When you are part of a court case, you are entitled to information and documents related to your case, even if they were prepared and submitted by an attorney. You also have the right to access certain state and local government records that are public information under the Texas Public Information Act (TPIA). However, because the Texas Judiciary is exempt from the TPIA, access to court records is determined by the Supreme Court of Texas. Rule 12 of the Texas Rules of Judicial Administration permits public access to judicial records with some exceptions. Use Texas.StateRecords.org’s online search to search available state, county, city, court, and police public records in Texas.
The following are answers to questions commonly asked by self-represented (pro se) litigants who are trying to retrieve information about their case or other personal, judicial, or government records.
Where can I find information about or documents that were part of a case?
The first step in finding information about a case is to find the court the case was filed in. If you know which court your case was filed in, you may contact the court directly and ask for your case information and case (cause) number. You may also contact the clerk’s office that manages the records for the court your case was filed in.
If you know your case (cause) number, this is the easiest way to retrieve information about your case from the court or clerk’s office. You can find your case (cause) number on documents that were filed with the case, on the citation you were given by the clerk when you first filed your case, or by calling the court your case was filed in. If you cannot find your case (cause) number and don’t know which court your case was filed in, read this previous Ex Libris Juris blog post to learn about learn about where different kinds of cases are filed.
How do I find information about a case that happened a long time ago?
When trying to obtain records from a case that happened a while ago, it is still important to try and find the case (cause) number or the court the case was filed in. Every county is required to create a records retention schedule which details how long local government records will be kept.
In Harris County, the Records Management Department provides Harris County agencies with records management strategies, such as the Harris County Records and Information Management Plan and the Harris County Records Control Schedule.
How do I get a copy of my birth certificate or marriage license? What about a death certificate?
Vital records are personal records such as birth, death, marriage, and divorce records. In Texas, Vital Statistics manages most vital records and allows you to order vital records from the county, city, or district office where the event occurred.
Harris County Vital Statistics has compiled a list of all the local organizations that manage vital records in the county on its website. The Harris County Clerk maintains vital records of events that occurred in Harris County. This includes personal records such as: birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses, registered informal marriages, and other miscellaneous personal records. Read this past Ex Libris Juris blog post for step-by-step instructions for requesting records from the Harris County Clerk’s Office.
To request a copy of a birth certificate, the Harris County Clerk recently launched a new online platform to order a birth certificate in 10 minutes or less.
Divorce records are kept by the Harris County District Clerk’s Office, along with the records of most other civil cases. Read this guide from the Harris County District Clerk’s Office for information on accessing your case using the District Clerk’s website.
How do I get a copy of my criminal record?
In Texas, criminal records are considered public information with few exceptions, including if the record has been sealed or expunged. Again, the first step is to find out which court your case was filed in, and the second step is to find the case (cause) number.
How do I find information about someone who is currently incarcerated?
If the person is incarcerated in Harris County, use the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Offense Inquiry to find information about an inmate. If the inmate is incarcerated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and has a TDCJ number, use this online search tool from TDCJ.
How do I get a copy of my juvenile criminal record?
Juvenile criminal records are generally confidential, with certain exceptions, meaning that the public and government entities cannot access them unless for reasons specified by the law. You may access your juvenile criminal record unless it has been sealed, which for certain offenses happens automatically when you turn 18. If you were referred to juvenile court and have a juvenile record in Harris County, you may request your juvenile record through the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department.
Other commonly requested records
Probate : Harris County Probate Court records
Evictions: Harris County Justice Court records
Adoption records: Texas Vital Statistics (Adoption forms)
Replacing Lost Documents – Texas Law Help (passport, driver license, green card, social security card, etc.)