A criminal conviction in Michigan can have dire consequences. Unlike what most expect, the consequences of a conviction extend far beyond imprisonment and fines. Even if your sentence was deferred or you were only convicted for a minor offense, you could suffer the effects for the rest of your life.
The sad reality for many people convicted of a felony or misdemeanor in Michigan is that they are often unable to escape from the shadow of their criminal record. Despite having paid the price for their mistakes, most never really get the chance for a new beginning, with disappointment often being only a background check away.
Indeed, a criminal record can prevent you from getting a job, a nice apartment or seeing your kids. Even a juvenile adjudication can be an obstacle to earning certain professional qualifications that will help turn your life around.
You should know, however, that the state of Michigan has a procedure through which people can clear their criminal record. Criminal record expungement is available to those who wish to move on from their past and achieve a fresh start.
It is important to understand that the process for setting aside a conviction is subject to certain restrictions. It is not available to everybody and even when it is available, it will not be granted to everybody.
This procedure involved in successfully expunging criminal records is often difficult and involves complicated legal rules. Those who wish to successfully set aside their criminal conviction will need the services of an experienced Michigan expungement attorney.
This article will explain everything you should know about criminal record expungement in Michigan. It will help you understand the legal rules regulating expungement and what you can expect from the process.
However, it does not take the place of legal advice. To fully understand your prospects for expungement and how the law affects you, contact a criminal defense attorney to guide you.
What is criminal record expungement?
When a person is arrested on suspicion of committing an offense, charged with committing an offense or convicted for that offense, their criminal data is entered into the public record. This means that the court and law enforcement agencies will retain the data relating to the offender. Interested members of the public will also be able to gain access to that data.
Often, the data on the public record remains there for life. This means that even after a person has been convicted and served their time, they will always be known as an “ex-convict.” This status can have devastating consequences.
Michigan has a process through which a person can “expunge” their criminal record, contained under the Michigan Expungement Law. Under the process, a person can apply to law enforcement and the court to “clear” their record and “set aside” their conviction. You can use this process to clear an adult criminal conviction or a juvenile criminal record, called a “juvenile adjudication.”
When the expungement process is completed, the person’s criminal record will be removed from the public record maintained by the Michigan State Police. Members of the public will no longer be able to view the person’s criminal record and any background check carried out will return nothing. It will be as though the conviction never existed.
The legal effect of getting your criminal record expunged is just as impressive. When asked if you have ever been convicted, you can legally and honestly reply with “no.” The process is not straightforward though, and persons applying to have their record cleared will be required to pass certain eligibility requirements.
It is also important to note that the statute specifically states that expungement is “a privilege and conditional, and is not a right.” Whether a person succeeds or not depends on several factors, including:
- The behavior of the applicant since conviction
- Setting aside the conviction is consistent with public welfare.
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What are the benefits of having your record expunged?
The immediate benefits of getting your record expunged are obvious. You will no longer have to live within the shadow of your criminal conviction. Expungement provides a fresh start to those who are ready to embrace a new beginning.
- Employment: A criminal record can deprive you of better paying and more prestigious jobs. Getting rid of the record opens a well of opportunities. You will no longer have to dread answering the question: “have you ever been convicted of a crime?”
- Child custody: The question of custody and access to children can often be dependent on a criminal record. Expungement will allow the court assess you on your merits rather than the specter of your criminal conviction. However, the criminal record is still accessible by public agencies so a person’s behavior since plays a huge role.
- Apartment: Many landlords do not feel comfortable with renting their apartment to a person with a criminal record. Having your record cleared can allow you access better and more upscale apartments.
- Professional license: There are many professional bodies that will not offer a license to someone with a criminal record. An expungement provides you with a fresh new start and a chance to make good on your dreams. Again, however, public agencies still have access to a criminal record. This shows that agency that you’ve paid your debt and a judge believes that you’re once again a productive member of society.
Overall, getting an expungement is more than just clearing your record. You can finally be free of the never-ending worry that a simple background check will deprive you of the opportunities you need to move your life forward.
If I have my criminal record expunged, are those records completely gone?
Although the literal meaning of “expunge” is to erase or delete, the expungement process does not work that way. There is no procedure that will completely purge your criminal record from the justice system.
While the conviction will be removed from the records of the Michigan State Police, the court will still retain an updated file, though closed to the public. This file will be visible to court officials for limited purposes
An experienced Criminal Defense attorney can assist you in understanding those purposes.
What factors determine my eligibility for criminal record expungement?
To be eligible for criminal record expungement in Michigan, you must qualify under the requirements. Until recently, the Michigan Expungement Law MCL 780.621 provided that an expungement could only be granted to an individual with one felony conviction or two misdemeanors.
The law has been revised to widen the scope of those that may be eligible for expungement.
Under the new requirements:
- A person with not more than 1 felony conviction and not more than 2 misdemeanor convictions may apply to set aside the felony.
- A person with not more than 2 misdemeanor convictions and no felony conviction may apply to set aside either or both misdemeanors. For this purpose, a deferred or dismissed conviction under specific statutes will be considered as a misdemeanor.
