The effects of a criminal conviction can linger far beyond the end of the sentence. Take the case of Xavier Owens. As he explained to the Detroit Free Press, he was 21 years old when he was convicted of fleeing and eluding. He later picked up a handful of misdemeanor traffic violations commuting to work.
More than a decade later, Owens still has trouble finding a well-paying job. He’s also been excluded from housing programs and volunteer opportunities. It all stems from that initial non-violent criminal charge. Expungement – referred to in Michigan as “setting aside” a conviction – can bring some relief. But specific guidelines must be met.
Qualifying to set aside a conviction
Michigan’s adult expungement laws are narrow and restrictive. You can only have up to one felony conviction and up to two misdemeanor convictions on your record. Any more than that and you likely do not qualify for expungement. Similarly, you can set aside the single felony or up to two misdemeanors, but not both.
You may apply to set aside a conviction only after a specific waiting period. This is usually five years from the day you were convicted, or your last interaction with the criminal justice system. A run-in with the law during this waiting period could impact your case.
Lastly, some convictions cannot be wiped from your record. That includes:
- Traffic offenses
- Felony crimes related to criminal sexual conduct
- Child abuse
- Felony domestic violence, if there is a previous misdemeanor for domestic violence on your record
- Any felony that might carry a life sentence
Benefits of setting aside a conviction
For those eligible, setting aside a criminal conviction can bring significant benefits. The expunged crime, for all intents and purposes, will be gone from your public criminal record. Most employers, for example, cannot see the mark on your record. And when applying for jobs or programs, you can say you have not been convicted of a crime.
Being eligible to set aside a conviction is not enough, however. You still must make your case to a judge, who holds the power to approve or deny the change to your record. Consulting with an attorney during this process is often recommended.