An individual who was arrested for, or charged with, a crime can obtain a copy of their criminal history by making an appointment and visiting a Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Fingerprint Applicant Services of Texas (FAST) location in their local area. They can also conduct an online name-based search at the department’s Crime Records Service (CRS) public site. If the person chooses the fingerprint option, the fingerprint cards should not be more than six months old. A fingerprint-based search is less risky than a name-based search.
Fingerprint Search Is Better
A fingerprint search matches one individual’s fingerprints; a name-based search can match multiple candidates. This is because the search relies on comparing similar-sounding names or names spelled exactly alike. A name-based search can mistakenly find records that don’t relate to the person being sought and can also fail to match accurate data with that of the person who is sought.
Searching for Another’s Criminal Records
An individual who is searching for another person’s criminal records should go to the CRS public site to perform a name-based search. Under Texas law, deferred adjudication and conviction records are public records and are made available to the general public. In order to get criminal history information generated within Texas released to a person who is not the subject of the information, the requesting party must provide a release signed by the person whose history is being requested, as well as a set of that person’s fingerprints, prepared by a law enforcement agency.
The fee for a fingerprint-based record check is $15. There is a $10 fingerprinting fee to use FAST. The fee for a name-based record check is $10, if done off-line through DPS. Specific online search fees are stated on the CRS public site. Once DPS receives a party’s information, it can take approximately 10 business days to produce the criminal records. DPS does not guarantee how long it will take a person to receive the information through the mail.
What’s in Texas Criminal Records
Texas DPS holds records with information submitted by criminal justice agencies only within the state of Texas. If a deferred case has ended in probation, the records of the arrest and probation remain on file. Criminal arrest information stays on a criminal history record indefinitely, or until the former offender requests expunction, or the expungement, of a misdemeanor or felony.
DPS will retain a Class C arrest if it is reported. A criminal record may or may not contain a Class C citation, the lowest possible punishment under Texas state law, a misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $500. An arresting agency is not mandated to report a Class C arrest, but retains the option to do so.
Employers and Background Checks
An employer is allowed to conduct a background check to see if an applicant or employee has a criminal history record. An applicant or employee who wants to see what an employer received must request a personal review. They will receive a certified copy of the results.
Difference Between Report and Record
A police report, or incident report, is a record of an incident that was illegal or could have been illegal. A police report is taken by a representative of a police department and filed according to that department’s procedure. A police report does not contain information about an individual’s entire criminal history. A criminal record, police record or Record of Arrests and Prosecutions (RAP) sheet contains information about all of a person’s criminal history, not just one incident.
An individual can get a police report from the police department in a specific city or from the sheriff’s department in a specific county. It is also possible for an offender to get a record of criminal history information containing only the arrests handled by a certain police department or sheriff’s office. When an individual seeks a criminal history for arrests made by a specific office, they can make the request in person or via U.S. mail. There is a cost to obtain the criminal history record, which varies depending on the office from which it is requested.
Expunctions and Orders of Nondisclosure
An individual may have successfully submitted a petition for expunction of their criminal record. This means that information regarding the offense that has been expunged is not visible on their record, except to certain entities, such as law enforcement agencies.
An offender who has successfully completed deferred adjudication community supervision can petition for an order of nondisclosure. An order of nondisclosure requires criminal justice agencies not to disclose to the public the criminal history record information related to an offense. Criminal history record information that is subject to an order of nondisclosure is excepted from required disclosure under Texas’s Public Information Act.
A criminal justice agency is permitted to release criminal history record information subject to an order of nondisclosure to criminal justice agencies, authorized noncriminal justice agencies and the individual who is the subject of the criminal history record information.
Obtaining Juvenile Records
A person who was referred to juvenile court for conduct that took place before age 17 has a record. This is true even if the individual was not taken into custody by police before the referral. A referral to juvenile court may be for delinquent conduct, such as a Class A or B misdemeanor or felony offenses, or for conduct indicating the minor’s need for supervision, like Class C misdemeanors or running away.
There are juvenile records on file with probation offices, law enforcement offices, prosecutors, courts and in Texas’ Juvenile Justice Information System (JJIS). Texas allows the sharing of juvenile records only for entities that need access for community safety or to provide services to juveniles. If juvenile records are sealed, no one can access the records except with a court order.
Sealing Juvenile Criminal Records
A minor can have their records sealed when they turn 18 as long as they do not have an adult felony conviction or any pending adult charges. If the offender was referred to juvenile court for delinquent conduct but never adjudicated or found guilty, or adjudicated for a misdemeanor but not a felony, their records will be sealed when they turn 19. The exception is when the individual has an adult conviction for a jailable misdemeanor or felony and has pending adult or juvenile charges.
An offender cannot have their records sealed if they were ever certified by the juvenile court to stand trial as an adult or given a determinate sentence (probation or commitment). If the minor was required to register as a sex offender, they cannot get their records sealed until their obligation to register has expired. Sealing of records does not apply to records in the gang database.
- City of Houston: Houston Police Department
- Texas Department of Public Safety: Criminal History Records
- Harris County: Texas Juvenile Justice System Files and Records
- Texas Department of Public Safety: Crime Records Services FAQ's
- Texas Department of Public Safety: FAST Submission Locations
- Texas Department of Public Safety: Criminal History Name Search
- Be aware that the attending officer has seven to 10 days to turn in a completed report. You should allow one to two weeks after the incident to request a record.
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.