Texas Public Records

Public records refer to a database of information that has been recorded or filed by public agencies. Local, state, and federal government agencies manage public records and determine availability, fees, retrieval, and other factors. 

Public records include criminal records, vital records, driving records, criminal records, and others, including financial documents related to government programs. Any communication or mail between state agencies and other government officials is also considered public records.

Individuals can access public records online or in person. While public records are available for the general public to access, it doesn’t always mean that it’s free or straightforward.

Texas State Records Mission

Texas State Records provides the public with resources to search for, review, and retrieve public records, including criminal records, vital records, court records, and more. Texas State Records has over 250 million public records on file from the state’s 254 counties.

Which federal laws apply to public records in the United States?

In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) into law. One year later, in 1967, the FOIA went into effect. The law provided the public with the right to access records from federal government agencies. The FOIA mandates that federal agencies must provide documents to the public if a records request is made unless the requested information is exempted by law.  

How does Texas law define public records?

The Texas Public Information Act (Texas Government Code Chapter 552) gives people the right to request and obtain records from state, county, and city government agencies. Texas does not require the requester to give a reason as to why they are requesting public records or give sensitive or specific information about themselves.

The act applies to all public records created by a court, a government agency, or law enforcement agencies unless otherwise exempted. Exemptions include any records defined as confidential, rescinded, redacted, or otherwise made unavailable to the public by law, constitutional mandate, or court decision are exempt.

Government agencies have ten days to deliver the requested public records. If an agency cannot provide the documents, they must notify the requestor within those ten days to let them know when the records will be available. If a request is denied, the agency responsible must present the AG with an exemption request.

The attorney general then has 45 days to find if the records can be released. The person making the request can file a lawsuit to have the records released if the request is denied, an individual can file a lawsuit in an effort for the records to be released. 

Texas Public Records Examples

Texas public records include, but are not limited to:

  • Business records
  • Court records
  • Criminal records
  • Driving records
  • Government contracts
  • Historical records
  • Licensing records
  • Vital records 
  • Voting records

All “public records” in Texas are available for inspection unless otherwise exempted (as defined below) as defined by Texas Gov’t Code § 552.002. Public records, or “public information,” is the information written, collected, produced, assembled, or maintained under a law or ordinance or having to do with official business transactions.

Exemptions

Exemptions within the judicial system include any records with security risks, including law enforcement protocol or abuse victim records. In Texas, Government Code Sec. 552.101 – Sec. 552.160 outlines the exemptions for public record availability.

A government agency can refuse to release requested records any of the statutory exemptions listed below apply (refer to specific code for complete details regarding each exemption): 

Where can I get Texas public records?

The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) is the agency that oversees public record access.

To access public records in Texas, you can mail or email a request to the government agency that manages the documents. Make it clear that your request falls under the Freedom of Information Act. Follow the steps listed below, provided by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), to request public records: 

  1. Texas requires that all requests are submitted in writing. You must request the information from the government agency responsible for maintaining the documents.
  2. Request information or documents that exist already. 
  3. Use the  Public Information Request form and include as many details as possible.
  4. Government agencies do not have to reply to questions, conduct legal analysis, or fulfill requests to deliver information as it is prepared. 
  5. Deliver your written request to the appropriate government agency via hand delivery, email, US mail, or any other approved method. Make sure to keep the receipt and original request. 
  6. Address your request to the government agency’s chief administration officer or the Public Information Officer to ensure the process begins as set forth by the Public Information Act.
  7. You can also email your request to open_records@tcole.texas.gov.
  8. Call the OAG Open Records Division if you feel as though the government agency is not responding to your request per the Freedom of Information Act. The toll-free number is toll-free (877) 673-6839.

What are the fees associated with making a request?

TCOLE’s fees for certified copies are as follows:

  • $0.10 per page  
  • For a business record affidavit, there is a service fee of $35.00 

TCOLE will provide you with a cost statement after you submit your request and they have calculated the cost. 

What can I expect after requesting a public record?

Once you submit your request, the government agency is required to produce the public information “promptly.”

Under the Public Information Act, a government agency cannot ask you why you are searching for public records. They are only allowed to ask you to be more specific about the information requested. 

