A criminal record in Alabama is compiled once a person is arrested and serves as the starting point for offenders as they go through the justice and court system. Since 1908, Alabama has kept public records across all 67 of its counties, currently with more than 45 million transparent public records.
Records within the state are accessible to the general public and when a person is arrested, their fingerprints are taken, information about the arrest processed and then stored.
To help the public access criminal records in Alabama, here’s what you should know:
What is a criminal record?
A criminal record is an official document detailing a person’s criminal convictions, pending criminal cases, prior arrests, and other interactions with law enforcement agencies. Additional names for a criminal record include criminal history record, rap sheet, and a police record.
As with marriage records and court records, criminal records are generally public records in the United States and can be accessed through a criminal background check. However, public access to specific criminal record information varies from state to state. The Alabama Law Enforcement Criminal Records Department includes a Criminal History Section that is in charge of maintaining fingerprint files for all arrested individuals within the state, ensuring that offender information is accurately reported.
In the State of Alabama, criminal records are available to the public for those that would like to access them. However, it’s important to note that searching for criminal records or criminal court cases is not free and can be somewhat challenging.
What is included in an Alabama criminal record?
As criminal records are kept by law enforcement agencies at all levels of government in the United States, an Alabama criminal record may vary in format and content depending on the law enforcement database from which it is accessed.
Generally, an Alabama criminal record will include the following information:
- A person’s full name and possible aliases
- Personal information such as age, date of birth, sex, ethnicity, height, weight, and other physical characteristics
- Fingerprints and mugshot
- Misdemeanor criminal offenses and convictions
- Felony criminal offenses and convictions
- Traffic records
- Past and outstanding arrest warrants
- Prior arrests
- Pending and dismissed charges
Why would someone access a criminal record?
There are many reasons why criminal records are requested.
An individual may want access to their own records. It’s common for people to request their own records to see what’s on them. A criminal record has consequences, and some people want to see their record to get a better understanding of what offenses are listed. Criminal charges could potentially affect a person’s ability to travel or become a U.S. citizen. You also could have a license revoked or lose the right to bear arms. Also, if you already have a criminal record, you could be penalized more severely for any additional crimes committed.
If a person requests their own record, they may find discrepancies. If so, an individual can have records updated. It’s a process to do so, but it’s necessary.
Most commonly, people or businesses search criminal records as a means to run a background check on a particular person. They’re also used by law enforcement and government agencies to identify or locate people involved in unsolved crimes or by the court system to determine an appropriate sentence after a conviction.
What’s the difference between an infraction, misdemeanor, and felony?
When you access a criminal record, the person listed on the record may have an offense listed. Criminal offenses are usually broken into three categories: Infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.
An infraction is a minor violation, a misdemeanor is more serious, and a felony is the most serious type of crime.
To better understand the information listed on a criminal record, here’s a quick overview of each offense and its severity:
- Infraction: A small traffic violation or littering are considered infractions. An infraction is a minor violation of the law. Usually, punishments are a warning or a fine. Typically, no jail time is associated with an infraction.
- Misdemeanor: If someone were to get a DUI or a drug violation, it’s considered a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is more serious than an infraction but less severe than a felony. Jail time of less than a year or probation are usually associated with these types of crimes. Likely, the offender will do time in a local or county jail.
- Felony: Murder, rape, and arson are considered felony charges. A felony is the most serious type of crime. Offenders are typically sentenced to jail for more than a year and are likely held in a state or federal facility.
What is the difference between an Alabama arrest record and an Alabama criminal record?
An arrest record is an official document including the details of a specific arrest. A criminal record is a more comprehensive document that includes a person’s entire criminal background known to law enforcement agencies.
Both types of documents are usually public records in the United States, although information about specific arrests may be sealed and rendered inaccessible to the public for a variety of reasons.
Whether an arrest record or a criminal record is accessed, the information listed is for state crimes only. If a person is involved in a federal crime, this information is not listed on a state record.
How do I search for an Alabama criminal record?
To find a criminal record in Alabama, a person or agency can conduct an online search through the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. This agency, which is directly linked with the Alabama Background Check (ABC) system, ensures that comprehensive criminal records are maintained and updated via a secure website. To begin your search for criminal records, simply complete the ALEA Application to Review Alabama Criminal History Record Information (CHRI).
