What is a Criminal Record in Texas?
Texas criminal records are official documents pertaining to the criminal activity of persons within the Texas State Jurisdiction. The information contained in these records, also known as rap sheets, typically includes details of misdemeanor and felony offenses and records of arrests, indictments, and non-expunged criminal convictions. All reports are assembled from local, county, and state jurisdictions, trial courts, courts of appeals, as well as county and state correctional facilities.
Are Criminal Records Public in Texas?
Yes. The Texas Freedom of Information Act allows individuals to access criminal records, provided they make requests to the approved record custodians. Criminal history information is considered public under the state’s open records laws, and individuals may obtain the document without formal authorization.
Public criminal records in the state of Texas generally feature the following:
- The full name and aliases of the subject
- A mugshot of the subject and details of unique physical descriptors
- The birth date, nationality/ethnicity, and gender of the subject
- A full set of fingerprints
- Details of criminal offenses and indictments
- Arrest information, dispositions, and conviction
Criminal records, considered public in the United States, are made available through some third-party aggregate sites. Searching with third-party websites is often easier as the information is not limited to geographic record availability. Information found on third-party websites can serve as a jump-off point for parties searching for a specific record or multiple records. Typically, requesters must provide the following information to gain access to these records:
- The record subject’s name, unless the subject is a juvenile.
- The record subjects’ last known location, including cities, counties, and states.
Third-party websites offer these search services, but they are not government sponsored. The availability and reliablity of these records may vary.
How to Obtain Criminal Records in Texas?
In the state of Texas, criminal records are generated and disseminated by law enforcement agencies in various jurisdictions provided they are not confidential. The Texas Department of Public Safety operates a Crime Record Search Service which serves as the state’s central repository for statewide criminal information. Interested persons may perform free public criminal record checks on the TDPS online database. On the other hand, the judicial department is in charge of maintaining and providing on demand court records which also contain some criminal history information.
What are Texas Arrest Records?
Texas arrest records are official documents which feature information regarding a person taken into custody following their alleged involvement in criminal activity. These records typically include details of the alleged offense as well as details of the arrest. While they indicate that the arrestee is considered a person of interest in criminal activity, they are not definitive proof of their involvement in the crime. In the state of Texas, arrest records are created following arrests for offenses as minor as misdemeanors such as breach of the peace. Although arrest records are part of Texas police records, police records also contain police reports, incident reports, and police activity logs.
The information contained in arrest records includes:
- Details of the alleged crime
- The personal information of the arrestee - i.e. their full name, birth date, gender and nationality/ethnicity
- The place and date of the arrest
- The name of the arresting officer/issuer of the warrant
- The address of the holding facility.
Are Arrest Records Public in Texas?
Yes, public arrest records or arrest reports are public documents in Texas that are open to state residents. These free arrest records may also show up through a normal criminal record check, as they are in most other jurisdictions. The law enforcement entity liable for the arrest, which is generally a county police department or sheriff's department, normally keeps arrest records. State residents requesting these records may use the online platform provided by the local law enforcement agency to carry out arrest searches. The Texas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) compels government agencies to make arrest records as well as other official records available to the public, records that fall under specific exclusions might be kept. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) contains nine exclusions that allow authorities to keep data, such as criminal records, from the public.
What are Arrest Warrants in Texas?
Texas arrest warrants are documents that provide law enforcement agents with legal authority to apprehend suspects of criminal activity. Following the establishment of Miranda Rights in the state of Texas, targets of an arrest as well their attorneys are informed prior to the arrest and notified of the reason for the arrest following the approval of a warrant, the warrant also serves this purpose. Interested persons can find active warrants in Texas by contacting the local law enforcement agencies.
An active warrant search in the state of Texas typically features the following details.
- The alleged criminal offense of the subject
- The name of the issuer
- The date the warrant was issued and its expiration date
- The recommended place and time of the arrest
- The bail/bond conditions to be met (if applicable)
As per Texas state laws, arrests may ensue without a warrant. This may be the case if the law enforcement officer was witness to the crime or if they are implicated in a felonious crime.
What are Inmate Records in Texas?
Texas inmate records refer to official documents pertaining to the various housing facilities in the state of Texas as well as relevant information of persons housed in these facilities. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TCDJ) maintains information pooled from various housing units which can be obtained by querying the Department or from the searchable online inmate database.
Information contained in Texas Online Inmate Search typically include:
- The full name and alias of the inmate
- Details of the convicted offense
- Relevant personal data including their birth date, gender, mugshot, etc.
