The State of Texas maintains a permanent database of criminal records, unless of course you obtain an expunction, order of nondisclosure, pardon, or conviction set-aside. Furthermore, under State law, your criminal record is accessible to the public by request. Even if you were arrested and never charged or convicted of an offense, those records are available for review. This can be a disturbing fact for those having to face a background check, whether by an employer, landlord, or other important party. The Texas Department of Public Safety is the primary agency responsible for maintaining criminal records in Texas. However, there are many other entities, public and private, that maintain criminal records on individuals. The following article offers a guide on how you can obtain a background check of your criminal history in Texas.
A. Texas Department of Public Safety: Procedure for Review of Criminal History
It is the policy of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) that an individual or their authorized representative have access to and may receive a copy of their criminal history record information (CHRI). To obtain your criminal record from the Texas Department of Public Safety, you must submit your fingerprints to the DPS either electronically or by mail. The DPS has entered into an exclusive contract with MorphoTrust USA to provide statewide electronic fingerprinting through the DPS FAST locations operated by IdentoGO. Fingerprint Applicant Services of Texas (FAST) are available by scheduling an appointment on-line or by calling 1-888-467-2080.
The cost of this service is $25.00 and the results will be mailed to the address provided by the individual. A full list of instructions on how to complete this process to obtain your criminal records can be accessed via the Texas DPS website.
B. Requesting Your Criminal Record from the FBI
If you have a criminal record that expands throughout multiple states, or you are unsure what is out there, an FBI background check might be useful. The process of requesting your criminal record from the FBI is similar to requesting your criminal record from the Texas DPS. With an FBI record check, however, your records are searched nationwide, and so it is generally more comprehensive. To obtain your FBI criminal report, you may either request it directly from the FBI, or use an FBI-approved Channeler. The service offered by the FBI is called Identity History Summary Checks. To submit your request directly through the FBI, you must take the following steps:
- Complete the Applicant Information Form
- Obtain a set of your fingerprints using Form FD-258
- Submit a payment in the amount of $18.00
- Review the Identity History Summary Request Checklist to ensure everything is included
- Mail the required items listed above to:
FBI CJIS Division – Summary Request
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306
If the FBI finds no Identity History Summary on file, you will receive a response indicating that you have no prior arrest data on file at the FBI. If you do have an Identity History Summary on file, you will receive you Identity History Summary or “rap sheet.”
An FBI-approved Channeler is a private business that has contracted with the FBI to submit your request on your behalf. FBI-approved Channelers essentially complete the same task outlined above, yet they help expedite the delivery of Identity History Summary information on behalf of the FBI. The cost and time it takes to receive your criminal report varies depending location. For more information on this, see the List of FBI-Approved Channelers for Departmental Order Submissions.
You may alternatively obtain a Live Scan background check through the company Certifix by checking their list of fingerprinting locations in Texas. For more information to questions about how to obtain your FBI criminal history, we suggest you visit this frequently asked questions page.
C. Requesting Your Record from a Texas County
Criminal records may also be obtained directly from the county where the charges were brought. Many counties in Texas allow criminal records to be searched through an online database. In Travis County, for example, you can obtain online case information directly from their website. Or, you may complete the Travis County District Clerk records request form and mail/email the request directly to the county clerk for a fee of $5.00 plus $1.00 per page per copy.
Harris County is another example where you may search your records and documents online. The District County Clerk now requires you to have a registered login with the site; however, public case information is still available to everyone. Once you are logged in to their system, records can be viewed free of charge. As a final example, the Bexar County District Court generally does not have all criminal records available via their site. Instead, you must draft a records request template of your own, and mail it to the clerk with your name, date-of-birth, and case number included. You will then receive an invoice from the court clerk with the amount owed for record copies, which can then be paid via check (this has been our experience working with Bexar County).
What are the benefits of requesting records directly from the county clerk? If you only have a criminal record in one or two counties in Texas, requesting records directly from the county clerk will typically get you more detailed information that will be of more help in preparing a Petition for Expunction or Petition for Nondisclosure. If you intend to request your criminal records for some other reason, it is still beneficial to view the actual court document copies for yourself to know what is out there.
Here are some links to search for criminal records through Texas County Clerks:
|Harris County||Harris County District Clerk|
|Montgomery County||Montgomery County District Clerk|
|Johnson County||Johnson County District Clerk|
|Smith County||Smith County District Clerk|
|Travis County||Travis County District Clerk|
|Dallas County||Dallas County Clerk|
|Fannin County||Fannin County Clerk|
|Tarrant County||Tarrant County Clerk|
|Collin County||Collin County Court Records|
|Hidalgo County||Hidalgo County Court Records|