Michigan Supreme Court Rules to Remove Identifying Info from Public Records

The Michigan Supreme Court will no longer allow date of birth and other personal information to be part of publicly accessible records. Community members are concerned that this change will influence the employment process – here’s what you should know.

January 1, 2022

For most employers across the U.S., background checks are an essential part of the process – they remove the possibility of employing a felon or minor offender. However, a new Michigan Supreme Court ruling could bring new challenges to the hiring process.

The decision first came up in 2019 when the court accepted a law that would make identifying information inaccessible to the public. This new rule will go into full effect on January 1, 2022, but revisions to the original decision were adopted in May 2019, with a rollout date of July 1, 2020.

John Nevin, the communications director for the Michigan Supreme Court, says that this decision is a part of a bigger picture. According to Nevin, the state plans on creating a centralized, state-wide records system that will be accessible by anyone from anywhere. In order to make this happen, the court must redact personal identifying information (PII) from all records to protect privacy.

While the natural conclusion is that this will only benefit convicted felons, the rule will apply to all citizens with or without a criminal record. Michigan courts will not be required to redact current or past files – only those filed on or after January 1, 2022.

Who Will be Affected?

Every Michiganian will be included in this centralization process regardless of criminal history, but there are other sides to this issue. Not only will employers not have access to important background information from court records, but the people who’ve made a career out of background checking could be out of a job.

Most of us don’t have to think about what happens behind the scenes to perform a background check – we assume that our names and info are plugged into a database. However, for many businesses, that’s not what happens.

Record retrievers are the ‘record warriors’ behind many background checks for employers. Their job is to comb through court records and pull criminal histories to keep employers informed, but finding the correct John Doe without date of birth (DOB) could be impossible.

Another surprising outcome of this decision could make common names practically invisible. DOB is a vital part of the search, and without it, the John Smiths of the world are nearly indistinguishable from each other. Because of this, those with a criminal record could still miss out on employment opportunities if the hiring manager can’t find them among public records.

What Is ICHAT?

One option for employers is ICHAT which costs $10 per search and allows users to access records directly from law enforcement. While this may sound like the logical answer to the problem, ICHAT doesn’t show everything.

ICHAT isn’t infallible which can make sifting through background checks even more of a challenge. Some records may be expunged, downgraded to a misdemeanor, or missing. Someone may admit to a DUI that doesn’t show up in the records, while another potential candidate may have a felony on their record that isn’t accessible that could influence their employability.

Especially for positions that require employees to work with children or in health care, access to criminal history can be a crucial part of the hiring process to ensure that patients and children are protected.

ICHAT has a disclaimer on its website that clearly states that users should not use the information for a check without verifying the record with court documents.

How Does This Affect Me?

If you have been arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime, this new ruling could be to your benefit. However, it is important to keep in mind that only records accrued after January 1, 2022, will not be available to the public.

Contact White Law, PLLC, for more information and guidance regarding criminal records, charges, and arrests.