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Expungement possible for some

Left to right: Attorney Malita Barrett (standing), attorney Carol Hunter, Circuit Judge Debora Thomas and attorney Rhon Mitchell field a question concerning expungement. MARCUS WRIGHT PHOTO

By Marcus Wright
Special to the Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — Expungement is when a criminal conviction is set aside. If a person has a conviction expunged, they are considered not to have been convicted for most purposes. They can tell potential employers they have a clean criminal record. Nor will the expunged conviction appear on their rap sheet.

More than 100 people attended a forum at Fellowship Chapel June 30 to learn how to have a conviction expunged. The event was sponsored by Mothers of Inmates Support Team (MOIST). Several attorneys and a sitting judge attended the forum.

Attorney Malita Barrett said an expungement can make a person feel better about themselves. “It can also help with employment opportunities and housing,” Barrett said. “I received a call from a 60-year-old man who is having problems with public housing because of drunk driving convictions when he was in his 20s.”

Barrett said people often don’t know the negative impact a conviction can have until it prevents them from gaining access to something they need.

Attorneys Rhon Mitchell discussed federal pardons and attorney Wanda Evans talked about state criminal record expungements. Judge Deborah Thomas served as facilitator. Thomas strongly urged hiring an attorney. “There are attorneys who will set up a payment plan,” Thomas said.

The Michigan Expungement Statue was changed slightly in 2011. Thomas said those very minor changes have benefited some people. “Expungement is about repentance and forgiveness,” Thomas said. “It is about acknowledging that people do make mistakes and that the American Justice System is based on both the principals that, if you do the crime you do the time; and that rehabilitation is a meaningful part of the criminal justice system.”

She said the expungement law is about giving back to society and society not forever restricting those who have been punished, have repented and are seeking to be productive members of the community in which they and their families live by working to support themselves and their community.

How do I know if I can get an expungement?

Both adult convictions and juvenile cases can be expunged. However, many people cannot get their criminal records expunged. To be eligible for an expungement, you must meet very specific criteria.

To see if you are eligible to expunge an adult conviction or juvenile case in the state of Michigan, take the test below. If you answer no to all of the questions, you may be eligible for an expungement. If you have convictions in another state, or if you have a federal conviction, different rules will apply. If, after taking the test, you are unsure whether you can get an expungement, you should consult an attorney.

1. Do you have more than one adult criminal conviction or more than one juvenile case?

Yes: You CANNOT get your criminal record expunged. You CANNOT get an expungement if you have two or more felonies. You CANNOT get an expungement if you have two or more misdemeanors. You CANNOT get an expungement if you have one felony and one or more misdemeanors. You can only have one case total. Out-of-state and federal convictions count towards the total.

No: You may be able to get your record expunged. Go on to question 2.

Notes: Before you file for an expungement, get a copy of your criminal record and check it carefully to make sure there is only one conviction. You can get a copy of your record using the Internet Criminal History Access Tool (ICHAT):

http://apps.michigan.gov/ICHAT/home.aspx. A search costs $10, or click on “FAQs” for information about how to get your record for free. ICHAT shows only Michigan convictions.

Some very minor offenses, like speeding tickets are not convictions. However, many driving offenses, like driving on a suspended license, are misdemeanors, and therefore count as convictions. Remember, if you have more than one conviction, even if your conviction is very minor, you cannot get an expungement. If you are not sure whether your case counts as a conviction, contact an attorney or the court.

Sometimes people have more than one conviction in the same case. For example, if the cops arrested you for driving on a suspended license and then found pot in your car, you could have convictions both for driving on a suspended license and for possession. Even though you only got arrested once, and only went to court for that one case, if you were convicted on both the suspended license and the possession charges, you have two convictions. Therefore, you cannot get an expungement.

If you have only one adult conviction and also have juvenile cases, or if you have only one juvenile case and also have adult convictions, you should consult an attorney to find out of if you can get an expungement.

2. Were you convicted of a felony or an attempt to commit a felony that is punishable by life imprisonment?

Yes: You CANNOT get your criminal record expunged.

No: You may be able to get your record expunged. Go on to question 3.

Notes: It does not matter whether or not you were sentenced to life imprisonment. The question is whether you could have gotten a life sentence for your crime. For example, if you received a ten-year sentence, but you could have gotten a life sentence, you cannot get an expungement.

If you were tried as a juvenile, the question is whether your crime was one that, if committed by an adult, would carry a maximum life sentence. Even if you were tried as a juvenile, if you could have gotten a life sentence if you had been tried as an adult, then you cannot get your juvenile record expunged. If you do not know what the maximum sentence was for your crime, consult an attorney.

3. Were you convicted of felony criminal sexual conduct (first, second, or third degree), or assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct?

Yes: You CANNOT get your criminal record expunged.

No: You may be able to get your record expunged. Go on to question 4.

Notes: You may be eligible for an expungement if you were convicted of misdemeanor criminal sexual conduct. If you have a juvenile record for criminal sexual conduct, consult an attorney.

4. Were you convicted of or adjudicated for a traffic offense, or a non-traffic offense reportable to the Secretary of State?

Yes: You CANNOT get your criminal record expunged.

No: You may be able to get your record expunged. Go on to question 5.

Notes: In general, “traffic offenses” involve the operation of a motor vehicle and are contained within a special section of the law called the Motor Vehicle Code. If you are unsure whether your conviction is for a “traffic offense,” consult an attorney.

Certain offenses that don’t involve motor vehicles may still be reported to the Secretary of State and can affect your driver’s license. For example, if you are convicted of certain drug offenses, you can have your license suspended. If your conviction affected your driver’s license, contact an attorney to find out if you can get an expungement.

5. Has it been less than five years since the date of your conviction or adjudication?

Yes: You CANNOT get your criminal record expunged now. You must wait until five years have passed from the date of your conviction or from the date of the disposition in your juvenile case. You may be able to get an expungement once the five years are up.

No: You may be able to get your record expunged. Go on to question 6.

6. If you were imprisoned, has it been less than five years since you were released?

Yes: You CANNOT get your criminal record expunged now. You must wait until five years have passed from the date of your release from prison or jail. You may be able to get an expungement once the five years are up.

No: You may be able to get your record expunged. Go on to question 7.

7. If you are applying to set aside a juvenile case, are you under 24?

Yes: You CANNOT get your juvenile case expunged now. You must wait until you are at least 24 to apply for an expungement.

No: You may be able to get your record expunged.

Contact Marcus Wright at marcuswright@michigancitizen.com

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