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Alabama Court Records

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Are Alabama Records Public?

Yes, Alabama records are available to the public unless otherwise exempted from public disclosure by law. Alabama's Public Records Act (Al. Code §36-12-40) grants and guides citizens access to inspect or copy state documents. However, it also restricts certain sensitive or privileged information from being made publicly available. Additionally, the Alabama Open Meetings Act grants public access to all meetings of government bodies in the state. 

Who Can Access Alabama Public Records?

In line with state laws, the only requirement to access public records in Alabama is to be a state resident. Every Alabama citizen can access documents created and maintained by state institutions as long as such documents are not considered confidential or privileged information by law. 

Exempted information, however, may still be available to certain residents. For instance, while registration records about the use of public schools, colleges, or libraries are exempted from public disclosure, parents of a minor child have the right to obtain such records regarding his/her child. Hence, requesters may have to verify from the agency that the specific public record is public or accessible to them.

Accessing Alabama public records typically requires citizens to direct requests to the custodial government agency via mail, in person, or through other provided channels. Request forms are usually available on the agency's website and often require the requester's contact information, valid state-issued identification, and specific record description.

In some cases, public records may also be obtainable electronically through the agency's open database.

Do I Need to State My Purpose and Use When Requesting Public Records in Alabama?

While requesters are not legally required to provide a statement of purpose under the Alabama Public Records Act, state laws inhibit citizens from requesting records to satisfy idle curiosity. Hence, some agencies may ask requesters to state their purpose when requesting public records in Alabama. Examples of valid purposes for requesting public records include

  • For ongoing criminal investigation
  • To prepare for court proceedings
  • Legitimate media or public interest
  • Necessary check during pre-employment

What Records are Public in Alabama?

In Alabama, a wide variety of government documents and files fall under the public record umbrella. Examples of such records include inmate records, bankruptcy records, criminal records, marriage certificates, court records, and sex offender information. 

Alabama Public Court Records

Alabama court records are documents and files that provide information about judicial proceedings of different courts in the state. These documents can be in any format, including paper and electronic, and are maintained by the clerk of the court where the legal action takes place. Alabama public courts records like dockets and transcripts can contain information such as party names, case numbers, dates, and summaries of judicial decisions. 

Interested persons can access Alabama court records online through the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts database, but older records may require directing requests to the clerk of the appropriate court. However, requesters should note that not all court records are public. Some may be unavailable to the public due to confidentiality, court orders may seal others, and some documents provided may have certain sensitive information redacted from a copy. Some examples of exempted records or information include juvenile records, financial information, private information like Social Security Numbers, and records with details about an ongoing investigation.

Alabama Public Criminal Records

Criminal records are rap sheets or official documents that detail an individual’s criminal history as collated from various criminal justice agencies. The Alabama Law Enforcement Criminal Records Department maintains statewide criminal records for Alabama. The information contained in a criminal record covers the apprehension, prosecution, and conviction of the subject and often includes:

  • Full name and known aliases
  • Date of birth 
  • Mugshot/photograph
  • Gender 
  • Physical description
  • Offenses and arrest details
  • Indictment and conviction details

Alabama criminal records are public by law, excluding information like juvenile information, SSN, home address, and other sensitive information that are redacted from copies provided to members of the public. Sealed and expunged criminal records are also unavailable to the public.

To obtain criminal records in Alabama, applicants will have to be fingerprinted, provide a copy of their current photo ID, and send these along with a filled application form, other required documents, and fees to:

Alabama Law Enforcement Agency
Criminal Records and Identification Unit
ATTN: Background Checks
P.O. Box 1511
Montgomery, Alabama 36102-1511

Alabama Public Arrest Records

Alabama arrest records are generally public. However, state laws have restrictions on records containing information on ongoing information, documents involving confidential informants, juvenile arrest records, and records sealed or expunged by court order. Interested persons can obtain arrest records by directing requests containing the subject’s name and date of birth to the arresting agency. 

