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What Are Alabama Traffic Court Records?
Alabama traffic court records are the legal documents and case files created, from the proceedings of the traffic courts in the state of Alabama. These include records related to moving violations & non-moving under the motor vehicle code, within the state of Alabama; traffic tickets issued by law enforcement officers and the documentations of the Alabama Department of Public Safety (DPS) under the aegis of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (LEA) and other relevant documentation related to traffic records within the jurisdiction of Alabama state.
Moving Violations vs. Non-Moving Violations
Moving violations are traffic laws violated by a vehicle in motion, while Non-moving violations which relate to parking or faulty violations. Non-moving violations also tend to occur when the car is moving, but are differentiated by the treatment of the courts and Department of Licensing as non-moving violations are not reported to the Department of licensing.
Are Alabama Traffic Court Records Public Records?
As with all other states, Alabama traffic court records are public records, under the public access to information law, and may be accessed and viewed by members of the public, except where these records have been restricted from public access by a judge. Access to traffic cases record history may be in two different forms:
- An abbreviated abstract that shows a person’s alleged moving violations, the resulting convictions and other administrative consequences such as revocation of license but does not contain information on the person’s parking or equipment violations,
- A complete abstract that contains the whole traffic case history of a person, including all information in the traffic abstract, equipment, and non-moving citations.
Getting a Traffic Ticket in Alabama
An Alabama traffic ticket is also called Uniform Traffic Ticket (UTT) and can either be a handwritten note measuring 4 x 9 inches or a computer-generated long-form measuring the 8.5 x 11 inches. State Police officers use the long-form and provide an additional page called Supporting Deposition. This is a sworn statement from the ticketing officer describing the infraction, misdemeanor, or felony observed.
Fines vary from county to county and municipality to municipality, allowing for different income strata and other factors that influence the effective policing of traffic laws. In most cases, fines tend to be higher in more affluent neighborhoods and cheaper in poorer ones. The state of Alabama is particularly aggressive about punishing repeat offenders to its traffic laws. Even if it’s your first offense, it can be useful to fight it in court so that tickets won’t accrue on your record. Fines and penalties will be much more severe the second time than the first. The most direct of Alabama’s traffic ticket penalties is the points system. Every violation will mean points on your driving record. As they accumulate, you’ll face more serious consequences, right up to license suspension or revocation.
Traffic fines in Alabama vary by court. If you do not pay on time, you will be charged additional late fees. Refer to your traffic ticket to determine your exact ticket amount, deadlines, and penalties. Ticket will include the citation (ticket) number, vehicle description and a description of the observed offense. It also has two checkboxes (for guilty and not guilty pleas) and a court return address. After receiving a traffic ticket, complete one of the two boxes and send it back to the address provided on or before the due date listed on the ticket, within 15 days after receiving the ticket. Failure to respond to a traffic ticket, (within the 15 days) can result in the suspension of your driver’s license and could attract additional fines.
What to Do When You Get a Traffic Ticket in Alabama?
After receiving a traffic ticket in Alabama, you are required to respond and either;
- Plead GUILTY and pay the fine.
- Plead GUILTY and request a mitigation hearing.
- Plead NOT GUILTY and contest the ticket in court.
Ensure some part of either action is taken, as a failure to take any action will lead to more severe repercussions.
If you plead GUILTY to an Alabama state traffic ticket, you have consented to accept responsibility for the violation and agree to all associated penalties, including all fines, fees, and surcharges arising from this plea. You have also consented to waive your right to challenge the ticket in court.
You also have the option of requesting for a mitigation hearing and having your fine reduced or have other actions taken, in place of paying the full ticket fine. To request a mitigation hearing, follow the instructions on the ticket. It will require appearing on the due date and entering the plea Decisions made by the judge at the mitigation hearing cannot be appealed.
- Respond to the ticket either in person, via phone or email (you will need to provide the citation number, full name, and date of birth) before the due date indicated on the ticket.
- If you choose to pay your fine, you can also do so in person, via mail or online.
- If your citation necessitates a court appearance, then this must be done on the date and time stated in the citation.
- If you request a mitigation hearing then you must send in the ticket before the due date, indicating this.
- You may be allowed, by the judge, to plead to a lesser charge or take an Alabama Defensive Driving Course to have the ticket dismissed. This is usually restricted to first-time offenders.
