In Michigan, as in most states, criminal convictions usually stay with you all the way to the grave. These convictions have two major lasting effects: they look bad to landlords and to employers.

Thus, many people want to remove the convictions from their records. In Michigan, this process is called “expungement.”

What happens to expunged convictions?

The word “expunge” comes from the Latin expungere, meaning (roughly) “to cross out.” (I was a Classics major.) Expunged convictions, appropriately, are effectively crossed out of your record.

When people conduct background checks, they don’t see expunged convictions. As far as the public knows, those convictions never existed.

But that doesn’t mean they’ve vanished completely. If you get charged with another crime after the expungement, the court will be able to see the expunged conviction, and the existence of that conviction can count against you in terms of sentencing.

What convictions can be expunged?

The basic rules for determining which convictions are eligible for expungement are as follows:

  • To expunge a felony, the applicant must have only 1 felony conviction and no more than 2 misdemeanor convictions.
  • To expunge misdemeanors, the applicant must have no felony convictions and no more than 2 misdemeanor convictions. They can apply for expungement of one or both misdemeanors.
  • Felonies punishable by life in prison may not be expunged.
  • Convictions for criminal sexual conduct, child abuse, child pornography, traffic offenses (including DUI), or use of a computer to commit a crime may not be expunged.
  • Convictions for felony domestic violence may not be expunged if the person also has a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction.

When can I expunge a conviction?

You can’t file to expunge a conviction until 5 years after the conclusion of sentencing. In precise terms, this means 5 years after the latest of: your sentencing date, the end of your probation, the end of your parole, or the end of your incarceration, whichever comes last.

How does the process work?

To begin, fill out this form and bring it to the sentencing court. You also have to send a copy to the department of state police (along with a $50 processing fee), to the attorney general’s office, and to the prosecutor’s office that brought the charge.

After that, the state police submits a report to the court. If their report matches your application, the court sets a hearing date. At the hearing date, the prosecutor’s office and attorney general’s office may give their opinion on whether the conviction should be expunged. If the crime was an assaultive crime, the victim also has the chance to weigh in.

Finally, the court makes its decision. Even if you meet all the criteria, the court may still choose not to expunge the conviction. Expungement is a privilege, not a right.

More information

The statute that controls expungement can be found here. For example petitions, briefs, and forms, check the Michigan Reentry Law wiki.

This post is meant for informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice. Always consult with an attorney before making important legal decisions.