Alabama Court Records
Instant Access to State, County and Municipal Public Records
Are Alabama Court Records Public?
The Alabama Public Records Law is a series of laws that guarantee the general public access to the records of all levels of government in the state. It was initially enacted as part of the Alabama Code of 1923 and has been amended several times over the years, most recently in 2004.
The Open Records Act establishes citizens’ rights to inspect and receive copies of public records of the state. All these records are available to citizens unless otherwise expressly made confidential by a state statute. Consequently, records created in Alabama Courts are subject to this law, and most court records are available to the public. Exceptions to this include court records filed under seal and juvenile court records.
Alabama Freedom of Information laws also include the Open Meetings Act. It governs how public meetings are held and ensures that governmental bodies’ deliberative processes are open to the public during meetings.
How Do I Find Court Records in Alabama?
The first step to take when trying to obtain court records in Alabama is to contact the courthouse where the case was heard and the files were retained. Once you have identified the appropriate court, contact the court’s record custodian, typically the Clerk of the Court. Deliver a written request to the Office of the Clerk of the Court for the record you require. The request must include pertinent details to facilitate the search and retrieval of that particular record, such as defendant name, case number, and date. Obtaining a court record in Alabama typically involves a fee that must be paid before the record will be released. The fee may vary for different courts and counties.
It is also possible to locate Alabama Trial Court Records online via Alabama Court Access portal. Fees are charged for the available services based on the search requirements.
Considered open to citizens of the United States, public records are available through both traditional, government sources, and through third-party websites and organizations. In many cases, third-party websites make the search easier as they are not limited geographically or by technological limitations. They are considered a good place to start when looking for a specific record or multiple records. In order to gain access to these records, interested parties must typically provide:
- The name of the person listed in the record. Juveniles are typically exempt from this search method.
- The last known or assumed location of the person listed in the record. This includes cities, counties, and states.
While third-party sites offer such services, they are not government-sponsored entities, and record availability may vary on these sites when compared to government sources.
How Do Alabama Courts Work?
Court systems in the United States are divided into trial courts and appellate courts. The Alabama Courts system consists of three types of courts:
- Courts of Limited Jurisdiction - These include Municipal Courts, Probate Courts, Small Claims Courts, District Courts, and Juvenile Courts. Every county in the state has Probate, District, Small Claims, and Juvenile Courts.
- Courts of General Jurisdiction - These include all Circuits Courts in Alabama. There is a Circuit Court in every county in the state.
- Courts of Appellate Jurisdiction - These include the Appeals Courts (Civil and Criminal) and the State Supreme Court.
The trial court system in Alabama consists of the Courts of Limited and General Jurisdiction and the appellate court system consists of the Courts of Appellate Jurisdiction. The Supreme Court is the ranking legal body in the state and has the authority to review decisions by all the lower courts. It also has the authority to determine certain legal matters over which no other court has jurisdiction. The Appellate Courts - Civil and Criminal - review the decisions of the trial courts. There are 41 Circuit Courts, 67 District Courts, 68 Probate Courts, 273 Municipal Courts, two Appeal Courts, and one Supreme Court in Alabama.
All civil and criminal matters are heard in the trial courts, depending on the nature of the cases and the court with the appropriate jurisdiction. Cases with unsatisfactory outcomes are transferred to the appropriate Appeals Court (Civil or Criminal) and may be moved to the Supreme Court, where a final and binding verdict is given. Civil matters where the amount in dispute is less than $3,000 are heard in Small Claims Court. Civil matters for amounts between $3,000 and $10,000, as well as criminal misdemeanor matters are heard in District Court. Criminal felonies and civil matters where the disputed amount exceeds $10,000 are heard in Circuit Court.
What are Civil and Small Claims Courts in Alabama?
Civil Courts refer to the courts where civil cases are deliberated and judged. Typically, these are either District Courts or Circuit Courts. Civil cases in which the disputed amounts range between $3,000 and $10,000 (exclusive of costs and fees) are heard in District Court. Civil cases for amounts over $10,000 (exclusive of costs and fees) are heard in Circuit Court.
Alabama Small Claims Courts resolve legal disputes where the amount being disputed is less than $3,000. Small claims court is for all intents and purposes part of District Court, though the laws governing small claims differ from regular court rules. Defendants are able to represent themselves in this court.
