Some Serious Flaws in the Texas Statewide Criminal Records Search

Apparently, there are flaws in the Texas State Criminal Records System.  This is the state-wide criminal search put out by the Department of Public Safety.  As many investigators and employers use this both for research and employment screening, one would think these background checks would be accurate and up to date.   Not the case.

According to an article on KENS, Channel Five, in San Antonio, there are some alarming discrepancies in the criminal records.  One person is listed for post possession, but in fact he is a convicted murder.  That's a big distinction, even if you are among those who still believes marijuana is the work of the Devil.  

Another convicted murderer was sentenced to death.  His conviction is not listed in the database.   A third convicted murder assaulted and killed a seven year old girl.  He is scheduled for execution, shortly.   But his name and murder conviction is not in the database.  

Are  the criminal records the fault of the Department of Public Safety?  No necessarily.  According to the article..."

However, Hearn added there is only so much the state can do.

The state relies on the counties to submit their court records, and Hearn said the counties are not turning all of them into the state.

According to the state audit, Bexar County failed to report nearly a quarter of all its court records.

"Sometimes it's simple matter of the [computer] server being busy," said Bexar County District Clerk Donna Kay McKinney.

However, McKinney said according to her figures more than 99 percent of the county's felony court records have been turned in to the state."

So there is a little buck passing going on here.  One group blames the other, which, after all, if not this what are bureaucrats for?   Still, everything from school boards to employers are relying on this state-wide Texas Criminal Search to be accurate.   The lives of people are dependent on these records.   There are liability considerations and the horrible experience of having hired someone who may cause untold grief int he workplace.   . 

I realize the State of Texas, like every other state, has a lot on its collective mind.  However, we are talking about life and death here as well as potential sexual violations, assaults, and a wide variety of nasty stuff.  Unwittingly tying to recruit someone who has been sentenced to die or is currently experiencing the constraints of a long prison sentence is not a best use of one's time.

As a background screening agency, we strongly recommend that employers and investigators conduct their background checks at the county level.  County criminal records will always be more accurate, especially when they are pulled by hand from the county courthouse.  With county criminal records you will get the more current dispositions and modifications to these records.

Meanwhile, the Texas Department of Public Safety should make every effort to amend this situation and make sure all criminal records within its system are accurate and current.   Otherwise, we may once again be witness to news headlines of yet one more horrific event.


Views: 283

Comment by Valentino Martinez on November 19, 2011 at 8:23pm

Wow Gordon,

This is unbelievable. 

There something rotten in the Texas record keeping system if this audit result can not be explained away as a "denied access" case rather than actual missing info, or worse, lost criminal history on a percentage of incarcerated individuals. 

There must be physical files and database files on each felon that follow them from county to State correctional facilities.  My recollection of California's criminal record keeping system had both and both were accurate to the last counseling or disciplinary action.

Will be interested to hear what the Texas Department of Corrections has to say in response to the audit.  My guess is they went with the lowest bid on the IT system installed to accommodate historical and current files on each prisoner.


My experience in California  

Comment by Valentino Martinez on November 19, 2011 at 8:24pm


Please add the following link to the report you mentioned.



Comment by Gordon Basichis on November 19, 2011 at 9:25pm

Hi Tino, 

I am sure this problem exists elsewhere, besides Texas.    Texas was pointed out because of the recent audit.  Not long ago at a trade show we listened to an FBI agent explain the forthcoming solicitation where they were looking to upgrade and update the much vaunted FBI criminal database, or NCIC.   There are discrepancies there as, with the case in Texas, there is a failure among the county courts to keep current the larger state and federal databases.  It's understandable in some ways, as the states and subsequently the county courts are currently dead broke, understaffed, and overwhelmed.  But still when so many are dependent upon these records for their safety, there are serious concerns.  



Comment by Valentino Martinez on November 19, 2011 at 11:24pm


Then again, when I worked in the California Correctional system in inmate population was high, but manageable.  Since 1981 it's probably doubled to compound budget cuts, layoffs and cutting corners by going with the lowest bidder on contracts.

Comment by Gordon Basichis on November 20, 2011 at 1:01am

The California Correctional system has been mandated to release some 30,000 inmates.  Many are being released to county facilities.  It's a little nuts at the moment.



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