A criminal conviction—even for a minor offense—can be a heavy burden to carry through life. It can affect your ability to find a place to live, the kind of employment you can obtain, and sometimes your eligibility for government programs. Fortunately, there are limited ways in which you can have a criminal conviction removed from your record.
The first is the most difficult: a pardon. A pardon is, in essence, “forgiveness” for a crime and it removes the conviction from your record. A pardon may only be granted by the chief executive: the governor (for state crimes) or the President of the United States (for federal crimes). Pardons are exceedingly rare; in fact, there have been some chief executives who have never issued a single pardon. For these reasons, the process for requesting a pardon is time-consuming and somewhat obscure.
The second means of removing a criminal conviction is through expungement, a far more common and effective method. An expungement is a “cleansing” of your criminal record by the court, and is only available for state convictions. (The only way to remove a federal criminal conviction is through a pardon.) The law on expungement changed very recently in Michigan. Previously, you could only expunge one offense in your lifetime, and if you had more than one conviction of any type, no expungement was possible at all. Under the new law, signed in January 2015, you may expunge up to two misdemeanors (including “high court misdemeanors”) or one felony. If you have previously been told that you can not have a conviction expunged, it may be worthwhile to contact an attorney to learn if these changes affect your eligibility.
It is worth remembering that there are still strict limits on expungement. While most offenses can be expunged, there are some that can not: traffic offenses (including drunk driving and driving with a suspended license), crimes with a potential sentence of life in prison, crimes involving possession of child sexually abusive material, and most forms of criminal sexual conduct. There are some other limitations, as well. To set aside a felony conviction, you must not have any felony convictions other than the one you are trying to set aside and no more than two misdemeanor convictions. To set aside misdemeanor convictions, you may not have any felony convictions and no more than two misdemeanor convictions. (There are exceptions to this rule, as well; if the conviction for the misdemeanor being expunged was prior to January 2015, then you can have two other “minor misdemeanor” convictions and still be eligible for expungement.) Timing is also important: a conviction can not be expunged until at least five years after the completion of your sentence.
The bottom line is this: if you’ve been convicted of a crime—especially a felony—you should get it removed from your criminal record if you can. We can help. Contact us. We’ll be glad to go over your record, find out if you’re eligible, and help you through the process. If you’ve made a mistake in the past, we can help you keep it there.
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