Michigan Public Records

Public records are any documents held by a public agency or government body that members of the public have the right to view and access. Generally, these records exist as physical paper copies held in various government repositories, such as state archives or courthouses, but more and more frequently, public records are available as electronic documents stored and viewable in online databases.

The general public can access these records by making public records requests through the government agency that holds the records or through various third-party records search organizations.

The most common kinds of public records include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:

  • Criminal records
  • Court records
  • Inmate records
  • Sex offender records
  • Vital records
  • Business record
  • Historical records
  • Government Records

What federal laws deal with public records?

The 1967 FOAI (Freedom of Information Act) is the primary federal law dealing with public records in the U.S., and it is applied across states and jurisdictions throughout the country. Additionally, every state has its own public records laws as well.

The federal Freedom of Information Act makes it mandatory that agencies representing the federal government maintain and make available records upon request, so long as the record does not fall under any of the exemptions outlined by the law. In general, however, the public does not take full advantage of the FOIA, with most requests for records coming from professionals, researchers, law firms, and businesses.

What Michigan laws deal with public records?

1977 saw the passage of the Michigan Freedom of Information Act, a set of laws declaring the public’s right to request and access public records held by the government or public bodies in the state, county, city, or town.

Any citizen, except for convicted felons currently incarcerated, can make public records requests in the state of Michigan without being required to submit a statement of purpose. The offices responsible for responding to these requests generally have five days to respond to records requests, and there are no restrictions on their use.

What are public records in Michigan and what aren’t?

Some examples of available public records in Michigan include, but are not limited to, the following:

Records Available to the PublicRecords NOT Available to the Public

Criminal Records/Criminal History Juvenile Criminal/Court Records
Birth Certifications (after 100 years of filing) Birth Certifications (under 100 years after filing)
Death Certification Library Records
Marriage Records Student Transcriptions
Divorce/Annulment Records Medical Records
Court Case Records Tax Records
Business and Business Licensing Records Records Sealed by a Judge/Court Order
Historical and Archival Records Social Welfare Records/Information
Government and Public Body Records Unpublished Research
Voting Records Governmental Memos/Policy Drafts

What are the exemptions for records access in Michigan?

Although both the federal and state Freedom of Information Acts require that the public is given access to certain records, there are certain cases where records can be withheld. The FOIA has nine exemption categories that allow public or governmental agencies the right to withhold records documents, they are:

  • Classified information protecting interests of national security
  • Information about an agencies internal practices and rules
  • Information cannot be released because other laws prohibit it
  • Information containing trade secrets, commercial or financial information
  • Exchanges/communications between agencies that are privileged and confidential
  • Exposure of information endangers the privacy of an individual
  • Reservation of information for use by law enforcement, courts of law, and investigations, or whose disclosure could reveal confidential sources
  • Information regarding financial institution supervision that is confidential
  • Information containing the location or geographical details about wells

Links for Accessing Public Records in Michigan

What follows are important links to the main areas of public records search for the state of Michigan. These links will take you to either the governmental body responsible for the maintenance and distribution of said records or a third body organization that can help you obtain these records.

In the sections below, we will go into more depth on several of these public records categories.

Court Records

Case Search of the Michigan Courts: This searchable database gives the public access to the various court levels in Michigan, including the Appellant Court and the Michigan Supreme Court. Case records are searchable by multiple parameters, including by attorney, party name, and docket number. Registration is not required to use the search, and it is accessible to the public.

MiCOURT: Michigan county courts are searchable via MiCOURT. This online portal gives the public free and open access to all of Michigan’s county courts’ online databases, allowing access to Juvenile, civil, probate, domestic, criminal, and traffic court case information.

Criminal Records

ICHAT: The state police of Michigan provides this free search tool. It allows individuals to search for any individual’s Michigan criminal history information.

Michigan Criminal History Records: This website provides information on how to perform a fingerprint-based background check. Some employers or operating licenses require fingerprint-based criminal history records, but you can also use this portal to request your own criminal history.

Sex Offender Information

Michigan Sex Offender Registry: The Michigan State Police maintain these records on sex-related crimes. Anyone can search the Sex Offender Registry for any reason. Individuals can perform searches based on name, city, or area search and receive address and other personal details on the offender.

