Expungement: The Chance for a Clean Slate

Expungement: The Chance f…

A criminal conviction can make it difficult for a person to find good work, or even to gain access to higher education, long after a sentence has been served. In recognition of the significant consequences that can flow from having a felony conviction, Michigan law has long empowered the courts to grant certain felons the “expungement,” or elimination, of one felony conviction from the public record – but only if the felon has no other convictions.

Michigan law was recently amended to expand the opportunities for expungement. A felon can now request the setting aside of one felony conviction provided he or she has had no other felony convictions and no more than two misdemeanor convictions. In addition, an individual can request the setting aside of one or two misdemeanor convictions provided he or she has had no more than two misdemeanor convictions and no felony convictions.

Even so, a court can never set aside any of the following convictions:

  • A felony or attempted felony in which the maximum sentence is life imprisonment;
  • Most crimes involving sexual misconduct;
  • Domestic violence if there is a previous conviction for domestic violence;
  • Crimes involving serious child abuse;
  • Traffic offenses;
  • Human trafficking;
  • Terrorism.

A petition for expungement cannot be filed until at least five years have passed since the last to occur of (1) the sentencing date, (2) the completion of probation, (3) the discharge from parole, or (4) the release from incarceration. The judge will likely consider many factors in reviewing the petition. If the petition is denied, under the new law the petitioner can try again in three years.

If the petition is granted, the conviction is set aside and will no longer turn up in a background check. (It can still be viewed, however, by government authorities.) Further, in keeping with the legislature’s intent to allow individuals a fresh start after having completed their sentences, the petitioner can respond negatively if a prospective employer asks about prior convictions. In fact, almost anyone – other than the petitioner and a victim of the petitioner’s crime – who knowingly speaks about a conviction that has been set aside can be found guilty of a misdemeanor themselves.

If you, or someone you know, would like more information on expungement, or would like assistance with this or any other legal matter, please do not hesitate to contact us!

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