The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in Michigan allows people to access most public records free as a civilian. This lets members of the public go through free Michigan state records for government and legal agencies when they need specific information regarding themselves or someone else.
But searching through an abundance of records can still seem like a daunting process. That is where our guide comes in and helps people access their required details without going through unnecessary stress. Interested members of the public may also turn to our search feature in order to quickly find out the exact information that they need through legal and vital records for free.
Understanding Michigan’s Open Record Laws & Searching Abilities
Under Michigan’s Enhanced Access to Public Records Act,1 the State of Michigan allows people immediate access to select public and criminal records. The law makes it a priority for government and legal institutions to digitize their records whenever possible and make them accessible to the public.
This ensures that any interested party does not have to endure the tiresome processes of rummaging through paper records. Instead, by knowing the right government institution website for each type of public record, searchers can access the information that they need from the comfort of their own home or office. With that being said, between an abundance of different institutions, it can be difficult to remember exactly which website to turn to for certain requirements such as court records or inmate records.
Members of the public can resolve this issue by using dedicated websites that allow them to search for Michigan state records. But that is where care and caution need to be applied at every step: While some of these websites offer paid solutions that deliver swift results with an intuitive interface, others deliver these services for free and come with challenges such as limited accessibility, inadequate information, and the barrage of online ads.
That is why it is important for people to learn which government agency, type of court, or type of jail may hold their required level of information. This prevents searchers from running in circles and allows them to easily obtain the information that they require. From there, they can also choose specialized websites that let them check public records in Michigan.
For instance, in case an individual wants to search if someone has a criminal record, they can start an offender search through Michigan’s Offender Tracking Information System (OTIS). From there, they can discover records maintained by the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC).
Michigan Criminal Records – What They Are & How to Obtain
With 162,282 reported arrests in Michigan in 2020,2 the latest available data outlines that the Great Lake State witnesses crime just like any other place on the planet. In order to keep track of these activities, criminal records in Michigan outline the official accounts of any criminal activity that is performed within the Great Lake State.
These Michigan state records are available through Michigan’s Internet Criminal History Access Tool (ICHAT),3 which lets members of the public make their way through records entered and maintained by law enforcement or arresting agencies within the state’s jurisdiction. These public criminal records contain information regarding felonies and serious misdemeanors.
Searchers can obtain these details by paying for a single search, being billed as an institution, or getting these services for free as a nonprofit charity organization. These costs cover the state’s expenditure for maintaining these records.
Are Michigan Criminal Records Open to the Public?
When an interested party is about to look up someone’s criminal record to determine if that person was charged with a crime, they need to remember what type of information is publicly available. This makes sure that each individual is able to determine whether the information that they are looking for would be accessible online in the first place.
According to Michigan law, all law enforcement and government agencies are required to report felonies and serious misdemeanors to Michigan’s ICHAT system which lets the general public search if someone has a criminal record. The term “serious misdemeanors” in this case refers to criminal activity that is punishable by over 93 days.
However, if any Michigan state records are suppressed, individuals would not be able to obtain such sealed court records or criminal records through a simple search request. Searchers would also be unable to access the following types of criminal records.
- Federal records
- Tribal records
- Traffic records
- Juvenile records
- Local misdemeanors
- Criminal history from other states
If someone’s request does not fall under one of these categories mentioned above, they can easily access it online through Michigan’s ICHAT.
How Do I Obtain Someone’s Criminal Records in Michigan?
Interested parties can obtain someone else’s public criminal records in Michigan through both online and offline mediums.
Individuals can learn if someone has a criminal record by going through the network of select Michigan government websites. Two of these portals include the Michigan OTIS4 and ICHAT platforms.
Through Michigan OTIS, people can access an online directory that outlines information on anyone who had previously been or currently remains under the supervision of the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC).
This outlines details on offenders who were or still are incarcerated, on probation, or on parole. With that being said, it is important to remember that the OTIS platform only delivers information on those who have been under the supervision of the MDOC within the past three years.
This is what the OTIS website and search portal look like once data requesters have accepted the terms and conditions to search information through the domain.
As outlined in the screenshot, members of the public can search for an individual by entering their first and last name, as well as their age. The option to find someone through marks, scars, or tattoos is also available. To skip past the other fields, the system also allows searchers to enter the person’s MDOC number if available.
