New Expungement & Clean Slate Laws
It’s no secret that having felonies and misdemeanors on your record severely and negatively impacts most aspects of your life. Felony and misdemeanor convictions hinder what jobs you can get and what licenses and permits you can have.
A felony may even prevent you from living in a certain neighborhood. Not only are felonies and misdemeanors restrictive, but they also carry a psychological impact. It can be embarrassing to mark that box when you go in for a job interview. Fortunately, Michigan has introduced its Clean Slate law that will expunge several convictions off your record. Here’s how the law works.
What Does This Mean For You?In April 2021, Michigan passed a new expungement law. Expungement basically means setting aside a felony or misdemeanor conviction. In Michigan, this means that your conviction will not appear in public databases. Once a conviction is expunged, it will no longer appear in your background check or on your criminal record. This new law is about giving you a second chance. It’s about helping you to prove you’re a changed person and a productive citizen. But law enforcement agents may be able to obtain a record of your convictions through a private database for specific reasons.
Before Michigan passed this new Clean Slate law, you could only expunge one felony and two misdemeanors off your criminal record. To some people, it may sound like a lot for you to have one felony and two misdemeanors. Those people might question whether you will continue to commit crimes and whether they can trust you. Yet, this notion is hardly a complete picture of the judicial system. As an example, you could be charged with and convicted of multiple crimes that all stem from a single incident. One bad night could result in a felony and two misdemeanors, or worse. If you served your sentence, though, then it is time to move on with your life without the stain of a criminal record.
Which Convictions Can Get Expunged
Now, you can expunge up to three felony convictions. There is no limit on the number of misdemeanors that you can get expunged. In other words, this new Clean Slate law has expanded what can be removed from your background check and criminal record. This is excellent news because numerous studies show that formerly incarcerated people are more likely to become productive citizens if they can be gainfully employed – and those people are more likely to be gainfully employed if they don’t have a criminal record. Because criminal records have even forced some Michigan residents into homelessness, this is truly a second chance at life for many.
Expungement has the potential to wipe out all your convictions. But there are some exceptions. Not every person can get all their convictions expunged. Some of these exceptions are listed below. For a complete list, click here.
- This new law does not apply if you have more than three felony convictions in Michigan.
- You cannot get more than two violent crimes set aside from your criminal record in your lifetime.
- You cannot get your felony expunged if you are convicted of the same felony more than once, and the felony is punishable by more than ten years in prison.
Bear in mind that the third exception will apply even if you did not serve ten years in prison for the felony. It’s also important to mention that you may get certain convictions set aside if they are a direct result of you being victimized by human trafficking. Because there may be some nuances, it’s beneficial to seek legal advice from experienced expungement attorneys in Michigan.
How to Apply for Clean Slate in Michigan
Applying for Clean Slate in Michigan is a relatively straightforward process. In order to get started, you must have a record of your offenses as well as the details surrounding the case such as case number, date of conviction, etc. With this information in hand, you then complete Form MC 227, make five notarized copies and then file them with the court clerk.
Here’s a brief summary on how to apply for a clean slate in Michigan,
Step 1: Complete and sign the application
Step 2: Gather Records
Step 3: File Application with Court
Step 4: Serve The Application
Step 5: Complete and File Proof of Service
Step 6: Prepare For Hearing
Step 7: Attend Your Hearing
Timeline To File For An Expungement
Before this new Clean Slate law was passed in Michigan, you had to wait five years before you could request an expungement.
Now, you’ll only have to wait three years to request expungement if you have non-serious misdemeanors. An offense is a non-serious misdemeanor if:
- It is punishable by less than 91 days in jail
- The maximum permissible fine is not greater than $1,000, and
- The person who was convicted of the offense was not older than 21
If you have serious misdemeanors and one felony, then you’ll need to wait five years before you request an expungement.
If you have multiple felonies, then you’ll need to wait seven years before requesting an expungement. A felony is generally an offense that is punishable by imprisonment of more than one year.
If you request to have your convictions expunged and your request is denied, you must wait three years before you can reapply for an expungement under Michigan law. This is one reason it is crucial for you to seek legal counsel before requesting expungement.
If an expungement is automatic, then you don’t have to do anything for it to occur. You don’t have to petition the court or make any requests to get your conviction set aside. Unfortunately, automatic expungements won’t go into effect until 2023. Two years can be a long time to wait if you don’t have job security or cannot get the license or certification needed to pay off your student loans. To get this handled sooner rather than later, speak with an expungement attorney.
Once Michigan enacts this automatic expungement law in 2023, you may get a maximum of two felony convictions automatically expunged after a ten-year waiting period. This means your felony may get expunged in 2033, so it’s not a matter of how many years have passed since your felony occurred. The ten-year waiting period starts in 2023.
If you’re looking to get your misdemeanors automatically expunged, there is a seven-year waiting period. You may get a maximum of four misdemeanors automatically expunged.
Your conviction will not be automatically wiped clean if it’s:
- an assaultive crime
- a serious misdemeanor
- a crime involving dishonesty, such as fraud or forgery
- a crime that can be punished by more than ten years
- a crime involving human trafficking
Please keep in mind that you can always file a request to the court to get a conviction expunged, even if it is not automatic. If your conviction is not automatically set aside, it does not mean that you cannot directly make that request to the court. It’s imperative that you know which felonies and misdemeanors can be set aside, so contact a knowledgeable attorney for guidance.
