within the state of Texas, or any other state in the country.
How do I get a background check in Texas?
The state of Texas provides some records online, while other records must be requested via a physical form. Individual requesting records must keep in mind that every agency has its own set of rules, and each agency has its own fees and timeline.
A company or organization can typically request copies by completing the following actions:
- Name and contact information, including, but not limited to a phone number, email, and mailing address
- What document an individual would like to obtain records of
- When an individual would like to receive the records
- Method of delivery, for example, mail or email
Within Texas’ Department of Public Safety is the Computerized Criminal History (CCH) program. Users can log onto CCH and search for Class C, Class B misdemeanors, and more serious violations in the state. As mentioned, CCH is
How does the Computerized Criminal History database work?
- Users must use credits to pay for searches
- Credits are available for $3
- Depending on the payment method there could be additional fees, such as a $.25 transaction fee for debit or credit cards
- Every search requires one search credit
- If a search does not produce results, you will receive a refund of one search credit
To search the database, an individual must:
- First, create a new account
- Then purchase credits (you will pay for one per search)
- Finally, conduct a search
Should I use a third-party background check company?
You or your company can run a background check, but using a third-party background check company can provide you with more information from private sources, including convictions and criminal history.
Texas Criminal Records
The Texas Department of Public Safety (or TxDPS) is a government agency that oversees all background checks in the state of Texas. TxDPS manages the state’s Conviction Database, which collects and stores public criminal records data using the Computerized Criminal History (CCH) program.
Arresting agencies, prosecution agencies, and court clerks are required to report data to CCH. Data found in CCH only becomes public when an offender’s conviction or deferred adjudication is reported to the Department.
In accordance with Texas Government Code, Section 552.023, TxDPS states that individuals or their authorized representatives have access and can receive a criminal history record information (CHRI) copy.
Texas has numerous courts, each with its own responsibilities. Texas has 254 counties, and within each country, there is a county court and judge.
There’s the Supreme Court, which oversees the entire judicial system in Texas. Criminal matters are seen in the Court of Criminal Appeals. There are 14 Courts of Appeal in the state, dealing with both criminal and civil cases.
Then there are four levels of district or trial courts in Texas. These include family law, criminal court, civil court, and juvenile cases.
A judge or jury rules on cases.
Cases involving guardianship, mental health, wills, the deceased, and the incapacitated go to Probate Court. Appeals head to Appellate Court.
In order to obtain a court record, an individual must complete and submit an application to the county clerk’s office.
Arrest records in Texas show the following:
- Active warrants
- DUI convictions for at least seven years and/or dating back to a person’s 18th birthday.
- Drugs, Marijuana convictions
- Sex Offenders
- Parole/Probation history
Texas Department of Corrections and Inmate Records Search
The Texas Department of Correction provides information regarding incarcerated individuals. The information included in court records is the date and location of the arrest, mugshots, and more.
Texas Driving Records
The Texas Department of Public Safety provides driving records, available online, via an Online Driver Record Request System.
The following types of records, along with the price to obtain them from the Department of Public Safety are listed below:
- Status Record: $4.50
- Uncertified 3-year History Record: $6.50
- Uncertified List of all Accidents and Violations on Record; $12
- Certified 3-year History Record: $7.50
- Certified List of All Accidents and Violations on Record: $12
- Certified Abstracts of Driving Record: $22
To access Texas’ Department of Public Safety Online Driver Record Request System, you are required to present:
- Audit number
- TX driver’s license
- A valid credit or debit card
- PDF viewer / printable PDF files
Texas Vital Records
Vital records include significant life events, including birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce papers, and death certificates. The subject of the vital record and any authorized family members are allowed to view and request copies of vital records. They are not publicly available.
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Vital Statistics Sections (VSS) is responsible for vital records. An order may take up to 25 days to be processed once an online application is placed.
VSS can be reached at 888-963-7111.
VSS requires the following information in order for an individual to receive vital records:
- The person’s full name, including any previous names
- Location and date of the event
- Marriage license number
- Divorce case file
- Valid photo ID and notarized application for a marriage license or death records
An individual can submit a request for their own vital records. However, if an individual is searching for vital records for someone else, they are required to be immediate or adoptive family, or a legal guardian, agent, or representative.
Users may also search for property and asset records via county tax records, as well as bankruptcy records via US Bankruptcy Courts.