Vital Records

Michigan Vital Records Office: Vital records are maintained and disseminated by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Only authorized individuals can order certified copies of birth, marriage, divorce/annulment, and death records, although any individual can order information copies of these records for research purposes. Information copies do not contain any information that would invade an individual’s right to privacy.

Business Records

Michigan Business Entity Search: The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs provides an online search portal allowing any individual to search Michigan’s businesses by name, individual name, ID, or filing number. You can use this information to learn things like the company’s current status, its formation date, entity type, and principal address.

Historical Records

Michigan State Archives: Based in Lansing, the State Archives of Michigan is home to the state’s collection of public historical records that date back to 1792. The archives contain over 300,000 photographs, 500,000 maps, and millions of documents pertaining to a wide variety of categories. Many, but not all, collections are available in digital form.

How to Access Court Records in Michigan

Like most states, there are three levels of court in Michigan. The Supreme Court is the court with the highest legal power. Its primary purpose is to review decisions made by the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals reviews state-level courts’ contested decisions, including the 83 superior/trial courts across Michigan’s counties.

There are two ways to acquire online court records in the state of Michigan:

  • Case Search
  • MiCOURT Search

How to search for court records using Case Search

Case search is a database that includes records from both the Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court. It allows citizens broad public access to electronic court records. Search is available by three parameters:

  • Party Name
  • Docket Number
  • Attorney Case List

Searching by party name allows you to locate the docket sheet for any party specified. The party name can be the name of either an organization or an individual. In some instances, party names are suppressed to protect privacy interests. For these types of cases, a search by party name may not produce any results.

Searching by docket number or case number will produce the docket sheet for that specific docket number. Once you enter the case docket number in the box, select the type of court and click search. Michigan Courts provides a guide on How to Read a Docket Sheet to give you an overview of abbreviations and terms used in a docket sheet.

Searching by attorney bar number or name will bring up a case list of docket sheets for that specific attorney. The case list will be displayed alphabetically, and you can scroll through the list to find the case you are looking for.

How to search for court records using MiCOURT

Use the MiCOURT search portal to search Michigan’s county counters. This online portal gives the public free and open access to all of Michigan’s county courts’ online databases, allowing access to a variety of records.

The MiCOURT case search makes the following case types available to the public:

  • Civil cases
  • Traffic cases
  • Criminal cases
  • Divorce/family cases
  • Probate cases
  • Juvenile traffic cases
  • Juvenile delinquency cases
  • Abuse/neglect cases are NOT displayed.

Simply click on the court’s name below to search that court’s records by party name (individual or company), case, or petition number.

How to Access Criminal Records in Michigan

What are arrest and criminal records?

After an individual is arrested or apprehended by a law enforcement entity, an arrest record is created. This record provides:

  • Incident details.
  • Personal information of the individual.
  • Sometimes any previous criminal record information.

Arrest records are used during criminal cases, where the record is frequently used during the trial. The record can remain public long after the trial regardless of whether or not they are convicted. The general public can access these records if they properly petition for them.

Criminal records and histories are more thorough and typically contain the information included in an arrest along with warrants, third-party complaints, convictions, and cases that were for whatever reason dropped.

Arrest records also differ from arrest warrants issued by judges or magistrates and grant law enforcement the authority to arrest individuals suspected of a crime and/or seize their property. These documents are created before the arrest, whereas the arrest record is made after the apprehension has occurred.

What does an arrest record include?

  • Location and date of arrest
  • A chronological description of the incident that led to the arrest (including any witness testimony)
  • Physical details and characteristics of the arrested individual
  • Personal information of the arrested individual (name, contact information, known aliases, address, SSN, phone number)
  • Photographs
  • Fingerprints
  • Charges filed
  • Crime classifications
  • Bail, if granted
  • Court dates
  • Details from any interrogations

What charges can appear on arrest and criminal records?

In Michigan, charges fall into three classes:

Infraction: Minor violations of state laws such as minor traffic violations and public nuisance offenses. Infractions are typically punishable by fines and written warnings as opposed to prison sentences.

Misdemeanor: These offenses are more serious than infractions but not as severe as a felony. Driving under the influence, drug violations, and petty theft are primary examples of misdemeanor offenses, and they likely will include punishments of imprisonment of under a year or probation. These offenses are typically served in the county or local jails.

Felony: Rape, arson, and murder are examples of the most severe type of crime. These crimes result in a felony charge and typically result in a prison term in state or federal prisons. A criminal record containing a felony charge can limit employment opportunities, as well as acquiring certain licenses.