If the government agency denies your request, you have the following rights:

  1. Ask the AG to review your request by the end of ten business days. Include details as to why the government agency denied your request and why you believe the government agency should disclose your request.
  2. The government agency must also submit a letter to the AG asking for a decision with ten business days and send you a copy of its letter. If the government agency fails to notify you or the attorney general, the requested information is usually considered public information that is open for requests. 
  3. The government agency is required to submit its reasons for not releasing information to you by the fifteenth business day of receiving your request. You have the right to a copy of this notice, although the attorney general may redact some information. If you do not receive a copy of the government agency’s letter, you can ask for it from the AG. Send a letter to the following:

Lauren Downey, Public Information Coordinator
Office of the Attorney General
P.O. Box 12548
Austin, Texas 78711-2548

The Attorney General’s Decision

After receiving a request for a decision, the OAG must provide a decision. It can take up to 45 business days for a ruling to be issued. The OAG will provide you and the government agency with a copy of his decision. If the OAG decides all or part of your request is allowed, the government agency will send you the information.

If the decision requires the government agency to deliver certain information to you, the government agency is required to complete one of the following tasks:

  1. issue the information you requested
  2. inform you of the specific day, time, and location that they will provide you with copies of the records or that you can inspect the records
  3. advise you of its plan to dispute the decision in court.

If the government agency neglects to complete one of these tasks, you should let the Open Records Division know via a written complaint. You can also file a complaint based on Texas Government Code, chapter 552, subchapter H with your local district or county attorney.

If OAG decides to deny all or some of the requested information, you have the right to appeal that decision by filing a lawsuit (Texas Government Code, chapter 552, subchapter H).

For questions regarding a decision you have received, call the Open Government at its toll-free number: (877) 673-6839.

Court Records

How do Texas Courts work? Let’s take a quick look at the court function and overall structure.

Texas has 254 counties with 234 courthouses 50 years of age or older. Texas holds the record for the most historic courthouses in any US state.

The Texas Judicial System is made up of two kinds of courts, trial courts, and appellate courts.

Trial Courts

A Trial court hears witnesses and reviews evidence. A jury or a judge alone reaches a verdict or decision.  

Appellate Courts

Appellate courts do not hear witnesses, use juries, or try cases. Instead, they are responsible for reviewing actions and decisions made by lower courts on law questions or procedural error allegations. Appellate courts are only allowed to review evidence and exhibits from the trial court. Texas’ appellate courts are as follows:

  1. The Supreme Court: Texas’ highest state appellate court for juvenile and civil cases. In 1836, the Constitution of the Republic of Texas founded the Supreme Court of Texas. Today, Texas has eight justices and one chief justice. 
  2. The Court of Criminal Appeals: Texas’ highest state appellate court for criminal cases
  3. The Courts of Appeals: Texas’ intermediate appellate courts for criminal and civil appeals from the trial courts. Texas has 14 Courts of Appeals in different cities throughout the state listed below:
    1. First Court of Appeals: Houston
    2. Second Court of Appeals: Fort Worth
    3. Third Court of Appeals: Austin
    4. Fourth Court of Appeals: San Antonio
    5. Fifth Court of Appeals: Dallas
    6. Sixth Court of Appeals: Texarkana
    7. Seventh Court of Appeals: Amarillo
    8. Eighth Court of Appeals: El Paso
    9. Ninth Court of Appeals: Beaumont
    10. Tenth Court of Appeals: Waco
    11. Eleventh Court of Appeals: Eastland
    12. Twelfth Court of Appeals: Tyler
    13. Thirteenth Court of Appeals: Corpus Christi/Edinburg
    14. Fourteenth Court of Appeals: Houston

Below the Court of Appeals are four levels of district or trial courts, including family law, criminal court, civil court, and juvenile cases.

Probate Court handles all cases involving guardianship, mental health, wills, the deceased, and the incapacitated.

Are court records public information?

According to the Texas Public Information Act, under the Government Code Title 5, Subtitle A, Chapter 552, court records are public information, unless the law states otherwise. 

Where can I get copies of court records?

The Office of Court Administration (OCA) is the state agency that maintains Texas’ Judicial Branch website but does not have the power to release court records.

In order to obtain copies of records from municipal, justice, or appellate courts, you must reach out to the court directly. 

Contact the district or county clerk for district and county court cases in the county that the case was filed.

Texas’ Judicial Directory has contact information for your convenience.

If you are unable to find the court or county you are looking for, you can use the Judicial Directory to contact the district or county clerk, or justice court, for more information. 

Criminal Records

The Texas Department of Public Safety (or TxDPS) is a government agency that oversees all criminal records in the state of Texas. TxDPS maintains the state’s Conviction Database, which gathers and stores public criminal records data via the Computerized Criminal History (CCH) program.

Arresting agencies, court clerks, and prosecution agencies are legally required to report data to CCH. CCH data only becomes public when an offender’s conviction or deferred adjudication is reported to the Department (Texas Government Code, Sections 411.135).

