Guide to Michigan Background Checks

Danielle Hubein
June 26, 2023
9 min read

Employers often conduct Michigan background checks as part of the hiring process to help verify a candidate’s qualifications and eligibility for the role, reduce risk, and promote a safe workplace. However, employers must be sure to follow federal, state, and local laws that govern when background checks can be performed and used when hiring.

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What is a Michigan background check?

Employers or volunteer organizations may use a Michigan background check to gain insight about an applicant that is relevant to the role in question. Michigan background checks may search criminal records and other court records, credit reports, and motor vehicle records (MVRs). They may also involve verifying a candidate’s education and employment history. Employers may conduct different background checks for different types of jobs. For example, a company might check a candidate’s MVR if the job involves driving a delivery van, or conduct a credit check for a finance-related position.

What shows up on a Michigan background check?

State of Michigan background checks search a variety of sources to find job applicants’ past records. The type of background check conducted may differ depending on the specific position, applicable laws, and the organization’s background screening policy. Some types of background checks Michigan employers may opt to use include:

  • Criminal background checks to search for misdemeanor and felony convictions. Michigan has several laws regulating when employers can run criminal background checks, what information they can access, and how they can use information from criminal records in employment decisions. (For details, see “Michigan background check laws,” below.)
  • Employment verification to confirm a candidate’s job history, including dates of employment and titles held.
  • Education verification to examine education databases or contact schools to confirm when a candidate attended the school and any degrees or certifications they earned.
  • Professional license verification confirms that a candidate has relevant licenses for jobs requiring licensing, such as nursing or accountancy. You can also verify professional licenses with Michigan’s Bureau of Professional Licensing.
  • Motor vehicle records (MVR) checks search Michigan’s motor vehicle records to review an applicant’s license class and status, whether the license has been revoked or suspended, and any traffic citations or accidents.
  • Credit checks to review a candidate’s credit history, including accounts in collection, tax liens, and bankruptcies. These checks may be used for financial services positions or positions with access to a company’s finances.
  • Drug testing to screen for the presence of alcohol and certain controlled substances, which may be required by industry regulations or your company policy.

How long does a background check in Michigan take?

Turnaround times for a Michigan background check can vary depending on several factors – the scope of the search, whether the records are digitized, and the entity conducting the search. When public records are available digitally, a background check can often be completed within a day. When screening entails visiting a courthouse or contacting an entity directly, it may take longer. For example, county courts are usually the most current source of criminal records, but some county courts do not have digitized records and may require an in-person visit to the county clerk to access the records.

The Internet Criminal History Access Tool (ICHAT), a tool of the Michigan State Police, compiles public criminal records of misdemeanor convictions and felony arrests and convictions. The data is available through an online search using an individual’s name. However, ICHAT may not be up to date or include all information. In addition, searching by name alone may return criminal records that don’t belong to the applicant in question. This can not only delay a background check, but could also expose your organization to liability.

Consumer reporting agencies (CRAs), like Checkr, can typically conduct searches more efficiently. For example, Checkr’s proprietary data network and relationships with court runners nationwide, combined with modern technology, delivers fast, accurate results. For county criminal record checks that may take more time, Checkr ETA, a unique product feature, uses machine learning to provide an estimated turnaround time for your candidate’s background check report.

How far back does a Michigan background check go?

How far back a background check in Michigan goes depends on the type of background check and whether it is conducted by the employer or a CRA. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) restricts how far back a CRA can report certain background check results. CRAs can only look back 7 years for:

  • Arrest records
  • Non-criminal driving records
  • Paid tax liens
  • Accounts in collections
  • Civil suits and judgments
  • Any other adverse information (excluding criminal convictions)

The FCRA allows a lookback period of 10 years for bankruptcies.

Under the FCRA, if the annual salary for a position is $75,000 or more, certain time limitations may not apply.

