A variety of public records can be obtained by the public without much difficulty in Texas, though most have fees attached to the request. Depending on the type of record requested, additional measures for public safety and personal verification may be required. The State of Texas is not required to provide sensitive materials, even if they are a matter of public record, to anyone that they feel is unsafe in viewing the material. It is important to understand what types of records have restrictions and which do not. The official website Texas.gov provides access to a wide variety of government resources and information. Public governmental records can be obtained by anyone. If you are requesting information about a criminal case or driving report, there are specific restrictions in place.
Obtaining Civil and Criminal Court Documents
When you need records revolving around court cases, it is ideal to contact the county or municipal court in which the case was heard. The specific court system that the case was tried in is a better resource as it will have a direct record of the proceedings. The fees vary for this information by county and type of record. You can visit TXCourts.gov to find out more about the various courts in Texas.
Keep in mind that some court documents are sealed and cannot be included as a matter of public record. This is to protect identities and sometimes the personal safety of those involved in the case.
When applying to receive this type of record, you must state the reason for your request. Be honest, as being found guilty of misusing public information is a crime that is punishable in a Texas court of law.
Locating Vital and Marriage Records
The Texas Department of State Health Services, Vital Statistics Unit is the entity to contact to obtain birth certificates, death records, and marriage and divorce records. Most county records offices have records dating as far back as 1910 in the state of Texas. Outside resources are required to obtain records dating further back than that. This is so that ample storage space for paper records and enough computer storage space are available for new births (something that is now rendered a non-issue by modern record keeping technology).
There are fees associated with obtaining these records as well. These fees do vary depending on the type of vital record required. If you find yourself in need of special extras like rush service or priority queue jump, your request may be subject to extra fees. Even so, fees cannot be excessive and must reflect the time and effort required to fulfill a request.
Property records are available at city records offices. Copies are also kept on file at county recorder's offices and city halls. You must fill out a document stating who you are, what property you are inquiring about, the information you require, and the reasoning behind it. In some cases, homeowners simply want a history of occupants for their own records. The stated reason behind your request is purely for record keeping purposes, as requests are filed by everyone from professional realtors to superstitious homeowners researching all registered occupants to find out if anything tragic happened on the property or not. These types of records are available to nearly anyone.
You can obtain records stating who the owner or group owners are of commercial properties as well. This information helps builders and investors to know who to contact for proprietary purposes. This can also be for zoning and property line determination. There are times when the actual square footage of a commercial building is not what it is documented to be, or may be under dispute. Zoning and building records help to determine where the additional square footage has gone.
As businesses sell out to others and buildings are transformed for different operations, the blueprints of a building may be required. This is where property records also come in. Contractors that are no longer in business or no longer alive may have built older or vintage buildings; this means that contacting the builder directly for these blueprints is not possible.
Vehicle Records and Driver reports
Vehicle records and driving reports cannot be obtained by just anyone. If you are requiring a vehicle identification number history of registry, you will need a notarized letter by the entity requesting the information in order for it to be supplied to you. If you are obtaining this information for your own vehicle, a photo ID and proper vehicle title are needed. You can access these records at the Texas DMV.
When it comes to driver reports, those have to be requested from a local government body or business. Civilians may not, under normal circumstances, obtain these records unless it is for work purposes, with a form from the potential employer.
County Specific Records
With the number of counties in the state of Texas, tracking down a record of a specific event can prove to be a challenge. The first step to take here is to contact the clerk of courts for that specific county if you are unable to find the records in a simple online search. The clerk of courts, or a representative at the county recorder's office, can direct you with the information to obtain the records. The office itself may have access to the records.
When you are requesting county records, such as zoning information, property records and business records, an exact reason must be stated. You must also pay the fees for these records to be released to you. The records cannot be used for legal matters unless stated in the request. General information is made available to the public and is not for use in the facilitation of any unlawful transactions.
Summary At A Glance
Locating public records in the state of Texas is still easier than in some other states, even with its size. Texas makes it very clear as to which records the public can have and which are state government property. Anyone can obtain birth, death, marriage and divorce records; there are no restrictions here. Those requiring personal information such as a driving history, must be a government entity or employer. Civilians cannot obtain these records for their own curiosity. When requesting court documents, either for research or for personal records, you must also be doing so with a valid reason. Some court documents are not available to anyone, even lawyers and appointed officials. You can obtain records of civil court proceedings and most misdemeanor criminal court proceedings. Felony and federal court case documents are quite difficult to obtain copies of, regardless of who you are or why you need them. For these records, allow for extra time and even the possibility of time petitioning in court just to obtain them.