- Date of incarceration and prospective release date
- The location of the facility where they are housed and the security level
- Any relevant past convictions and sentences served
- Bail/bond conditions (if applicable)
What is the Texas Sex Offender Registry?
Texas sex offender registry refer to the various online repositories which primarily house information regarding convicted sex offenders within the state. These listings are generally maintained and published by various jurisdictions and their law enforcement agencies. However, the Texas sex offender registry serves as a central repository for sex offender related information. The registry contains information such as the full name and aliases of the offenders as well as their addresses, unique physical and online identifiers and other related data. All registries are public by law; However, persons obligated to register on these listings are chosen at the discretion of the presiding judge during their trial. Often times, judges require offenders to register even if their crimes were only sexually motivated but not considered a sex crime. It is possible to find registered sex offenders in Texas via the National Sex Offender Registry.
What is a DWI in Texas?
A DWI in Texas is a type of serious traffic violation in Texas. A DWI also known as drunk driving, refer to traffic-related offenses which often include the willful disregard for public safety which results in damage to property, serious injury and in some cases death. The state of Texas ascribes ticket fines based on the county in which the offender received a citation. In addition to this, the Texas Highway Patrol Division operates a point-system that allows the evaluation of each driver’s performance in the state. Each traffic violation is reflected on the offender's driving record as a point, and accumulated points on the offender’s driving record attract penalties and fines depending on the severity of the crimes.
Only youngsters below 21 years are punished with a DUI under the Texas Traffic Code. As a result, if a juvenile is operating with any quantity of alcohol in their bloodstream but is still under the permissible level, they may be prosecuted with a DUI. Generally, the permissible level as stated under the Traffic Code is a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of. 08. A $500 penalty, up to 40 hours of public activity, obligatory alcohol awareness seminars, and a license suspension of two months are common consequences for a DUI. Please keep in mind that minors can still be punished with a DUI if they drive while inebriated.
What are Misdemeanors vs. Felonies in Texas?
Texas misdemeanors are non-indictable offenses which are considered less severe than felonies but are however still punishable by imprisonment and fines. The state of Texas categorizes misdemeanors based on severity into classes A, B, and C with the most serious crimes punishable by fines of up to $4,000 and jail time of up to one year.
Examples of Texas state misdemeanors include the following:
- Class A: Burglary of a vehicle, carrying a gun without a permit
- Class B: Possession of up to two ounces of marijuana
- Class C: Theft of property worth less than $100
Texas state felonies are offenses that are considered the most severe crimes in the state. These offenses typically come with punishments, including jail or prison time, and in Texas, they are categorized based on severity into 5 classes. These categories include capital felonies, first degree felonies, second-degree felonies, third-degree felonies, and state jail felonies.
Capital felonies are Texas’ most serious crimes by repeat offenders. They are punishable by life in prison with a possibility of parole if the offender is younger than 18 years. While 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 and state jail felonies are sometimes upgraded to third-degree felonies depending on the crimes. Ultimately, most felonies in the state of Texas are punishable by up to 10,000 in fines. Some examples of Texas felony crimes include:
- Capital Felony: Murder
- First Degree Felony: Sexual assault against a child
- Second Degree Felony: Selling specific quantities of controlled substances such as marijuana
- Third Degree Felony: Promoting prostitution
- State Jail Felony: Theft of property worth at least $2,500 but no more than $30,000
What is Parole in Texas?
Texas parole information includes details on the provisional release of a prisoner who agrees to certain restrictions in exchange for freedom from prison or jail. A parole may be offered to a prisoner by the governor of Texas through an executive order, however, prior to the governor’s approval the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles is tasked with reviewing and recommending all pardons. The board considers a pardon:
- When the individual has had no violations in the last 12 months
- When the individual is a former TCDJ inmate who has discharged their sentence
- When the sentence has been suspended
- And when they have 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. All information regarding pardons may be found using the online resources of the TBPP. The Offender Information Search Tool maintained by the TDCJ also allows interested persons to search for offender’s parole information using their name and TDCJ or SID number,
What are Texas Probation Records?
Texas probation records are official documents detailing the conditions for which a person may be allowed to serve their sentences outside a correctional facility. These records typically feature details of the indictment as well as the personal data of the subject along with the probation conditions. Probations are typically issued in proportion to the crime, as such, the details may 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.
What are Texas Juvenile Criminal Records?
