Record Request FAQs

What is the Alabama Open Records Act?

Code of Alabama 1975, § 36-12-40 provides that “[e]very citizen has a right to inspect and take a copy of any public writing of this state, except as otherwise expressly provided by statute.” The Alabama Supreme Court has defined a “public record,” as used in § 36-12-40, as “‘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.’ Stone v. Consolidated Publishing Co., 404 So. 2d 678, 681 (Ala. 1981).” See Op. Ala. Atty. Gen. 2001-063, to the Honorable Jack Biddle, III (Jan. 5, 2001).

Who can make a request for records under the Open Records Act?

Alabama citizens may inspect and take a copy of any public record maintained by the Alabama Department of Public Health (the “Department”), unless the record is exempt from public disclosure.

How do I make a request for copies of records under the Open Records Act?

Before making a request, first look to see if the information you are interested in is already publicly available on the Department’s website at

If the information you want is not publicly available, you can complete the request form posted on the website and submit your request electronically through the Department’s portal at You may also send your request by mail to the address below, or you may present your request in person. All requests must be in writing, using the Department’s request form, and reasonably describe the records you are seeking. You may also be asked to provide proof of residency in Alabama in order to process your request. Acceptable proof includes a valid Alabama driver’s license, a photo ID license or any other state or city government issued photo ID that includes your address.

When sending your request by mail, please use the following address:

Public Records Request

Alabama Department of Public Health

P.O. Box 303017 

Montgomery, AL 36130-3017

How do I make a request to inspect records under the Open Records Act?

Access to public records will be provided at the Department’s Central Offices, located at the RSA Tower, 201 Monroe Street, Montgomery, Alabama, or at the local County Health Department (if personal medical/clinic records are being requested) during normal office hours of 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Record inspections must take place within the Department’s offices at a time to be designated by the Department, in order to pull records and minimize disruption. A written request form must also be completed in order to inspect documents, and proof of Alabama citizenship may be required. Acceptable proof includes a valid Alabama driver’s license, a photo ID license or any other state or city government issued photo ID that includes your address.

Do I have to use a special form to make a request?

You will be asked to complete the Department’s request form when submitting your request. The form may be found at You may complete and submit it online or download it for printing and mailing to the address listed above.

What can I ask for under the Alabama Open Records Act?

An Open Records request can be made for any Department record. You can also specify the format in which you wish to receive the records (for example, printed or electronic form); however, the Open Records Act does not require agencies to create new records or to conduct research, analyze data, or answer questions when responding to requests. Agencies are only required to produce copies of documents already in existence, in their final form.

Who handles Open Records requests?

Once submitted, your request will be forwarded to the bureau or section within the Department that maintains the records subject to your request. Department staff will search for all responsive records and submit them back to the portal for review and any necessary redactions before they are released to you.

How much does it cost to obtain the requested records?

Copies of meeting minutes, department forms, bureau records, and county health department records maintained in hard copy may be obtained at a cost of a $5 retrieval fee plus $1 per page for the first 25 pages and $.50 for every page thereafter, unless otherwise provided by law or rule.

Copies of records maintained electronically, including messages and attachments exchanged via electronic mail, or for record searches related to extraordinary events, such as public health emergencies of any kind, may be obtained at a cost of a $25 retrieval fee plus $.10 per page, unless otherwise provided by law or rule. Copies of records pertaining to extraordinary events may be provided to members of the press who are not citizens of the state, subject to the requested charge. See Ala. Admin. Code r. 420-1-5-.04.

Invoiced charges must be paid in full by check or money order, made payable to the Alabama Department of Public Health, before records can be provided.

You may always include in your request letter a specific statement limiting the amount that you are willing to pay in fees. If the Department estimates that the total fees for processing your request will exceed your stated limit, it will notify you in writing and offer you an opportunity to narrow your request in order to reduce the fees. If you agree to pay fees for a records search, you may be required to pay such fees even if the search does not locate any releasable records.

Can the fees for records be waived?

Fees may be waived in the case of requests by governmental agencies or indigent persons. See Ala. Admin. Code r. 420-1-5-.04.

What will I receive in response to an Open Records request?

Once the Department has processed your request, it will send you a written response. This response will let you know whether records were located and will include an invoice for copies of all releasable documents. If any portions of the records are withheld for any reason, the Department will inform you of the specific exemption that is being applied.

How long will it take to receive a response?

The Department typically processes requests in the order of receipt. The time it takes to respond to a request will vary depending on the complexity of the request and any backlog of requests already pending. A simple request can be processed faster than one that is complex. Simple requests are typically more targeted and seek fewer pages of records. Complex requests typically seek a high volume of material, have broad search terms, or require additional steps to process, such as the need to search for records in multiple locations.

Can my request be expedited or processed faster than usual?

The Department does not expedite requests.

What kinds of information CANNOT be provided under an Open Records request?

Not all records are required to be released under the Open Records Act. The public does not have a right to an inspection of public records “in instances where the purpose is purely speculative or from idle curiosity, or such as to unduly interfere or hinder the discharge of the duties of such offices.” Holcombe v. State, 200 So. 739, 746 (Ala. 1941).

The following categories of records are also protected from disclosure under the Alabama Open Records Act:

  • “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 (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.” See Ala. Code § 36-12-40.
  • Investigative materials, sensitive personnel records, medical or clinic records, notifiable disease records, records of epidemiological investigations, pending criminal investigations, recorded information received by a public officer in confidence, and records that are proprietary by statute, case law, or rule are not “public records” per se and are protected from public disclosure and inspection.
  • Documents containing an individual’s Protected Health Information (“PHI”) cannot be produced or must be redacted. PHI includes names, dates of birth, Social Security Numbers, addresses, phone numbers, medical record numbers, diagnoses, email addresses, account numbers, etc.
  • Documents marked as Confidential, restricted from distribution, or for internal use only will not be produced.
  • Deliberative documents are not subject to disclosure as public records.
  • Draft documents are not subject to disclosure. Only completed records in final form are subject to the Open Records Act. “...the Public Records Law only contemplates the dissemination of completed records in final form." Opinion of the Alabama Attorney General to the Honorable Jim Bennett, Op. No. 2014-087 (Aug. 22, 2014). Preliminary information or incomplete records are not considered to be public records subject to dissemination under the Alabama Open Records Act. Op. No. 2014-087, citing Asbury Park Press, Inc., v. State Dep't of Health, 558 A.2d 1363, 1368 (N.J. Super. Ct., App. Dist. 1989).
  • The Department is not required to assimilate information in a particular format in order to respond to a request for records.
  • Data requests must proceed under a separate track, pursuant to a written agreement between the Department and a requestor.

Do I need to submit a request under the Open Records Act to obtain a copy of a birth or death certificate or my personal medical records?

A public records request is NOT required for material available on ADPH’s website or for copies of birth or death certificates or other vital records. Vital records may be obtained directly from the ADPH Center for Health Statistics at and  Copies of personal medical records from visits to your County Health Department, including immunization records, may be obtained directly from the local County Health Department.

How can I file an appeal from the Department’s decision denying my request for records?

You may file an appeal with an Alabama court of competent jurisdiction if you are not satisfied with the Department’s response to your request.