What Defines a Criminal Record in Texas?
A criminal record is an official document that records convicted law violations and non-expunged criminal offenses. These reports also include information on local, county and state jurisdictions, trial courts, courts of appeals, as well as county and state correctional facilities.
Texas criminal records are stored online and are available to the public in the form of a Criminal Background Report. Sources from which these records are obtained offer different levels of transparency, meaning that records that are public may become classified or redacted, and vice versa. As a result, the amount of criminal records information presented on StateRecords.org may vary with different individuals. Criminal records in Texas generally include the following subjects.
Texas Arrest Records
An arrest record is a recording of an incident in which a suspected offender was taken into custody, fined, or questioned by a law enforcement agency associated with a government body. Crimes are sorted into three categories: felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions. An arrest is when a person is apprehended and deprived of their freedom by a law enforcement agency.
Police officers in Texas, in accordance with the Miranda Rights, are obligated to inform the target of an arrest that they are being arrested, share the reason for the arrest, notify the arrestee of their right to an attorney, and several other important pieces of information pertinent to the arrestee's rights.
In Texas, a person can be arrested for an offense as minor as a misdemeanor breach of the peace, and be arrested on reasonable suspicion of committing a felony.
Texas Arrest Warrants
An arrest warrant is a notification from a judge or magistrate calling for the arrest or apprehension of a person of interest. A warrant may also be used to authorize a law enforcement agency to search a person of interest’s home, dwelling, place of work, or property. In Texas, the police can arrest a person for committing a crime without an arrest warrant. This typically only happens in cases where a person commits a crime in the presence of a law enforcement officer.
A misdemeanor is a crime that is considered less severe than a felony. They are however still punishable by imprisonment and fines. Texas Misdemeanors fall into three classes: A, B, and C.
- Class A misdemeanors are the most serious and come with fines of up to $4,000 and jail time of up to one year.
- Class B misdemeanors are less severe and come with fines of up to $2,000 and jail time of up to 180 days.
- Class C misdemeanors, the lightest category, come only with a fine of up to $500.
A felony is a crime that is considered serious. Felonies typically come with punishments, including jail or prison time, and heavy fines. Felonies in Texas come in five categories—from most severe to least. They include capital felonies, first degree felonies, second-degree felonies, third-degree felonies, and state jail felonies.
A capital felony is reserved for only the most serious crimes and repeat offenders. They are punishable by life in prison with a possibility of parole if the offender is younger than 18 years, or life in prison without parole if the offender is older than 18. A capital felony may also result in a death penalty.
First degree felonies are punishable by life in prison, or a prison term of fewer than 99 years but more than five years. Second-degree felonies are punishable by prison or jail sentences of up to 20 years, but more than two years. Third-degree felonies are punished with imprisonment of up to 10 years, but not less than two years. State jail felonies come with imprisonment of up to two years but not less than 180 days. State jail felonies are sometimes upgraded to third-degree felonies depending on if a deadly weapon was used or if the individual on trial is a repeat offender. All four of these felonies may also be punishable by to $10,000 in fines.
Texas Sex Offender Listing
The Texas sex offender registry is a list of people convicted of committing a crime motivated by sexual interests. This registry is public by law, though whether or not a person is obligated to register on this list is at the discretion of the presiding judge during their trial. A judge may require an offender to register on this list if the crime was sexually motivated, even if the crime itself was not a sex crime.
Texas Serious Traffic Violation
Serious traffic violations typically include instances of willful disregard for public safety, death, serious bodily injury, damage to property, or multiple minor traffic violations. In Texas, a traffic ticket fine may vary depending on which county the offending driver received a citation. In addition to the fine and accumulating points on the offender’s driving record, other fines and penalties may apply depending on the severity of the crime. The amount of time served imprisoned also varies on the nature of the crime committed.