Texas juvenile criminal records refer to documents which detail crimes committed by a person legally considered to be underaged. Juveniles are not considered convicted subsequent to a court proceeding. Rather, juveniles who are found guilty are considered adjudicated delinquent. While most juvenile criminal records are confidential, they remain accessible to the public unless expunged but this may not occur unless the subject successfully petitions for its erasure as adults. Persons found to be adjudicated delinquent may acknowledge their criminal history if asked unless specifically questioned regarding as an adjudicated delinquent.
What are Conviction Records in Texas?
Texas conviction records are official documents indicating that an indicted person was found guilty of a crime following a court hearing and/or their plea. Conviction records typically include the personal information of the convict as well as details of the alleged crime, the sentence they received, and other pertinent information involved in the prosecution. The records may also include details of probation, parole, fines and dishonorable discharges that resulted from the conviction. Convictions are usually rendered by a jury of peers or a judge in a court of law, but most records exclude information on convictions that have been pardoned or reversed.
Texas History and Accuracy of Criminal Records
While the advent of technology has dramatically improved record management processes in the state of Texas, 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. Most criminal records archives of the state go back into the pre-technological era before criminal and arrest data started to be centralized and compiled into an organized database. However, having eliminated the place of human error, current technological advancements have improved the quality and accuracy of recordkeeping exponentially.
Find Texas Criminal History Record for Free
The Texas legislature defines a criminal history record (formally called Criminal History Record Information or CHRI) as any record a criminal justice agency collects about a person that contains entries of arrests, indictments, detentions, information, and other criminal charges and their dispositions, as well as identifiable descriptions.
Within Texas, there are no free criminal history records. State law (G.C. 411.083) permits the Texas Department of Public Safety's Crime Records Division (CRD) to disseminate these records to subjects of records, authorized entities, and the public upon request. However, there is a fee payable for each record.
Thus, individuals who want to review public Texas criminal records online must log into the CRD Public Site (also named the Criminal History Name Search site) and purchase credits at $3 to search, excluding the charges incurred when paying by credit card. A similar fee requirement applies for private entities, government entities, and criminal justice agencies that access the CRD Secure Site - the Criminal History Name Search site containing confidential criminal justice information and accessible only to "legislatively authorized" parties. Additionally, those requesting fingerprint-based criminal history records (i.e., Texas background checks) or offline name-based criminal history checks from the CRD must also pay certain fees to obtain such records in Texas.
Are Police Records Public in Texas?
Yes, with some exceptions. While it is true that the public has greater access to records produced, collated, or maintained by Texas law enforcement agencies under the state's Public Information Act (PIA), not all police records can be released to the public.
A police record includes any information pertaining to a law enforcement division's efforts to detect or investigate criminal activities, arrest or detain suspects, report crimes, and ensure public safety within a particular region, regardless of its form or characteristics. Hence, one may find different types of police records at a local or state police department. Examples include:
- Arrest records
- Traffic accident (crash) reports
- Calls for service reports
- Incident/offense reports
- Audio & video recordings
- Event reports
- Crime statistics
- Stolen/damaged property records
- 911 tapes and dispatch transcripts
- Booking photos (mugshots)
- Crime activity reports
- Criminal history or background inquiry reports
- Warrant information
As stated previously, Texas law enforcement agencies withhold certain information or records from the public. This prohibition is imposed by law (mandatory) or by a law enforcement agency's policy (discretionary). Some statutory exemptions to police records include:
- Juvenile information
- Child abuse or neglect investigations
- Peace officer records (home addresses and family member information)
- Birth dates of living persons
Meanwhile, discretionary exemptions vary from agency to agency, as each law enforcement body has the authority to determine non-confidential records they may withhold in certain situations. Police records that may have such exemptions in Texas include:
- Records about pending criminal litigation or active criminal investigations
- Audit working papers
- Policymaking drafts
- Attempted suicide reports
- Information on witnesses and suspects of criminal investigations
- Information on sexual offense victims
How to Obtain Police Records in Texas
An individual who wants to obtain a police record in Texas must query the law enforcement agency that maintains the record. This agency can be a local sheriff's office, police department, university police department, the Texas Department of Transportation (for online crash reports and records), or the Texas Department of Public Safety. Typically, these agencies provide the specific procedures for requesting police records on their official websites. Individuals can also call or email the relevant law enforcement records unit to inquire about the record retrieval process and eligibility requirements.
Notwithstanding, an individual will often be able to obtain a Texas police record via mail, in person, or online from a law enforcement agency. Email and fax requests may also be accepted. A mail requester will need to submit a written request (often a request form downloadable from the official website) plus payment if applicable. Meanwhile, an in-person requester can make oral or written requests at a police station during regular business hours. Online requesters, on the other hand, have access to police records remotely using online systems/databases provided on the websites of law enforcement agencies.
