This week we have a question from John who was convicted in Genesee County in 2002 of possession of marijuana (a misdemeanor) and manufacturing marijuana (a felony).
These convictions have negatively impacted his life in a number of ways, including his ability to obtain a good job, housing, and student loans. He now asks if these convictions can be set aside.
The answer is found in Michigan’s expungement statute.
This law allows criminal defendants to get a fresh start in life by having their past convictions set aside or “expunged.” The word expunged comes to us from the Latin word “expungere,” which means “to blot out.”
In Michigan, the expungement statute was first enacted in 1965 and has been amended from time to time since then.
Under the present statute a defendant may apply to the convicting court to have their conviction(s) set aside when it has been at least five years since the judgment of sentence was entered or completed, whichever occurs last, and there have been no new convictions.
The statute provides in pertinent part as follows:
• If the defendant has been convicted of not more than two misdemeanors with no other convictions, the court may set aside one or both convictions.
• If the defendant has been convicted of a felony and up to two misdemeanors, the court may set aside the felony.
Some convictions are not eligible for expungement including life felonies, most sex offenses, felony domestic violence and traffic offenses.
A hearing is held to determine if the request should be granted based upon the defendant’s circumstances and behavior since the conviction(s) and if granting it is consistent with public welfare.
If the application is granted, it is as if the conviction(s) never happened and the defendant’s public record is cleared. A nonpublic record is still kept by the state for future reference.
University of Michigan research shows that only 6.5 percent of those eligible seek expungement due to time and cost restrictions.
The above are just the highlights. There is more information and full step-by-step instructions on how to request an expungement, including online forms, at www.michiganlegalhelp.org.
As to John, he would be eligible to have the felony set aside but not the misdemeanor.