Victoria County Clerk offers criminal records online
July 23, 2012 at 2:23 a.m.
With a few clicks of the mouse, anyone interested in Victoria County's criminal, civil or probate records can have complete online access to the more than 145,000 files dating back 22 years.
The Victoria County Clerk's Office joined a partnership with iDocket, an online database, in hopes that some of their most frequent customers - bondsmen and attorneys - can find records without searching in the courthouse. The website also includes access to 61 counties across Texas.
Robert Cortez, county clerk, said the county wants to "leverage technology" and improve customer service. The county court joins the district clerk, who already uses the service.
Representing iDocket, Armando Balderrama and his daughter, Amelia Balderrama, gave a presentation Monday to Victoria County Commissioners.
Armando Balderrama said the service is based on a three-tier monthly subscription fee which ranges from $50 to $100, and is open to anyone with Internet access.
"It benefits attorneys who practice in multiple counties," Balderrama said.
With document images, users can see exactly what was in the agreement or petition.
"They'll have access to it and won't have to rely on coming down to the courthouse if they aren't able to," he said.
Amelia Balderrama said although the service is open to the public, many do not use it because of the initial monthly fee. In addition to the "convenience fee" or subscription fee, the database charges $1 per page, the same fee the county clerk charges, to print a page.
The county and iDocket split the revenue 20-80, and the $1 fee goes directly to the county clerk's office.
County Judge Don Pozzi said he wants to form an agreement so the public can access records without the fee. The clerk's office is still open to access records.
"Those are public records," Pozzi said. "I'm not suggesting that we're talking about any prohibitive cost ... I'm amenable to anything that would reduce the cost to our citizens. This is not doing so."
The online company offers free searches for court cases by litigant name to determine a case number. Other free services including the ability to view court case numbers, case types, case styles, case filings, disposition dates and case dispositions; and determine the courts' names, court locations and bondsmen.
Users may also view the names of all parties involved with a case as well as the name of each attorney representing each party.
Cortez said the records on iDocket are excluded from the open records act and a fee can be charged.
According to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot's website, "any information collected, assembled or maintained by or for a governmental body is subject to the Public Information Act."
That includes paper, electronic, microfilm and other formats of the record.
However, "governmental body" includes all state and local level public entities except the judiciary. Private businesses may be considered governmental bodies if they are supported in any way by public funds, but not simply because a private person or business provides goods or services under a government contract.
Cortez said he wants to expand the county's service contract to include land records.
The service will give more access to a wider range of documents and potentially could increase the revenue for the clerk's office, Cortez said.