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I want to request public records.

Court How-Tos (Civil Procedure)

Texas’ Public Information Act gives you the right to access certain state government records that are public information.

Guide Overview

This guide teaches about the Texas Public Information Act and how to request public records. The Act gives you the right to inspect or copy government records. It applies to all Texas governmental bodies, and covers information collected, assembled, produced, or maintained in connection with transacting public business. Private businesses and individuals are not covered under the Act. The law also details when a governmental body can withhold government records from the public.

Research Tips

Start by reading Tips For a Successful Public Information Request by the Office of the Attorney General, along with The Texas Public Information Act.

Read the law: Texas Government Code Chapter 552 

Tip: If you are researching the law rather than looking for public information, see I need to do legal research. If you are looking for information as part of your investigation in a lawsuit, read Discovery and Gathering and Presenting Evidence.

Common questions about Court How-Tos (Civil Procedure)

The Public Information Act is a law that gives individuals access to inspect or copy government records. The law also details the specific instances when a governmental body can withhold government records from the public. 

The Public Information Act applies to all Texas governmental bodies created by Texas’ executive or legislative branches. This includes all boards, commissions, and committees. See Texas Government Code 552.003.

Public information refers to information collected, assembled, produced, or maintained in connection with transacting public business. It may be on paper, film, media, or electronic communications such as emails, internet postings, text messages, or instant messages. Texas Government Code 552.002 lists examples of public information.

The following list includes the most common records that are not covered under the Act. 

  1. Education Records and Student Records.
  2. Personnel Records. 
  3. Real Estate Deals. 
  4. Certain legal matters involving attorney-client privilege.
  5. Birth and death records. 
  6. Crime Victim Records.
  7. Family Violence Shelter Center, Victims of Trafficking Shelter Center, and Sexual Assault Program Information. 

No. The governmental body and any agent (or employee) of the governmental body may not ask why you want the records.

Instructions & Forms

A public information request must be in writing to the governmental body you believe has the information. Your written request needs to be for information already in existence. 

A governmental body is not required to answer questions, perform legal research, give legal advice, or create new information in response to your public information request.

Follow the steps below.

Checklist Steps

Check the governmental body’s website first. Some of the information you may be looking for can be found online. Also, their website may include their form for requesting information or general information on submitting a request for public information (see step 4).

  1. Include enough description and detail about the information requested to enable the governmental body to accurately identify and locate the information requested.
  2. Remember, the government body cannot ask why you are requesting information, and you do not have to say why you want access to the records. 

*Find sample public information requests from the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas and the National Freedom of Information Coalition.

You should always keep copies of your written request for your records. Photographs or scans may be acceptable.

You can only deliver your request by one of the following methods to the governmental body’s public information officer or the person/officer designed by the governmental body to receive these requests:

  1. United States mail;
  2. Electronic mail; 
  3. Hand delivery (according to the government body’s reasonable procedures); or  
  4. Any other method approved by the governmental body. 

See Texas Government Code 552.234.

If you mail the request, send it from the post office and keep the receipt. Send it using a method that generates a tracking number, such as priority mail or certified mail. 

If you are sending it by email, it may be a good idea to request a delivery receipt when you send it.

And, if you deliver the request in person, be able to show that you were there. For example, you can take someone with you who would be willing to testify that they went with you and you delivered the request. Get the name and title of the person you delivered it to. Save documentation that you were in the area, such as parking receipts.

 You may check in or ask for status updates on your requested records. Cooperate with the governmental body's reasonable efforts to clarify the type or amount of information requested.

 If you believe a governmental body has not properly responded to your request, you can contact the Open Records Hotline at 512-478-6736 or toll-free at 877-OPEN TEX (877-673-6839).

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