This search process also lets interested parties find out information such as inmate release date. This makes OTIS an important portal to remember for a variety of reasons.
When it comes to accessing Michigan state records through a prison background check, searchers can use the ICHAT platform instead. This platform delivers information on people who have a felony or serious misdemeanor on the record.
Through Michigan ICHAT, data requesters can search for this information as a:
- Government user
- Charitable user
- Billed user
- Pay-as-you go user
- Guest user
If someone is searching on behalf of a government institution or non-profit charitable organization, ICHAT lets them perform no-fee criminal history background checks.5 But if someone does not belong to these groups, they can make their payment online. The charges for ICHAT stand at $10 per search,6 which can be accepted via credit cards and debit cards including Visa, MasterCard, and Discover.
Once the online payment goes through, members of the public can conduct their search to find recent arrests in Michigan and older records that fall under felonies or serious misdemeanors.
If someone is facing issues in accessing the website or its functionalities, they can use the detailed tutorials that are provided by the website for their assistance. These tutorials give each requester the ability to source the information that they need, while also making the process far easier and more comfortable to go through.
Once the interested party has gone through the initial steps and visits the ICHAT search page, they can enter their search information within different fields such as:
- First name
- Last name
- Date of birth
- Race (optional)
- Gender (optional)
- Additional Names/Aliases (optional)
- State Identification (SID) Criminal Record Number (optional)
By entering these details, interested members of the public can quickly go through a plethora of records and find the Michigan state records on the person that they want to search for via the system.
In case someone wants to search via fingerprint or requires to remove any doubt from their mind about the results belonging to the same person that they are searching for, they can also get a fingerprint form from their local law enforcement agency.
From there, the individual in question can mail the fingerprint details on a non-criminal card (RI-8) to the Criminal Justice Information Center and request for a match. Requesters also need to include a cover letter that outlines why they are doing a criminal or prison background check.
However, the Michigan State Police outlines that such fingerprint searches are done only when ordered7 through a state or federal statute, executive order, or rule. If someone’s request is backed by one of these factors, they can easily move forward with the fingerprint search method.
In certain cases, offenders can also perform fingerprint background checks to have their criminal history records expunged.8 For this purpose, they need to get an RI-030 Live Scan Fingerprint Background Check Request form, contact a Live Scan Vendor9 to pay the fee, and initiate the process. Regardless of whether the offender lives in a metropolis such as Detroit, they can find these vendors easily.
Where Can I See Michigan Mugshots?
Interested parties can see Michigan mugshots through the OTIS platform. This system is powered by the MDOC. The search for these Michigan state records can be as specific as using someone’s first name and last name or be as broad as describing their tattoos or marks.
This allows interested parties to find out if someone was arrested within the State of Michigan. However, if the offender was discharged over three years ago, the records of their arrest or parole might not be available in OTIS. It is because the Michigan Legislature makes way for the removal of such records for a person if three years have passed since their discharge date.
However, if someone has their records removed only to go through an arrest or trial later, this counter resets and their records become available again. This makes it possible for the general public to search for repeat offenders who previously exited the search records.
Accessing Juvenile Records in Michigan
Until December 31, 2020, Michigan was one of a handful of states that allowed full access to juvenile adjudications or criminal records. However, according to the criminal justice reform that was established in 2021, Michigan no longer allows the public availability of juvenile records.10
In case a requester is trying to determine if someone has had a criminal past as a juvenile, they would not be able to access those records through the available online as well as offline means without additional processes. Instead, the searcher will need to go through a procedure that expresses their “legitimate interest” in the information and associated documents. But even then, the records are only displayed through closed court hearings.
How to use Michigan Free Warrant Search (Lookup Tool)
In order to access Michigan state records for warrants, members of the public need to take specific measures that are focused on local authorities and institutions. Besides a public search, this lets offenders determine if they have a warrant out in their name or against a case that they are going through.
It is because warrants are not available through the search or background check system known as Michigan ICHAT. If someone wants to access information regarding a search warrant, arrest warrant, bench warrant, or tax warrant, they have to either check their respective court case proceedings or go through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
Offenders or members of the public can check for their court case proceedings by going to the Michigan Courts website. This portal lets searchers select their pertinent court by name, from where they can search for their court case by using their case number or name.