Criminal History Search

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.

DPS allows you to conduct a criminal history search by name. If you are looking to search based on fingerprints, visit the Crime Records page for instructions. 

You are able to search for arrests, prosecutions, and case dispositions for people arrested for Class B misdemeanors or greater violation of Texas criminal statutes, and Class C convictions or deferred adjudications, as long as they have been reported to the Department. 

To conduct a criminal history record search online, complete the following actions:

  • Create a CRS Public Website Account 
  • Purchase credits for each search you will perform. Credits cost $3.00 each plus a credit card convenience fee. Check here for more information regarding credits and fees.

To conduct a criminal history record search via mail, complete the following actions:

  • Complete the Request for Criminal History Data form for criminal history information requests. 
  • The fee to conduct a search using this form is $10.00. 
  • You can pay via US money order or check. Make it out to the Texas Department of Public Safety.  

Call (512) 424-2474 with any questions.

How long does a criminal history record check take?

It takes approximately 10 business days to receive results.

How long does arrest information stay on a record?

Criminal arrest information can stay on a criminal history record for an indefinite amount of time.

Can I challenge my criminal history record information?

If you believe that an error has been made, you can visit the Criminal History Error Resolution to receive a full explanation on the procedures to challenge the criminal history record information contained in a Texas record.

Warrant Records Search

You are able to search warrant records in Texas. There are several ways to go about conducting a search for a warrant in Texas. There are websites dedicated to warrant searches online, but it’s best to go through the government agency responsible for maintaining warrants. 

Search by County

You can begin your search by visiting the website of the county where the arrest occurred. You can find county contact information via the county’s website, the state’s interactive map, or by searching a directory. These resources will provide you with the contact information for all of Texas’ 254 counties.

Request Warrant Records from Law Enforcement

You can call or visit the law enforcement offices (sheriff’s office, police department) where the arrest occurred to request warrant information. 

What is the difference between an arrest record and an arrest warrant?

Before moving on to arrest records, it’s important to note the difference between an arrest warrant and an arrest record. 

  • Arrest warrant: a document issued by a judge or magistrate, who has determined probable cause for an arrest, granting law enforcement the authority to arrest one, specific individual (not a group of people) suspected of a crime or to search and seize the individual’s property
  • Arrest record: a document of an arrest that is only created after an arrest or apprehension has already occurred.  

Arrest Records

We’ve compiled a brief overview of Texas’ arrests as well as crime statistics based on FBI reports.

 In 2019, 261 law enforcement agencies in Texas reported 69,447 violent crime incidents and 77,860 offenses.

  • In 2019, the FBI reported 670,386 arrests in Texas, with most arrests having to do with drug violations (123,000 arrests).
  • From 2018-2019, violent crimes increased in Texas by 2.8%.

Arrest records in Texas show the following:

  • Active warrants
  • Drugs, Marijuana convictions
  • DUI convictions for at least seven years and/or dating back to a person’s 18th birthday.
  • Mugshot
  • Parole/Probation history
  • Sex Offenders

What is the difference between an arrest record and a criminal record?

A criminal history record, discussed in detail above, is a more comprehensive report, detailing a person’s criminal background, including arrests, warrants, convictions, and more. Arrest records are documents created by law enforcement agencies after a person is apprehended or arrested. 

What is a public arrest record?

  • Law enforcement agencies produce arrest records after a person has been apprehended or arrested.
  • Arrest records are commonly used as evidence and can determine whether a trial will be held. 
  • Arrest records can be public records for an unlimited timeframe, even if the suspect is not convicted.

What does a public arrest record include?

A public arrest record typically contains the following information:

  • Personal information: name, date of birth, phone number, address, social security number, and the arrested individual’s other contact information 
  • Physical description: the arrested individual’s height, weight, sex, race, and hair color, as well as any defining birthmarks, scars, or tattoos
  • Incident description: An arrest record will include a chronological account of the alleged crime produced by the arresting officer that may utilize information provided by first-hand witnesses and/or victims of the alleged crime.
  • Location and date of arrest
  • Photographs
  • Fingerprints
  • Criminal charges filed
  • Classification of the crime: Whether the alleged crime is a felony or a misdemeanor
  • Bail
  • Court date
  • Police interrogation details

Who can access arrest records?

In Texas, the law allows the general public to access deferred adjudication and conviction records.

Why can’t I access an arrest record in Texas?

