Were you a little too wild and crazy in your youth? Were you in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people and now you have a criminal record? Maybe you were desperate and didn’t know what else to do and now you’re stuck with a record that is keeping you from getting a good paying job to support your family. Maybe it’s keeping you from obtaining affordable housing or furthering your education. Maybe you are not allowed to go with your children on a field trip or volunteer at their school. So, what can you do to improve your circumstances and make a better life for yourself?
People who have committed a crime, served their consequences and have been told they have “paid their debt to society” still wear the “Scarlet Letter” of a criminal record. This record can and does prevent some people from improving their circumstances. There are roughly 78 separate laws on the books in the State of Michigan that prevent convicted felons and some other former criminals from obtaining housing, better employment or higher education. Most employers are unlikely to even consider a job candidate who has a criminal record, even if the crime committed was non-violent or not financial in nature. You could have a simple misdemeanor and not be able to rent a decent home because the charge was for marijuana possession. Forget about obtaining a student loan, in some cases you are no longer eligible. A person with a criminal record will continue to pay for their mistakes even decades after the conclusion of their case.
There has been a way to erase these offenses from a criminal record for some time, but the process has been expensive, lengthy and only applied to persons with only one felony or two misdemeanors. You can still apply for this type of expungement. It currently can only be requested through the courts a minimum of five years after the sentence has been completed, and if denied you would have to wait 3 years to apply again. Remember, expungement is a privilege, not a guaranteed right.
There is an extensive list of crimes are not currently eligible for expungement at all. This includes even simple things like some traffic offenses. The difficulties in obtaining an expungement has affected people of color and those living at or below the poverty line disproportionately to all other segments of the population which perpetuates the cycle of poverty.
As reported by The Detroit Free Press on October 12, 2020, a University of Michigan Law School study found that due to the narrow parameters of Michigan’s expungement law, only 6.5% of people who fit all the criteria required for expungement even applied to have their record expunged. The study also found that those who have had their convictions expunged are able to earn more, up to 25% more within 2 years of expungement, and are less likely to reoffend.
After many years of pressure on our state legislators by a coalition of organizations invested in our communities, several bills in a package of legislation, now commonly known as the “Clean Slate Act”, was signed into law on Monday, October 12, 2020 by Governor Gretchen Whitmer which extends the privilege of expungement to thousands of people who were not previously eligible.
The State of Michigan is now a member of an elite group of states that allows some offenses to be automatically expunged and simplifies the process for application for expungement of others. Some crimes will be expunged retroactively. California, Pennsylvania and Utah are the only other states that have programs for automatic expungement. Michigan is the only state that will begin the automatic expungement of qualifying felonies.
The “Clean Slate Act” will take effect on April 11, 2021.Under the new law the state has two years to create and implement the process for automatic expungement and there is language in the legislation that allows an additional six months for implementation. The earliest date in which automatic expungement can begin is April 11, 2023
The new automatic expungement process will remove eligible misdemeanors 7 years after conviction and eligible felonies 10 years after sentencing or release from being incarcerated, which ever is longer. Up to four misdemeanors and three felonies can be cleared automatically. A lifetime limit of unlimited misdemeanors and up to 3 felonies are eligible to be expunged under the improved application process.
New to the expungement system is that most traffic offenses will now be eligible with the exceptions of driving under the influence or traffic offenses that result in injury or death. You will be able to have a conviction for driving under the influence set aside, but it will still appear on your driving record as the Secretary of State will still decide licensing consequences for those offenses. The new law allows the creation of a streamlined process to expunge misdemeanor marijuana convictions if the charge would not have been a crime under the new recreational marijuana law, that took effect in Michigan on December 6, 2018, and remove some of those convictions retroactively.
Still excluded from expungement are assaultive crimes, serious misdemeanors, any crimes that are punishable by 10 years or more in prison, crimes that involve serious injury or death, crimes that involve a minor, crimes that involve a vulnerable adult, human trafficking and “crimes of dishonesty”.
As with all new legislation, it can be overwhelming and confusing to try to navigate a new system while all of the bugs are being worked out. But you do not have to go it alone. You do not have to live the rest of your life with a stupid mistake on your record anymore. You do not have to wait until the new law takes effect. There is hope. Hubbs Law Group is in your corner and can help you erase your mistakes for a better life. Contact our office to see if you are eligible to wipe your slate clean under the new law.