Arrest records are maintained by the arresting agency, such as the Sheriff’s Office or local police departments. These records often contain information such as the arrestee’s name, date of birth, gender, offense, date/time of arrest, and the arresting agency’s name. However, Alabama public arrest records do not typically include court or conviction information and, as such, should not be used in place of a criminal record.

Alabama Public Bankruptcy Records

Bankruptcy records refer to documents and files that contain information on bankruptcy filings by individuals, businesses, organizations, or married couples. Examples of information contained in a bankruptcy record include case number, parties’ names, filing and closing dates, type of bankruptcy filed, schedules, discharge details, final report, and other documents filed relating to the case.

Since bankruptcy records are technically court records, they are maintained by the clerk of the court where the bankruptcy was filed. Similarly, accessing bankruptcy records involves either accessing the court’s online database (mostly recent cases) or sending requests containing the case details to the specific court clerk. Requesters should note that sealed records and private or sensitive information exempted by law are not publicly available. 

The following are the contact addresses of bankruptcy courts in Alabama under all the districts:

Northern District Bankruptcy Courts:

Eastern Division-Anniston

U.S. Bankruptcy Court,
United States Courthouse,
1100 Gurnee Avenue,
Anniston, Alabama 36201,
Telephone: (256) 741-1500

Northern Division-Decatur,

U.S. Bankruptcy Court,
U.S. Post Office and Courthouse,
400 Well Street,
Decatur, Alabama 35601,
Telephone:  (256) 584-7900

Southern Division-Birmingham

U.S. Bankruptcy Court,
Robert S. Vance Federal Building,
1800 Fifth Avenue North,
Birmingham, Alabama 35203,
Telephone: (205) 714-4000

Western Division-Tuscaloosa

U.S. Bankruptcy Court
Richard Shelby Federal Building and Courthouse,
2005 University Boulevard,
Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35401,
Telephone: (205) 561-1600

Middle District Bankruptcy Courts:

Northern Division-Montgomery

US Bankruptcy Court,
Middle District of Alabama,
Frank M. Johnson, Jr. Federal Courthouse,
One Church Street,
Montgomery, AL 36104

Eastern Division-Opelika

US Bankruptcy Court,
Middle District of Alabama,
George W. Andrews Federal Building,
701 Avenue A,
Opelika, AL 36801

Southern Division-Dothan

US Bankruptcy Court
Middle District of Alabama,
100 W. Troy Street,
Dothan, AL 36303

Southern District Bankruptcy Courts:

Mobile

US Bankruptcy Court,
Southern District of Alabama,
113 St. Joseph Street,
Mobile, AL 36602,
Phone: (251) 441-5391

Selma

US Bankruptcy Court,
Southern District of Alabama,
Federal Building,
Second Floor 908 Alabama Ave.
Selma AL 36701

Alabama Public Birth Records

Alabama birth records provide information on births that happen in the state. They include details such as the subject’s name, date of birth, parents’ names, and place of birth. However, certified copies of birth records or birth certificates are restricted until 125 years after the birth and are strictly available to the certificate’s subject, parents/legal guardians, direct relatives, and legally authorized persons. 

The Alabama Center of Health Statistics maintains records of births that happened in Alabama from 1908 to the present. To obtain certified copies of a birth record, eligible persons must provide valid photo ID, required fees, and complete application forms in person at any county health department or via mail to:

Alabama Vital Records,
P.O. Box 5625,
Montgomery, Alabama 36103-5625

Alabama Public Death Records

Alabama death records are documents that contain details of persons who die in the state. They include details such as the date of death, place of death, deceased’s full name, deceased’s age, and medical details. These records are confidential and strictly available to the deceased’s siblings, parents, direct descendants, and legal representatives until 25 years after the event when it becomes public. 

