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Alabama Public Records

Prior to 1923, there were no laws in the state of Alabama with regards to access to public records.  Any request for such was dealt with under common law precedence.  Now, with one of the shortest public records laws, the state of Alabama tries to be clear in few words what is covered and what is not. However, the courts have often had to interpret the meaning due to its brevity.

Alabama Public Records Laws

Alabama Code Section 36-12-40covers public records disclosure in the state and says that “every citizen has a right to access public records.”  This has been deemed to include all citizens of the U.S., members of the news media, corporations and professional organization.   It does not include prisoners, however.  The custodian of the particular records may ask for the purpose of the request and “idle curiosity” is not a valid purpose in the state of Alabama.

Records that are not available, or are exempt, include:

  • Records pertaining to the use of public libraries
  • Information that may affect the security or safety of individuals if released
  • Records that are made confidential by statute
  • Certain judicial records

As to how to obtain the records, the law only says that citizens should have “reasonable access” so it would depend on which agency you are requesting records from and their particular procedures.

Alabama Criminal Records, Arrest Records and Background Checks

Alabama has a specific criminal background check system, through ALEA (Alabama Law Enforcement Agency) that it uses to check criminal histories and that qualified employers can subscribe to in order to conduct criminal background checks.  While you can obtain your own background report, unless you are a qualified employer in Alabama, you cannot obtain someone else’s report.  Employers who qualify to use the state’s system can run checks on current employees, prospective employees, and volunteers.

Alabama Jail and Inmate Records

The Alabama Department of Corrections makes certain information available about people who are housed in the state’s various correctional facilities.  You can find out where they are, their anticipated release date, and usually why they are being held.  To search for an inmate, the state has its own search page, where you will need to enter the inmates AIS#, First Name, and Last Name.

Alabama Court Records

Access to Alabama court records depends on the court and the type of case.  Most court case records (criminal, civil, small claims, traffic, domestic, child support) can be accessed online through the state’s On-Demand web portal.   Any citizen can set up an account, pay to search for a case by name or case number, or even pay for lifetime case monitoring.

You can also get documents directly at the courthouse and find more information about the various courts at the Administrator of the Courts.

Alabama Vital Records

Current vital records for birth, death, marriage and divorce are kept by The Center for Health Statistics.  However, historical records depend upon the type of record and the date.

Birth records: Alabama did not require recording of birth certificates until 1908.  Most birth records list the date of birth, place of birth, sex, and race, but not the name of the child.  Names of parent and attending physician are often listed.  For birth records older than 125 years, you have to be either an immediate family member to make a request or have written permission from the next of kin.

Death records: Death certificates were also not recorded in Alabama until 1908.   For death records older than 25 years, you have to be an immediate family member to make a request or have written permission from the next of kin.

Marriage Certificates:  Marriage certificates began in the state of Alabama in 1936, and most certificates show the names of the husband and wife as well as the presiding official.

Divorce Certificates: Divorce records were not kept until 1950, and most records show only the names of the parties involved and the date.

Any of these records can be requested online through a partnership that the state has with VitalCheck, or through the mail.


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