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General Information About Texas Public Records and Laws
Texas public records provide individuals with information they need to know. Individuals will find a great deal of the government's actions and other information readily available through a public records search. In the state, the Texas Public Information Act, which was once called the Texas Open Records Act, provides for the right of individuals to gather this information. It is found in Chapter 552 of the Texas Government Code. This law outlines what is and is not a public record, and provides specific information in regards to the overall accessibility of this information.
What Remains a Public Record?
In the state of Texas, public records are any type of information created, given to, collected or otherwise in the possession of a government agency at the local, county or state level. The information is often used for the function and execution of business within the government, but it can come from numerous sources. The Attorney General provides specific guidance in terms of what can and cannot be accessed by the public.
Some information is considered off limits due to its sensitive information or contents. In general, the following types of information remain non-public and therefore inaccessible to the general public for use.
·         Information that would violate personal privacy rights, including information regarding contact information, financial information, taxation and other elements
·         Information regarding the specific medical records of an individual
·         Information regarding the specific student records of an individual or a prospective student
·         Information that could hinder the function of the government, or any of its official proceedings, including criminal investigations
A judge can also rule some information to be non-public, though it can only do so if there is reason to believe the information is too sensitive. Sexual related content for victims as well as juvenile records remain protected from viewing by the public.
Obtaining Public Records
To obtain Texas public records, individuals will need to follow the recommendations set forth by these laws. In short, individuals have the right to access information during normal business hours. They may or may not need to provide a written request for this information. Some information may be readily available, but others may take locating or investigation to find. All public records must be made accessible to view and to copy as needed.
To get these records, individuals can visit the location that is holding them, such as the government department. In some cases, these departments have moved information online, but this is not always available. In addition, some third party providers not give access to otherwise limited information.
·         For vital statistics information, use the Department of State Health Services, Bureau of Vital Statistics.
·         For business records available to the public, contact the Secretary of State, Corporation Section.
·         The Attorney General's Office in Austin provides information regarding public record access as well.
·         The sexual offender registry is available through the Department of Public Safety.
·         State archives are available through the Library and Archives Commission.
Obtaining all Texas public records is the right of the individual. However, individuals do not have to state why they wish to access this information.
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