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  1. #1

    Default Can Records from a Criminal Case Be Sealed Without Your Knowledge

    My question involves criminal records for the state of: MI

    Is it possible for a circuit court to seal a defendants case without his knowledge?

    Is it illegal to forward a sealed court document such as Discovery to a media agency?

    Thank you

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Can a Court Record Be Sealed Without Your Knowing

    What's the situation here? You have provided no details.

    Normally the answers to your questions would be Yes and No.

    What do you mean by a "sealed court document such as Discovery"? Discovery is not a document.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Can a Court Record Be Sealed Without Your Knowing

    Thanks for your reply. The situation is a massive and embarrassing criminal investigation and prosecution that occurred at a lab within an elite university. The situation was also somehow kept from any media coverage, you literally cannot find anything on the case at all. Ultimately, however, the prosecution dropped the case after the charges were filed. I can no longer find record of the case on the counties circuit court website, whereas it was present for at least a year after adjudication. It makes me wonder if the case may have been sealed.

    I may have confused Discovery with the police report submitted to prosecution, which also contained things like copies of search warrants, list of formal charges, court records, etc. So I guess my question was even if these documents are collectively sealed, if that's even possible, is it illegal to distribute them. I always thought they were public record regardless.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Can a Court Record Be Sealed Without Your Knowing

    What's the reason for your inquiry? Were YOU prosecuted in this? Or do you just want to find out about it?

  5. #5

    Default Re: Can a Court Record Be Sealed Without Your Knowing

    With all due respect officer, I don't think that has any bearing on the question at hand. The facts of the case were provided, and I was just looking for an answer as such. If you need more information to provide a response, then I will freely provide. But my own involvement in the case is irrelevant.

    I will add that I possess comprehensive knowledge of the investigation, as well as all prosecutorial documentation. This is a situation where somewhere to the tune of a quarter-million dollars of tax-payer money were effectively wasted on frivolous prosecution, and I think the public deserves to know where its money went and how the case was handled on such limited hearsay.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Can a Court Record Be Sealed Without Your Knowing

    Posting hx folks.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Can a Court Record Be Sealed Without Your Knowing

    Thanks for invalidating my question free9man. Really appreciate it. Honest question, was just looking for an honest answer.

    Maybe if I come back with a new username and ask the same question under a different context in a year from now, I'll actually get find someone who can help me.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Can a Court Record Be Sealed Without Your Knowing

    Quote Quoting Question4law
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    If you need more information to provide a response, then I will freely provide.
    I did ask and you refused to answer. I'm done with this one.


    Quote Quoting Question4law
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    ...how the case was handled on such limited hearsay.

    That makes no sense, like some of the other things you have said.



    Get in touch with your local television news station. Maybe they'll be interested in exposing all the misconduct in this case. Good luck.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Can a Court Record Be Sealed Without Your Knowing

    Quote Quoting Highwayman
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    I did ask and you refused to answer. I'm done with this one.
    Most online legal advice forums do not condone admitting to personal involvement in legal cases. Prosecutors have access to the internet, just as you and I. But let's say (why do cops always play these head games), hypothetically, that I was the on prosecuted in the case. Does that impact your ability to answer my question? Most police officers will tell you if something is illegal or not when you ask them as an unknowing civilian...

    Some of the things I have said likely don't make sense because I don't have a firm grasp on terms and concepts used in law. You do, because you've worked in the field nearly 20 years. That's why I'm here asking questions. By 'limited hearsay', I meant that a case that should have been rooted in factual evidence, as cases of this nature almost always are, was instead prosecuted purely on the basis of circumstantial evidence, most of that entirely hearsay testimony from other witnesses. For example "x-person said y-person told them they were making drugs in a lab" (no one actually observed this person making drugs in a lab), "x-person said y-person was acting erratically at work" (everyone has their own opinion on what erratic behavior is, and it isn't always drug related), "x-person said y-person told them they had access to any materials needed to make drugs." (no materials for making said drugs were actually found in the lab space). Perhaps my notion of hearsay is not correct, but I'm told hearsay is typically not admissible evidence in court, and perhaps that is why the case was almost immediately dropped.

    Thank you for your time.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Can a Court Record Be Sealed Without Your Knowing

    Hearsay is a rule of evidence that applies in court. I won’t get into the details of it here as is doesn’t really matter to what has been asked so far. I don’t know what you mean by “factual evidence” but it is important to understand that circumstantial evidence and the testimony of witnesses are every bit as valid as evidence as a scientific test. A police investigation and criminal prosecution can be based on circumstantial evidence or testimony alone, and convictions have been won on such cases. The type of evidence does not matter so much as to how strong the particular evidence is in proving one or more elements of a crime. Unfortunately TV and movies have given the general public a very bad understanding of what is necessary to support a prosecution.

    It not very uncommon to seal court records other than certain juvenile/family law court records and certain records/cases involving national security. The laws of some states also allow sealing of arrest or conviction records if certain conditions are met. Michigan Court Rule 8.119(I) deals with sealing of court records and applies to the sealing of any court record in Michigan courts unless some other law provides a more specific rule (like the law sealing certain arrest records, for example). Among the rules provided are:
    • that the court may only seal the case upon the request of a party to the case; the court may not seal the records sua sponte (i.e. on the court's own motion);
    • the records may only be sealed upon a showing of good cause;
    • the court will provide notice of the request to seal the records to all interested parties in the case; and,
    • importantly, provides that the opinion/order to seal the record cannot itself be sealed.

    What this means is that the court could not seal the case without first notifying of the defendant of the request (presumably by the state) to seal the record, so the answer to your first question is no, the court could not seal it without the defendant being notified. Moreover, because the order sealing the records cannot itself be sealed, there will be a record with the court that the record was sealed. So the case would not simply disappear without a trace. The court must also send a copy of the order sealing the records to the clerk of the Supreme Court, so there will be a record there as well of that the case was sealed.

    The main points of the rules for sealing cases was emphasized in a memo from the Supreme Court to the lower courts a couple of years ago, which you can read here: http://courts.mi.gov/Administration/...CS-2013-04.pdf

    A party the to the case may well be prohibited from distributing information that was in the court file by the order sealing the case. One would have to read the order to determine that.

    Bottom line here is that if the case was sealed, you can find that out as there will be a record of that. If the case was not sealed, there is some other reason why it is no longer accessible on the web site.

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