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Michigan Public Records

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The following is for informational purposes only

What are Michigan Public Records, and How are They Created?

Michigan Public Records

Michigan's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), MCL 15.231 et seq, is the law governing public records for the state. The Attorney General's Office has information about the law and how it works. Each government body has records, and the public may request access, but the government agency can charge a fee for copies. You can request records directly from the Attorney General's Office, but in many cases, you will need to contact the agency directly. Each custodian of records has its own process for handling records requests.

Michigan public records are created by all local and state government agencies, law enforcement, the courts, lawyers, and sometimes even individuals. Each agency creates, collects, stores, and shares these records with the public. However, fees do apply, and you may have to fill out special forms. Some agencies keep their files stored online for easy access. Not all things will be available, though.

Michigan's Freedom of Information Act states "It is the public policy of this state that all persons, except those persons incarcerated in state or local correctional facilities, are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those who represent them as public officials and public employees, consistent with this act. The people shall be informed so that they may fully participate in the democratic process."

The Attorney General's Office can provide guidance with Michigan's Freedom of Information Act, but there is no central agency that governs these laws and enforces them. If, however, someone requests records and cannot gain access, the Attorney General's Office can help.

The Michigan History Center is the agency in charge of keeping and storing all historical public records. Their mission is labeled as "The Archives of Michigan is responsible for preserving the records of Michigan government and other public institutions. The collections also include documents, maps, photographs, and film from private individuals and organizations."


How to Access Michigan Public Records?

How to Access Michigan Public Records

The process for requesting records in Michigan will be different based on the government agency you contact. Each entity has its own process and charges different fees. However, you can find a sample request letter online and use that to request records. Be as specific as possible when making requests. The basic process will include:

  • Contact the government agency you need records from.
  • Find out who is in charge of records requests.
  • Fill out the form and pay the fees.
  • Pick up your paperwork or have it mailed to you.

If you are denied access to records, the Attorney General's Office can help you appeal the decision.


Different Types of Public Records in Michigan

Michigan Criminal Records

The Michigan State Police handle criminal records requests for the state. Per the Michigan Freedom of Information Act., Michigan has set up an online tool so the general public can access criminal histories easily. They call the system the Internet Criminal History Access Tool (ICHAT). You can also purchase traffic reports through them and request other types of public records through their MSP Records Request Portal. They also have a phone number to call and email address for any questions you might have.

Some common types of criminal records in Michigan include (but are not limited to):

  • Felony and Misdemeanor Records - some common misdemeanors in Michigan are disturbing the peace, aggravated assault, embezzlement, resisting arrest, larceny, negligent homicide, and trespassing. Some popular felonies in Michigan include assault with a weapon, third offense drunk driving, second offense possession of marijuana, possession of cocaine, heroin, or controlled substance without a prescription.
  • Jail and Inmate Records - both jails and prisons keep inmate records, and those too are public records. The Michigan Department of Correction has an online search tool you can use to locate criminals and their records.
  • Police Records - local police can provide copies of incident reports, police reports, sometimes mugshots, and even crime scene photos upon request.

Michigan Court Records

Different Types of Public Records in Michigan

Court records in Michigan are created, maintained, and stored by the Michigan Courts. They offer the general public a search tool which you can use to find documents and court cases easily. They also have a search area specifically for attorneys. When searching, you can enter the person's name or an attorney's name. You can also visit each local courthouse in person to obtain records. They have a specific process for requesting them, and you may be able to get copies while you wait, or they may need to be mailed to you if the request is hard to locate.

Some types of court records in Michigan are:

  • Civil Court Records - domestic relations cases such as divorces, marriages, paternity lawsuits, custody and child support cases, estates, conservatorships, wills, civil lawsuits, and small claims lawsuits.
  • Criminal Court Records - criminal filings for misdemeanors, felonies, and other citations. These may include things like trial paperwork, sentencing, prison transfers, and evidence related to the court case.
  • Financial Court Records - bankruptcies, liens, tax issues, company stock filings, and corporate financial reports.
  • Other Court Records - such as bench warrants, arrest warrants, judgments, traffic tickets and other traffic violations, and name changes.

The Michigan court system consists of four levels starting with the Supreme Court, then the Court of Appeals, Court of Claims and Circuit Court, and then District, Probate, and Municipal Courts.

Michigan Arrest Records

State and local police create, store, and share Michigan arrest records. For new arrests, visit the local police station to obtain information. Some may not be available, but general police reports should be, along with the name of the suspect and other information about them. You can also use the State Police criminal history portal to search for arrest records of convicted criminals in the state. Another option is to search the Michigan Department of Corrections for convicted felons and the court records to find related arrest information.

Some different types of arrests records in Michigan are:

  • Drug charges.
  • Murder.
  • Trespassing.
  • Disturbance of the peace.
  • Theft.
  • Possession of narcotics.
  • DUIs.
  • Sexual abuse.
  • Booking details like fingerprints and mugshots.
  • Arrest warrants granted by a judge.
  • Bench warrants for not appearing in court.
  • Crime scene photos.
  • Witness statements.
  • Property crimes and accompanying paperwork.
  • Vehicle records if one was used during the crime.

Michigan Vital Records

is the government agency in charge of all vital records for the state. They keep track of all birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates, and you can request copies. You can also order Heirloom Birth Certificates for an extra fee as a keepsake. This office also handles a lot of other things like licensing, healthcare providers referrals, forms, and state health statistics. You may order records online, through the mail or via the new email option. Michigan uses the VitalChek system for online ordering, and other fees may apply.


Other Public Records in Michigan

Other Public Records in Michigan

Along with criminal, court, arrest, and vital records, property records in Michigan are also public. Here are the others:

  • Government budgets and annual reports.
  • Driving records (without personally identifiable information).
  • Home addresses.
  • Maps, books, and tapes.
  • State health and wellness statistics.
  • Air and water quality (pollution reports).
  • Home phone numbers.
  • Police and accident reports.
  • Liens & tax issues.
  • Company incorporation records.
  • Demographics.
  • Library Research.
  • Personnel records for state agencies.
  • Permits, licenses, and certifications.
  • Government employee salaries.

What Information is Not Public Record in Michigan?

Michigan law states that "Public record" means a writing prepared, owned, used, in possession of, or retained by a public body in the performance of an official function, from the time it is created." However, some items are unavailable to public records such as:

  • "Information of a personal nature if public disclosure of the information would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of an individual's privacy.
  • Investigating records compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that disclosure as a public record would do any of the following:
  • (i) Interfere with law enforcement proceedings.
  • (ii) Deprive a person of the right to a fair trial or impartial administrative adjudication.
  • (iii) Constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
  • (iv) Disclose the identity of a confidential source, or if the record is compiled by a law enforcement agency in the course of a criminal investigation, disclose confidential information furnished only by a confidential source.
  • (v) Disclose law enforcement investigative techniques or procedures.
  • (vi) Endanger the life or physical safety of law enforcement personnel.
  • A public record that if disclosed would prejudice a public body's ability to maintain the physical security of custodial or penal institutions occupied by persons arrested or convicted of a crime or admitted because of a mental disability, unless the public interest in disclosure under this act outweighs the public interest in nondisclosure.
  • Records or information specifically described and exempted from disclosure by statute.
  • Trade secrets or commercial or financial information voluntarily provided to an agency for use in developing governmental policy.
  • Information or records subject to the attorney-client privilege."

This list is just a small sampling. The actual law includes many more exclusions.