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.

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Happy New Year! Like many people, you probably celebrated having a few alcoholic beverages with family or friends. Then you decided to drive home…and you got pulled over. Maybe it was acr check-point, or you just happened to do something minor to catch the eye of a patrol officer. Whatever it was, it ended with a night in jail, an impounded car and a criminal charge.

“I’m okay to drive after only one drink.” “I’m just a little buzzed.” “Everyone does it once in a while.” Thinking this way and getting behind the wheel is your first mistake. Regardless of how you rationalize it, you are still in legal trouble that could cause a ripple effect through your entire life as you know it. 

Let’s start with some basic facts.  The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines a standard alcoholic beverage as 14 grams of pure alcohol which is equal to one 12 ounce beer, one 5 ounce glass of wine or 1 “shot” (1.5 oz.) of distilled spirits. Just one alcohol based beverage is enough to impair reaction times.  A blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 in the state of Michigan is legally drunk. A BAC between .01-.07 is still impaired even if you did not feel “buzzed”.

The drunk driving statute is known as MCL 257.625 which provides, in pertinent part:

(1) A person, whether licensed or not, shall not operate a vehicle upon a highway or other place open to the general public or generally accessible to motor vehicles, including an area designated for the parking of vehicles, within this state if the person is operating while intoxicated. As used in this section, “operating while intoxicated” means any of the following:

  (a) The person is under the influence of alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, or other intoxicating substance or a combination of alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, or other intoxicating substance.

  (b) The person has an alcohol content of 0.08 grams or more per 100 milliliters of blood, per 210 liters of breath, or per 67 milliliters of urine or, beginning October 1, 2021, the person has an alcohol content of 0.10 grams or more per 100 milliliters of blood, per 210 liters of breath, or per 67 milliliters of urine.

  (c) The person has an alcohol content of 0.17 grams or more per 100 milliliters of blood, per 210 liters of breath, or per 67 milliliters of urine.  MCL § 257.625(1).

If you were pulled over and charged with driving under the influence, you should be aware of the possible consequences. In Michigan, there are several possible charges for operating a motor vehicle while impaired with escalating consequences depending upon a number of factors. As defined by the Michigan Secretary of State, Operating While Visibly Impaired or OWVI means that because you have in some way consumed an intoxicating substance, your ability to drive is obviously impaired. With this conviction, your license will be restricted for ninety (90) days.  A restricted license restricts the places where you can drive (to and from work, court, treatment, etc.) and/or sometimes imposes a driving curfew.  

Operating While Intoxicated or OWI has three different levels. The first level, there is an intoxicating substance in your system that impairs your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. The second level, your BAC is at or above .08 as determined by a chemical test. Or, the third level, there is High BAC in which your BAC is at or above .17 as determined by a chemical test. All of these charges can and will be enhanced if there was a collision with or without injuries or fatalities.  Michigan has passed several aggressive anti-drunk and drugged driving laws. These laws require swift court action and stiff penalties for drivers who violate them. In theory, these laws require the courts to decide drunk driving and drugged driving cases within 77 days of your arrest. There is a mandatory 6 month driver license suspension, even for a first conviction. You may be eligible for a restricted driver license only after serving the first 30 days of the suspension.

          There is a mandatory one year driver license suspension for a first conviction of operating with a BAC of .17 or higher. If this applies to you, you may be eligible for a restricted license after serving the first 45 days of the license suspension, but only if an ignition interlock device is installed on any vehicle you own or will operate. An ignition interlock device is a device that measures your breath alcohol prior to being able to start your vehicle.

         The court will order you to participate in, and successfully complete one or more rehabilitation programs, including  an alcohol treatment or a self-help program, or any other program the court decides would be appropriate. The court is required to order these rehabilitation programs if you have one or more prior convictions or are convicted of having High BAC. You will be required to serve five days to one year of consecutive jail time, or 30 to 90 days of community service, or both if you have a second conviction of drunk or drugged driving.

        There are even harsher license sanctions for persons with multiple drunk or drugged driving convictions including suspension and revocation of your driver license. In addition, these laws make these drunk and drugged driving offenses felonies: being convicted of drunk driving a third time. Being convicted of drunk or drugged driving that caused death. Being convicted of drunk or drugged driving that caused serious injuries. The consequences for a felony conviction of drunk or drugged driving includes a prison sentence of 1 year to up to 20 years.

         A drunk driving charge is expensive. You will be required to pay fines of up to $10,000 depending on the situation, plus court costs. You will be required to pay a reinstatement fee of $125 if your driver’s license is suspended, revoked, or restricted.  The costs don’t stop there. You could lose your job or your home as well.

         The best thing you can do for yourself at this point is to hire an experienced Sterling Heights attorney who can help you minimize the damage and consequences to your life. Andrew J. Hubbs has been a successful criminal defense attorney for the last 20 years and is in your corner to help you get your new year and life back on track.

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