A Texas resident can access their criminal record via the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Criminal History Name Search, or send the agency a written request with an authorized fingerprint card. The DPS will email the interested party a PDF of their record or they can pick it up at a DPS Fingerprinting Services Unit office.
Criminal records are public records, but while anyone can make a records request, they are not free—there is a fee payable for each record.
What Is a Criminal Record in Texas?
In Texas, as in other states, criminal records are official documents showing an individual’s criminal activity. A person’s record typically includes felony and misdemeanor offenses, indictments, arrest records and non-expunged criminal convictions.
These reports are put together via records from courts of appeal; trial courts; local, county and state jurisdictions; and correctional facilities on both the state and county levels. An interested party may need a copy of their criminal record for various reasons, including:
- Determining accuracy of the record.
- Attempting to have criminal charges or convictions sealed or expunged.
- Applying for a job requiring them to reveal criminal charges or convictions.
Information in a Texas Criminal Record
Under the Texas Freedom of Information Act, the public can access criminal records as long as they request them from approved custodians. Criminal records in Texas feature information about the subject that includes:
- Full name and any aliases.
- Mugshot and details of specific physical descriptors.
- Date of birth.
- Nationality and ethnicity.
- Full set of fingerprints.
- Criminal offenses and indictment details.
- Arrest information, dispositions and convictions.
Obtaining Criminal Records Through the DPS’ Search Service
In the state of Texas, law enforcement agencies generate and disseminate criminal records to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), which operates a name-based Crime Record Search Service that holds data regarding statewide criminal information. Texas has no free criminal history records, as per state law; a fee is payable for each record.
A name-based search typically finds multiple candidates, as it relies on similar names. Users can request a search using an exact spelling, but that can also yield multiple results. Fingerprint-based searches are more accurate. Interested parties can also obtain court records directly from the court where the case was heard.
Obtaining Criminal Records Through Fingerprints in Texas
To obtain a copy of a criminal record through fingerprints in the Lone Star State, the requestor must provide the DPS with a set of their own fingerprints.
The state contracts for fingerprinting services with a third-party provider called MorphoTrust USA. Actual fingerprinting is also provided at locations statewide through IdentoGO. Interested persons schedule an appointment to have their fingerprints taken through the DPS’ scheduling portal. Once they make the request, they access a Personal Review FAST form, which they must complete and print out.
Fingerprint Cards and Record Fees
After submitting their fingerprints, the requestor receives a fingerprint card, which must be mailed along with the FAST form to MorphoTrust USA, Texas Card Scan, 3051 Hollis Dr., Suite 310, Springfield, IL 62704.
Criminal records cost $24.95, which can be paid when the requestor sets the appointment or sent via check or money order along with the fingerprint card and FAST form. It takes about 10 days to receive their criminal record.
Using Third-party Sites for Locating Criminal Records
Criminal records may also be found on third-party websites, which can be easier to use as there are no geographic limitations.
Requesters typically input the offender's name and last known address to gain access to records. Third-party sites often ask the requestor to pay a fee, but the information received may not be complete or up to date.
Expunction vs. Nondisclosure of Criminal Records
Texas keeps criminal records indefinitely. However, state law allows individuals to expunge or seal their criminal records. An expunction permanently removes entries from an adult’s criminal history record, while nondisclosure (the sealing of a record) hides some offenses from the public. However, licensing agencies, criminal justice agencies and some government entities can still view records of these offenses.
Eligibility for either expunction or non-disclosure depends on the type of offense and community supervision, such as regular community supervision (straight probation) or deferred adjudication (delay in judgment allowing the offender to prove they’ve changed their ways).
Offenses with convictions or regular community supervision are not eligible for expunction, but may be eligible for nondisclosure.
Obtaining One’s Own Criminal Record Through the FBI
Interested parties can also request their criminal history from the FBI—the agency refers to this as an “Identification Record.” The individual submits a request to the agency’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division online or by mail to FBI CJIS Division—Summary Request, 1000 Custer Hollow Rd., Clarksburg, WV 26306.
The requestor must submit their fingerprints on a standard fingerprint form (FD-1164) and pay a fee of $18. Their fingerprint card must be current and not one that has been previously processed. The FBI does not allow arrest records to be seen by individuals other than the record subject, so individuals can request only their own records, not anyone else's.
What Do Employer Criminal Background Checks Show?
Depending on the job and the employer, an applicant may be subject to a criminal background check. Background criminal record checks in Texas include information about:
- Court case numbers.
- Charges and pending charges.
- Dates of offenses.
- Types of offenses.
