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Alabama Court Records

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Alabama Arrest Records

Alabama arrest records are official documents  pertaining to an individual's apprehension and detention. A person is said to be arrested when they are physically detained by law enforcement on suspicion of committing a crime. If the individual is questioned by law enforcement or issued a citation, it does not qualify as an arrest.

Police officers can lawfully arrest a person after obtaining a warrant from a judge. The arresting officer will be required to have witnessed the individual committing the crime or have probable cause to believe that the individual is about to commit a crime or has broken the law.

In almost every case, arrested individuals are booked following apprehension. The booking process involves collecting their name, date of birth, description, list of charges, location of arrest, case number, and other information that comprise the arrest record. The law enforcement agency that initiated the arrest is typically the custodian of the individual's arrest records, although other agencies may create further information related to the case.

According to the Crime in Alabama Report, there were 123,399 arrests in the state in 2022. Of those arrests, 120,205 were adult arrests, and 3,194 were juvenile arrests. Part II adult arrests, which cover a range of non-violent crimes, represented the highest arrest category, at 107,130. Jefferson County, Alabama, had the highest number of arrests (36,638) for any county in the state.

Alabama arrest records promote transparency, help in parole decisions, and provide courts with pertinent information concerning the suspect. They also ensure residents of the state can find out details about any person's arrest, especially the type of crime they've been charged with and the frequency of their arrests. 

Are Arrest Records Public in Alabama?

Yes, arrest records are treated as public records under Alabama law. Ala. Code § 36-12-40 declares that members of the public are legally permitted to access and obtain copies of records generated by public agencies during their official business. The law implicitly applies to documented detention reports. 

The law also charges the custodian of these records to make them available for inspection or duplication upon request. However, it limits public access to information it deems confidential in the interest of the public, government, and crime victims. These exceptions include:

  • Juvenile Arrest Records - Ala. Code § 12-15-133 prohibits releasing arrest reports of individuals under 18 years old. It also restricts access to other juvenile records, such as legal documents, probation information, and medical records.
  • Expunged Records - Ala. Code § 15-27-1 through § 15-27-21 details processes, prerequisites, and limitations for expunging criminal records from public access. Once a Circuit Court reviews and grants an individual's request for expungement, their arrest records become restricted from the public. 
  • Investigative Reports - Ala. Code § 12-21-3.1 prevents the disclosure of investigative materials and information gathered by law enforcement unless access is explicitly granted by court order in specific situations.
  • Information Restricted by Statute - Records will be restricted from the public if a federal or state law deems it confidential. Some of these records include mental health information and sensitive financial records.

What is Included in Alabama Arrest Records?

Alabama arrest records contain information that can be used to identify arrested individuals, the nature of their alleged crimes, and the circumstances surrounding their arrest. Typical arrest records include the following:

  • Personal information: The individual's full legal name, known aliases, skin complexion, height, hair and eye color, date and place of birth, and gender
  • Arrest details: Date, time, arrest location, and circumstances of arrest, type of offense (misdemeanor or felony), and charges
  • Agency details: Name of agency handling the apprehension and detention, arresting officer's name and badge number, and law enforcement tracking or processing numbers tied to the arrest
  • Booking data: Biometrics (fingerprints and mugshots), identifiable marks, tattoos, scars, and the date and time the individual was processed
  • Judicial information: The court jurisdiction where the individual's guilt or innocence will be determined, such as circuit, municipal, or district court
  • Release information: Bail amount and other release conditions and the precise date and time the individual was released from custody

Find Public Arrest Records in Alabama

Finding a public arrest record in Alabama records involves different processes, from identifying the record's custodian to understanding the search process. The following is a general guideline for engaging in an arrest record search in Alabama:

Identifying the record and gathering pertinent information

Individuals must determine the type of arrest record they want to obtain and the purpose it serves. For example, some requesters may be looking for records to find out where their loved ones are being detained. They need the name of the arrestee to initiate the search.

The type of record they require can also guide the process. Criminal records, for instance, are different from arrest records and involve a different search process. Another reason to know the type of record in question is to locate the custodian. Some arrest information may be created and maintained by police departments, while others may be in the custody of the county sheriff's office.

Discovering the Record's Custodian

The type of record an individual needs can point them to the right agency. Knowing where to look is the next step in the search process. Most initial arrest records are typically in the custody of the arresting agency. If the inmate is processed to a county jail, additional records may be created at the facility.

Searchers can start by finding out where the crime and arrest occurred. That way, they can trace the arresting agency or detention facility where the inmate is being held.

Understanding the Request Process

People searching for a detained person's details can contact the arresting agency to learn how to obtain the records. The police department or sheriff's office may provide a specific means of request, such as in-person, mail-in, online, or telephone requests. In some cases, fees may be involved for copying and certifying the record.

While individuals can find information on the agency's website, they are free to call or visit.

Obtaining a Subpoena

Individuals may sometimes have to go through the state's court system to obtain records. Some police departments and sheriff's offices may reject requests for arrest records they believe are protected by law. In that case, the requester may petition a court and secure a subpoena instructing the record custodian to produce the requested arrest information.

According to Rule 45 of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure, courts handle and issue subpoenas intended to command the release of documents and records.

Before asking the court for the subpoena, inquirers must initiate a civil legal proceeding against the agency by filing a summons and complaint and notifying the agency of such proceeding. During the case, the requesting party must send a Notice of Intent to Serve Subpoena for Production or Inspection to the agency 15 days before submitting their request for the subpoena to the court. The intended subpoena must be attached to the notice.

