According to Section 36-12-40 of the Code of Alabama, "every citizen has a right to inspect and take a copy of any public writing of this state, except as otherwise expressly provided by statute." When available, public records for the state of Alabama may be searched through the access of free public records over the Internet by searching the database of the record holders or by making a request for a copy directly from the agency that holds the public records that you need.
For some public records searches, you will need to know a few intimate details in order to locate the specific documents that you require. For example, if you need to access marriage records, you will need to know the name, the date the marriage took place, the name of the spouse and the county in Alabama where the marriage license was purchased. In addition, if it is divorce records that you seek, these are available through the city court where the divorce took place.
Even though some public records for the state of Alabama are available online, many are not updated as regularly as they should be. In fact, if you need to access public records in Alabama, the best way is to go directly to the source and simply ask for access to the public records that you wish to see.
On the contrary, you should be aware that although they are bound by law to provide public records upon request, not all of the record keepers currently live up to that law. It seems as though some officials in the state of Alabama are actually unsympathetic to the needs of the public and will simple refuse to provide you with the public records that you request unless they are forced to do so by a judge.
A survey was conducted that covered all 67 counties and 192 cities within the state of Alabama. That study revealed that as few as 45% of sheriff's offices provided incident or offense reports, only 61% of police departments were willing to supply such reports and a mere 63% were willing to provide access to jail logs.
In addition, not all of the records in Alabama are in fact public records. Any documents that contain sensitive information, such as information related to an ongoing criminal investigation, will not be provided to the public. You should also know that you might be charge a reasonable fee for making copies of public records, searching for specific public records, etc.
You should be able to obtain access to birth records and death records, usually for a fee and some special searches may be available for an hourly rate. Marriage records are accessible to the public, which generally also requires payment of a small fee.
A broad definition by the Supreme Court for “public writing” states, “Such a record as is reasonably necessary to record the business and activities required to be done or carried on by a public officer so that the status and condition of such business and activities can be known by our citizens.”
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