There are no FCRA lookback limits when reporting employment and education history or criminal convictions. However, Michigan’s Clean Slate initiative, designed to expand job opportunities for candidates with criminal justice involvement, has led to several laws potentially affecting employers’ access to Michigan criminal records:

  • Michigan passed a wholesale “Clean Slate” package in 2020, which included 7 House Bills.
  • A second “Clean Slate” package was passed in 2021, containing 4 additional House Bills
  • The State continues to work in earnest on expungement policies, in line with Section 780.621g.  The automated expungement process began at the beginning of April.
  • Public Acts 361 and 362 seal juvenile court records from the public and allow individuals to apply to have juvenile convictions set aside one year after the court’s jurisdiction over them ends. The state anticipates an automatic process to set aside juvenile records will be in place by July 3, 2023.

A Michigan MVR check will show traffic violations for the past 7 years. However, felony convictions, such as OWIs, stay on the driver’s record indefinitely unless set aside as described above.

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Michigan background check laws

There are several statewide background check laws in Michigan that employers must follow.

Executive Directive 2018-4

Summary: Public employers in Michigan cannot ask about an applicant’s criminal history until an initial interview has been conducted or a conditional offer of employment has been made. This restriction doesn’t apply if federal law forbids hiring applicants with criminal histories. See law.

Michigan Comp. Laws § 37.2205A

Summary: With the exception of law enforcement agencies and political subdivisions of the state, Michigan employers cannot ask candidates about or gather information related to misdemeanor arrests, detentions, or dispositions not resulting in convictions. The rule does not apply to felonies  or to misdemeanor convictions. See law.

After a few years of back and forth, the Michigan State Court Administrative Offer, created a Consent Verification Registration system to approve “authorized individuals” who provide written consent for another person or agency to access identifiers such as DOB in court records. The website for registering as an “authorized individual” can be found here. A full list of authorized individuals can be found here.

Executive Directive 2019-10

Summary: To help close the gender wage gap, Michigan limits information employers can gather about applicants’ current or prior salaries. Michigan state departments and agencies subject to supervision by the Governor:

  • Cannot ask for a candidate’s salary or salary history until a conditional offer of employment has been extended.
  • Cannot use a public database to look for a candidate’s salary or salary history.
  • Must take reasonable measures to avoid unintentionally revealing salary history when collecting other information about a candidate. If they do uncover such information, they cannot use it in employment decisions.

See law.

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

In addition to state and local laws, all Michigan employers must comply with the federal FCRA when they work with a CRA to obtain background checks and credit reports. The FCRA requirements include having a permissible purpose, providing written disclosure and obtaining consent prior to conducting a background check, providing a copy of the background check results, and following the adverse action process should the results of a background check negatively impact a hiring decision. See law.

In addition to these statewide laws, many cities and counties in Michigan have local screening laws that may apply to you and your candidates based on location, such as fair hiring and Ban the Box laws. When in doubt, employers may wish to comply with the strictest laws to avoid potential liability.

County resources

The following resources may be useful for organizations conducting background checks in Michigan’s largest counties.

Clinton County

Located in the heart of Michigan, Clinton County has a population of 79,128 in 566.35 square miles. Lansing and East Lansing are the biggest cities; healthcare, education, and manufacturing are the primary industries. This mostly agricultural county produces milk, soybeans, and corn.

Public Information & Records:

  • A Ban the Box law applies to city employers in East Lansing.

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Genesee County

Healthcare and manufacturing are major employers in Genesee County, which gets its name from a Seneca word meaning “beautiful valley.” Boasting 11,000 acres of forests and water across its nearly 640 square miles, the county is home to Michigan’s largest county park system, as well as over 406,000 residents. The biggest city and county seat is Flint, where General Motors got its start.

Public Information & Records:

  • A Ban the Box law applies to county employers in Genesee County.

Ingham County

Lansing and East Lansing, which straddle Clinton and Ingham Counties, are the biggest cities in Ingham County. Its gently rolling hills are home to 284,900 people in 556 square miles. Education and healthcare are the key industries in Ingham County.

Public Information & Records:

Kalamazoo County

Made famous by the Glenn Miller song “I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo,” Kalamazoo County has 261,670 residents. Kalamazoo, the county seat, is the biggest city, followed by Portage. Kalamazoo County is the site of the nation’s first outdoor pedestrian shopping mall and eight Frank Lloyd Wright Homes. Checker taxicabs and Gibson guitars were once made here; manufacturing remains a major employer, along with healthcare and education.

