What are Alabama Juvenile Court Records?
Alabama juvenile court records are official recordings of judicial proceedings held in the Alabama Juvenile Courts. In Alabama, the Circuit and District Courts have concurrent authority to hear juvenile cases filed within the state. In addition, the Circuit Circuit has appellate jurisdiction over the District Court’s juvenile cases except for cases that are appealed directly to the Courts of Civil or Criminal Appeals according to Ala. Code § 12–11–30(3) and Rule 28(A). Juvenile court proceedings are conducted as directed by statutes, case law, and court rules (Alabama Rules of Juvenile Procedure),, and records are maintained by the court in physical, electronic, audio, or other media formats, as provided by law or court rule.
What Information is Contained in an Alabama Juvenile Record?
Per Ala. Code § 12–15–102(3), any individual under 18 years of age and involved in a delinquency case before their 18th year, is deemed a child. Records generated by the juvenile courts are considered confidential and cannot be disseminated to any person or party unless permitted by law. An Alabama juvenile record contains the legal and social record, criminal sex offender information, and Criminal Justice Information System records of a child, as well as:
- Court notices, motions, orders, and memoranda
- Medical, psychiatric, and psychological records
- Records of juvenile probation, supervision, and detention
- Certificates of birth
- Predisposition reports
- The Department of Human Resources and the Department of Youth Services’ records
- A child/child’s family identifying information
- Personalized service plans
What Cases are Heard by Alabama Juvenile Courts?
Juvenile cases heard before the Circuit or District Court judges in Alabama generally concern dependency actions, children in need of supervision, and children charged with delinquency acts. These cases are as follows:
- Child in Need of Supervision:
- Children who leave or stay away from home without the permission of their parents or legal guardians/custodians
- Children beyond the control of parents or legal guardians/custodians
- Habitually truant children
- Children charged with committing status offenses
- Delinquency: felonies, misdemeanors, or violations of state, county, municipal, or federal laws except offenses cited under Ala. Code § 12–15–204 where the offender will be tried as an adult. These nondelinquent offenses include capital crimes, felonies where a deadly weapon was used, Class A felonies, felonies involving death or severe physical injury, drug trafficking, among others
- Dependency cases: child abuse, abandonment, and neglect; adoption cases involving children who violated laws; children without parental care or supervision; and other actions requiring care or supervision described under Ala. Code § 12–15–102(8), except custody disputes
- Termination of parental rights
- Proceedings under the Interstate Compact for Juveniles and Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (Title 44, Chapter 2 of the Alabama Code)
- Juvenile criminal sex offender violations
- Other civil and criminal jurisdictions of the juvenile courts are outlined in Ala. Code §§ 12–15–115 and 12–15–116, respectively
Who is Eligible to View Juvenile Records in Alabama?
While Alabama juvenile court records are closed to the general public, Ala. Code § 12–15–133 authorizes the copying or inspection of these records by specific persons, agencies, entities, or institutions, including:
- The judge
- Juvenile probation officers
- Approved juvenile court personnel and contract staff
- Agencies or departments offering child supervision or with custody of a child
- The subject of the record
- The subject of the record’s legal counsel and guardian ad litem
- Parents, legal guardians, and legal custodians. However, parents whose rights have been terminated cannot access juvenile records
- The Alabama Sentencing Commission as directed by Ala. Code § 12–25–11
The principal of a school that a child attends or the principal’s representative may, upon written request to the court, gain permission to access juvenile records. A victim of a juvenile crime can also inspect or copy motions, petitions, notices, or dispositions related to a case. Furthermore, the court may allow a prosecutor, agency, or department representing the state to access certain juvenile information, reports, or records upon demonstrating a legitimate need. The court may, as well, disclose statistical information of confidential cases provided that the identity of parties involved in the cases cannot be determined.
Under Alabama law, anyone who releases or intentionally allows identifying information of a child or child’s family to be used by unauthorized parties, is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor and will be prosecuted in the juvenile court. Such a person is also liable to civil penalties.
How to Find Juvenile Records in Alabama
Alabama juvenile records are not open to the public under any circumstance except those prescribed by law. Therefore, only parties eligible under Ala. Code § 12–15–133(c) may have access to these records. To find a specific juvenile case, entitled parties may request access from the District or Circuit Court that handled the case.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
Can you Lookup Alabama Juvenile Records Online?
No, there are no online public access platforms provided by the courts to access juvenile records remotely. All record copying and inspection requests must be made directly to the court where the case was filed. Subject to Ala. Code § 12–15–133(f), the court may provide confidential juvenile legal files on an automated information sharing system to authorized parties including a prosecutor, child’s attorney, department, agency, or child’s guardian ad litem.
Do Alabama Juvenile Records Show up on Background Checks?
No, Alabama juvenile records do not show up on criminal background checks. The law on the confidentiality of juvenile records is definitive in the release of such records to specific parties, and punishment for unlawful release. It is illegal for prospective employers and other ineligible persons, as described above, to access records of juvenile proceedings in Alabama. Defaulters are liable to a fine not exceeding $6,000 and a prison sentence of up to a year.
How Long are Juvenile Records Kept in Alabama?
According to Rule 31(J) of the Rules of Judicial Administration, record retention schedules do not apply to juvenile records in the State of Alabama. Neither do the statutes indicate a specific timeframe for the retention of juvenile records by the courts. Juvenile legal and social records and files are maintained by the court permanently. However, a record, and all related documents or reports, can be destroyed by filing a motion 5 years after the subject of the proceeding reaches the legal age, provided the person has no pending convictions or adjudications and has not been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor involving drugs, violence (or threats of it) a sexual offense, or weapons.