Are arrest and criminal records public?

Arrest and criminal records or reports are public in the state of Michigan and can be accessed by any interested citizen. They are also usually included in criminal background checks.

Typically, arrest records are held, maintained, and distributed by the agency who made the arrest, such as a local PD or county sheriff. Frequently they are kept on site of that department or office, but they may also be kept by the circuit court where the crime was tried, a state archive, or a central government repository.

Both arrest and criminal records are generally subject to the same FOIA laws as other records. We have already seen the nine exemptions laid out by the FOIA. There are also some state laws limiting the availability of these records on the grounds that they are one-sided and do not include the account of the arrested individual.

How to search for criminal history records in the state of Michigan

A number of criminal history records can be searched with ICHAT, the Internet Criminal History Access Tool, including arrest records. These records are provided by the Michigan State Police and the Criminal Justice Information Center.

These background checks are either done by searching an individual by name or using fingerprints. Fingerprint-based searches are only required if a federal statute, executive order, or other rule deems it necessary.

Criminal history records provided by ICHAT include descriptors about the individual and any publicly available information about misdemeanor convictions, felony arrests, and other convictions of any kind.

Law enforcement agencies, courts, and prosecutors must report all serious misdemeanor and felony offenses punishable by over 93 days to the state repository. However, records that have been suppressed or classified, and information about warrants, are not available through online search.

Also unavailable are criminal histories from other states, local misdemeanors, juvenile records, tribal records, traffic records, or federal criminal records. Persons searching for records of the above information will need to contact those authorities directly.

Here are the steps to take to search for records using ICHAT:

  • Register as a user of ICHAT, following this tutorial guide for a breakdown on how to do that.
  • Once registered, click ‘Search for Criminal History’ and check the box asking how many searches you want to make.
  • Enter your credit card information. Each search costs $10.00 payable by debit, Visa, MasterCard, or Discover.
  • Once approved, you can access the search information age where you can search an individual by name, race/ethnicity, birth date, and gender.
  • Submit your search and view the results instantly.
  • Click on the person’s last name to see whether they have a record or not and if so, you can view the record.

How do I complete a criminal record search using fingerprints?

If you wish to apply for employment or licensing and a criminal history record is requested, you will be required to search using fingerprints. Your employer or licensing agency will provide you with a Live Scan Fingerprint Background Check Request Form. Once the form is complete, contact a Private Live Scan Vendor.

The fingerprint scan vendor will collect all state and FBI search fees, and any additional payments required to complete the search and responses will be returned to the requestor within seven business days.

If you are requesting your own criminal history for any reason, you will require a Michigan Applicant Fingerprint Card. Provide your return address, phone number, and email address on block F of the form. Mail the complete form, along with the $30.00 processing fee (plus $1.00 for each additional copy), to the following address:


Michigan State Police, CJIC
P.O. Box 30266
Lansing, Michigan 48909-7766
Criminal histories of this kind can only be supplied to the individual making the application and cannot be mailed to an agency. Allow three to five weeks for the search to be completed and mailed out.

If you are a resident of another state seeking a Michigan criminal history, or if you are looking for your national criminal history for use in visa applications, immigration, or adoption, use the form FD-258 FBI Application Fingerprint card.

More information on identity history searches via the FBI can be found on their Identity History Summary Check page.

How to Access Vital Records in Michigan

According to the Michigan Freedom of Information Act, vital records are considered public. Certified copies which contain a raised state seal and can be used as an official record of identity are only available to specific individuals. If the record is over 100 years old, any member of the public can request and receive a certified copy.

All birth, death, marriage, and divorce records are made available by the Michigan Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics from 1867 to the present. Affidavits of parentage are available from the same department from 1997 to the present, with records before 1997 held by the court where they were filed.

Marriage Records

The Michigan FOIA regards marriage records as public information. They are therefore available to citizens upon request without a statement of intent. Although many third-party websites offer vital records request services, you can order vital records directly from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

To request a marriage record, you will need to fill out the Michigan Marriage Record form. Mail the completed form along with the appropriate fees listed below to the following address:


Vital Records Request
P.O. Box 30721
Lansing, MI 48909
You can also deliver the form and make payments in person at this address:


Vital Records Office
South Grand Building, 1st Floor
333 S Grand Avenue
Lansing, MI 48933
The following fees are charged for either a certified copy or no-find letter:

  • $34.00 base fee
  • $16.00 for each additional copy
  • $12.00 for additional search years
  • $12.00 for expedited services

Payment is available via money order or personal check made payable to the State of Michigan. Pay via cash and credit card is available at the front counter if ordering in person.

