A thermally-induced voltage alteration (TIVA) apparatus and method are disclosed for analyzing a microelectromechanical (MEM) device with or without on-board integrated circuitry. One embodiment of the TIVA apparatus uses constant-current biasing of the MEM device while scanning a focused laser beam over electrically-active members therein to produce localized heating which alters the power demand of the MEM device and thereby changes the voltage of the constant-current source. This changing voltage of the constant-current source can be measured and used in combination with the position of the focused and scanned laser beam to generate an image of any short-circuit defects in the MEM device (e.g. due to stiction or fabrication defects). In another embodiment of the TIVA apparatus, an image can be generated directly from a thermoelectric potential produced by localized laser heating at the location of any short-circuit defects in the MEM device, without any need for supplying power to the MEM device. The TIVA apparatus can be formed, in part, from a scanning optical microscope, and has applications for qualification testing or failure analysis of MEM devices.