In January, updates to Michigan’s expungement requirements went into effect, giving individuals convicted of certain crimes an increased chance to clear their record.
“In Michigan, it used to be you were eligible for expungment if you only had one conviction, for the most part,” explained Daniel Broxup, an attorney with Mika Meyers. “Now you can get rid of either two misdemeanors or one felony as long as you don’t have more than two misdemeanors.”
Convictions are only eligible for expungement after a five-year period, and not all convictions are eligible for expungement.
A conviction that could have resulted in life in prison is not eligible, nor are most sexual offense crimes and traffic offenses involving operating a motor vehicle, like a DUI, for instance.
Some of the convictions that are eligible are larceny, robbery, assault and certain drug-related charges.
Broxup called the change “pretty significant” because it opens the door for a lot of individuals who would not have been able to get their convictions expunged previously.
It also means they might have a better chance at landing a job without those convictions available for discovery by future employers.
“My research shows about 90 percent of employers are doing background checks,” Broxup said. “For purposes of employers searching for it, it should be completely off your record.”
A record that includes expunged crimes is still available to law enforcement, so if someone commits an additional crime later it would still be treated as a second crime.
Broxup said there are many professions where a conviction could prevent someone from a job.
“It ranges from accounting, aviation, banking, daycare, firefighters, hazmat drivers, health professionals, insurance, etc.,” he said. “It’s a pretty broad spectrum of industries and professions that are covered.”
Additionally, many employers have their own requirements when it comes to hiring people with certain types of convictions.
“It’s an advantage for employees,” Broxup said. “I don’t know if it necessarily helps employers. Most employers would want to know that information.”
Most of the opposition to the changes revolved around the public’s and employers’ right to know, Broxup said, “especially when talking about embezzlement, larceny — things that for most employers would be a big red flag.”
The motivating factor that led legislators to pass the changes, however, was getting people back to work.
“If you have a couple of convictions on your record and you aren’t eligible for expungement, it can be almost impossible to get a job,” he said. “If you can clear that up, you take somebody who is essentially not contributing in any way to their community or society and (giving them) the opportunity at least to get back to work.”
Broxup said his firm is already getting calls from individuals with convictions looking to apply for expungements.
“People we’ve turned away in the past who weren’t eligible and now are eligible,” he said. “People are becoming aware of it and seeing that it’s an option for them.”
He warns just because the opportunity is there doesn’t mean someone will be successful in an attempt to get a conviction expunged.
“It’s still up to the judge,” he said.
It’s also dependent on the Attorney General’s office.
An applicant must file the appropriate form with the convicting court and send copies of the application to the Michigan State Police, Michigan Attorney General and the prosecutor’s office that tried the case.
Sydney E. Allen, communications representative for Attorney General Bill Schuette, provided the following regarding the expungement process.
“Our Corrections Division files a response to each application to set aside a criminal conviction based on a thorough review of the application and the applicant’s criminal history report provided to us by the Michigan State Police. Nearly all of the applications involve cases that our office did not prosecute.
“We will either file an objection or take no position.”
Allen said the Corrections Division would file an objection when it determines the applicant is not eligible for a set-aside under the statute.
“We will file a ‘no position’ response when the applicant meets the eligibility requirements to have his/her conviction set aside,” she said.
Based on data from the Attorney General’s office from the two years prior to the new requirements, in 2014 the Corrections Division filed a no-position response in 2,052 cases and an opposition response in 931 cases. In 2013, it filed a no-position response in 2,365 cases and an opposition response in 1,020 cases.
The final decision to set aside a conviction is made by the judge in the case.
The Attorney General’s office does not maintain statistics on the percentage of applications that are granted.