- In the first eight days of automatic expungement in Michigan, nearly 1.2 million convictions were set aside
- Automatic system will check daily for newly-eligible convictions to expunge
- 2020 law that created automatic expungement process also expanded eligibility for wiping criminal records
This month, Michigan became the latest state in the nation to automatically wipe past eligible criminal convictions from public records.
More than 1 million felonies and misdemeanors have been erased from residents’ records since the automatic program took effect on April 11, and state officials say the process is designed to run a daily check for newly-eligible convictions to expunge.
The automatic expungements are limited primarily to low-level, nonviolent crimes committed by residents who haven’t had another conviction in years. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said about 400,000 Michigan residents were “completely conviction free” once automatic expungement went into effect.
Certain crimes not included in the automatic expungement process, including first-time drunk driving offenses, can still be expunged after a certain period of time through the traditional process of petitioning a judge.
Crimes excluded from automatic expungement
- All offenses punishable by life imprisonment
- Assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct
- Child sexually abusive material or activity offenses
- Felony domestic violence
- Criminal sexual conduct
- Human-trafficking related offenses
- Second-degree child abuse
- Second-degree criminal sexual conduct
- Driving while intoxicated, traffic offenses that cause injury or death, and commercial driver’s license violations
- Terrorism-related offenses
Source: State of Michigan
Automatic expungement is a key part of 2020 criminal justice reforms, and it’s taken until now to get the system up and running.
- Automatic expungement for 1 million Michigan residents began Tuesday
- Whitmer signs Clean Slate Michigan, allowing automatic felony expungement
- No criminal charge? No problem! Michigan police can still take your car
So what does it mean for Michigan residents? For a lot of people, wiping old criminal records clean offers immediate impacts, including seeing “their access to housing and jobs improve overnight,” said John Cooper, executive director of Safe and Just Michigan, a Lansing advocacy group.
Michigan’s expungement rules
Prior to 2020, Michigan residents with one felony conviction or two or fewer misdemeanors for certain crimes were eligible to apply with courts to clear their record so long as they hadn’t committed other offenses for at least five years.
Those rules didn’t apply to many nonviolent crimes, and criminal justice reform advocates argued the costs and complexity of getting records expunged blocked many eligible residents from doing so. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that only 6.5 percent of Michigan residents successfully expunged a conviction from their record within five years of becoming eligible.
The “Clean Slate” bipartisan bill package signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer overhauled the state’s expungement process, making the option available to people with three felonies and any number of misdemeanors. Other reforms included:
- Allowing people to apply for expungements after three years from conviction for misdemeanors, five years for felonies and seven for multiple felonies.
- Making most traffic offenses eligible for expungement.
- Allow for expedited expungement for marijuana-related convictions that would have been legal under Michigan’s 2018 marijuana legalization law.
- Making multiple offenses surrounding one crime count as a single offense, excluding violent crimes or those punishable by 10 or more years.
- Keeping the expunged records shielded from the public, employers or landlords, but available to law enforcement
The package also opened the door for up to automatic expungements of up to two felonies after 10 years and four misdemeanors after seven years for people who haven’t committed any crimes since — with several exceptions, including violent crimes, crimes that involve minors or vulnerable adults, sex crimes and other serious offenses.
That piece of the puzzle went into effect this month after two years of coordination by state agencies to build the automated system.
How automatic expungement works
Michigan joins 10 other states in approving some form of automatic expungement of criminal records, according to the Collateral Consequences Resource Center, which tracks state legislative activity on expungement and other issues.
So far, Pennsylvania and Utah are the only two other states that have started their automatic expungement process.
The state’s automatic expungement program is designed to scan the state’s list of criminal records every day to determine whether offenses meet eligibility requirements for setting aside the conviction, including type of offense, the amount of time that has passed since conviction and whether the person has reached the statutory maximum for automatic expungements.
Michigan State Police spokesperson Shanon Banner told Bridge Michigan the agency coordinates with the state’s Department of Corrections to determine eligibility for felonies that resulted in prison time.
The Michigan State Police send a daily report of eligible convictions set aside. Courts can motion to reinstate the conviction if it’s later determined a conviction was improperly set aside.
In the first eight days of operation, Michigan’s automatic expungement system set aside 1,195,368 convictions, including 1,090,228 misdemeanors and 105,140 felonies, according to data provided by the Michigan State Police.
State police did not provide other details on the types of convictions that were scrubbed from state records.
How to check if records were expunged
If a person’s convictions are eligible for automatic expungement, the convictions will be scrubbed from state records without need for additional action.
People interested in confirming whether their convictions are expunged can run personal records check with the state or an ICHAT search of publicly available criminal records — if a conviction doesn’t pop up, it’s been removed from the record.
The personal records check requires fingerprints and a $30 processing fee and includes all public and nonpublic criminal history information, while the ICHAT search costs $10 per name-based search and includes publicly available criminal history information.
How to expunge other convictions
Convictions for more serious crimes or others excluded from automatic expungement may qualify to be wiped from records at the discretion of the courts, although the process can take several months to complete.
To do so, a person must submit an application. The Michigan State Police are then required to process a Criminal History Report, and the Department of Attorney General prepares a response once those steps are completed.
At that point, an expungement hearing would take place to determine whether the applicant’s convictions will be set aside. The Department of Attorney General estimates the process typically takes about eight months.
The Michigan Department of Attorney General hosts expungement fairs around the state to assist people in person with starting the process. Additional resources are available on the state’s expungement website.