Expungement of a Criminal Conviction in Michigan

A criminal conviction can hurt a person’s ability to obtain school loans, get accepted into some school programs, advance in a career, and obtain licensing for some employment areas. Many are embarrassed by a prior criminal conviction, and worry how it will effect their reputation, and if their past will affect their family.

While a case is still pending prior to the entry of a conviction, there are several provisions in the law that allow the conviction to become a nonpublic record such as:
1) Holmes Youthful Trainee Act – HYTA is for persons between the age of 17 and 20 years.  There are some offenses in which HYTA is not allowed);
2) 7411 – for drug possession offenses.  It does not apply for delivery, possession with the intent to deliver, alcohol cases,  or cases involving larger quantities of drugs;
3) 769.4a – for domestic violence charges;
4) Minor in Possession charges (MIP) have a deferral program for first time offenders;
4) 771.1; Pleas under advisement;
5) Diversion or first offender programs that are offered in some counties or Courts
A conviction can sometimes be avoided while a charge or charges are still pending through the plea bargaining process.  A skilled criminal lawyer may also be able to help you avoid conviction through evidentiary issues and trial.

For offenses in which a conviction has already been entered, the options are expungement (if eligible), or a pardon (which is extremely rare).

In 2020 Michigan reformed its laws concerning expungements to streamline the process, and to help more persons clear their records.  Part of the reforms include an automatic record-clearing law that expunges many misdemeanors after 7 years, and many felonies after 10 years of serving a sentence related to the offense.   Crimes that are deemed ineligible for automatic expungement include assaultive crimes, “serious misdemeanors”, “crimes of dishonesty”, offenses that carry a maximum punishment of 10 or more years in prison, crimes involving a minor, crimes involving vulnerable adults, crimes involving injury or serious impairment, crimes involving death, and human trafficking.  The automatic expungement provisions are not expected to be implemented until 2022 or 2023.

Applicants who do not want to wait for the automatic expungement provisions to take place, or for some offenses for which automatic expungement does not apply, can petition the court that originally sentenced the applicant for an expungement.  Even with reforms, there are several offenses for which expungements are not allowed: life maximum offenses; attempt to commit a life maximum offense; child abuse; most cases involving criminal sexual conduct; felony domestic violence (if the person had a prior misdemeanor domestic violence conviction); driving while impaired/intoxicated; and traffic offenses involving injury or death.

Up to 3 eligible felonies and an unlimited number of eligible misdemeanors can be expunged based upon the reforms adopted by Michigan government in 2020.  Furthermore, multiple felonies or misdemeanors arising from the same 24 hour period will be counted as only 1 conviction for expungement purposes, unless any of the offenses are assaultive, involve the use or possession of a dangerous weapon, or carry a maximum penalty of more than 10 years in prison.  The length of time to wait for an expungement will range from 3 to 7 years from when the original case closes, depending upon the nature of the conviction.

If you are seeking an expungement, it is advisable that you consult with an experienced attorney to make sure that you qualify for the expungement and to ensure that the petition is prepared and served in accordance with the Michigan law, and argued in a persuasive manner.
Daniel Hilf, Esq. of the law firm of Hilf & Hilf, PLC, is a lawyer who is driven by a commitment to his clients. His legal career is distinguished by an ability to think on his feet, to analyze issues in both conventional and unconventional ways, and to react effectively against the challenges presented by Prosecutors and Courts.
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