- A person convicted of Criminal Sexual Conduct in the 4th degree before January 12, 2015, may apply to set aside the conviction if:
- They were not convicted of any other offense; or
- They were convicted of not more than 2 minor offenses. These are offenses for which the maximum jail time is 90 days, maximum fine is $1,000 and if the offender was no more than 21 years old.
Expungement is considered a once (or twice for misdemeanors) in a lifetime opportunity. Once successful, the person cannot apply for any other expungement ever again.
There are also time limits within which an application for expungement can only be made. If a person is applying for the first time, the rule is that the application can only be filed at least 5 years after:
- They completed the period of probation imposed for the conviction;
- They were discharged from any parole imposed for the conviction; or
- They completed any jail time that was handed down for the conviction
If a person applied for expungement and their application was denied by the convicting court, they must wait 3 years before they can file another application. The only exception is if the court allows the person to apply again at an earlier date.
Can I Clear My juvenile record in Michigan?
For persons that wish to move on from their past as a juvenile charged with a crime, they cannot apply if:
- They committed an offense that would be punishable by life imprisonment if committed by an adult;
- They violated a traffic law that was a felony or misdemeanor at the time of commission; or
- They committed an offense amounting to:
- Assault with intent to commit murder
- Armed assault with intent to rob and steal
- Burning a dwelling house
- Or any other offense in MCL 712A.2d(9)
- They have more than one conviction, whether as a juvenile or an adult.
- They are below the age of 24
- 5 years have not passed from:
- The date on which judgment was imposed, if there was no jail time served; or
- The date on which they were released from detention.
A person that qualifies under these requirements may apply to have their juvenile record cleared.
If I’ve committed a felony, can I expunge my record?
Yes, you can. Under Michigan’s Expungement Law, a person with not more than 1 felony conviction can apply to set aside the felony conviction. In addition, they must not have more than 2 misdemeanor convictions
Not all felonies can be expunged. Due to the seriousness of some of these offenses, such as violent sex offenses or those that involve severe bodily harm, the law prohibits people from having their conviction set aside.
What crimes cannot be expunged in Michigan?
Certain convictions cannot be expunged under Michigan’s Expungement Law. They include the following:
- A conviction for committing a felony, or attempting to commit a felony, for which the penalty is life imprisonment
- A conviction for Criminal Sexual Conduct in the 4th degree if the offense was committed after January 12, 2015
- Any Criminal Sexual Conduct conviction except as mentioned above with Criminal Sexual Conduct in the 4th degree
- A conviction for a traffic offense including a conviction for operating a vehicle while intoxicated
- A felony conviction for domestic violence, if the person has a previous misdemeanor conviction, also for domestic violence
- A conviction for child abuse in the second degree or child abuse in the presence of another child.
- A conviction for human trafficking.
In all these cases, an application cannot be made to set aside the conviction and even if it is made, no judge can grant the application.
In Michigan, what is the process of having my record expunged?
In order to get a criminal conviction expunged, you need to complete an application for expungement and attend a hearing to set aside the conviction. There are many stages involved in the process, although they are broadly divided between application and hearing.
If you want to discuss the process further please contact our office for a free case review where we can walk you through the process of record expungement.
How can I get a copy of my criminal record?
To get a copy of your record, you can contact the court in which you were convicted. You can check Michigan’s Internet Criminal History Access Tool to know see what records are in the state’s custody. You can also obtain a copy from the Michigan State Police, Department of State or any other body that holds your records.
You can write to the Michigan State Police Central Records Bureau at 7150 Harris Drive, Lansing to check your criminal record or check online here. You can also contact the court to inspect or copy your file. All you have to do is provide your file number and submit a file request. You can make a copy for $1 per page.
Certified copies of the documents you need are available for $10 plus $1 for each page of multi-page documents.
How long does it take to expunge a felony in Michigan?
The expungement process can take several months to make its way through the court system. Collecting your documents and the information you need to fill your application form may take a while.
Delays may also occur while the court awaits the report from the Michigan State Police and this can push your hearing date further back. Overall, it can take several months to complete the process, but with an experienced expungement attorney in your corner, the waiting period is your chance to prepare for court.
How much does it cost to expunge your criminal or juvenile record in Michigan?
The costs of a criminal record expungement often vary. You can expect to spend anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 on the costs of your application in addition to the cost of professional help.
When you contact a Michigan expungement lawyer, one of the things they would discuss with you is the cost of the expungement process.
Can I expunge my record myself? Do I need a Criminal Defense lawyer?
Expunging your criminal record can be an extremely complicated process. As you have seen, it requires several specific court forms and documentation, all of which may vary depending on your circumstances.
Due to the difficulty involved in the process, very few people actually attempt it, and more than 90% don’t apply for record expungement. Even after applying, it’s not certain that the court will grant your application.
Often, consulting an experienced Michigan expungement lawyer can make the difference and ensure a positive conclusion.
Having a conviction expunged from your record can have a dramatic impact on your future and can help you get a new lease on life. Contact us at The Bennett Law Firm, PLC for your free case review and to determine your eligibility for expungement or removal from the Sex Offender Registry: 248-281-6991.