What are public records?
Public records are documents held by the government that members the general public has the right to access and view. They may exist as tangible paper copies of records held by in a government repository or as electronic records within an online database.
Common types of public records include criminal records, court records, and vital records such as birth and death certificates. Public records can be accessed by the general public by making a public records request to the appropriate government agency.
Which federal law deals with public records in the United States?
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) of 1967 is the major federal law regarding public records in the United States. The FOIA requires federal government agencies to release documents to the public when they make a records request, as long as the record in question doesn’t fall under one of nine exemptions outlined in the law. However, most people do not take advantage of the FOIA, and most record requests are made by businesses, law firms, and professionals.
Generally, if public records are to be used for a commercial purpose, the requester of the record must notify the agency of their intent while submitting the request.
What is Michigan’s public records law?
The Michigan Freedom of Information Act was passed in 1977. The set of laws declare the public’s right to request and view public records held by government bodies at the state and local level.
Anyone except imprisoned felons can make a public records request in Michigan without a statement of purpose. Furthermore, there is no restriction on the use of public records. Government bodies have a five-day time limit to respond to a records request.
Examples of Michigan Public Records
Michigan public records include, but are not limited to:
- Criminal records
- Birth certificates (100 years after filing date)
- Death certificates
- Court cases
- Marriage records
- Divorce records
- Licensing records
- Business records
- Historical records
- Government contracts
- Voting records
The following are NOT public records in Michigan:
- Juvenile criminal and court records
- Birth certificates (less than 100 years after filing date)
- Library records
- Medical records
- Student transcripts
- Social welfare information
- Sealed records
- Tax returns
- Unpublished research and commercial data
Where can I access Michigan public records?
- Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs: Search for a business entity – Search a Michigan business by name, individual name, ID number or filing number to learn its formation date, entity type, principal address, and current status.
- Michigan Courts: Case Search – Search a database of Michigan Supreme Court and Court of Appeals case records by docket number, party name, or attorney. The search is free to use and does not require registration.
- Michigan Courts: MiCOURT – Search the online databases of dozens of Michigan county courts for civil, traffic, domestic, criminal, probate, and juvenile court case information.
- Michigan.gov: ICHAT – A free to use search tool provided by the Michigan State Police that individuals can use to look up the criminal history information of anyone on file.
- Michigan State Police: Criminal History Records – Information on how to perform a fingerprint-based criminal background check in Michigan and how to have criminal history information suppressed or corrected.
- The Archives of Michigan – The Archives of Michigan is based in Lansing and presides over the state’s collection of historical public records dating back to 1792, along with 300,000 photographs and 500,000 maps. Many collections are available online in digital form.
Sex Offender Information
- Michigan Sex Offender Registry – Maintained by the Michigan State Police, the Sex Offender Registry is available online and can be searched by anyone. Users can perform a name, city, or area search.
- Michigan Department of Health & Human Services: Vital Records Office – Authorized persons can order certified copies of birth, death, marriage, and divorce records from the Vital Records Office.