What Exactly is an “Expungement” in Michigan?
By Daniel T. Geherin
In the last year, there has been a lot of “buzz” about expungement of criminal records in Michigan. In 2020, Michigan passed a series of “clean-slate” initiatives which expanded eligibility for people to seek expungements, and in many cases, shortened the waiting period to apply. Then, in 2021, the legislature proposed adding OWI convictions to the expungement eligibility list, and the bill will head to the Governor for possible enaction.
Why so much attention to expungements? The consequences of a criminal conviction can be both long-lasting and life-altering: loss of employment or inability to find a job; financial ruin; family/custody/relationship upheaval; and—of course--loss of freedom. If you’ve been convicted of misdemeanor and felony offenses, there exists an obvious need to remove that stain once you’ve paid your debt to society.
Geherin Law Group, PLLC (“GLGMichigan”) is a law firm that exclusively handles cases with a criminal justice element. The firm has defended thousands of criminal cases in Ann Arbor and throughout Southeastern Michigan. As a result, the firm has also filed and successfully won expungements for hundreds of these clients---and we expect many more now that the laws have expanded and improved. Each day, Dan and his team field calls from clients looking to expunge:
“What exactly is an “Expungement,” and how does it work?”
“What does the applicant have to do to start the process?”
“How long does it take to get a hearing?”
“Will the expungement hearing be in-person, or via Zoom?”
“Once my conviction is expunged, what will show up on a background search?”
MCL 780.621 is the Michigan Statute which governs expungements. The process refers to “setting aside” a conviction, but expungement is the formal legal term for that process. Under the law, if a person is eligible to apply, he or she must submit an updated fingerprint sample to the Michigan State Police. In turn, the State Police will run a current Comprehensive Criminal History (CCH) record and provide that to the Attorney General’s Office. The AG’s Office typically files a written response arguing whether or not the Petitioner is eligible or not. If eligible, the Petitioner must file a request for hearing in the court where the conviction occurred.
Four to six weeks later, the presiding (or successor) Judge will schedule and conduct a hearing (called a “Motion to Set Aside Conviction Hearing”). The Petitioner might be asked questions under oath about his or her background, performance on probation or parole, and subsequent history. If the Petitioner lives far away, many judges will permit this hearing to be conducted by Zoom. If the Petitioner is represented, the attorney will make an argument about their client’s eligibility and suitability for relief. The prosecutor (either local or AG) will argue their position, and occasionally will have any victim(s) provide their statements. If the Judge grants the motion, a written Order will be signed by the Judge, and sent to the MSP and FBI for processing and removal of public records; a private record will be retained and accessible only by law enforcement. This process typically takes 2-3 weeks after a hearing. At that point, the law allows the Petitioner to say he or she was never convicted of the offense that was removed. Without question, this fact (combined with the removal from public review) is the reason people seek to have their convictions set aside.
GLG Firm founder Daniel T. Geherin is a former prosecutor and board-certified criminal trial attorney in Ann Arbor who has been practicing law for 25+ years. He has been rated by Martindale-Hubbell as AV-Preeminent; listed in The Best Lawyers in America; named by Super Lawyers Magazine in the field of Criminal Defense; recognized as a “Top Lawyer” by Detroit Business Magazine; and scored 10/10 “superb” by AVVO.com. He also has received 150+ 5-star client reviews. Dan fully believes that everyone should be given a second chance, so he works tirelessly and aggressively to help people expunge their convictions and obtain the “clean slate” that the laws were intended to promote.
If a loved one or you has been convicted of a crime in Washtenaw County or Southeastern Michigan, and you want to discuss options on how to expunge that conviction, please call or email Dan and his team at GLG Michigan 24/7 at (734) 263-2780 or online info@GLGMichigan.com .
GLG Michigan: To us, your future is Personal.