Michigan State Police and Legal Groups Agree To Changes To Help Identity Theft Victims

Affiliate: ACLU of Michigan
July 27, 2005 12:00 am

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ACLU and Legal Aid Release Guide for People to Clear Mistaken Criminal Records

DETROIT — The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and Legal Aid of Western Michigan today hailed an agreement with the Michigan State Police to clear the names of innocent victims of identity theft whose criminal records contain convictions that actually belong to the criminals who stole their identities.

“Having an inaccurate criminal record can be devastating,” said Michael Steinberg, ACLU of Michigan Legal Director. “The Michigan State Police understand this, and have agreed to make significant changes to their computer system that will protect public safety while ensuring that victims of identity theft don’t end up with records for crimes they did not commit. Unfortunately, the new system won’t be up and running until 2006, but this is a huge step in the right direction.”

Currently, background check information is provided by the Michigan State Police to employers, landlords and the general public. But if a criminal has used someone else’s name, the criminal’s convictions will appear on the record of the identity theft victim. This makes it look like the victim has been convicted of the identity thief’s crimes. Individuals with common names may also find themselves with a criminal record that actually belongs to someone else with the same name.

Once the new computer system is operational, a person who can prove through a fingerprint match that the criminal record does not belong to him or her can get the “mistaken identity convictions” removed. The Michigan State Police will continue to track alias information by creating a new computer field for identity theft, which will be visible only to law enforcement officials.

“People should regularly check their criminal records the same way they check their credit reports,” said Legal Aid attorney Miriam Aukerman. “This is very important because, any time someone uses your name as an alias, that person’s convictions will show up under your name.”

Aukerman also warns that employers should not assume that the information they get from background checks is correct. “Employers should always check with the applicant to make sure the information on the record is accurate. If employers don’t give applicants a chance to explain and correct mistakes on their records, employers are not only turning away qualified employees, but are also potentially exposing themselves to liability.”

In addition to the successful negotiations with the Michigan State Police, the two organizations have created How Do I Clear My Name? A Guide To Help You Correct Your Record If It Contains Crimes You Did Not Commit.

To read the guide, go to: www.aclumich.org/pdf/howdoiclearmyname.pdf

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