What are Appeals and Court Limits?
An appeal is a legal process in which a case is reviewed by a higher authority when one of the parties requests a formal change to the final order or judgment. The appeals process begins with filing the Notice of Appeal. The notice of appeal is filed with the Clerk of the trial court within 42 days of the date of the entry of the order or judgment. Civil appeals are heard by the Civil Court of Appeals and criminal appeals are heard by the Criminal Court of Appeals.
The appellant files a brief containing their view of the facts and the legal arguments upon which they seek the reversal of the trial court’s judgement. The respondent is then provided a specified time to file a responding brief. Sometimes the appeals court makes its decision on the basis of the written briefs or they hear oral arguments from both parties before deciding. The Appellate Court does not retry the case. Rather it determines whether errors occurred in the application of the law by the trial court and issues a written brief of its decision.
What Are Alabama Judgment Records?
Judgment records in Alabama are court records that show the court’s final decision in a criminal or civil case. Court clerks create judgment records after the presiding judge makes and declares this decision in court. Generally, these documents exist for cases considered closed or adjudicated by the court. The creation of the judgment record also makes it a public document open for public perusal per the Alabama Public Records Law.
To obtain Alabama judgment records, a requester must visit the clerk’s office in person during regular business hours. The individual must provide the administrative staff with the case information needed to find and retrieve the case file from court archives. These details include the case number, litigants’ names, and the judge’s name if known. The case number will suffice for most searches. Other details help narrow down the search faster.
Meanwhile, when the court administration retrieves the record of interest, the individual may choose to copy the entire case file or specific records. Either way, the court typically charges administrative fees for searching, copying, and certifying the court documents obtained. Cash, money order, certified check, and credit cards are acceptable payment methods for in-person requests. Another way to obtain Alabama judgment records is to use the on-demand service portal for Alabama court records. This service also attracts fees, which the requester must pay before accessing the court records of interest.
Persons who obtain Alabama judgment records can expect to see the litigants’ names, the judge’s name, and judgment date. Also, judgment records contain a brief description of the matter and the court’s decision.
What are Alabama Bankruptcy Records?
Alabama bankruptcy records are documents generated and maintained by U.S bankruptcy courts within the state. TITLE 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code governs the processes for filing for bankruptcy. Residents of Alabama may file for bankruptcy at any one of three federal bankruptcy courts: the Northern, Middle, or Southern District court. The three main chapters of bankruptcy legislation that are most often utilized by people and companies are Chapter 7, Chapter 11, and Chapter 13.
Interested members of the public may access bankruptcy records and related documents, including Alabama Liens, mortgage, title deeds, and contracts, by querying the clerk of courts in the courthouse where the original document was filed.
How Do I Find My Case Number in Alabama?
A case number is a unique reference code assigned to each court case when it is opened. It identifies particulars of the case, such as the year and office it was filed and the judicial officer to whom it was assigned. Case numbers are made available to the defendants when the cases are assigned to the judicial officers in charge. Knowledge of a case number is important for the speedy location and retrieval of a case file or record. There may be added charges for record requests that do not include the case number.
The Alabama Court Access portal allows users to find case numbers using defendants’ names as the search criteria. There is a nominal fee of $9.99 for each case detail search report. The case detail report includes basic case information, court action, case status, setting dates, party information, financial history, and a detailed case action summary.
Can I Lookup Court Cases in Alabama?
It is possible to look up most court cases in Alabama. Court records are generally classified as public records in the state and accessible to members of the public, unless otherwise stated. Certain court records are considered confidential and are only accessible to a specified number of persons, apart from the record owners. Public court records can be accessed via the online portals of the Alabama Judicial System and courts. Alternatively, visit the courthouse where the cases were heard and directly access the records from the Clerk’s Office. There is typically a nominal fee, that varies from county to county, to be paid before the copies of the requested records are released.
Does Alabama hold Remote Trials?
The coronavirus pandemic has necessitated that Alabama courts use remote video and audio communications to hold specific criminal and civil case events. One of the provisions of the CARES Act authorizes the court to use video teleconferencing (or audio where video is unavailable) for specified criminal case events. The consent of the defendant is required for the use of audio and video teleconferencing for the case events. Witness testimonies for depositions and court proceedings can be taken remotely and workers’ compensation settlement hearings may also be conducted remotely.