Since case numbers are unique, they remain the easiest way to find specific information. However, requesters can still search for cases by using the first and last name of the person involved.
If a member of the public cannot find information about a specific court case or does not want to go through the process above, they can still file a FOIA request through the online services section of the Michigan State Police.11
In order to access Michigan state records through a FOIA request, requesters need to create an account on the website. Specific instructions to create an account for online FOIA request12 submission go a long way towards making the process easier.
How to Review Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry
The general public can access the Michigan Sex Offender Registry13 online and find information on people who have committed criminal sexual acts in the past. Once someone visits the website that has been set up by the Michigan State Police, they can go through the following search options.
Through this page, searchers can find if someone has a criminal record in terms of sex crimes.
Anyone can search for an offender by using different fields.
- First name
- Last name
- Street address
- ZIP Code
- Michigan Department of Corrections/Registration Number
People can also do a neighborhood search to determine if there are any registered sex offenders in the vicinity of a provided street address or ZIP code. This search can be finetuned further by selecting the radius from the given address.
This helps individuals find out if someone they know has been charged with a crime as a sex offender. Alternatively, this also allows searchers to learn if there are any sex offenders in any given area that they are visiting, about to move to, or going to visit in the near future.
How Do Michigan Background Checks Work?
Michigan background checks allow members of the public to determine if someone has a criminal history within the Michigan state records. These checks are performed by the Michigan Internet Criminal History Access Tool (ICHAT). Each of these checks costs $10 per search, where they show the records of people with felonies or serious misdemeanors.
The background check can be performed by someone acting on the behalf of an organization or an individual seeking information on another person. The process is completed online, where data requesters can pay the fee through their credit card or debit card. From there, they can get the online results right away. These results also remain on the web for seven days from the time of the payment approval.
However, it is crucial to note that while this background check lets the general public discover the criminal history of those with felony charges or serious misdemeanors that are punishable by over 93 days, it does not divulge details about warrants, juvenile records, or any other records that are suppressed through legal means.
Apart from name-based background checks, people can also initiate fingerprint-based checks under select circumstances. But in order for that to happen, these requests need to be accompanied by an order of state or federal statute. Other instances where a fingerprint check is possible to include an executive order or rule.
Court Records of Michigan
From probate to criminal court, some individuals may want to obtain the court records of a proceeding that matters to them. In Michigan, the public has the right to access public records of any court proceeding, unless those records are protected by a court rule, order, or statute.
According to the Michigan Courts website,14 people can access Michigan state records by visiting the court clerk’s office. Requesters can also obtain copies for future use. Some of these documents are also available on the court’s respective websites. However, this access does not include the availability of certain documents. This means that anyone looking for this data should make it a point to schedule a visit to their respective court in order to move forward with such requests.
This specific measure also holds true for all three types of Michigan trial courts,15 which include the following:
- Circuit. Handles civil claims of over $25,000; felony criminal cases; and an array of family cases.
- District. Handles civil claims of up to $25,000; misdemeanor criminal cases; and small claims.
- Probate. Handles wills, estate, and trust cases. It also rules for guardianship and conservatorship.
Learning about these courts lets members of the public determine how to get jail paperwork, public divorce records, and death certificate records. This lets people know exactly where to go with their request and have it fulfilled in a timely manner.
How to Obtain Michigan Court Records Through Official Sources
Interested individuals can obtain Michigan Court records and the information to retrieve these documents through the legal branch’s official website. For electronic records, requesters can go through the availability of applicable documents and order them accordingly. For most court records, they need to visit the court clerk’s office in person.
To obtain Michigan state records for legal judgments, interested parties can also search for cases, opinions, and orders16 through the Michigan Courts website. This allows searchers to access details for cases through the public records repository. To steer clear of avoidable issues, it’s helpful for individuals to remember the type of cases that are handled by different courts including circuit, district, and probate.
Interested members of the public can also check third-party websites that offer to source certain documents on the requester’s behalf. Since these websites use official channels to retrieve the documents without putting the actual searcher through intricate legal processes, they can stand out as a viable solution to retrieve the desired information.
