Alabama FOIA procedures
Each state varies slightly in the procedures used to gain access to public documents. This article serves to describe specifically the steps used in Alabama.
How to request public records in Alabama
The law is quiet as to the exact method for submitting an open records request and does not even require departments in Alabama to nominate an official public records representative. The law is also silent as to whether written and verbal requests are both acceptable.
Who may request public records?
The Alabama Public Records Law states that any "citizen" may request records from public agencies in Alabama. While it is unclear if the law means citizens of the state or the nation, recent Federal court rulings have eliminated the opportunity for states to limit access to records to only citizens of the state. For more information, please see Lee v. Minner.
Purpose and use
The Alabama code does not require a purpose to be stated in a records request and does not limit the use of records to specific actions. However, Alabama case law has altered this slightly with a number of rulings that both permit agencies to ask about the purpose of the records request (Blankenship v. City of Hoover) and to prevent idle requests made for mere curiosity (Holcombe v. State ex rel. Chandler).
- See also: How much do public records cost?
Reasonable fees may be assessed for the time, research, and preparation it may take to respond to a public records request. Per a 1998 Attorney General opinion, fees may not be assessed for an attorney to review the public documents for possibly confidential material.
- See also: Request response times by state
The time frame within which a public entity must respond to an open records request is not addressed by the Alabama Public Records Law. It does however indicate that once all fees are paid, the department must promptly respond to the record request.
There are two types of records specifically exempted from the Alabama Public Records Law:
- registration and circulation records and information concerning the use of the public, public school or college and university libraries of this state
- records concerning security plans, procedures, assessments, measures, or systems, and any other records relating to, or having an impact upon, the security or safety of persons, structures, facilities, or other infrastructures, including without limitation information concerning critical infrastructure (as defined at 42 U.S.C. §5195c(e) as amended) and critical energy infrastructure information (as defined at 18 C.F.R. §388.113(c)(1) as amended), the public disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to be detrimental to the public safety or welfare, and records the disclosure of which would otherwise be detrimental to the best interests of the public
State of Alabama
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