The ability to have a criminal conviction removed or “wiped off” your record is technically called a “Set Aside of Conviction.” The term “Expungement” is what people commonly use, but technically speaking there is no such proceeding in Michigan.
Many people are interested in this proceeding, but in order to have something “taken off” of your record, you have to meet certain, very specific criteria.
To be eligible for a Set Aside of Conviction, both of the following MUST apply:
- At lease 5 full years have elapsed since your conviction
- The offense which you are seeking to set aside must be the ONLY thing that has ever gone on your criminal record.
This means that you can have no other criminal convictions whatsoever. People often make the mistake of thinking that a prior Drunk Driving or Driving While License suspended case is merely a “traffic offense,” but they are criminal convictions, as well.
The process starts by having your lawyer direct you to get a set of fingerprints done at your local law enforcement agency. If you have no local Police department, then the County Sheriff’s department will do them for you. You should inform them of the purpose for the prints, so they will use the correct fingerprint “card.” More and more, these prints are not done with actual ink and paper but rather involve having your hand “scanned” by a special hand-reading machine which in turn prints out fingerprint card.
Once the Prints are done, a form called an “application to Set Aside Conviction” is filed with the court where the case was originally heard. When the Court Clerk fills out the appropriate information on that form, the lawyer then sends copies of it, along with your fingerprint card, and a $50 processing fee, payable to the State of Michigan, to the State Police Department Criminal Justice Information Center in Lansing, where your prints and record will be run and checked both statewide and nationally.
Other copies of the completed form, with a Notice of Hearing, are mailed to the Michigan Attorney General, and the Prosecutor’s office who originally handled the case, as well.
Typically, a hearing is scheduled from 4 to 8 weeks after the request is submitted. The person seeking the Set Aside and their lawyer appear before either the Judge who originally heard the case, or the Judge that inherited that Judge’s caseload. Arguments are made to the court as to why the Application should be granted, and the Judge decides. The decision whether to grant the Application, once the initial criteria have been met, rests entirely with the Judge.
It is for this reason that I often will file an additional legal brief with an Application. I feel that giving the Judge the ability to see beforehand, in writing, why the person is seeking this relief, and why it should be granted, play an important role in being successful.