Texas Sex Offender Records
The state of Texas requires that individuals convicted of sex-related crimes or other crimes against minors register as sex offenders.
The general public is able to view the Texas Sex Offender Registry by searching using the following information:
- Higher Education
The state of Texas also allows for the entire Public Sex Offender list to be downloaded
How do I obtain a credit history background check in Texas?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) allows all Americans one free annual credit report from each of the three main United States credit bureaus, which include:
Individuals can submit the following information in order to obtain a free credit report from one of the three credit bureaus listed above:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Social security number
How Can I Run Compliant Background Checks in Texas?
In order to keep background checks, or consumer reports, compliant, employers must follow Equal Employment Opportunity Commission EEOC guidelines. That means that it is illegal for an employer to check an applicant’s background based on that person’s national origin, race, sex, religion, color, age, disability, or genetic information.
If an individual or company uses a third-party background check company, they must first follow the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requirements stating that:
- All FCRA Regulations are followed:
- FCRA regulations require that you follow specific steps prior to receiving a consumer report, and any adverse actions based upon the report.
- Any employment-related decisions and consumer reports must be diverted to an applicant or an employee. A notice is required to be submitted in writing using a format that is stand-alone. The notice is not permitted to be part of the employment application. Consumer reports including lesser additional information are allowed if it doesn’t take away from the notice.
- Written permission must be obtained by the applicant or employee, which can be included in the paperwork used to let an applicant or employee know you are getting a consumer report. Be sure to be concise and clear if you were going to ask a person’s employer for a consumer report.
- Compliance forms must be certified by the company that has to provide them. This includes a certification that you:
- Inform the applicant or employee and obtained their permission to get a consumer report;
- Followed all FCRA requirements; and
- will follow all applicable state or federal equal opportunity laws or regulations to not discriminate against the applicant or employee or otherwise misuse the information.
- Review any and all consumer report laws in Texas.
- Before taking adverse action, you must complete the following actions:
- Prior to denying a job application, reassigning or terminating an employee, rejecting a promotion, or taking any other adverse employment action due to information pulled from a consumer report, you are required to give the applicant or employee notice that includes a copy of the consumer report you relied on to make your decision; and
- a copy of A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which the company that gave you the report should have given to you.
- provide advanced notice to a person, giving them the time and opportunity to go over the report and confirm that it is right.
- After taking an adverse action, you must complete the following actions:
- If adverse action is taken because of information found in a consumer report, you must inform and provide the applicant or employee notice of that information– electronically, orally, or in writing.
- An adverse action notice informs people of their rights to look at any information being reported about them and to update inaccurate information. The notice must include:
- the name, address, and phone number of the consumer reporting company that supplied the report;
- a statement that the company that supplied the report did not make the decision to take the unfavorable action and can’t give specific reasons for it; and
- a notice of the person’s right to dispute the accuracy or completeness of any information the consumer reporting company furnished, and to get an additional free report from the company if the person asks for it within 60 days.
- Investigative Reports
- Employers who use the term “investigative report,” which are reports centered on individual interviews about a person’s overall reputation, character, personal characteristics, and lifestyle – have additional requirements under the FCRA.
- These requirements include providing written notice that an individual may request or have requested an investigative consumer report, and providing a statement that the person has a right to ask for additional disclosures and an overview of the substance and scope found in the report. (See 15 U.S.C. section 1681d(a), (b)).
- Dispose of Consumer Reports
- When you’re done using a consumer report, you must get rid of the report securely, including any associated information. This includes, but is not limited to, shredding, pulverizing, or burning paper documents and disposing of electronic information so that it is illegible.
What do I do if the information is incorrect on my background to check in Texas?
Is your information incorrect? If you feel as though there has been a mistake made, you can take action. Errors and incorrect data are reviewed by the Texas Criminal History Information Center. In order to have data reviewed or changed, an individual must submit a request in writing to the Texas Criminal History Information Center.
Can You Get a Free Background Report in Texas?
Texas does not offer free background checks as TxDPS is responsible for all records. Texas uses fingerprints and names to check records, both of which require a fee. Searching by name is $10, while fingerprint records are $15, plus a $10 fee for the fingerprint card.
Individuals can view court records via Texas’ online search feature, Public Portal. Court records are available to the public through the Public Portal. In order to view court case records, individuals must log in to the portal and buy credits.