Thousands of Michigan residents live with the burden of possessing a criminal record. A criminal record can make it extremely difficult to find a job and housing, leading many to struggle to re-acclimate after paying their debt to society.
Criminal record expungements (and the related concept of record sealing) can offer a way forward for those convicted of past crimes, including felony drug crimes. But state authorities continue to work through tweaks to the process, some of which make it a frustrating and slow experience.
What is a criminal record expungement?
Nearly every state in the US offers some form of criminal record expungement or record sealing. These are ways for a person convicted of a criminal offense to remove that crime from their records.
An expungement completely removes any record of that conviction. Record sealing maintains a record of the conviction visible to the courts but won’t show up on any public inquiry, such as one done by a prospective landlord or employer. Expungement or record sealing is predicated on the person having remained free of any subsequent convictions for a period of time before being eligible.
Current issues with expungement
While most public officials embrace the concept of criminal record expungement for qualified individuals, the system is plagued by issues. Some of these issues can lead to delays or even failure to receive an expungement.
One such issue is the fees associated with an expungement. These costs can run into the hundreds of dollars, putting strain on the budgets of less wealthy applicants. And staffing shortages have led to significant delays in processing expungements, sometimes stretching into months. One of the proposed solutions is to legislate for automatic expungements for qualified people who meet the criteria for expungement. However, even states with automatic expungements have observed delays in their processes.
A criminal record expungement is a way in which a person convicted of a crime can move on from the stigma associated with the offense. Many states offer some form of expungement, but these processes still work out the systems’ flaws.