In August 2021, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer approved new legislation allowing first-time operating while intoxicated (OWI) offenders to expunge their criminal records.
The Michigan legislature previously signed a package of expungement bills into law in October 2020, which included a process to set aside non-violent offenses automatically. While Gov. Whitmer initially vetoed the inclusion, this latest decision to sign HB 4219 and HB 4220 into law allows approximately 200,000 offenders to clear their criminal records.
What Does It Mean to Have a Record Expunged?
An expungement destroys or seals a criminal record, directing the court and the general public to treat the conviction as if it never existed. Therefore, anyone carrying the weight of an OWI conviction can now “wipe the slate clean.”
Unfortunately, an expungement does not permanently eliminate the conviction from public memory. News stories and social media posts may remain accessible on the internet. But if a judge orders a record expunged, the conviction will not appear in a background check, and one would not have to disclose it on most applications. Criminal record expungement can open doors to increased employment options, improved housing opportunities, and numerous financial advantages.
Who Is Eligible for Expungement Under the New Law?
Expungement is allowed for first-time OWI offenses only; those with two or more OWI convictions may not apply. Additionally, expungement is not available where the offense resulted in serious injury or death, or the convicted person was driving a commercial vehicle with a commercial driver’s license.
First-time offenders eligible for expungement include those:
- Convicted of operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or more.
- Convicted of operating a vehicle while visibly impaired by alcohol or another controlled substance.
- Under 21 convicted of operating a vehicle with a BAC of .02 or more.
- Convicted of operating a vehicle with any bodily amount of cocaine or a Schedule 1 controlled substance.
How Can Someone Have Their Record Expunged?
Unlike many offenses under Michigan’s Clean Slate Initiative, OWI offenses are not eligible for automatic expungement. Applicants must instead submit a petition to the court to be reviewed and decided by a judge. Once the new expungement measures go into effect on February 23, 2022, those for whom five years have passed since the end of their probation period are eligible to apply.
Applying for expungement can be a complicated process. You must obtain your criminal record and fingerprints, notarize your signature, and submit the completed application according to strict filing requirements. Any mistake in the application process will require you to wait three years to reapply.
How Can a Person Make Sure an Expungement Is Approved on the First Try?
From blocked financial opportunities to shameful stigmas, a criminal background can significantly limit your options in life. Having your record expunged is the most powerful step you can take toward getting your affairs on track. Any delay in the process can carry powerful and even permanent consequences.
With so much at stake, having an experienced lawyer to guide you is a wise decision. Our criminal defense attorneys are available to assist you at each step to ensure you don’t waste any unnecessary time or commit a needless error.