Government agencies must release public records, including arrest records, as mandated by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). However, there are nine exemptions listed by the FOIA, stating that government agencies can withhold the information because of:                 

  • Agency practices and procedures
  • Confidential sources
  • Confidential trade secrets
  • Federal law
  • Financial information
  • Financial institution supervision
  • Geographical information regarding wells.
  • Imminent threat to any person involved
  • Natural security reasons
  • Privileged, confidential communication between government agencies
  • States with laws that limiting arrest record availability because they are thought of as one-sided documents – in other words, the arrested person cannot give their side of the story.

How to search for Arrest Records in Texas

CCH allows you to search for arrest records in Texas. You must create a new TxDPS Crime Records Account. Once you have an account, you can search not only arrests but prosecutions and other information as well.

Texas Inmate Records

In Texas, there are 700 jails and prisons. Reports state that there is an incarceration rate of 891 per 100,000 people in Texas. Texas has provided citizens with a way to easily search their inmate database, through their offender search.

What’s on an inmate record?

Each state varies in what information it will provide on an inmate’s record. Usually, it contains personal details and where the person is incarcerated. Conducting a public records search can provide the following information on an inmate:

  • An inmate’s name, date of birth, and gender
  • A mug shot
  • Inmate registration number
  • Inmate location
  • Jail transfer information
  • Custody status

Where can I find Texas inmate records?

Texas has an offender search where you can look up inmate records.  

You will need the following information:

  • last name and the first initial of the person, or 
  • Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) number, or
  • State identification (SID) number
  • If known, gender and race

You can also request inmate information via email. Be sure to write the inmate’s name in the email’s subject line. In your email, make sure that you are detailed, including the following information: 

  • Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) number
  • Date of birth
  • Inmate location
  • Offense of Conviction
  • Incarceration history: offense, court, and county where an inmate was incarcerated previously
  • Current incarceration: offense, county, and the court of conviction
  • Projected Release Date

There is no charge when requesting inmate information.

Sex Offender Information

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:

  • Name
  • Area
  • Higher Education

The state of Texas also allows for the entire Public Sex Offender list to be downloaded.

Vital Records

Vital records are legal documents that prove an individual’s identity or record significant life events. These documents include birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce papers, and death certificates. 

In Texas, the Vital Statistics Sections (VSS) maintains vital records. VSS is a division of the Department of State Health Services (DSHS).

Vital records are not publicly available in Texas. Only the person the vital record pertains to and qualified family members can request, view, or revise vital records. When completing an application, you will need to provide acceptable identification, supporting documentation (if required) and pay the associated fees.

Once placed, online applications can take up to 25 days to be processed. 

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

You can submit a request for your own vital records. To search for someone else’s vital records, you must be related by blood, the adoptive family, or a legal guardian, representative, or agent. 

To request vital records, you have the following options:

If you need further information or have questions, call VSS toll-free at 888-963-7111.

Find full legal details regarding vital records in Texas in Section 181.1(21) of the Texas Administrative Code.

Business Records

Texas’s Office of the Secretary of State (SOS) maintains all business records. SOS’s Secretary of State OnLine Access (SOSDirect) portal allows you to search for and obtain specific business entity information. 

You can search for business entities by the entity name, the director or officer of a company, or the listed registered agent’s name. Records include the following:

  • Assumed Names
  • Corporations
  • Federal Liens
  • Foreign and State Financial Institutions
  • Limited Liability Companies
  • Limited Liability Partnerships
  • Limited Partnerships
  • Probate Code filings by Foreign Corporate Fiduciaries
  • Trademarks
  • UCC Financing Statements
  • Uniform Unincorporated Nonprofit Associations

You can view, download, and print business certificates, copies, UCC records via SOSDirect. 

You are also able to complete the following using SOSDirect: 

  • file business formation documents
  • receive evidence of filing in real-time
  • order certified or plain copies, file UCCs
  • print documents
  • obtain entity status
  • check name availability/reserve entity names
  • validate certificates

Contact SOSDirect via email or phone:

  • Corporations: (512) 463-5555 or SOSDirect@sos.texas.gov
  • Reports Unit (periodic reports and annual statements): (512) 475-2705 orReportsUnit@sos.texas.gov 
  • UCC: (512) 475-2703 or UCC_Assist@sos.texas.gov 

You will have to create an account to log into SOSDirect.

A complete list of fees can be found here.

Historical Records

Texas offers archival research through the Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO). There are specific collection guidelines provided by the state of Texas, which can be helpful in your search for archived records. Below is a list of useful links:

Property and Tax Records

In Texas, you should direct all property tax or appraisal questions to the county tax assessor-collector or the appraisal district where the property is located. 