Traffic Convictions That Can Be Expunged
Traffic-related offenses comprise approximately 50% of all criminal offenses in Michigan. Before Michigan passed this Clean Slate law, no traffic-related offense of any sort was eligible for expungement. Today, many are. In the matter where you were convicted of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, you may be eligible for expungement if that conviction was your first offense of that kind.
Some exclusions do apply to expunging traffic convictions, so we suggest that you keep reading to see what some of those may be. Also, although most traffic convictions are eligible for expungement relief, Michigan’s Secretary of State may continue to keep a record of your traffic violations on file. If you have questions regarding whether you can get your traffic offense conviction expunged and who can view it on private databases, talk with an expungement lawyer.
Marijuana-Related Convictions That Can Be Expunged
Whether marijuana use should be criminalized or legalized is a continuous debate amongst voters and legislators. Michigan’s Clean Slate law allows you to request expungement if you were convicted of a misdemeanor marijuana use or possession offense, but only if the use or possession would be legal under Michigan’s present laws. Therefore, not all misdemeanor marijuana convictions are eligible for expungement. Still, many Michigan residents will benefit from this new law.
What makes marijuana-related convictions so interesting under the Clean Slate law is that there is a presumption that your request for expungement should be and will be granted. After all, the law states that you are eligible for relief if the crime you were convicted of would not be a crime now. In that situation, ideally, there is little wiggle room for the judge to deny your request. So you likely will not need a hearing to get relief for these sorts of convictions.
However, a prosecuting attorney may raise the argument that the marijuana offense you were convicted of would still be illegal today. Because this can occur, you’ll want the wise counsel of expert Michigan criminal defense attorneys before you request a marijuana-related expungement. Once a prosecuting attorney raises this argument, there will be a hearing, and a judge will decide whether to rule in your favor or the prosecuting attorney’s favor.
One Bad Night Rule
So let’s say you had a wild night that ended in you being dragged off in handcuffs. You’re in shock and humiliated that you now have a criminal record. You made it this long without ever doing anything wrong—or at least not anything that could permanently impact your life. You can’t even remember how much you had to drink or how it all started. You only know that one bad night of decision-making left you with multiple felony and misdemeanor convictions.
Fortunately for you, this new Clean Slate law has taken circumstances like yours into consideration. If your felony or misdemeanor offenses occurred within a 24-hour timeframe, they might be eligible for expungement. This is true even if you have more than three felony convictions. Michigan’s Clean Slate law says that these convictions may be counted as a single felony or a single misdemeanor so that you may get them expunged.
But don’t jump the gun just yet. There are exceptions. For example, your conviction from one bad night cannot be lumped in with the others if it involves:
- use of a weapon
- an assaultive crime or
- a crime that can be punished by ten or more years of imprisonment
Crimes That Won’t Be Expunged
Michigan’s Clean Slate law is the most extensive clean slate initiative to date. It will positively impact the lives and livelihood of an estimated one million residents. You can benefit from this new law even if you haven’t paid off the fines and fees attached to your conviction. Yet, to be clear, not everyone will benefit from this new law.
Your conviction will not be eligible for expungement if it is punishable by a life sentence or involves criminal sexual misconduct. If you were convicted of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, driving while under the influence, or similar charges, then these convictions are not eligible for expungement. Also, because some of these convictions come with other stipulations, such as requiring that you register as a sexual offender, you cannot request that they get expunged.
In other words, your conviction is ineligible for expungement under this new Michigan law, regardless of how much time has passed, if:
- It is punishable by a maximum of a life sentence
- It is a second-time domestic violence conviction that is a felony
- It is human trafficking
- It involved operating a vehicle while under the influence
- It involved a traffic violation that resulted in the injury or death of someone
- It is a commercial driver’s license (CDL) traffic violation
- It is a criminal sexual offense conviction
Please note that other convictions are also ineligible for expungement. Even if you have ineligible convictions on your criminal record, it is always best to get as many convictions expunged as possible, so don’t be dismayed.
Why The Clean Slate Law Matters
Now that you have a better understanding of how the Clean Slate law affects your convictions, let’s take a moment to put into perspective why it is so important. For example, specific felony and misdemeanor convictions may prevent you from acquiring a “permit to carry” license. This may not seem like too big of a concern, but if you’d like a career in security, such as working as a TSA member, then this suddenly becomes a huge roadblock.
Certain felony and misdemeanor convictions may restrict your housing options. You may not end up in such a crisis as becoming homeless, but this can still cause severe complications if you need to relocate because of a job or be closer to an aging relative, for example. In any matter, you work hard for your money. It’s only natural that you want to explore as many housing options as possible before you decide to settle down. Calling a place home is a big step. You don’t want to be restricted due to some poor decisions you’ve made in your past.
There are so many other benefits to getting your convictions expunged. Most likely, your insurance rates will decrease. You are more eligible to get financial aid and student loan assistance to pursue your education. Not to mention, it’ll be that much easier for you to move ahead in employment. One Michigan-based study shows that a person’s income increases some 25% just two years after a conviction is expunged. These are all reasons why you cannot take the expungement process lightly.