Additional marriage record forms are accessible below:

Divorce/Annulment Records

The Michigan FOIA regards divorce records as public information. They are therefore available to citizens upon request without a statement of intent. Although many third-party websites offer vital records request services, you can order vital records directly from the MDHHS.

To request a divorce/annulment record, you will need to fill out the Michigan Divorce Record form. Mail the completed form along with the appropriate fees listed below to the following address:


Vital Records Request
P.O. Box 30721
Lansing, MI 48909
You can also deliver the form and make payments in person at this address:


Vital Records Office
South Grand Building, 1st Floor
333 S Grand Avenue
Lansing, MI 48933
The following fees are charged for either a certified copy or no-find letter:

  • $34.00 base fee
  • $16.00 for each additional copy
  • $12.00 for additional search years
  • $12.000 for expedited services

Payment is available via money order or personal check made payable to the State of Michigan. Pay via cash and credit card is available at the front counter if ordering in person.

Additional divorce record forms are accessible below:

Birth Records

Birth records can only be requested by individuals named on the record, one of the parents named on the record or a court-appointed legal guardian of the individual named on the record. Legal representatives of the individual name on the record can also make requests. Any member of the public can request a copy of a birth record if it is over 100 years old.

Although many third-party websites offer vital records request services, you can order vital records directly from the MDHHS. To request a birth record or affidavit of parentage, you will need to fill out the Michigan Birth Record form or the Affidavit of Parentage form. Mail the completed form along with the appropriate fees listed below and a copy of your government-issued ID to the following address:


Vital Records Request
P.O. Box 30721
Lansing, MI 48909
You can also deliver the form and make payments in person at this address:


Vital Records Office
South Grand Building, 1st Floor
333 S Grand Avenue
Lansing, MI 48933
The following fees are charged for either a certified copy or no-find letter:

  • $34.00 base fee
  • $16.00 for each additional copy
  • $12.00 for additional search years
  • $12.000 for expedited services

Payment is available via money order or personal check made payable to the State of Michigan. Pay via cash and credit card is available at the front counter if ordering in person.

Additional birth record forms are accessible below:

Death Records

The Michigan FOIA regards death records as public information. They are therefore available to citizens upon request without a statement of intent. Although many third-party websites offer vital records request services, you can order vital records directly from the MDHHS.

To request a death record, you will need to fill out the Michigan Death Record form. Mail the completed form along with the appropriate fees listed below to the following address:


Vital Records Request
P.O. Box 30721
Lansing, MI 48909
You can also deliver the form and make payments in person at this address:


Vital Records Office
South Grand Building, 1st Floor
333 S Grand Avenue
Lansing, MI 48933
The following fees are charged for either a certified copy or no-find letter:

  • $34.00 base fee
  • $16.00 for each additional copy
  • $12.00 for additional search years
  • $12.000 for expedited services

Payment is available via money order or personal check made payable to the State of Michigan. Pay via cash and credit card is available at the front counter if ordering in person.

Additional death record forms are accessible below:

How to order Michigan vital records online

The state of Michigan has partnered with a third-party organization called VitalChek. This service allows individuals to order the above vital records through an online portal. The information provided still comes from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and certified state-seal copies are available.

The following record types available, as well as their cost, are as follows:

  • Death Apostille/Exemplified – $67.00; $26.00 for additional copies.
  • Marriage Certificate – $46.00; $16.00 for additional copies.
  • Marriage Apostille/Exemplified – $67.00; $26.00 for additional copies.
  • Divorce Certificate – $46.00; $16.00 for additional copies.
  • Divorce Apostille/ Exemplified – $67.00; $26.00 for additional copies.
  • Birth Certificate – $46.00; $16.00 for additional copies.
  • Birth Certificate (65+) – $26.00; $16.00 for additional copies.
  • Birth Record – Live Person Apostille/Exemplified – $67.00; $26.00 for additional copies.
  • Death Certificate – $46.00; $16.00 for additional copies.
  • Birth Genealogy – $46.00; $16.00 for additional copies.
  • Affidavit Of Parentage – $46.00; $16.00 for additional copies.
  • Heirloom Birth Certificate – $40.00; $40.00 for additional copies.