- Points will be added to your driving record; the exact amount depending on the severity of the cited violation and other outcomes. A suspension or revocation of your driver’s license is possible. These additional points on your driving record will also most likely result in an increase in insurance payments.
If you plead NOT GUILTY to an Alabama state traffic ticket, you have decided to contest the ticket in court and should prepare to do so. You consent to this option by checking the appropriate box on the ticket and mailing it to the court at least 24 hours before your court due date.
- You are required to appear in court on your due date to enter your plea. This is not necessarily the trial date and you might need to appear more times in court to receive your verdict and sentencing (if necessary).
- Appear in the court on the designated day and stand for the hearing to obtain your verdict from the judge, and this will be based on the case you present so prepare accordingly. The arresting officer will also be present to testify on the traffic violation.
- If you are found to be NOT GUILTY, the case will be dismissed and there will be no need to pay the ticket fine nor will you have points added to your record. If the judge finds you GUILTY, you will be required to pay all fines, or face the consequences, and will have points added to your driving record.
Irrespective of the outcome of the hearing, it is advisable to regularly check your driving record to ensure it is an accurate reflection of your driving status.
How Do I Find Alabama Traffic Court Records?
Traffic court records may be available online, on each county court’s website. In all jurisdictions, the public may gain access to physical court records by approaching the custodian of all such records, the court clerk’s office. To view or obtain physical traffic court records from any court, the applicant may visit the court clerk’s office where the case was filed and the records were created. The applicant may be able to look through the records free of charge if they do not request a copy. Copying of court records attracts fees. In Alabama, after a traffic conviction is 2 years old, it loses its point count for suspension purposes but is retained on a driver's record. Having a poor driving record or a citation for a similar infraction on one’s record may result in stricter fines and higher insurance liability. Traffic records may also be of interest to employers, insurance companies and other organizations that may consider carrying out a background check.
Publicly available records are also accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.
What information is required to obtain Alabama Traffic Court Records?
Any person interested in obtaining traffic court records must provide necessary information such as the first and last name of the person whose traffic court records are requested. Depending on the type of record required, whether an abbreviated or a complete abstract, the interested person may be required to provide valid identification for verification of their identity. Payment of applicable court fees is also a prerequisite for obtaining court records in Alabama.
Are All Traffic Violations Handled the Same Way, in Alabama?
While the fines and penalties differ for Alabama traffic violations and these are indicated on the ticket, the process for handling a citation is executed in the same manner, regardless of the type or severity of the citation. So while the fine associated with not wearing a seatbelt will most probably be less than the fine for a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated), the process for responding to both citations, and the subsequent processes, will be the same.
Can Alabama Traffic Records be sealed or expunged?
Expungement (or sealing) of records is an option in Alabama if you were found NOT GUILTY of the charge against you. Under Alabama's Expungement Law, you may qualify to have your arrest record expunged or cleared for violations including traffic offenses if you were not convicted. Misdemeanors such as DUI (Driving under Influence) can also be expunged or sealed if you are a first time offender and have the conviction removed from your record. The process requires petitioning the court and a 90-day waiting period is required as well as an administrative fee of $300. Consult with an Alabama attorney to ensure the process is properly executed.
How does one end up in an Alabama State Traffic court?
You end up in an Alabama state traffic court by responding to a citation (ticket) received from a law enforcement officer, for violating the traffic codes or laws. The citation would usually contain:
- The name and address of the traffic violator.
- An allegation that the person has violated a traffic law and a description of the act or failure to act that is contrary to the section of the traffic law quoted.
- The name of the place where the infraction took place as well as the date and time of the alleged violation.
- Description and identifiers such as make, color, model and license plate of the vehicle involved in the violation.
- Information about the issuing officer including their name, badge number, and other pertinent details.
- The citation will also contain information on the alleged violator's rights to contest the citation and how to proceed if they wish to admit responsibility or contest the citation.
- Date and time for the offender to appear in court. By signing the ticket you are promising to appear in court. Though this is not seen as an admission of guilt, failure to sign the ticket will result in your arrest.
Which Courts in Alabama have jurisdiction to hear traffic violation matters?
Many towns and cities in Alabama operate municipal courts, which were designated to primarily handle traffic citations and lower-level misdemeanor crimes. These courts do not normally handle felonies and other serious cases.