Austin, TX

How Do Criminal Records in Texas Work?

How Do Criminal Records in Texas Work?

Everyone has a general idea of how criminal records work, but the actual mechanics of criminal history laws in Texas can be confusing. Criminal records in Texas are intricate documents that detail an individual’s interactions with the criminal justice system. These records are compiled by various law enforcement agencies and criminal justice agencies throughout the state.

From the moment of arrest, a record is created and begins to accumulate data, including the nature of the criminal offenses, court appearances, and final judgments. Each interaction with the law adds a new layer to one’s criminal history, painting a comprehensive picture of a person’s encounters with the law. Accessibility to these records by the public is guided by Texas law, ensuring a balance between public safety and privacy. The best time to worry about your criminal history is before you agree to a plea deal or decide to go to trial. If you are facing criminal charges, youi should reach out to an attorney. Fill out a contact form or text ATX Legal for a free consultation 512-677-5003.

If you've been a defendant charged with a felony or misdemeanor crime, you may be looking for a clean slate.

Three Parts to Texas Criminal Records

It is helpful to break down criminal records into 3 elements – the arrest, time in custody, and the disposition. Keep in mind, juvenile records are treated completely differently. This article only applies to adult criminal histories.

The Arrest/Charge

When a person is arrested in Texas, the first part of their criminal record begins to take form. Law enforcement agencies document every detail, from the reason for the arrest to the specific criminal charges filed. This information sets the stage for the legal process and is a fundamental component of Texas criminal records. A pending charge/arrest will show up on your criminal history typically within a few weeks – even before your case is complete. The arrest record serves as the starting point in the criminal justice journey, indicating the person’s initial encounter with the law and laying the groundwork for what follows in the courts.

Time Spent in Custody

Following an arrest, the individual may spend time in custody awaiting trial or after a conviction. This duration is recorded, providing insights into the severity of the crime and the criminal justice system’s response. Inmate records, managed by county jails and the Texas Department of Public Safety, offer a chronological account of the defendant’s time behind bars.

The Disposition

The last segment of Texas criminal records is the disposition, which records the outcome of the arrest or charge. Before there is a disposition, it will show as “pending”. Once the case is complete, The disposition could include a range of conclusions from a court of law, such as a conviction, a plea bargain, deferred adjudication or acquittal. The disposition is what defines the criminal record in the eyes of the public and is particularly relevant to criminal justice agencies, which may use this information for future proceedings or as a part of a comprehensive criminal history system.

Texas DPS Database For Law Enforcement Agencies

The Texas DPS Database stands as the central repository for criminal records in Texas, encompassing data from across the state’s law enforcement and criminal justice agencies. Managed by the Texas Department of Public Safety, this computerized criminal history system is a resource for public information regarding criminal records. It includes arrest records, court records, and dispositions, offering a robust search facility for those seeking access to criminal records, whether for personal review or public safety reasons. DPS tracks Class B misdemeanors, Class A misdemeanors, and all felonies.

Federal Criminal Justice Agencies – The FBI Database

Beyond the state’s boundaries, the FBI Database aggregates criminal records from across the nation, serving as a federal counterpart to Texas’s own criminal history system. This expansive database is a crucial tool for criminal justice agencies, offering a nationwide view that aids in investigations, legal proceedings, and maintaining a record of criminal activities. Importantly, state agencies like DPS send their information to the FBI. Typically, the FBI merely reflects what is reported by the individual states.

The FBI’s database encompasses detailed information, including DNA profiles, fingerprint records, sex offender registration, and lists of wanted criminals, enhancing the depth of criminal records and aiding law enforcement agencies across the country.

Class C Misdemeanors – The Exception to the Rule

While most criminal offenses in Texas are maintained in the DPS database, Class C misdemeanors stand as an exception. These infractions are the least serious criminal offenses and are typically punishable by only a fine, without any jail time. Examples include minor traffic violations or public intoxication. Since they are considered less severe, a Class C misdemeanor crime may not always be included in Texas criminal court records, and is not tracked by DPS.

However, they can still be found in local agencies’ records and may appear in the most rigorous background checks conducted by potential employers, especially if they have led to an arrest. Often, Class C misdemeanors will have no affect on a person’s life, but there are some exceptions.

A record may weigh down your future, even if found not guilty,  If dismissed, you may be able to submit a request for expunction.

Where can I look up arrest records in Texas?

For those looking to search for Texas arrest records, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) provides a computerized criminal history system that offers an official record. In addition to the DPS, several third-party websites offer access to arrest records, such as publicdata.com, but you must assert that you have a legitimate reason to search. These services compile public records from various sources, providing a convenient way for the general public to search for arrest records in Texas. It’s important for users to verify the accuracy and legitimacy of these third-party websites before relying on the information provided.

Where Can I find My Own Criminal History?

If you need to obtain your own criminal history in Texas, you can visit identogo.com. This service allows individuals to search for their Texas criminal records to ensure accuracy or for personal knowledge. Typically, you must go in-person and be fingerprinted. Such reviews may be necessary for employment, visa applications, or other legal matters that require a clear criminal record. The process may involve providing fingerprints and a small fee to access the detailed criminal history.

Are Texas Criminal Records Public?

In Texas, the arrest and court record is generally considered public information. This transparency is part of the state’s commitment to public safety and informed citizenship. However, certain restrictions apply, particularly with juvenile criminal records and cases that have been sealed or expunged. While the public has the right to access these records, some sensitive information may be redacted to protect the privacy of individuals involved.

How Long Will An Arrest Be On A Texas Criminal Record?

By default, an arrest on a Texas criminal record will remain indefinitely. This permanence applies unless the record is expunged or sealed through a legal process. Factors that influence the ability to clear a record include the nature of the crime, the final verdict, and the time elapsed since the arrest. Notably, expungement is not likely unless the arrest did not lead to a conviction. This means dismissal or acquittal.

How Will Texas Criminal Court Records Affect Employment?

A criminal record can be a major hurdle in securing employment, as many employers perform background checks as a standard part of their hiring process. A history of arrests or convictions can raise concerns about a candidate’s reliability or trustworthiness. However, recent changes in law aim to prevent discrimination against individuals with minor or unrelated criminal records.

Expungement vs. NonDisclosure – What’s the Difference?

Expungement and non-disclosure are two legal processes in Texas that can protect individuals from the stigma of a criminal record. Expungement effectively erases the arrest or conviction as if it never occurred. Non-disclosure, on the other hand, does not erase the record but instead seals it from public view. This means that while most private entities cannot see the record, it remains accessible to certain government agencies and for law enforcement purposes. The eligibility and process for both depend on the nature of the offense and the individual’s criminal history.

Reach out to ATX Legal for help with your central Texas criminal case.

Contact a Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer

Whether you are facing pending charges, or want to get a charge expunged or sealed, ATX Legal can help. Contact us for a no-cost consultation to discuss what options are available. We have served Travis, Williamson, and Hays Counties since 2014.

505 West 12th Street, Suite 200 Austin Texas 78701

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