Finding Mugshots in Harris County
Harris County mugshots and arrest records are considered public records in accordance with the Texas Public Information Act. This means any person, not just citizens of Texas, can request for these mugshots without presenting a statement of purpose. In the county, the Sheriff’s Office is the primary repository of these mugshots. Though the law enforcement agency does not freely publish these booking photographs on its website, it provides the records on written request.
In line with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office media policy, mugshot requests from the public are accepted in writing Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The written request can also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. The mugshot request must state the defendant’s name, date of birth (DOB) and/or SPN. Requestors are also required to include criminal charges associated with the mugshot in question. Note, through in charge of the county jail, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office only release mugshots of defendants arrested by the agency. However, the agency does not provide mugshots of arrestees who are no longer in custody and whose charges do not result in a criminal conviction.
To obtain mugshots of defendants arrested by other law enforcement agencies in the county, contact the respective agency. For example, to request mugshots of suspects arrested in Houston City, the county seat, contact the Houston Police Department (HPD) with a written request in person at:
Houston Police Department
Houston, TX 77002
Phone: (713) 884-3131
Fax: (713) 308-3260
Similarly, the public can submit the written request via email, fax, or U.S. mail to the Office of Planning and Data Governance, 1200 Travis, Houston, TX 77002.
However, members of the public can determine the availability of a mugshot prior to making a request by checking the inmate records of Harris County Jail. To find an inmate’s record, select 'find someone in jail' under the jail info tab on the Harris County Sheriff’s Office website. The resulting page provides a simple search engine to query the database of all current and old inmates in the jail. Make a search by the last name, first name, DOB, system person number (SPN), Social Security number (SSN), or any two combinations of the above. The search result provides a quick brief of the arrest record, custody status, and the jail facility where the defendant is being held. For inmates currently in custody, the user can go on to request the mugshot from the arresting law enforcement agency.
Harris County Mugshots and Arrest Data
With over 4.5 million residents, Harris County is Texas' most populous county and America’s third most populous county. The county has more than 60 law enforcement agencies which include the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the Harris County Constable Offices, and the Houston Police Department (HPD). These agencies book between 15,000-19,000 arrests annually in over 150,000 reported offenses. Recent trends show the county has a violent crime rate of 20 incidents in every 100,000 residents and a property crime rate of 45 incidents in the same population. Currently, Harris County has some 10,000 persons behind bars representing an incarceration rate of 574 inmates for every 100,000 residents.
At the time of an arrest in Harris County, suspects are held at the local jail of the arresting law enforcement agency unless arrested by the county’s Sheriff in which case, the suspect is detained at the main jail. At whatever jail the suspect is taken, the booking process takes place. This process includes the recording of a person’s personal information, fingerprints, and mugshot. Suspects charged with a violation may not have their fingerprints rolled.
Usually, the local jails at precincts around the county hold less than 20 inmates and some offenders are able to make bail before an arraignment. Otherwise, such suspects are transported to the County’s main jail facility being operated by the Sheriff’s Office within a day or so for arraignment. This mail jail is at 701 San Jacinto and it is one of the four main jails making up the Harris County Jail System. Also, upon the arrest being booked, the law enforcement officer calls in the District Attorney to handle the charges.
Once at the main jail, the defendant is brought before a judge or hearing court officer to determine the probable cause for the case to go on trial and set a specific amount for bail. This arraignment court at the main jail operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Where a probable cause is established for a trial means a continuation in the person’s arrest records and criminal history. Defendants who cannot make bail are committed to the Harris County main jail until the determination of their trial.
Obtaining Certified Arrest Records
Being a public record, citizens may request an arrest record from the local enforcement agency that is the custodian of such records. Most arrests in Harris County are made by the County Sheriff and the Houston Police Department. To obtain a copy of an arrest record from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, submit the request online using the Offense/incident reports form on the office’s website. Alternatively, download and complete the request form, and submit by mail to:
Harris County Sheriff’s Office
ATTN: Custodian of Records/Legal Department
1200 Baker Street
Houston, TX 77002
To obtain a record of arrest handled by the Houston Police Department, contact the Identification Division in person at the basement level of the office at 1002 Washington Avenue. Ensure to come along with a copy of a government-issued ID. The police department also acceptsa request by U.S. mail to the office address above. Indicate the 'Identification Division' on the mail along with the address. When making a request by mail, include a copy of a valid ID and a set of fingerprints prepared by an accredited law enforcement agency. An arrest record is only released to the subject of the information otherwise the subject would have to sign a release. For more information on requesting an arrest record, contact the Identification Division (ID) by calling (832) 394-4880.
Harris County arrest records can also be obtained at the Harris County District Clerk’s Office. The District Clerk maintains records of all arrests made by any law enforcement agency within the county. Available records can be verified online via the Background Check page on the Clerk’s website. A search on the page requires the defendant SPN, case number, or defendant name. Registered users can purchase an electronic copy from the site at $5 per copy. A request can also be made by calling the District Clerk’s Office at (713) 755-7812 or in person by visiting:
District Clerk’s Office (CJC)
1201 Franklin, 3rd Floor
Houston, TX 77002
Sealing and Expunging Mugshot and Arrest Records
Harris County citizens with arrest records may be eligible to have such records erased from the law enforcement database in pursuant to the Code of Criminal Procedure Chapter 55. Expungement is available to suspects arrested but not charged or charged but acquitted or have the charges dismissed. To determine one’s eligibility for this privilege, contact the District Attorney by calling (713) 274-5816 or email: DAExpunction@dao.hctx.net. Only ex-offenders with arrest records filed in a District Court or a County Criminal Court at Law can contact the District Attorney for the possibility of eligibility. Citizens with arrest records bearing a Class C Misdemeanor case should contact the Municipal Court where the case was filed.
Consequent upon having an assurance on eligibility is the preparation of the petition for expunction. Contact the District Attorney by email to procure the necessary forms for this process. These forms include the petition for expunction, the order setting hearing, and the final order of expunction. The applicant is advised to make four copies of the expunction petition. Filed the completed documents by mail or in person at:
Harris County District Clerk
Civil/Family Post Trial
201 Caroline, 2nd Floor, Room 250
Houston, TX 77002
Ensure to enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope if filing the documents by mail. There is a base filing fee of $267. This is in addition to other fees for service of the expunction petition and the final expunction order on each law enforcement agency listed in the expunction petition. The fees are payable by money order, credit card, or in cash. Note it takes a minimum of three months to final an expunction order process.
Due to the complex nature of this process, persons with arrest records in Harris County and pursuing a petition for expunction are urged to consult an attorney. For a referral to an attorney, the requestor may contact the Harris County Bar Association at (713) 236-8000 or the Houston Bar Association at (713) 759-1133
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