DETROIT – The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and Legal Aid of Western Michigan (LAWM) are hailing an agreement with the Michigan State Police (MSP) 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 MSP understands this, and has 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 appear to have the record, even though that record 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 MSP 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 your criminal record the same way they check their credit report,” said LAWM 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 MSP, 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,” now available at both www.aclumich.org and www.legalaidwestmich.org