The Alabama criminal records are expansive and the Automated Fingerprint Identification Services (AFIS) Section is responsible for analyzing, matching, storing, and retrieving fingerprint images to ensure that it is easier for files to be accessed when requested.
The Criminal History Section maintains fingerprint files for arrested offenders within the state of Alabama, as well as deceased persons, and ensures the offender information is accurately reflected in the Criminal History Repository.
Applicants must include a classifiable set of fingerprints from the requestor, which must be taken by a law enforcement agency that is authorized to do so. The fingerprints that are included with the application should be provided to ALEA on an official fingerprint card that is FBI-approved, or an FBI blue card to ensure identification is positive and that the proper criminal records have been reviewed.
The next step is to submit a copy of an updated photo ID, the application, and a $25 payment via cashier’s check or money order to receive a copy in person at the clerk’s office in Montgomery. Several public offices are currently limiting the number of in-person visits due to COVID-19. Anyone planning to visit a courthouse in person should call ahead to ask about business hours and updated regulations that are in place due to the pandemic.
How do I obtain a physical copy of an Alabama criminal record?
The best way to obtain a physical copy of an Alabama criminal record is to contact the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) program by calling 1-866-740-4762 or 334-353-4340. Once contacted, applicants will receive a copy in the mail in approximately 4 to 5 weeks.
The Alabama Background Check System, which is known as one of the most reliable alternative sources within the state to obtain copies of criminal records, is another option.
In order to gain access to files, it requires an annual subscription fee of $95.00 per year. Every Alabama background check conducted through this online application comes with a service fee of $15.00. To receive additional information on how to become a subscriber to the Alabama Background Check System, the email address is [email protected]. Additionally, there is the option to sign up and receive information.
Once contacted, expect to receive official copies of records to a specified address. Note that anyone that requests or seeks criminal records under false pretenses is subject to felony criminal penalties.
How do I search for Alabama criminal case court records?
Unless prohibited by law, any Alabama resident can request access to criminal case court records. The Alabama Judicial System provides criminal case records, allowing access to court documents, case tracking services, and other online services. To access court records, you can visit the Alabama Judicial System website and click on AlaFile to request specific criminal court case records.
If you have trouble accessing records online, you can also reach out to the court clerk in the courthouse where the case was heard. The clerk can provide copies of records as well. You may need to fill out a formal request form to gain access.
Does Alabama allow criminal records to be sealed or expunged?
Alabama law grants expungement of the majority of misdemeanor and felony charges if the charges are resolved in the favor of the individual. Currently, non-violent felonies, misdemeanors, traffic violations, or municipal ordinance violations are eligible for expungement if certain factors are met. Violent felonies can only be eligible if the person was found not guilty by a jury trial or by a judge.
Note that expungement of criminal charges in Alabama is allowed, but the process is not automatic. In order for criminal records to be expunged, action must be taken. It is at the discretion of the judge whether or not to grant expungement and the state of Alabama has a list of 10 factors to evaluate whether or not an expungement should be granted. The list can be found inside the Code of Alabama.
Specifically, certain certified files and records must be obtained, combined with a sworn petition seeking expungement, and filed in the criminal division of the Circuit Court. First, you will need to obtain a certified criminal history record from ALEA plus at least one of the following:
- A certified record of arrest from the corresponding law enforcement agency for the court record
- A certified record of the disposition from the appropriate court for the court record
- A certified record of the case action summary from the appropriate court for the court record
The Circuit Court may also require a hearing before deciding whether to grant an expungement.
Further, to have these records expunged, you must file a separate expungement proceeding in the Circuit Court of the county where your case was prosecuted. An expungement lawyer can help you with preparing and filing the petition.
In addition to fees charged by a lawyer, individuals must pay $300 in fees and court costs. For felony offenses, a wait time of five years is necessary before any charges can be eligible for dismissal. Generally, it may take between two to four months to have a criminal record expunged.
How can I have false information on an Alabama criminal record corrected?
False information can be corrected on an Alabama criminal record through the court clerk’s Office, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), Law Enforcement, and the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). You have the option of making a written request to remove any false charges or information, with the best route through attorney representation.
How long are Alabama criminal records kept on file?
Alabama criminal records are updated regularly and remain on file forever. Any convictions of a criminal nature, whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony, stay on records indefinitely. The state of Alabama keeps all records in a database, removing only those that are expunged or sealed by a judge.