However, they do not need the court's permission to submit the notice if they send it within 45 days of starting the legal process unless they have already communicated with the defendant about the records. The defendant has 10 days to object to the issuance of the subpoena.

How to Lookup Arrest Records Online in Alabama

Members of the public can find arrest records online in Alabama if the record custodian provides an online resource for viewing and obtaining records. In some cases, they may only be able to access request forms online.

If the arrestee has been moved to a county jail, they can use the inmate search portal provided by the county sheriff's office to locate the individual and view information about their arrest.

Using Third-Party Sites

Some commercial entities provide online services for finding and reproducing Alabama Arrest records. These services typically source data from various government agencies, including law enforcement.

Their systems are more centralized, enabling inquirers to search for arrested persons across the state easily from a single portal. That way, they can find the records they seek without going through different police departments or sheriff's offices.

Commercial background check sites offer their services for a fee. So, individuals are advised to confirm pricing before using them.

How Long Do Arrests Stay on Your Record in Alabama?

Records of arrests in Alabama may be retained on the arrestee's record forever if they do not apply to have such information expunged from their records. There is an almost guaranteed chance of success if the individual is arrested and charged but never convicted. People who have served time for specific misdemeanors and non-violent felonies can also apply to expunge their records after meeting specific requirements.

Expunge an Arrest Record in Alabama

Ala. Code § 15-27 specifies the eligibility requirements and processes for expunging arrest records. Individuals must petition the appropriate court and follow the correct guidelines. The expungement process in Alabama is as follows:

Determining Eligibility to Expunge Records

Intending petitioners must confirm whether they are eligible to file for expungement before initiating the process. Alabama law only allows records to be deleted in specific cases enumerated in Ala. Code § 15-27-1 and Ala. Code § 15-27-2. They must wait for a specific period and meet specific requirements, such as paying fines and serving sentences.

Obtaining Criminal History Records

Ala. Code § 15-27-3(b) mandates petitioners to at least submit the following documents:

  • Their certified criminal record from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency
  • Certified documents pertaining to the charge from the local court or law enforcement agency

However, the Alabama court system advises petitioners to provide additional details as granting the request may only be possible if ALEA and the court can verify the location of the records related to the case.

So, it is recommended to provide the following alongside the aforementioned records:

  • Copies of incarceration, arrest, and booking records from every state, city, and county law enforcement agency related to the case
  • Certified copies of dispositions and case action summaries from every circuit, district, and municipal clerk that may hold records pertaining to the case

Filling Out the Required Forms

After obtaining the required documents, the individual must fill out the Petition for Expungement of Records form provided by the state's unified judicial system.

The form contains fields that allow the petitioner to provide exhaustive information about the records they want to expunge and why they are filing their petition. They will need details in the documents obtained from ALEA and other local and state agencies to complete the form.

They are required to attach every certified document to their petition.

Serving a Copy of the Petition to the Associated Agencies 

Ala. Code § 15-27-3(C) requires the petitioner to serve a copy of the petition to the following bodies and offices:

  • The district attorney of the jurisdiction(s) where the arrest happened and the case was heard.
  • The law enforcement agencies involved in the underlying case.
  • The clerk of the court that handled the case.

They must also attest to serving these bodies with a copy of the petition in the Petition for Expungement of Records form.

Petitioners must note that the district attorney will notify the victim regarding the petition to expunge the record. The victim and the district attorney can then file their objections within 45 days of receiving the notice.

Filing the Petition

After filling out the form correctly, the petitioner must file the petition with the circuit court in the county where they were arrested or their case was heard. For example, an individual can file their petition with the Circuit Court of Mobile County if their case was heard in the City of Mobile Municipal Court.

Paying the Required Fees

Ala. Code § 15-27-4 instructs petitioners to pay a $500 administrative filing fee while filing the petition. The fee does not cover regular docket and court fees and is not affected by the court's decision to grant or deny the petition.

The fee is distributed as follows:

  • State Judicial Administrative Fund - $75
  • Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences - $25
  • District attorney's office - $50
  • Circuit court clerk's office - $50
  • Public Safety Fund - $50
  • County where the incident - $50
  • State General Fund - $100
  • Education Trust Fund - $50
  • Fair Trial Tax Fund - $50

The petitioner must pay for each petition if they request the expungement of multiple arrests and convictions that may have stemmed from those arrests. However, they are only required to pay once if they want to expunge an arrest record and charges tied to that arrest.

The court can waive the fee if the petitioner submits an Affidavit of Substantial Hardship and Order alongside the petition and the court finds them indigent.

If the record contains a court judgment finding that the arrest lacked any foundation of probable cause, the court will waive court costs and docket fees. However, the individual must pay the administrative filing fee.

How Do I Find Recent Arrests in Alabama?

Inquirers may query the arresting agency to find recent arrests in Alabama. While some police departments and sheriff's offices provide online resources for finding arrest records, the information may not be available depending on the arrest timeline.

Are Alabama Arrest Records Free?

Yes. Some information provided online by sheriff's offices and police departments, such as on inmate search portals, is free. However, searchers must pay a fee to copy and certify arrest records.

People who want to find free arrest records can also use third-party services. While these services charge for resources, these sites typically offer limited information to users at no cost.

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Alabama Arrest Records