Michigan Expungement Law Misconceptions

Have you ever been convicted of a crime? If so, you may be on this page looking for some sort of answer regarding when this conviction will “fall” off your record. There are a few common misconceptions when it comes to expungements in the state of Michigan.

• My conviction will “fall” off after five years:

This is the most common expungement misconception. No crimes just “fall” off your record. The simple rule here is that once five years has elapsed since the end of your sentence, then you may be eligible for an expungement. The end of your sentence is simply when the government supervision is over completely (i.e. completed jail sentence, or completed probation). For example: If you served 1 year of jail followed by 2 years of probation, your timeline eligibility starts when you finish your probation. Once you are eligible, it is up to you to file for an expungement. You can try doing this on your own or you can hire an experienced attorney for this.

• I have more than one conviction so I can’t get an expungement:

This at one point was true, but the current law states that you can have up to three criminal convictions if two of them are considered minor. A minor offense in this case is a misdemeanor conviction that has a maximum of no more than 90 days in jail, no more than a $1,000 fine and occurred before the age of 21. So where does that leave us? Well its mostly aimed at people who, for instance, got an MIP or a Disorderly charge under the age of 21 to have a chance at an expungement for an adult criminal offense.

• I can get my DUI expunged:

This part of the expungement law is the most perplexing. You can get most any conviction expunged but specifically cannot have a capital offense, a CSC crime, or a traffic crime expunged. The Michigan Expungement law specifically states that traffic offense are not eligible for an expungement. That basically includes every type of DUI offense. In the State of Michigan you cannot get a DUI expunged from your record. The only possible way this happens is if you can somehow get the case re-opened and retroactively dismissed. It is possible but extremely rare.

• An expungement is just some paperwork:

While you are required to get some papers together to file for an expungement, (i.e. certified record of conviction, statement of eligibility, completed application, etc.). The final decision on an expungement is made by a Judge. The paperwork is simply the start of a legal process that ends up in court in front of a judge. A prosecutor may be present as well as any victims that were involved in the original conviction who will have their chance to object to your conviction being set aside. The expungement paperwork is the background of the case to help a Judge make his or her decision. It will be up to you or an attorney on your behalf to convince a judge to side with you and expunge your criminal conviction(s).

• Everyone who has a conviction applies for an expungement when they are eligible:

A 2019 University of Michigan Law School study looked into the rate of expungements in the State of Michigan and found that less than 10% of those eligible for expungements even apply for one in the first place. It was found that people were discouraged from doing so for various reasons including confusion to not feeling their case would be viewed as a priority given busy court schedules. Every Michigan court has time allotted to hear these cases. Taking the first step and applying is the most important.

• My life won’t change if I get an expungement:

The same University of Michigan Law School study found that within two years, a person’s wages will go up by an average of 25%. That in itself is good enough reason to try. You may be limiting your own ability for earnings by not applying for an expungement. A clean record puts you in a different discussion altogether when it comes to jobs and salary potential.

We are at least a couple years away from any meaningful reform regarding expungements in Michigan. Expungements can be unnecessarily complicated and confusing. The main thing to remember is that expungements do not happen automatically. You first have to be eligible to even apply or your application will be thrown out as being insufficient on its face. Determining your eligibility can be tricky, and the filing even more so. At Grabel & Associates we offer a free consultation to help you decide what is your best next step. Call us on our 24/7 criminal defense helpline at 1-800-342-7896 or contact us online or come visit us at one of our three statewide locations. We can come to you.

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