Use Pacer to Look Up Michigan Bankruptcy Records
People can also use Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER)17 to request bankruptcy records in the State of Michigan. They may also access the solution through the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Eastern District of Michigan.18
Through PACER, anyone can access documents at a fee of $0.10 per page. They can also benefit from cost caps in certain cases.
Other than PACER, requesters may use the Voice Case Information System (VCIS)19 to access bankruptcy case information without paying any charges
Interested parties may also access closed bankruptcy cases through the National Archives Court Records.20
Apart from these measures, people may also move forward with accessing Michigan state records for bankruptcy cases by visiting clerk or divisional offices in person.
An Overview of Michigan Inmate Records
Michigan inmate records comprise information regarding any offenders who are/were supervised by the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), a local police department, or a county sheriff’s office.
Inmates’ records include aspects such as:
- Date of birth
- Offender Number
Interested people can find these records, as well as other information such as inmate releases, and dates online through Michigan’s Offender Tracking Information System (OTIS). The information is available free of charge.
Where Can I Find Recent Arrests & Jail Inmates in Michigan?
If someone wants to find recent arrests and inmates in jail, they need to contact the arresting authority for it. This typically refers to the local police department or sheriff’s office. For this, requesters need to check the websites of these sources to find updated information.
For instance, if someone is looking for inmate information in Lansing, Michigan, they can locate the inmate by visiting the Ingham County Inmate Locator21 via the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office.22
It is because the Michigan Offender Tracking Information System (OTIS) only holds information for inmates housed by the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) or under Michigan state prisons. Since jails are operated by counties, interested people need to reach the relevant authorities to access Michigan state records regarding inmates.
Find a Michigan Prisoner in State or Federal Prison
Members of the public can find a Michigan prisoner in state prison by using the Michigan Offender Tracking Information System (OTIS). This system contains information for inmates who are under the supervision of the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) under state prisons.
For federal prisons, interested parties can find information through the Federal Bureau of Prisons.23
State of Michigan Vital Records (Free Divorce Records in Michigan)
In the state of Michigan, vital records comprise a set of documents that outline life events of the public. This includes the following documentation.
- Birth certificate
- Death certificate
- Marriage certificate
- Divorce certificate
In the Great Lake State, these records are created and maintained by the Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics.24 Searchers can also get a certified copy for each of these documents.
Who Can Access Birth, Death, Divorce, and Free Michigan Marriage Records?
Since Michigan birth, death, marriage, and divorce records are available publicly, anyone can request for these records without any repercussions. This means that in case an individual wants to find out if someone is married, they can easily do so.
This makes it easy to access Michigan state records in a swift and painless way. In turn, if a requester starts to think about questions such as: are marriage records public? This gives them a swift and accurate answer to access the information that they need.
Where Do I Request for Copies of Vital Records in Michigan?
Interested parties can request copies of vital records in Michigan through different mediums.
- Online. People can order vital records online through the VitalChek25 website.
- Mail. Anyone can get their required record by downloading the form here26 and mailing it to a PO Box.
- In-Person. People may schedule an appointment27 with the Health and Human Services department to order their records in person.
The fees for these applications vary on the delivery method and the duration in which someone wants to receive the record. For instance, while a certified copy costs $34, the system adds shipping and urgent order costs to the process.From visiting an inmate28 through the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) to ordering vital records copies through the state’s Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics, members of the public can know exactly where to find their required information. This simplifies many legal and government processes that may otherwise seem daunting to think about.
