The freedom of information act in my state (Michigan) seems to be written in a way that favor's "per record" requests. However, in order to show a trend in one direction or another bulk data must be obtained - ie a list of "records" and their common attributes.

Does the FOIA (in Michigan specifically) cover such requests in a way that makes them reasonable financially? In other words, if I request all data from 2017, is there a way that limits the cost to a single transaction rather than a fee for each record in such a report?

Specifically, I would like to obtain a list of traffic violations to show a statistical significance that police are targeting out of town visitors.

1 Answer 1


I'm assuming you want a database or spreadsheet of traffic citations, and not copies of all the citations so that you can build a database yourself.

Assuming that's correct, and assuming that such a database exists, the answer is yes, you may access that. There may be some data that the police are able to pull out, but you are generally entitled to records in the format in which they exist.

So I would request the database, which probably exists if you're dealing with a jurisdiction of more than 12 people.

See, Farrell v. City of Detroit, 209 Mich. App. 7, 530 N.W.2d 105 (1995) ("In Michigan, computer records constitute public records subject to disclosure under the FOIA"); Payne v. Grand Rapids Police Chief, 178 Mich. App. 193, 443 N.W.2d 481 (1989) (plaintiff entitled to copy of tape recording of 911 emergency calls, even where city offered to provide transcript of tape); but see, Lapeer County Abstract & Title v. Lapeer County Register of Deeds, 264 Mich. App. 167, 691 N.W.2d 11 (2004) (public bodies are not required by the FOIA to provide microfilm copies rather than paper copies of the records at issue, even when the public body keeps the records on mircrofilm). See also Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.232(f) (software — which is not a public record — excludes "computer-stored information or data, or a field name if disclosure of that field name does not violate a software license.")

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