A variety of public records can be obtained by almost anyone that requests them in Texas. However, depending on the type of record being requested, some restrictions may apply. The State of Texas is not required to provide certain data, even if it is a matter of public record, if it reveals confidential information (like trade secrets) about a private corporation or individual. It is important to understand which types of records have restrictions and which do not. Government records can be obtained by almost anyone, but driving reports have some restrictions on who has access to them.
Vital Statistics and Information
Texas marriage and divorce records are available at the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). Certified copies of marriage licenses and divorce decrees are available at the office of the county clerk or district clerk where the event took place. The DSHS is also the entity to contact to obtain certified birth and death certificates in the state. Official certificates can be ordered online at the DSHS website. For death indexes, most county 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.
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 additional charges. Even so, the fees cannot be excessive and must reflect the time and effort required to fulfill the request.
Obtaining Civil and Criminal Court Documents
Texas court records and documents are handled by the Texas Judicial Branch (TJB). The TJB has detailed information on the entire court system in Texas and how it is structured. 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 the best resource as it will have a direct record of the proceedings. The fees vary for this information by county and type of record.
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.
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
Texas driving history reports and vehicle records are available through the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). 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.
When it comes to driver history reports, those have to be requested from a local government body or a 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.
Locating public records in the state of Texas is easier than in some other states, even with its size. Texas makes it very clear as to which records the public can access and which are not available. Records involving personal information such as a driving history, must be requested by a government entity or an employer. Civilians cannot obtain these records for their own curiosity. Most court documents are available to everyone however some have been sealed and are not available to anyone, even lawyers and appointed officials. Anyone 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.