Public Information & Records:

  • A Ban the Box law applies to city employers and vendors with tax abatements, Economic Opportunity Fund loans, and/or contracts for $25,000 or more in the city of Kalamazoo.

Kent County

With 657,974 residents, Kent County is home to Grand Rapids, the economic and manufacturing center of West Michigan. Grand Rapids is the county seat and largest city, followed by Wyoming and Kentwood. Major industries in the area include manufacturing, healthcare, and retail.

Public Information & Records:

  • A Ban the Box law applies to all employers in Grand Rapids.

Livingston County

While still comprised mostly of bedroom communities, Livingston County’s economy is growing. Manufacturing is its biggest industry, and major employers include PepsiCo and Citizens Insurance. Fenton and Howell are the largest cities in Livingston County, which boasts a population of 193,866 in 565 square miles.

Public Information & Records:

Macomb County

Bordering Lake St. Clair, Macomb County is the birthplace of musicians Kid Rock, Alice Cooper, and Eminem.  Its 479 square miles feature over 130 state parks spanning 12,000 acres, with plenty of fishing, boating, and water activities. A population of 881,217 occupies everything from urban centers to rural villages. Warren, Sterling Heights, and St. Clair Shores are its largest cities.

Public Information & Records:

Muskegon County

Located on Michigan’s west side and bordering Lake Michigan, Muskegon County is an outdoor recreation hub, boasting 26 miles of beaches. Muskegon, the county seat, is the largest city, followed by North Shore. Muskegon County’s population is 175,824; its major industries are manufacturing and healthcare.

Public Information & Records:

  • A Ban the Box law applies to county employers in Muskegon County.

Oakland County

The second most populous county in Michigan, with a population of 1.2 million. Oakland County is a manufacturing stronghold, boasting major employers including General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler. Troy, Farmington Hills, Southfield, and Rochester Hills are the biggest cities in its 867.28 square miles.

Public Information & Records:

  • A Ban the Box law applies to county employers in Oakland County.

Ottawa County

Occupying 563 square miles of land and 1,068 square miles of water, Ottawa County is named for the Ottawa Nation. The Grand River was once a major trade route into Michigan’s interior, and fishing, boating, and hiking remain popular pastimes in the area, which has  296,200 residents. Holland, Allendale, and Jenison are Ottawa County’s biggest cities; manufacturing is its main industry.

Public Information & Records:

Washtenaw County

With 372,258 residents in 706 square miles, Washtenaw County is a mix of urban, suburban, and rural areas. Ann Arbor, the county seat, is the largest city, followed by Ypsilanti. Education is a major industry. In addition to many nature preserves and historic sites, the county is home to the University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University, Washtenaw Community College, and Concordia University Ann Arbor.

Public Information & Records:

  • Ban the Box laws apply to all employers in Ann Arbor and city employers in Ypsilanti.

Wayne County

One of Michigan’s most diverse counties, Wayne County is home to Detroit, the birthplace of Motown. The most populous county in the state, Wayne County has 1.7 million people in 611 square miles. Detroit is the largest city in both the county and the state, with over 640,000 residents. At its peak in 1950, Detroit was the center of the US automotive industry and the fifth-largest city in the nation.

Public Information & Records:

  • A Ban the Box law applies to city employers and vendors with contracts for $25,000 or more in Detroit.

Get a Michigan background check with Checkr

With many state and local laws regulating Michigan background checks, conducting background screenings on your own can quickly become complicated. Partnering with a qualified background check provider, like Checkr, can simplify the process. By combining advanced technology with human review, we deliver fast, accurate background checks to help you hire with confidence. Our industry-leading turnaround times help you hire faster, while intuitive interfaces deliver a great experience for employers and candidates alike.

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The resources and information provided here are for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Always consult your own counsel for up-to-date legal advice and guidance related to your practices, needs, and compliance with applicable laws.

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About the author

As Compliance Manager, Danielle analyzes the ever-changing laws and regulations affecting background screening to ensure that Checkr and its customers stay compliant. She also writes content to educate employers about background checks, screening best practices, and fair hiring laws. 

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