What is the Alabama Supreme Court?
The Alabama Supreme Court (ASC) is the ranking court in the State Of Alabama and is housed in the Heflin-Torbert Judicial Building in Montgomery, Alabama. It is composed of a Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices who are elected into six-year terms.
The ASC has both judicial and administrative responsibilities in the state. It has the authority to review decisions by any lower court in the state. The ASC supervises the Unified Judicial System of Alabama and makes rules governing administration, practices, and procedure in Alabama Courts. The Chief Justice functions as the head of the Alabama Judicial System. The ASC also has the authority to determine certain legal matters over which no other court has jurisdiction. Appeals from the Alabama Public Service Commission and appeals where the disputed amounts exceed $50,000 are under the exclusive jurisdiction of the ASC.
Alabama Court of Appeals?
The Alabama Court of Appeals (ACA) has no juries or witnesses and does not try cases. It reviews the actions and decisions of trial courts by revisiting the records on questions of law and allegations of procedural errors. The ACA was separated into two divisions - Criminal and Civil - in 1969 from the unitary system that had existed since 1911.
The Criminal Court of Appeals consists of five judges who are elected into six-year terms; one of whom is elected as the presiding judge by the court members. The court is held at the Heflin-Torbert Judicial Building in Montgomery, Alabama. The Criminal Court of Appeals hears all appeals of felonies, misdemeanors, and city ordinance violations and all post-conviction writs in criminal cases.
The Civil Court of Appeals also consists of five judges on six-year elected terms. The most senior judge on the bench serves as the presiding judge of the court. The Civil Court of Appeals hears civil matters, including those related to domestic relationships and child custody cases. It also has original appellate jurisdiction over all appeals where the amount disputed is under $50,000. Appeals from state administrative agencies, except the Public Service Commission, in which the judgment was entered in Circuit Court are also heard by this court.
Alabama Circuit Court?
Alabama Circuit Courts are the trial courts of general jurisdiction in the state and they hear both civil and criminal cases. There are 41 judicial circuits in Alabama, each with its own court.
Circuit Courts have the authority to hear civil matters in which the disputed amount exceeds $3,000. This authority becomes exclusive if the disputed amount exceeds $10,000. Circuit Courts are trial courts for felonies and some misdemeanor and lesser included offenses. They also have appellate jurisdiction over certain cases that arise from trial courts of limited jurisdiction.
There are 148 Circuit Court judges divided among the 41 judicial circuits in Alabama. Circuit Court judges are elected to six-year terms, with no limit on the number of terms. However, judges are ineligible for re-election once they have passed the age of 70.
Alabama District Court?
Alabama District Courts are the state trial courts of limited jurisdiction and they hear both civil and criminal cases. There are 67 District Courts spread across the State of Alabama. District Courts hear most misdemeanor cases, some ordinance violations, felony preliminary hearings, and guilty pleas for felonies without the death penalty. District Court will generally hear ordinance violation cases in locations where there are no Municipal Courts. District Courts hear civil cases where the disputed amount is less than $10,000, excluding interests and costs. They have exclusive jurisdiction over small claims cases - cases where the disputed amount is less than $3,000.
There are 98 Court judges in the 67 Districts in Alabama, who are elected to six-year terms. Like all other judges in Alabama, they are restricted from re-election once they have passed 70 years of age.
Alabama Probate Court?
Alabama Probate Courts are non-jury trial courts that have complete jurisdiction over probate matters and the administration of estates. They hear cases regarding wills, estates, conservatorships, guardianships, land partition, and name changes. Probate Courts ensure the proper distribution of the assets and debts of deceased persons and adjudicate the validity of wills.
There are 68 Probate Courts and judges in the State of Alabama.
Alabama Municipal Court?
Alabama Municipal Courts are locally funded courts established under the Alabama State Code. They hear cases involving violations of municipal ordinances, misdemeanors, traffic, and parking offenses. Cases heard in Alabama Municipal Courts come with fines of no more than $500 and jail time of no more than one year. Municipal Courts do not have jury trials and are presided over by the judge who determines the outcome of the case. Trials are presided over by a locally appointed or selected Municipal Court judge and each court has its own prosecutor. Convictions in Municipal Court can be appealed to the local county Circuit Court. There are 273 Municipal Courts in the State of Alabama.