Background checks for crime records go back about seven years for most jobs, but can go back longer if the applicant applies for a higher paying job, a job with an insurance company or government agency, a job requiring the applicant to perform in-home services or deliveries, or when the company performs its background check internally. Background checks are also sometimes required for housing.
What Is An Arrest Warrant?
An arrest warrant is issued by a judge and gives law enforcement legal authority to apprehend criminal suspects. In Texas, an arrest warrant lists:
- Subject’s alleged criminal offense.
- Warrant issuer’s name.
- Date of issuance and expiration date.
- Time and place of offense.
- Bond or bail conditions that subject must meet, if applicable.
Arrests may also ensue without a warrant, if law enforcement officers witness a crime or if the subject is implicated in a felony crime.
Searching for Arrest Warrant Information
Individuals learn if they have outstanding warrants through the DPS’s name-based Crime Record Search Service, but they must sign up to use the service.
Local court, city or county websites may also have online databases with this information. Interested parties can visit the courthouse in their county or contact the court clerk to find out if they have any outstanding warrants.
Searching for Inmate Records in Texas
Inmate records contain relevant information about the inmate’s housing in incarceration facilities. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TCDJ) maintains this information, which it gathers from various housing units across the state. Requestors can obtain information on inmates by contacting the department or by using its Online Inmate Search.
The inmate record usually contains:
- Inmate’s full name and any aliases.
- Details of the convicted offense.
- Inmate’s birth date, gender, mugshot and other relevant information.
- Inmate’s incarceration date and prospective release date.
- Facility location where inmate is housed and security level of facility.
- Relevant past convictions and sentences served.
- Bail or bond conditions, if applicable.
Using the Texas Sex Offender Registry
The state’s sex offender registry shows information regarding convicted sex offenders. This listing is maintained and published by law enforcement agencies and various jurisdictions. It is a central repository for sex offender information. The registry contains the full names and aliases of sex offenders in the Lone Star State, as well as their addresses, physical and online identifiers and other related data.
Local law enforcement agencies must release sex offender information to anyone who asks for it; they may require a small fee covering the administrative expense of gathering and disseminating the information. An agency's official website may also have additional information on sex offenders.
The Department of Justice has a nationwide registry through its National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW). Interested parties get information for their area by using the "search by location" option.
Are Juvenile Criminal Records Public?
Texas' juvenile criminal records detail crimes committed by minors or persons considered legally underage. Minors are not convicted following regular court proceedings. Rather, those who are found guilty are adjudicated delinquent, meaning they are found by a juvenile court judge to have committed a criminal violation or offense.
Juvenile records are typically confidential, but exceptions to this rule allow criminal and juvenile justice officials, such as prosecutors and probation officers in the state and outside of it, have access. The records may also be available to organizations such as employers, licensing agencies and educational institutions.
Restriction of Access to Juvenile Records
Once a person turns 17, Texas restricts access to juvenile records. The records are not destroyed or sealed, but can be accessed only by criminal justice agencies for purposes like crime investigation or screening criminal justice agency employment applicants.
When employers, schools and licensing agencies ask for these records, the entity holding them must respond by saying, “No records exist for that person.” Additionally, an individual can legally deny their criminal history and say they were never arrested, adjudicated or prosecuted for a crime.
What Are Texas Probation Records?
Texas probation records detail the conditions by which an offender is allowed to serve their sentence while living in the community. They typically show details of the offender’s indictment, their personal data and probation conditions.
The terms of probation differ from case to case in proportion to the offense. Probation records are also available to the public and can be found through most court online databases.
- Texas State Records: Texas Criminal Records
- National Freedom of Information Coalition: Texas FOIA Laws
- TxDPS: Crime Records
- Texas Government Code: GOVERNMENT CODE TITLE 4. EXECUTIVE BRANCH SUBTITLE B. LAW ENFORCEMENT AND PUBLIC PROTECTION CHAPTER 411. DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY OF THE STATE OF TEXAS SUBCHAPTER A. GENERAL PROVISIONS AND ADMINISTRATION
- Texas Law Help: Clear or seal your record? Expunctions vs. Nondisclosures in Texas
- FBI.gov: Identity History Summary Checks (Rap Sheets)
- Theissen Law Firm: What Does a Background Check Show in Texas?
- Texas Arrest Warrant Records: Texas Arrest Records and Warrant Search
- TDCJ: Inmate Information Search
- TxDPS: The Texas Public Sex Offender Website
- DOJ: National Sex Offender Public Website
- Collin County: TEXAS JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM FILES AND RECORD
- For questions, contact the Texas Department of Public Safety, Crime Records Service by telephone at 512-424-2079.
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.