It’s now easier for law enforcement agencies, local and federal, to gain access to criminal court documents in Harris County. Houston Public Radio’s Capella Tucker reports
It used to take a phone call, but now hoping on-line will do. The Harris County District Clerk’s office is making criminal court documents available on the internet.
“We actually have captured right now a million and a half documents going all the way back to 2005 and then the files that are older than that we are continuing to convert those through our back file conversion process.”
District Clerk Charles Bacarisse says the office gets hundreds of phone calls asking for criminal court documents.
“Our criminal public service section had two full time employees dedicated to doing nothing but pulling these criminal files. So now we’ve gone to a scenario where we don’t have to pull this file anymore, but the law enforcement agencies will be able to go right online to the e-gov website and get this data.”
The documents can be used in a variety of ways. Knowing about previous criminal convictions can lead to enhanced charges. But Bacarisse says it’ll be most helpful for Homeland Security dealing with illegal immigration.
“Homeland Security’s division of ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is the first entity to use this system. And it’s really helping them in their deportation hearings and the things that they have to go through in order to deport.”
Bacarisse says deportation hearings happen in a specified time period and having the documents on-line will make getting the information more timely.
“In particular we are working with the group out of Huntsville that is holding criminal aliens there. They want to know exactly who it is they have in front of them so they can match the fingerprints from the data off our system with what they have. They can also perhaps know of other crimes that criminal alien has committed here in Harris County.”
Currently, the online files are not available to the public. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.