Any information assembled, collected, produced, written, maintained by, or on behalf of, a state government agency is public information in the Lone Star State. This includes court records and criminal records. Accessing these is usually free, but there may be some restrictions regarding these records or the case information they contain.
Are Court Records and Criminal Records Public Information?
Texas court records and criminal records are typically considered public information and can be accessed by anyone as provided by the Texas Public Information Act, adopted in 1973. Through this law, interested members of the public can access most information, but the Act exempts records from the Texas Judiciary.
Although Texas court records are considered public information, the Supreme Court of Texas ultimately determines their accessibility. Types of public records filed in court cases include court dockets and transcripts.
Sealed or Expunged Records
Criminal and court records cannot be accessed if they are are sealed or otherwise protected by law. Some elements of criminal and court records, such as Social Security numbers or details related to minors, may be redacted or otherwise shielded from the public.
Criminal records can also be expunged or sealed under some circumstances, such as if a person received a not-guilty verdict or criminal charges against them were dismissed. In these instances, the criminal records would not be public.
How to View Court Records in Texas
To obtain criminal or court records in Texas, the requestor must first identify the court where the case was filed. The Texas court system is comprised of appellate courts and trial courts. Appellate courts are Court of Criminal Appeals, Supreme Court of Texas and Courts of Appeal.
Trials courts consist of county courts, district courts, justice courts, municipal courts and probate courts.
Once the requestor locates the correct court, they’ll contact its records custodian. Typically, the Office of the Court Clerk for a specific court maintains its court records. Contact information for state courts is available from the Texas Judiciary's online directory.
Written and Online Requests
An individual can obtain Texas court records in person or by sending a written request to the records clerk. Some courts allow members of the public to access records online, such as Dallas County, Harris County and Travis County’s District Clerks offices.
Texas Appellate Courts also allow interested parties to access public information via its case search portal.
Those who wish to access court records must provide some relevant information to begin their search, including a case number or name of a party involved in the case.
How to Access Criminal Records in Texas
In the state of Texas, accessing criminal records is somewhat different from accessing court records – law enforcement agencies in various local jurisdictions allow access to this public information.
The Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Record Search Service is the statewide database for criminal information. Interested parties can use this portal to access criminal records for free. The state’s judicial department also provides and maintains court records that contain some information on criminal cases.
- Texas Department of Public Safety: FAQs
- Texas Department of Public Safety: Crime Records
- Texas Courts: Supreme Court Case Search
- Texas Courts: The Texas Office of Court Administration - Court Activity Reporting and Directory System
- Texas Statutes: Government Code Chapter 552 Public Information Subchapter A General Provisions
- Texas State Records: Texas Court Records
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.