Records of deaths that happened in Alabama from 1908 till date are available at the Alabama Center of Health Statistics. Interested persons can make requests in person at any county health department or via mail by providing copies of a valid photo ID along with required fees and complete application forms to the:

Alabama Vital Records,
P.O. Box 5625.
Montgomery, Alabama
36103-5625

Alabama Public Marriage Records

Alabama public marriage records provide information concerning marriages that occurred in the state. These details include the date of marriage as well as the spouses’ names, dates of birth, races, and residence state/county. Alabama marriage certificates are unrestricted and maintained by the Alabama Center of Health Statistics. To obtain public Alabama marriage records, one must provide a valid photo ID, required fees, and complete application forms in person at any county health department or via mail to:

Alabama Vital Records.
P.O. Box 5625,
Montgomery, Alabama 36103-5625

The Alabama Center of Health Statistics only has records of marriages that happened from August 1936. To access records of events before this date, direct requests to the County Probate Office that issued the marriage license.

Alabama Public Divorce Records

Public divorce records in Alabama refer to documents that contain information on divorces that happen in the state. These include details such as the divorced parties’ names, divorce dates, residential locations, and court details. The Alabama Center of Health Statistics maintains records of divorces that happened in Alabama from 1950 to the present. 

To obtain copies of a divorce record, interested persons must provide a valid photo ID, required fees, and complete application forms in person at any county health department or via mail to:

Alabama Vital Records,
P.O. Box 5625,
Montgomery, Alabama 36103-5625

For records of divorces that occurred in the state before 1950, direct requests to the County Circuit Court where the divorce was granted.

Alabama Public Inmate Records

Generally, the Alabama Department of Corrections (DOC) maintains records of persons incarcerated by the state of Alabama, whereas county and city jails maintain records of inmates within their respective jurisdictions. Alabama inmate records are considered public by law and are sometimes available online via the jail’s public index or roster. For instance, interested persons can search for current inmates in state facilities by conducting an online Inmate Search on the DOC website. Users need only input the inmate’s Alabama Institutional Serial (AIS) number or search by name. 

Information in Alabama public inmate records may include the inmate’s full name, inmate number, birth year, race, booking details, release date, and correctional facility’s name. To view historical inmate records, interested persons should submit requests containing the inmate’s full name, date of birth, and inmate’s number (if known) to the specific correctional facility or e-mail, mail, or submit filled requests form and requirements to the DOC at:

In-person: 

ADOC Central Office

301 S. Ripley Street, 

Montgomery. Alabama 36104

Mail:

Alabama Department of Corrections

ATTN: Research and Planning Division/Public Records

P.O. Box 301501

Montgomery, Alabama 36130-1501

E-mail: public.records@doc.alabama.gov

Alabama Public Sex Offender Information

Information on sex offenders residing, schooling, or working in Alabama is available on the Alabama Sex Offender Registry, maintained and updated by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. This registry provided information on convicted and registered sex offenders whose offense classifications mandate public disclosure and monitoring, as well as lists of non-compliant and wanted offenders. Users can also register to receive notifications when a sex offender moves into or out of their community. 

To access an offender’s information, conduct a name or location search on the registry and click on an offender in the result list to view details like full name, aliases, physical description/mugshot, convicted offenses, license plate number, addresses, and sex offender classification. Note that users who use information obtained on this public safety resource to harass or commit offenses against registrants shall face legal penalties. 

Alabama Public Property Records

According to Alabama’s Public Records Act, most forms of property records like property deeds, building sketches/photos/maps, and property tax reports fall under the public record category. These public property records include information on property ownership, tax value, property sales, and property characteristics.  However, some property records that contain information on confidential applications and sensitive financial details are restricted from public disclosure. 

Persons interested in obtaining Alabama public property records should note that different government agencies in the state maintain different types of records. For instance, Probate Court Land Records offices maintain land deeds, liens, and plats, whereas the Alabama Department of Revenue or the local Revenue Commissioner keeps property tax records within their respective jurisdictions. 

To look up public Alabama property records, interested persons may use the agency’s search tools or send requests by providing adequate descriptions like property location or the owner’s details to the appropriate record custodian.

What is Exempted Under the Alabama Public Records Act?

Government-maintained records that fall exempt under the Alabama Public Records Act are documents that may pose a risk to an individual’s safety, threaten public peace/ security, or disrupt the activities of an agency due to the sensitive nature of the information contained. 

