Michigan attorneys answer questions about changes in expungement laws
Online Q&A event helps residents prepare to clear criminal records
(UPDATE: Contains a link to correct video file)
Lawyers from across the state made themselves available Wednesday evening to help people with criminal records take advantage of “Clean Slate” legislation that went into effect in April. Attorney General Dana Nessel has supported the changes in Michigan’s expungement laws that could set aside up to 3 felony convictions and all misdemeanor convictions after a given waiting period. “I’m really excited about this legislation because in the past, oftentimes we’d have to turn people away,” said Robyn McCoy, President of the Black Women Lawyers Association of Michigan. “I’m happy that we’re able to help more people to redeem themselves and get their records cleared so they can be employed or advance in their careers.” People with one felony conviction could have it expunged in the past, but if they had two, they couldn’t. The same was true for misdemeanors if they had more than two. “But now, you can have up to 3 felony convictions and an unlimited number of misdemeanor convictions (with some exceptions),” said John Pallas, Assistant Michigan Attorney General. People with 4 felony convictions are excluded. Not all felonies are the same. Those that could carry a life sentence are not eligible for expungements such as murder, rape, and arson. Other felonies, such as child abuse, terrorism, and driving while intoxicated are also ineligible. “It’s a relatively small list of offenses, but there’s a lot of big ones on there,” said Pallas. Elizabeth Campbell is an attorney and University of Michigan professor who has been fighting trafficking and exploitation for the last 10 years. “There are specific provisions for victims of human trafficking to have prostitution records removed from their criminal history,” said Campbell. She estimates that 80% of the people she helps are immigrants. “Sadly, expungements are not recognized by the immigration system and won’t change immigration consequences. That’s not the state of Michigan, that’s the federal government that’s responsible for that distinction.” Now that marijuana has been legalized in Michigan, many convictions for possession and distribution can be set aside. “If your conduct would now be considered legal, you can get that conviction expunged,” said Pallas. “It doesn’t matter how many incidents were involved.” Pallas also pointed out the “One bad night” exemption. Multiple felonies committed within a 24 hour period could be considered a single offense. Expungements are not immediately available. There is a waiting period of 7 years for multiple felonies, five years for a single conviction, and three years for misdemeanor convictions. The “Clean Slate” legislation calls for many convictions to be expunged automatically, but Pallas says that won’t take effect for at least another two years because of technical limitations. But he warns, “If you’re eligible now to expunge your convictions, I would go ahead and get it done now by filing an application. The April 2023 date could be delayed yet again.” Michigan United is organizing expungement events online and in-person across the state on July 31st. To take advantage of them, you will need to fill out an application, obtain a certified record of conviction, and copy your fingerprints from the state police. While the application is free, it will have to be sent to four different offices. The record of conviction costs $10 from iCHAT, the Internet Criminal History Tool. Applicants would have to go to the Michigan State Police for fingerprints and pay $50. “You can come in on the 31st with your records, and there will be people there to help you figure out, based on the iCHAT report, what can or cannot be removed,” said Campbell.