Appraisal districts can answer questions about:

  • agricultural and special appraisal
  • appraisal methodology
  • exemptions
  • property values
  • protests and appeals
  • special inventory appraisal

County tax offices can answer questions for the taxing units they serve about:

  • other information related to paying property taxes
  • payment options
  • tax bills
  • tax certificates
  • tax rates
  • tax receipts

If a taxing unit is not on the list, direct questions to the specific taxing unit. 

Driving Records

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) manages driving records, which are available online using their Online Driver Record Request System. You can also request driving records via mail.

DPS maintains the following documents – a description of the documents and the fee to retrieve them are included:

  • Type 1: A status record includes the driver’s license status, name, date of birth, status, and last address on file. The fee is $4.50.
  • Type 2: An uncertified 3-year history record includes the driver’s license status, name, date of birth, list of moving violations, and accidents on record during the preceding 3-year timeframe. The fee is $6.50.
  • Type 2a: The certified 3-year history record is the certified version of Type 2. Type 2a will not be accepted for a Defensive Driving Course (DDC). The fee is $12.00.
  • Type 3: The uncertified complete driving history record includes the driver’s license status, name, date of birth, and list of all accidents and violations on record. The fee is $7.50.
  • Type 3a: The certified complete driving history record is the certified version of Type 3. Type 3a is acceptable for a Defensive Driving Course (DDC). The fee is $12.00.
  • Type AR: The certified abstracts of a driving record are the complete driving record of a license holder. The fee is $22.00.

Texas DPS requires that you submit the following information when requesting records via their Online Driver Record Request System:

  • Audit number
  • TX driver’s license
  • PDF viewer / printable PDF files

To complete the request, you will need to enter the following payment information:

  • Credit card information (DPS accepts Visa, American Express, Discover, or MasterCard, Discover)
  • Name and billing address of the cardholder
  • Credit card number and expiration date

DPS will only allow you to request and print one driver record at a time. You will have to pay for each request individually; however, there are no login limits.

If you are in need of technical assistance, you can check Texas’ support page, which offers Live Chat and a community forum. You can also email DPS, or call them at 1-877-452-9060.

Property and Tax Records

In Texas, you should direct all property tax or appraisal questions to the county’s tax assessor-collector or the appraisal district where the property is located. 

Appraisal districts can answer questions about:

  • agricultural and special appraisal
  • appraisal methodology
  • exemptions
  • property values
  • protests and appeals
  • special inventory appraisal

County tax assessor-collector offices can answer questions for the taxing units they serve about:

  • other information related to paying property taxes
  • payment options
  • tax bills
  • tax certificates
  • tax rates
  • tax receipts

Driving Records

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) manages driving records, which are available online using their Online Driver Record Request System. You can also request driving records via mail.

DPS maintains the following documents – a description of the documents and the fee to retrieve them are included:

  • Type 1: A status record includes the driver’s license status, name, date of birth, status, and last address on file. The fee is $4.50.
  • Type 2: An uncertified 3-year history record includes the driver’s license status, name, date of birth, list of moving violations, and accidents on record during the preceding 3-year timeframe. The fee is $6.50.
  • Type 2a: The certified 3-year history record is the certified version of Type 2. Type 2a will not be accepted for a Defensive Driving Course (DDC). The fee is $12.00.
  • Type 3: The uncertified complete driving history record includes the driver’s license status, name, date of birth, and list of all accidents and violations on record. The fee is $7.50.
  • Type 3a: The certified complete driving history record is the certified version of Type 3. Type 3a is acceptable for a Defensive Driving Course (DDC). The fee is $12.00.
  • Type AR: The certified abstracts of a driving record are the complete driving record of a license holder. The fee is $22.00.

Texas DPS requires that you submit the following information when requesting records via their Online Driver Record Request System:

  • Audit number
  • TX driver’s license
  • PDF viewer / printable PDF files

To complete the request, you will need to enter the following payment information:

  • Credit card information (DPS accepts Visa, American Express, Discover, or MasterCard, Discover)
  • Name and billing address of the cardholder
  • Credit card number and expiration date

DPS will only allow you to request and print one driver record at a time. You will have to pay for each request individually; however, there are no login limits. 

If you are in need of technical assistance, you can check Texas’ support page, which offers Live Chat and a community forum. You can also email DPS, or call them at 1-877-452-9060.

What do I do if there is an error with my public records in Texas?

If you believe any of your public records contain an error, contact the government agency responsible for maintaining the specific record.