The following records or information are exempted from public disclosure in line with the Alabama Public Records Act:

  • Chamber records
  • Tax returns
  • Details of ongoing internal investigations of a complaint against a judicial agency
  • Juvenile court probation files
  • Medical records and information protected by attorney-client privilege or other privileges
  • Family court mediation files
  • Evaluations on candidates for judicial agency employment or appointment
  • Financial details like account numbers, credit/debit card numbers and electronic check numbers
  • Personal identifiers like Social Security Numbers and Drivers’ License Number
  • Other personal information of which disclosure would violate one’s right to privacy

Persons interested in exempted records or information may have to prove that they fall under the category of people granted special access to the exempted record or challenge the exemption in court.

How Do I Find Public Records in Alabama?

Finding public records in Alabama can be easier by taking the following steps:

1. Determine the record custodian: The first thing to do after knowing what record you want to get is to find out which state or local agency maintains the record. This is fairly easy to guess. Records on court proceedings, including bankruptcy records, will be with the clerk of the court, information on arrests, criminal background checks, inmates, or sex offenders will be with law enforcement agencies, while health departments mostly maintain vital records certificates. An online search should provide a quick result.

2. Check if the record is public or easily available: Visiting the record custodian's website often provides information on how to get some documents and some restrictions on access. First, check if the record is accessible to you and then check if you have the requirements needed for a record check. Some government sites have open databases where requesters can access public information like inmate rosters, sex offender information, and certain property records. 

3. Choose the best medium for making requests: Most agencies offer two or more options for making a public record request, and this may include:

  • Online requests
  • Mailed requests
  • E-mailed requests
  • In-person or on-site request

Requesters are to choose the most efficient means of making their request or even consider paying extra to expedite the request if the option is available and the record is needed urgently. 

4. Make a request: Get the request form online and fill it with specific record details needed to make finding and retrieving the record easy. A helpful tip is to include identifiers like inmate or case numbers or dates within a request. Remember to double-check all information and include the necessary documents and fees before sending the request to the record custodian.

5. Pay fees and collect copies: When requesting records with no fixed cost, a cost estimate is usually included in the response to the initial request if the request is not denied. Requesters should then pay fees in the acceptable medium. Upon receipt of payment, the custodian will swiftly provide the requested record. 

Can I Find Free Public Records in Alabama Using Third-Party Sites?

Yes, several third-party sites grant free access to Alabama public records. However, some of these sites have questionable data sources, and results may be inaccurate or unreliable. It is, therefore, advisable to use reputable third-party sites to access extensive data pools with advanced search features while protecting one’s confidentiality and personal security.

How Much Do Public Records Cost in Alabama?

Alabama Public Records Act requires government bodies to charge “reasonable fees” when processing public records requests. Generally, standard paper copies of documents cost $1 per page, and certification of paper copies costs $5. However, requesters have to pay the additional cost for special or time-intensive requests like retrieving old or archived records or compiling large records. Certificates, official reports, and statements may come with fixed fees, as seen in the fee schedule of the Alabama Secretary of State.

To reduce record duplication costs, requesters are permitted by law to request electronic copies, inspect records in person, or make copies themselves using personal equipment. However, the custodian may refuse the request for the following reasons:

  • To preserve record integrity
  • To prevent work disruption
  • To prevent record loss, damage, or destruction

Note: Fee waivers for public records requests are only available if the requester is a government agency or agent on official business.

What Happens if I Am Refused a Public Records Request?

A government body may deny public records requests for the following reasons:

  • The request was vague, with a non-specified subject
  • The request was incomplete in some way, like not completing the request form or not providing supporting documents 
  • The agency does not maintain the specified record
  • The record is confidential or private by law
  • The disclosure of the record would be detrimental to the public’s best interest

Record custodians provide reasons for denied access, and in appropriate cases, requesters can send better requests or direct requests to the right agency. However, if the reason is record exemption or the custodian delayed access unreasonably, requesters can only claim relief by filing a complaint in the Alabama State Circuit Court of the county where the custodian office is located. The court then decides whether the requested records are public or excluded from public disclosure.

Note: The Alabama Public Records Act makes no provision for the award of attorney fees if the complainant wins the case, so this step may prove expensive for the public.

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Alabama Public Records