If you are looking to obtain information about an arrest, traffic stop, or a drunk driving case, you have a powerful tool available in Michigan. This tool is called the "Freedom of Information Act," and you can use it to help yourself to a wealth of information with minimal effort and nominal costs.
A lot of confusion exists about FOIA, as the Freedom of Information Act is known. The FOIA exists to let you, as a citizen, know what your government is up to, how the government is conducting its affairs, who is responsible for what, and where your taxpayer dollars are being spent. To facilitate your participation in the democratic process, the FOIA allows you to get copies of documents produced on your dime, with a few narrowly tailored exceptions.
FOIA is not the same as criminal discovery. Discovery rules exist to facilitate the exchange of information between parties to a lawsuit. If you are involved in a criminal or civil case, the prosecutor or opposing party is required to disclose certain information pursuant to court rules and procedures. As such, a prosecutor is required to disclose “exculpatory information” to the accused criminal. FOIA has nothing to do with that process at all, and asking for “exculpatory information” under a public record’s request would be silly.
Local governments get confused about FOIA and what it means too. When a local government gets a FOIA request, they often times act like someone is trying to get access to their secret files and private notes. What these folks fail to understand is that almost nothing is secret or private. These are government employees working for the taxpayers, and they are not allowed to hide stuff from the public.
Recently, local municipal governments have begun to create hurdles to FOIA, refusing to provide access to documents without notarized letters or claiming that special forms must be submitted for proper inspection of public records. These hurdles subject those municipalities to costly lawsuits, sanctions, and attorney fees. Some coyly offer forms that do not reference the FOIA in an effort to avoid these sanctions. This clever trick inspired our firm to create forms that comport with the law.
We have designed a simple form that allows the average citizen to easily submit a proper request to collect the most important information pertaining to an arrest, investigation, traffic accident, and drunk driving case. Our Free FOIA Forms do not obligate you to hire our firm. Feel free to use them, share them, and modify them. Keep in mind that this does not create an attorney-client relationship between us, but we are ready, willing, and able to stand behind our free forms and bring a lawsuit on your behalf if the local government body denies your public records request.
You can download the Free FOIA Forms here.