How to Access Michigan Business Records

The department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs provides a Business Entity Search. This search allows citizens to search the database of businesses maintained by the State of Michigan Corporations Division.

Use the following steps to complete a business entity search:

  • Select the type of search you want to complete by clicking on the four available options: entity name, business ID number, business filing number, or individual’s name.
  • When conducting a search by an entity or individual name, you will also be able to select one of the following search methods: ‘exact match,’ ‘begins with,’ ‘full text’ (available only for entity name search), or ‘index search.’
  • If an entity or individual name is selected, the results will list all registered businesses that resemble the search criteria.
  • Choose any of the results by clicking the hyperlink. This will display a summary of all the publicly available information on the business entity.
  • You can also reach the summary by selecting and entering the business’s ID number directly on the search page.
  • You can select ‘filing’ or ‘activity’ to display specific filing from the summary screen, and a list of filings will be returned to the user. You can also search by filing number on the original search page.
  • If there is no hyperlink available, that means there is no electronic record available for that filing. However, if there is, you can download a pdf document of the file by clicking on the hyperlink.

Michigan State License Search

The state of Michigan does not require every business to have an operating license, but many business types are required to have one. You can view a list of the companies required to have a state license here.

You can also use the State License Search to determine whether your business requires any licenses or permits to operate in the state.

How to Access Michigan Historical Records

The Michigan State Archives is a public body responsible for maintaining, preserving, and disseminating the records of Michigan’s government, public institutions, and history. There are also many records from private collections available in the archive. The archives contain documents that date back to 1792, with more than 80 million governmental and private records in its care.

The state archives maintain an online database of these records at their Michiganology website. Many but not all of the materials stored in the archives are accessible online through this portal. The Michiganology website also includes resources for researching the archives’ contents, such as guides and indexes.

The archives include historically significant items like videos, postcards, photographs, diaries, and letters. The following are some examples of the record categories maintained by the archives:

  • Census
  • Service records
  • Civil War manuscripts, photos, battle flags, and volunteer registries
  • Plot Maps
  • Pre-state Documents
  • Pre-state Photographs
  • Property inventories
  • Oral recordings and transcripts
  • Michigan’s music history
  • Architectural records
  • Documents about the governors of Michigan

Non-Digitized Records

Michigan’s state archives contain a large number of materials in their family research library. Most of these records are not digitized and available only on-site. Any member of the public can access these materials by visiting the site.

There are two main non-digitized sections of the state archive.

The Abrams Foundation Historical Collection encompasses a variety of historical material from all states east of the Mississippi and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. These records include many family genealogies, vital records, historical directories, and immigration records on thousands of microfilms and printed resources.

Primary Sources from local and state government records and manuscripts from private individuals make up the second non-digitized section of the state archive. These documents include naturalization records, governmental commissions and meeting minutes, committee records, military records, land surveys, and cartographic materials.

How can I access these records?

Access these records by visiting the Archives of Michigan, found in the Michigan Library and Historical Center. The address is:


702 W. Kalamazoo Street
Lansing, 48915517-334-2576
Email Address: archives@michigan.gov

There is no admission fee to enter the archives. Simply let the admissions desk know that you are visiting, and you will be directed towards the reading room. You will, however, need to register with the archives and obtain a photo ID card to access the archives. This will require you to show a government-issued photo ID.

How can I make copies of records?

Microfilm and Library Materials:

  • Use your own camera to take photos of library material.
  • Use an on-site scanner to save copies to a USB drive.
  • Generate electronic copies on-site for free.
  • Make paper copies for $0.20 a page using the self-service copier or microfilm reader/printer in the reading room.
  • Payments are made on the honor system, simply count your copies at the end of your visit and pay the registration desk.

Archive Materials

Archive materials are different from library and microfilm materials. The following rules govern them:

  • The researcher CANNOT use their own devices or cameras to make copies of materials in the archives.
  • iPads are available for loan in the reading room to make digital copies of materials in the archives.
  • You can make paper or electronic copies from the iPads at $0.20 per page. After 15 pages or $3.00, any additional pages are offered free of charge.
  • High-quality reproductions, as well as copies of large items, require an additional fee.
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