If you have criminal charges pending in Michigan, it is essential to know the details of your case. You have the right to request a copy of all public information related to your charge. This includes the police report.
Federal, state and local governments each have legislation protecting access to public information. These fall loosely under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Michigan and many other states even employ a transparency liaison to guide citizens through the process of making FOIA requests. Most municipalities also have dedicated offices.
Making a request
Whether your police encounter was with state, county or local officers, the request process may vary in detail. But requests are typically valid via letter, email, email attachment or fax to the relevant office, which is usually discoverable online. The state accepts petitions in each of these formats, or you can make requests through a portal on the state website.
When making a FOIA request, it is good practice to include the words “freedom of information” or “FOIA” in high visibility, such as in the subject line or on the envelope. State legal code gives this direction to make petitions more salient for staff. Include the exact request within the first 250 words to avoid a loophole in some states where recipients can dismiss your request.
Things to remember
Officials will not create a record for you if one does not already exist, and not all records are free. An office may charge according to a schedule estimating necessary staff time and resources. Offices may deny requests for privacy or security reasons and will often redact sensitive information from provided records. Thankfully, in Michigan, a full explanation of a denial, the person who denied the request and your legal recourse must accompany a denial. You can bring a denial for judicial review, or you may be able to take civil action if the agency refuses to cooperate.