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Understanding the expungement process in Michigan

The unfortunate reality for many people who have been convicted of some manner of felony or misdemeanor is that they are often unable to escape from the shadow of their criminal record despite having paid their debt to society and wanting nothing more than a new beginning.

Indeed, a criminal record can prevent those seeking a job or a particular professional license from realizing their goals, as employers and licensing boards will often use this as a basis for disqualification. As distressing as this is, people should be aware that the state of Michigan has established a process for clearing a criminal record.

It's important to understand, however, that the process of setting aside a conviction, frequently referred to as an expungement, is subject to certain restrictions.

Type of convictions

At the outset, it must be established that certain types of convictions may not be removed from a criminal record. While a complete listing of these offenses is beyond the scope of a single blog post, they generally include:

  • Sex crimes
  • Traffic offenses, including OWI
  • Felony convictions for domestic violence (if there is a previous misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence)
  • Felony offenses punishable by life in prison (regardless of actual sentence)

Number of convictions   

While an individual must only have one conviction on their criminal record in order to be eligible for an expungement, there are certain exceptions:

  • Those with two or less misdemeanor convictions and no felony convictions may request an expungement
  • Those with one felony conviction, and two or less misdemeanor convictions may request an expungement
  • Those with felony or misdemeanor convictions that were subsequently deferred and dismissed will see them treated as misdemeanor convictions for the purposes of determining eligibility to request an expungement

Number of years

Those looking to set aside a criminal conviction are required to wait a minimum of five years after the latest applicable date:

  • The date on which probation was completed
  • The date on which discharge from parole was secured
  • The date of release from prison
  • The date of the conviction

In the event a previous attempt to have a record cleared was denied, the applicant will need to wait three years from the date of this denial before reattempting (unless a judge permits otherwise).

What all of this serves to underscore is that setting aside a criminal conviction can prove to be a complex undertaking. As such, those who would like to learn more or require assistance should strongly consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can answer questions and pursue solutions. 

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