Texas Conviction Records
A conviction record is a document providing information on an offender who was found guilty, pleaded guilty, or pleaded 'no contest' against criminal charges in a civil, criminal, or military court. Conviction records typically include the name of the person convicted, the sentence they received, the nature of their crime, and other pertinent information involved in the prosecution. A criminal conviction is usually rendered by a jury of peers or a judge in a court of law. A conviction does not include instances where the person convicted was pardoned or one who had their conviction reversed.
Texas Jail and Inmate Records
Jail and inmate records involve information about an offender’s current and past inmate status. A person who is in jail or considered an inmate has been deprived of their civil liberties while either awaiting trial or after being convicted. These people remain on a searchable online inmate database. The Texas Department of Corrections accumulates records on inmates’ names, incarceration dates, expected release dates, convicted offenses, and photos, which can be obtained, though not necessarily directly from the institution itself.
Texas Parole Information
Parole information includes details on the provisional release of a prisoner who agrees to certain restrictions in exchange for freedom from prison or jail. Parole is often offered to any prisoner, except in extreme cases such as treason, an impeachment that results in imprisonment, and severe criminal activity. The governor of Texas may issue an executive order to grant a pardon for an incarcerated individual, but the parole board must first review and recommend the pardon.
The board considers a pardon:
- When the individual has had no violations in the last 12 months
- When the individual is a former Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmate who has discharged his/her sentence
- When the sentence has been suspended
- And when he/she has completed his/her jail or misdemeanor sentences
The board will not consider pardons if the crime involved treason or impeachment, when the inmate is undergoing deferred adjudication community supervision, when the inmate is undergoing early dismissal from community supervision in cases defined by the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, when the inmate is accused of a Class C Misdemeanor which prohibits firearm possession, and other determinations. Because of this, pardons in Texas are extremely rare.
Texas Probation Records
Probation records show when a person receives probation as an alternative to prison. It allows people convicted of a crime in Texas to serve their sentences out of custody, as long as they follow the rules specified at the beginning of their probation by the presiding judge and their probation officer.
Probations are issued in proportion to the crime, meaning that the length and nature of the probation differ from case to case. Probation and supervision fall into five categories: pretrial supervision, felony conviction probation, misdemeanor conviction probation, felony deferred adjudication, and misdemeanor deferred adjudication. The main difference between felony and misdemeanor probations is that, if revoked, felons may face time in state prison, whereas misdemeanor offenders would serve time in county jails.
Texas Juvenile Criminal Records
A juvenile criminal record involves a crime committed by a person legally considered a child or underaged. Juveniles are not considered convicted of an adult crime but instead are found to be an adjudicated delinquent. These criminal records are often mistakenly believed to be expunged once a person becomes old enough to be tried as an adult, but actually remain unless successfully petitioned to be erased. If a person was found to be an adjudicated delinquent, they do not have to acknowledge the crime if asked, unless specifically asked about being an adjudicated delinquent.
Texas History and Accuracy of Criminal Records
The accuracy of the data of criminal records depends on the recordkeeping and technological capabilities of the jurisdiction where the record was assembled and later digitized. Texas criminal records archives usually go back as far as the 1970s when criminal and arrest data started to be centralized and compiled into an organized database, much like we use today. Accuracy was more commonly affected by the human error in the past, but in the 1990s the quality and accuracy of recordkeeping improved exponentially due to the advent of the computer. Consequently, the information provided on StateRecords.org will vary from person to person.
Texas Megan’s Law
Megan's Law is the term for state laws that create and maintain a sex offender registry, which provides information on registered sex offenders to the public. The first Megan's Law appeared after the rape and murder of 7-year-old New Jersey resident Megan Kanka by a sex offender who lived in the girl's own neighborhood. Soon after passage of this first Megan's Law, the federal government implemented a requirement that all states establish sex offender registries and provide the public with information about those registered.
Registration in Texas is mandated for any person:
- Who has a reportable conviction or adjudication received on or after September 1, 1970
- Who is an extra-jurisdictional registrant
- Who is required to register as a condition of parole, release to mandatory supervision or community supervision