For those with past criminal convictions, the notion of paying one’s debt to society has not always been viewed as satisfied once a term of probation ends or the jailhouse doors open. A new law, however, supported by some unlikely allies, including the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan and the ACLU of Michigan, has taken real strides towards giving some Michigan offenders a real opportunity at a fresh start.
Michigan’s Public Act 335 of 2014, passed in the waning hours of the 2013/2014 Legislative Session, expands the number of prior offenses one may have and still be eligible to seek a conviction “set aside” or expungement of prior criminal convictions. Under this new law, a person convicted of not more than 1 felony and not more than 2 misdemeanors, may now petition their convicting court for an order setting aside (and forever sealing from public view) the 1 felony offense. Moreover, if a person has been convicted of only misdemeanors, now up to 2 misdemeanor convictions may be set aside, provided the person has no more than 2 misdemeanors on their record and otherwise meets qualifications for a set aside. Under the prior law, having more than one criminal conviction of any type generally precluded a person from seeking an order expunging a prior criminal conviction.
The new law does carry over past provisions which continue to forbid expunging certain crimes under any circumstances, including any traffic offense, sex crimes or felonies punishable by life in prison. In addition, the new law also treats previously “deferred” offenses, such as MIP 1st offenses and certain deferred drug crimes as misdemeanor convictions for purposes of determining one’s eligibility for a conviction set aside now. As a consequence, one with a previously deferred criminal matter may be out of luck if they have committed 2 or more misdemeanors thereafter.
A petition seeking to set aside a conviction cannot be filed until 5 years after sentence is completed and must be filed in the convicting court. A petition must also be supported by sufficient evidence demonstrating that the applicant’s life events and circumstances since the date of conviction warrant expunging the prior record and that removing the conviction from the applicant’s record is consistent with public policy. Simply living a crime free life for 5 years is generally not enough. As I have heard at least one judge say, living crime free is “what most people do all the time and is what you are supposed to do anyway.”
If you or someone you know has been convicted of no more than 2 misdemeanors and/or 1 felony, consult with legal counsel to determine whether you might be eligible to invoke the “privilege” of this new conviction forgiveness law – a “reset button” provided by Michigan’s Legislature.