Requesters of Texas police records must note, however, that each record has eligibility requirements. In several cases where a member of the public submits an open records request, the complete police record may not be publicly available, only the non-confidential or unredacted aspects of it. For example, per Section 550.065 of the Texas Transportation Code, only authorized parties can obtain complete police crash reports from the TXDOT. These records are confidential to the general public. As a result, the public can only obtain redacted copies.
Are Police Reports Public Record?
A police report is a document prepared by law enforcement after a crime or arrest occurs. It details the events that transpired, including the who, what, where, when, why, and how of an unlawful incident. For instance, a police report could identify victims and witnesses, classify an offense according to state law, and describe the facts and circumstances as they took place. It could also provide information on the responding or arresting officers, include diagrams or photographs of crime scenes, contain BAC and other forensic test results, and so on.
In Texas, police reports are available to the public under the state's FOIA. However, the same law limits access to some police records, especially when disclosure would violate a person's privacy, cause undue embarrassment, or is otherwise prohibited by law or judicial order.
How to File a Police Report with Texas Law Enforcement
Texas citizens have several avenues to report crimes to local law enforcement (the sheriff's offices and police departments). The exact process to file these police reports differs for each agency, but citizens may be able to submit criminal complaints in person, by mail, or via email. They can also file police reports online using a law enforcement agency's Citizen Online Crime/Incident Reporting System. However, certain requirements must be met.
Before reporting a crime online in Texas, an individual must ensure that the offense or incident is not in progress, has no known suspects, and poses no immediate danger to life or property. Essentially, the crime must not be an emergency. The individual must also report only non-emergency crimes or incidents that occurred within the limits of the relevant police division and those that did not happen on a state freeway.
Secondly, the reporter must certify that the crime or incident qualifies for online reporting. Police departments in Texas typically publish a set of crimes that can be reported online on their websites. Some common examples include:
- Criminal mischief
- Harassing phone calls
- Hit and run
- Lost property
Victims whose incidents meet the above requirements can access the law enforcement agency's reporting system to file their police reports. To complete the filing process, the reporter must have the necessary information, including contact information, addresses, identifying information, property descriptions, a functional email address, a color copy of a government-issued ID, etc. Upon completing the reporting process, the individual will receive an email notification with a temporary police report case number and will be allowed to print an unofficial copy of the police report. There is no charge to access a Citizen Online Reporting System or file a police report in Texas.
Online crime reporting in Texas allows victims to conveniently and quickly submit police reports. After submitting a report, the police division will review it for approval or rejection. Approved reports are assigned permanent police report case numbers, and victims may be contacted for follow-up investigations or additional data. If the report is denied, the victim will usually be emailed reasons for the rejection.
In Texas, filing a false police report with a law enforcement agency is a crime. According to Section 37.08 of the Texas Penal Code, submitting a false police report is a Class B misdemeanor, leading to 180 days or lower in jail and a fine not exceeding $2,000.
Where to Find Free Public Police Records
In most cases, an individual must pay a small fee to obtain a public police record in Texas. This fee covers the costs of searching for or duplicating records, such as materials, equipment, and labor.
Ordinarily, police records in Texas are accessible under the state's open records law - and public records generally do not have fees assessed if the requester is only inspecting the records at a custodian's office or via the custodian's online database. As a result, although law enforcement agencies typically furnish requesters with copies of records, there are a few records a person can obtain without paying money. An example is an arrest log or jail booking blotter, which may be viewed online on a police or sheriff's department's website to find someone recently arrested.
How to Find Mugshots in Texas
A mugshot (also referred to as a "booking photograph") is a portrait image taken by law enforcement after an arrest. The picture typically shows the front and side profile of someone arrested by the police. It provides law enforcement with a way to conclusively identify suspects or criminals.
Individuals looking for mugshots in Texas can search a county sheriff's online inmate roster. If available, this roster may be on a sheriff's or police department's website - for example, the Austin Police Department's website and the Milam County Sheriff's website. However, some sheriffs, like the McLennan County Sheriff's Office, may only publish a list of inmates online and provide their mugshot database separately. One may also search the Texas Department of Public Safety's public sex offender registry or a local sex offender registry to find Texas mugshots.
Besides performing internet searches for mugshots, an individual can request mugshots from law enforcement under Section 522.108 of the Texas FOIA, as these police records are considered public information in Texas. Written requests must contain information that can be used to find the mugshot, such as the arrestee's name, date of birth, and date of birth. A requester must also include their name and mailing address when submitting a request by mail.