12410.04 Enhanced Access to Public Records Act – State of Michigan. Retrieved June 6, 2022, from <https://www.michigan.gov/dtmb/-/media/Project/Websites/dtmb/Law-and-Policies/Admin-Guide/2400/241004-Enhanced-Access-to-Public-Records-Act.pdf>
2Annual Report – Michigan State Police. Retrieved June 6, 2022 from <https://www.michigan.gov/msp/-/media/Project/Websites/msp/micr-assets/2020/2020_CRIME_IN_MICHIGAN_FINAL_081121_updated-120821.pdf>
3Internet Criminal History Access Tool (ICHAT) – State of Michigan. Retrieved June 6, 2022 from <https://apps.michigan.gov/>
4Offender Tracking Information System (OTIS) – Michigan Department of Corrections. Retrieved June 6, 2022 from <https://mdocweb.state.mi.us/otis2/otis2.aspx>
5Background Checks – ICHAT – State of Michigan. Retrieved June 6, 2022 from <https://www.michigan.gov/-/media/Project/Websites/msp/cjic/pdfs6/BACKGROUND_CHECKS.pdf>
6FAQS – ICHAT Menu – State of Michigan. Retrieved June 6, 2022 from <https://apps.michigan.gov/Home/FAQS>
7Criminal History Records – State of Michigan. Retrieved June 6, 2022 from <https://www.michigan.gov/msp/services/chr>
8Search, Expunge, Modify, or Update Criminal History Records – State of Michigan. Retrieved June 6, 2022 from <https://www.michigan.gov/msp/services/chr/info/search-expunge-modify-or-update-criminal-history-records>
9Private Live Scan Vendors – State of Michigan. Retrieved June 6, 2022 from <https://www.michigan.gov/msp/services/chr/info/private-live-scan-vendors>
10Governor Whitmer Signs Additional Bills Expanding Criminal Justice Reform in Michigan – Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Retrieved June 6, 2022 from <https://www.michigan.gov/whitmer/news/press-releases/2021/01/04/governor-whitmer-signs-additional-bills-expanding-criminal-justice-reform-in-michigan>
11Freedom of Information Act Requests – State of Michigan. Retrieved June 6, 2022 from <https://www.michigan.gov/msp/services/foia>
12Requestor User Guide – State of Michigan. Retrieved June 6, 2022 from <https://www.michigan.gov/msp/-/media/Project/Websites/msp/forms/manual/requestoruserguide_v10_01072020.pdf>
13Michigan Sex Offender Registry – Michigan State Police. Retrieved June 6, 2022 from <https://mspsor.com/>
14Records Management – Michigan Courts. Retrieved June 6, 2022 from <https://www.courts.michigan.gov/administration/trial-court/trial-court-operations/records-management/>
15Trial Courts – Michigan Courts. Retrieved June 6, 2022 from <https://www.courts.michigan.gov/courts/trial-courts/>
16Cases, Opinions, & Orders Search – Michigan Courts. Retrieved June 6, 2022 from <https://www.courts.michigan.gov/case-search/>
17Public Access to Court Electronic Records | PACER: Federal Court Records. Retrieved June 6, 2022 from <https://pacer.uscourts.gov/>
18PACER | Eastern District of Michigan. Retrieved June 6, 2022 from <http://www.mieb.uscourts.gov/pacer>
19VCIS | Eastern District of Michigan | United States Bankruptcy Court. Retrieved June 6, 2022 from <https://www.mieb.uscourts.gov/vcis>
20National Archives Court Records. Retrieved June 6, 2022 from <https://www.archives.gov/research/court-records>
21Ingham County Inmate Locator – Ingham County. Retrieved June 6, 2022 from <https://jail.ingham.org/>
22Corrections (Jail) – Ingham County Sheriffs Office. Retrieved June 6, 2022 from <https://sh.ingham.org/courts_and_sheriff/sheriffs_office/corrections.php>
23Inmate Locator – Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved June 6, 2022 from <https://www.bop.gov/inmateloc//>
24Birth, Death, Marriage and Divorce Records – State of Michigan. Retrieved June 6, 2022 from <https://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs/doing-business/vitalrecords>
25VitalChek. Retrieved June 6, 2022 from <https://www.vitalchek.com/>
26Order A Record by Mail – State of Michigan. Retrieved June 6, 2022 from <https://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs/doing-business/vitalrecords/order-by-mail>
27Schedule Appointment – State of Michigan. Retrieved June 6, 2022 from <https://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs/doing-business/vitalrecords/schedule-appointment>
28Visiting a Prisoner – State of Michigan. Retrieved June 8, 2022 from <https://www.michigan.gov/corrections/services/family-information/visiting-a-prisoner>
29Michigan Department of Corrections. Accessed 6 May 2023. <https://mdocweb.state.mi.us/otis2/otis2.html>
30Michigan Department of Corrections. Accessed 6 May 2023. <https://www.michigan.gov/corrections/otis>