A person acquires a criminal record in Texas the first time they are arrested and fingerprinted by law enforcement in the state. From then on, all subsequent arrests, prosecutions, and case dispositions will be added to the person’s Texas criminal record. The Texas Department of Public Safety manages the state’s central repository of criminal history record information.
Most–but not all–criminal history record information is available to be viewed by the general public in Texas. The DPS Computerized Criminal History System (CCH) can be used to view the criminal record of anyone with convictions in the state.
What is a criminal record?
A criminal record is an official document detailing a person’s criminal convictions, pending criminal cases, prior arrests, and other interactions with law enforcement agencies. Additional names for a criminal record include criminal history record, rap sheet, and a police record.
As with marriage records and court records, criminal records are generally public records in the United States and can be accessed through a criminal background check. However, public access to specific criminal record information varies from state to state.
In the State of Texas, criminal conviction information is available for general access through the DPS CCH.
What is included in a Texas criminal record?
As criminal records are kept by law enforcement agencies at all levels of government in the United States, a Texas criminal record may vary in format and content depending on the law enforcement database from which it is accessed.
Generally, a Texas criminal record will include the following information:
- A person’s full name and possible aliases
- Personal information such as age, date of birth, sex, ethnicity, height, weight, and other physical characteristics
- Fingerprints and mugshot
- Misdemeanor criminal offenses and convictions
- Felony criminal offenses and convictions
Why would someone access a criminal record?
There are many reasons to access a criminal record.
- Most commonly, people search criminal records as a way to run a background check on a particular person.
- They’re also used by law enforcement to identify or locate people involved in unsolved crimes or by the court system to determine an appropriate sentence after a conviction.
- An individual may want to access his or her own record as well. It’s not uncommon for people to request their own criminal records to see what information is public.
- In some cases, a record could be inaccurate or include outdated information. If that’s the case, it’s important to have the record corrected.
What’s the difference between an infraction, misdemeanor, and felony?
Arrests and convictions listed on a criminal record are separated into three categories: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.
To give a better understanding of the information listed on a criminal record, here’s a quick overview of each category of offense:
- Infraction – An infraction is a minor violation of the law that is regulated at the state level. Punishment for an infraction is usually just a fine or a written warning, rather than a jail or prison sentence. Examples of infractions include minor traffic violations, public nuisance offenses, and littering.
- Misdemeanor – A misdemeanor is a crime that is more serious than an infraction, yet less serious than a felony. Generally, a misdemeanor punishable by a term of imprisonment of less than a year, or by a term of probation. An individual convicted of a misdemeanor is more likely to serve time in a county or local jail than in a federal or state prison. Examples of misdemeanors include driving under the influence, most drug abuse violations, and petty theft.
- Felony – A felony is the most serious type of crime, often characterized by the use of a weapon during a crime, serious injury to a victim, and/or holding a person against their will. Felony convictions typically result in a term of imprisonment of more than one year in a state or federal prison. Examples of felonies include rape, murder, and grand theft.
What is the difference between a Texas arrest record and a Texas criminal record?
While an arrest record is an official document including the details of a specific arrest, a criminal record is a more comprehensive document that includes a person’s entire criminal background known to law enforcement agencies.
How do I search for Texas criminal records?
The Texas Department of Public Safety maintains the Computerized Criminal History System (CCH), a fee-based searchable online database of criminal history information that is available to the general public.
Here’s an overview of CCH:
- In order to perform a criminal history name search, users must create an account and purchase credits with a debit or credit card. One credit can be purchased for $3 (plus a possible transaction fee).
- One search costs one credit and viewing more than one person’s record in the search results list costs an additional credit for each record viewed.
- Searchable criminal record information available on the database includes all reported arrests, prosecutions, and case dispositions for Class B misdemeanor or greater offenses, and Class C misdemeanor convictions or deferred adjudications.
- Dismissed charges or charges that did not result in convictions are not available to be viewed through CCH.
How do I obtain a physical copy of a Texas criminal record?
You may obtain a physical copy of a Texas criminal record by printing the results of a CCH criminal history name search. For information on other ways to receive Texas criminal records, contact the DPS at (512) 424-2474.
Why can’t I access a Texas criminal record?
Possible reasons for being unable to obtain a Texas criminal record include:
- The search subject’s criminal record is under a different name spelling or alias.
- The subject’s criminal record information was not reported to the DPS.
- The subject’s criminal charges did not result in a conviction.
- The subject’s criminal charges were sealed or expunged.
How do I search for Texas criminal case court records?
Texas does not provide a searchable online database of court case records. To view a case record, you must make a request to the Clerk of the Court working for the court that processed the case. Visit this Texas Judicial Branch page on Access to Court Case Records for more information on requesting case records.
You can find the address and contact information of every Texas court using the Texas Judicial Branch Judicial Directory.
Does Texas allow criminal records to be sealed or expunged?
Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure allows persons to petition to have criminal record information expunged under a number of circumstances, although most criminal convictions are not eligible for expunction in the state. The Texas DPS recommends that individuals acquire a copy of their Texas criminal record and consult a licensed attorney about their eligibility for expunction.
In many cases, offenses committed as a juvenile may be sealed from public view in Texas, as stated in Family Code Section 58.253.
How can I have false information on a Texas criminal record corrected?
Individuals may challenge missing or incorrection information on a criminal record by completing an Error Resolution Form, and mailing it, along with a copy of the criminal record and any supporting materials, to:
Texas Department of Public Safety
Crime Records Service
Error Resolution Unit
P.O. Box 4143
Austin, TX 78765-4143
Contact the DPS Error Resolution Unit at [email protected] with any questions about the challenge process.
How long are Texas criminal records kept on file?
Texas criminal history record information is maintained indefinitely unless a successful petition to expunge charges is passed in court.