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Michigan Public Records

To access public records in Michigan, you’ll need some direction. Michigan complies with the Michigan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that was enacted in 1977. Under this statute, the state allows for the general public to access more than 89 million public records. 

In order to better understand how to request files, read along to understand the public records which comprise all of the criminal records, inmate records, and vital records.

What does the Michigan public records law say?

The state of Michigan has a broad approach when it comes to the application of their records, with many offices in the legislature covered, while some individual members are exempt. 

Aside from state-funded universities, any private entity operating with public funding is subject to the law. What qualifies as a “record” in Michigan is also slightly broader than other states, but in general, this includes just about anything written as well as recordings, computer programs are also included.

You don’t have to be a citizen of Michigan to access public records, but currently incarcerated individuals do not have access, no matter which state they are incarcerated in.

The Michigan law does not expressly say how long a public agency has to respond to a records request other than to say the agency should respond “promptly” and should be within a week. 

There are no administrative appeals allowed whatsoever, which means if a request is denied you’ll have to take your fight to court.  

To learn more about Michigan’s rules and how to access records, visit Michigan.gov.

How can a person access public records in Michigan?

Some public records can be found through online services while others must be requested from a specific agency using a formal request. If a request is required, it can be sent via email, mail, or by phone to the record-holding department. 

Every department is different, so expect some variation to the rules if you’re accessing records from multiple places. 

In general, a public records request should include: 

  • Your name and contact information, including an email, phone number, and mailing address
  • The name of the document you want access to with as much detail as possible
  • A specific time period that you’d like to receive the materials by
  • How to deliver the documents, whether by email or mail

Due to the Coronavirus, some public offices may have limited hours of operation. As a result, online requests are the suggested route to go, but if you want to go in person it is advised that you call ahead.

Michigan criminal records

Criminal records in Michigan are very easy to access due to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). All criminal activities committed by individuals within the state are electronically kept and also printed and filed.

What’s on a criminal record?

A criminal record provides a detailed record of a person’s interactions with law enforcement. These records are pulled from various sources and include arrest records, convictions, and incarcerations within the state’s four prisons. 

More specifically, a criminal record or a background check will provide the following information: 

  • Personal information like a person’s name, birthday, nationality, etc.
  • A mug shot and full set of fingerprints
  • A list of distinguishing features like tattoos and other physical attributes
  • The type of offense (misdemeanor or felony) and description of the crime

Where can a person find Michigan criminal records?

Criminal records are maintained by the Michigan State police and can be found by searching through the Internet Criminal History Access Tool (ICHAT) by either names or fingerprints. 

There are other avenues that can be used to retrieve Michigan criminal records, too. They include the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), private companies and the local police departments and courts.

Most criminal records can be requested online via mail or email. In addition to accessing criminal records online, Michigan law also allows the general public to inspect and copy case records.

Michigan inmate records

All misdemeanor and felonies that have occurred within all 83 Michigan counties are reported by either the law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, or the courts and are held in correctional facilities across the state. 

What’s on an inmate record?

The information listed on an inmate record varies, but in Michigan the records usually contain a combination of personal information and specific details about a person’s incarceration situation. Inmate information also includes records of their offenses, incarceration, and release dates. Some of these records are publicly available and accessible online while others are restricted and released only to authorized parties.

Public access to inmate records can provide the following information when accessed: 

  • Personal information like a person’s name, birthdate, and gender
  • A mug shot
  • Inmate location
  • Inmate registration number
  • Jail transfer information
  • Custody status

Where can a person find Michigan inmate records?

The Michigan Department of Corrections is in charge of all operations within state prisons in Michigan. To access records, you can search for the inmate’s name and city through the Offender Tracking Information System (OTIS) by the Michigan Department of Corrections. 

By law, the MDOC is required to keep inmate records on OTIS for up to three years after release. Searches can be done on the OTIS database by offender name, MDOC number, sex, age, race, and status. However, not all records are public. Some are only available to authorized parties.

Michigan court records

Court records can provide a wealth of information from court proceedings. For those looking to access court records, there are resources listed below. It’s important to remember that court records can be some of the most difficult records to access since they’re often held in different courts. 

What’s on a court record?

In most cases, court records are quite large and come with many different documents. Most people find the following documents the most helpful: 

  • Court minutes
  • Case files
  • Dockets
  • Orders of the court
  • Judgment documentation
  • Jury records and files
  • Witness documentation

Where can a person find Michigan court records?

Fortunately, Michigan has an online database where the public can conduct a case search and see all records associated with it. The search tool allows you to search using a docket number and selecting whether the case was heard by the supreme court or a court of appeals. You can also search by the party name or the attorney’s name.

If you need to access court cases that are held within district court or circuit court, you need to reach out to the county clerk and request the records. 

It is important to note that not all cases are open and may not be available.

Michigan vital records

The state of Michigan Vital Records Office keeps birth records, marriage records, divorce records, and death records since as early as 1867.

What information is needed to request a vital record?

To obtain a vital record in Michigan, a person must provide certain information to aid in the search. The information needed includes: 

  • The location of the event
  • The approximate date of the event
  • The full name of the person, including maiden names 
  • A case file number for divorce records
  • The license number for a marriage record

Where can a person find Michigan vital records?

In order to get access to vital records, you can either order online using a debit card or credit card or print an application to order via mail.

Due to COVID-19, restrictions are in place and some offices are closed to the general public. Currently, everything is done online. A request for a record is usually handled within 1-3 business days.There are certain fees (known as record fees and processing fees) that you will have to pay as well.

Frequently asked questions about Michigan records

Accessing public records can be a real challenge, so to further assist a requesters need for information this list of FAQs should help: 

Can a request be submitted by non-residents of the state?

Yes, you can request for records if you are a non-resident. Whether you live in Detroit or Denver, you can access public documents. There are only a handful of states that require requesters to live in the state to access public records. 

Is there a records custodian in Michigan?

No, there is no records custodian in Michigan.

What exemptions exist?

Yes. The law does have exemptions, which include the governor’s office and records pertaining to individual members of the legislature. 

How long does that state have to respond?

There are no deadlines for how long one has to respond however, agencies are urged to respond as soon as possible. Most agencies respond to a request within a week. 

Is there an appeals process in place?

There is no administrative appeals process. In some states, if a request is denied a requester can file a complaint with the attorney general, but that’s not possible in Michigan. If you’re denied access to public records, your only recourse is to fight it in court.

What fees are associated with requesting public records?

For requests made by the media or in interest of the public, there are no fees charged. The public may be charged a small fee to copy records or case information.

  • Updated December 8, 2020
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