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Transparency and Freedom of Information Act

Transparency

  • This memo is being shared as a biannual reminder of the laws that govern the Michigan Department of State’s release of vehicle and driver records, which include personal information. This memo does not reflect a change in policy.

    The Michigan Department of State will continue to provide vehicle and driver records to members of the media in accordance with Michigan Vehicle Code 257.208c, subsection L, which includes the following:

    257.208c Disclosure of personal information; uses. Sec. 208c

    1. Except as provided in this section and in section 232, personal information in a record maintained under this act shall not be disclosed, unless the person requesting the information furnishes proof of identity satisfactory to the secretary of state and certifies that the personal information requested will be used for a permissible purpose identified in this section or in section 232. However, highly restricted personal information shall be used and disclosed only as expressly permitted in section 307 or as otherwise expressly provided by law.

    2. Personal information in a record maintained under this act shall be disclosed by the secretary of state if required to carry out the purposes of federal law or federal regulations.

    3. Personal information in a record maintained under this act may be disclosed by the secretary of state as follows:
    • (L) For use by a news medium in the preparation and dissemination of a report related in part or in whole to the operation of a motor vehicle or public safety.

Freedom of Information Act

Michigan's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), MCL 15.231 et seq, provides that certain persons can receive copies or make inspections of most public records of public bodies upon written request. The person must sufficiently describe the records they seek as the department isn't required to perform legal or other research to determine the nature of records sought by a requestor. The department may charge a fee to cover the cost of complying with a person's FOIA request. Specifying exact search terms and date ranges will assist the department in searching for potentially responsive documents and reduce your potential costs.

Attention!

NOTICE! Driver and vehicle records, bulk information sales, and commercial subscriptions should be requested separately online or by mail.

Submit a FOIA request

Your request must include your:

  • First, middle, and last name
  • Address (in compliance with U.S. Postal Service standards)
  • Phone number
  • Email 

FOIA requests can be submitted to MDOS-FOIA@Michigan.gov or by mail:

Michigan Department of State
Attn: FOIA Coordinator
P.O. Box 30204
Lansing, MI 48918

FOIA procedures and guidelines (Choose tab below)

The department has several options when responding to written requests for public records. It can grant the FOIA request, deny the request, grant it in part and deny it in part, or take one 10 business day extension. After 10 business days pass, the department has to respond with one of the other options.

If the request is granted or granted in part and denied in part, the department can also charge a fee to process the request. There is no fee for requests that don't require the department to incur costs above the threshold set in its procedures and guidelines. Fees are calculated using its procedures and guidelines, and you will receive a detailed itemization of the fee.

The department may require you to pay a good-faith deposit before it processes your request. After you pay any deposit and final balance due, the department will produce records in its possession that fall within the scope of your request and that legally may be disclosed to the public. The department may also notify you that some of the records you have requested are available on its website. If the request is denied, the department will inform you of the basis for its denial in a written notice.

Reasons the department may deny a request include:

  1. You didn't describe the records you have requested well enough and the department cannot determine what you are asking for;
  2. The department has determined that it doesn't have records that respond to your request in its possession; or
  3. The records you have requested are exempt from public disclosure.

If all or part of your request is denied, the department will inform you of your right to appeal its denial to the head of the department and/or to file a lawsuit against the department in its written response.

If the department estimates a fee to process a FOIA request greater than $50, the department will require a good-faith deposit from you before providing the public records. The deposit shall not exceed half of the total estimated fee. Any written notice containing a notice of a deposit shall also contain a best effort estimate by the department regarding the time frame after a deposit is received that it will take the department to provide the public records.

The time frame estimate isn't binding upon the department, but the department shall provide the estimate in good faith and strive to be reasonably accurate and to provide the public records in a manner based on this State's public policy under section 1 of the FOIA, MCL 15.231, and the nature of the request in the particular instance. If a fee appeal hasn't been filed under section 10a of the FOIA, MCL 15.240a, the department must receive the required deposit within 45 days after your statutorily-determined receipt of the estimate (3 days after the department sends the estimate), otherwise the FOIA request will be considered abandoned and the department won't be required to fulfill the request.

FOIA permits the department to charge a fee to process FOIA requests using a form to give you a detailed itemization of the costs involved.

The department may charge for the following costs:

  1. the costs of labor for the search, location, and examination of public records;
  2. the costs of labor for the review of public records and separation and deletion of exempt from nonexempt material;
  3. the cost of non-paper physical media;
  4. the cost of duplication and publication of public records;
  5. the costs of labor for the duplication or publication of public records;
  6. the actual cost of mailing public records.

If the department charges a fee or denies all or part of a request, you may submit to the head of the department a written appeal that specifically states the word "appeal" and identifies the basis for which the fee should be reduced or the disclosure determination should be reversed. Written appeals may be sent to the email address or mailing address listed above and will be forwarded to the person designated by the Michigan Secretary of State to respond to written appeals.

In accordance with section 6 of the FOIA, MCL 15.236, the department has appointed a FOIA coordinator, as well as an alternate FOIA coordinator.

For more information, email MDOS-FOIA@Michigan.gov or call 517-241-3463.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Directive No. 2019-11, states that each department or autonomous agency is required to designate a transparency liaison that shall do the following:

  1. Assist members of the public seeking a public record from the department or agency in navigating the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act or other law applicable to public records, including by providing educational materials on the website of the department or agency.
  2. Assist members of the public seeking to participate in a public meeting held by a board or commission within the department or agency in a manner that complies with the Open Meetings Act, including by providing educational materials on the website.
  3. Make recommendations to the department and agency for compliance with this directive, to reduce costs relating to public records requests, and to encourage greater transparency.
  4. Advocate for the disclosure of public records quickly and in a cost-efficient manner.
  5. Advocate for transparency and procedures that encourage public participation in public meetings.
  6. Consult with the department or agency’s Freedom of Information Act coordinator regarding compliance with this directive and the Freedom of Information Act.
  7. Recommend changes to the department’s or agency’s procedures and guidelines and written public summary of the procedures and guidelines for the department under section 4 of the Freedom of Information Act, MCL 15.234.

In compliance with the Executive Directive, the Michigan Department State’s transparency liaison contact information is:

Transparency Liaison
Michigan Department of State
P.O. Box 30204
Lansing, MI 48918
MDOS-Transparency@Michigan.gov

Transparency documents: Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson