New ‘Clean Slate’ laws to automate criminal record expungement process, expand eligibility criteria in Michigan


Hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents may be eligible to have their criminal record expunged under new laws, according to the state.

On Thursday, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed seven bipartisan bills into law that can provide a “clean slate” to residents who have committed certain felonies and misdemeanors. The bills, initially introduced in 2019, will help a number of people become eligible for jobs or housing that they may not have been eligible for due to their criminal record.

“This is a historic day in Michigan. These bipartisan bills are a game changer for people who are seeking opportunities for employment, housing, and more, and they will help ensure a clean slate for hundreds of thousands of Michiganders,” Whitmer said in a press release Monday. “This is also an opportunity to grow our workforce and expand access to job training and education for so many people. I am proud to sign these bills today alongside Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist and many of the bipartisan leaders who worked on them.”

Eligible misdemeanors will be expunged after seven years under the new laws. Eligible non-assaultive felonies will be expunged after 10 years.

The laws will also allow for marijuana offenses to be set aside if they would not be considered illegal if committed after December 6, 2018 — when recreational marijuana use became legal for adults in Michigan.

How it works

Michigan residents who have committed certain crimes can file an application to have their criminal record expunged.

House bills signed into law Monday outline new regulations for criminal record expungement, while also allowing certain convictions to be set aside automatically after a certain time period.

Under House Bill 4980, a conviction for a misdemeanor offense will be set aside automatically after seven years have passed from the sentencing or imprisonment served. A conviction for a non-assaultive felony will be set aside automatically after 10 years have passed from the sentencing or imprisonment served.

The bills outline different rules for individuals who are eligible for automatic record expungement vs. individuals who actively submit an application to have a conviction(s) set aside.

Instead of waiting for automatic expungement, individuals seeking to have a serious misdemeanor or felony conviction set aside can submit an application after five years. Individuals seeking to have more than one felony conviction set aside can submit an application after seven years.

Michigan residents who have been convicted of one or more misdemeanor marijuana offense can now apply to have the conviction set aside — only if the offense would not be considered illegal if it were to have been committed after December 6, 2018, when recreational marijuana use became legal for adults.

The bills also declare that multiple felony offenses or misdemeanor offenses must be considered one offense (if they occurred at the same time) in an application for expungement.

Michigan courts will communicate with arresting law enforcement agencies to notify them of convictions eligible to be expunged. The state will develop and maintain an online program to facilitate criminal record expungement.

Individuals cannot have more than two felony convictions or four misdemeanor convictions set aside during their lifetime. Courts will still have access to criminal records that have been expunged.

Once a conviction has been set aside by the state, the individual will not legally be considered to have been previously convicted of that crime. However, a conviction that is set aside can still be considered a “prior conviction” by courts, law enforcement agencies and attorneys for the purpose of charging an individual with a second or subsequent offense.

Individuals who have a conviction set aside are not entitled to refunds of any fines or costs paid as a consequence of that conviction, according to House Bill 4980. An individual who has a conviction set aside is not excused from paying restitution owed to a victim of a crime, according to the state.

Who is not eligible?

Michigan residents are not eligible to have a conviction(s) set aside if:

  • there are charges currently pending against them;
  • they have been convicted of another crime(s) during the 7- or 10-year time requirement for expungement eligibility; and/or
  • they have more than one conviction for an assaultive crime or attempt to commit an assaultive crime.

If charges are pending against an individual, they are not eligible to have their criminal record expunged — even if their convictions meet the state’s criteria.

Individuals are not eligible to have their convictions set aside if they have been convicted of other crimes during the 7- or 10-year time limits required for expungement.

What crimes are not eligible for expungement?

Convictions for certain crimes cannot be set aside in Michigan under the new laws.

According to the state, convictions of the following crimes are not eligible for automatic expungement in Michigan:

  • An assaultive crime or attempt to commit an assaultive crime;
  • A serious misdemeanor or attempt to commit a serious misdemeanor;
  • A felony, or attempt to commit a felony, for which the maximum punishment is life imprisonment;
  • A crime of dishonesty or attempt to commit a crime of dishonesty;
  • Any violation related to human trafficking;
  • A conviction for operating while intoxicated;
  • Any traffic offense that causes injury or death;
  • A felony conviction for domestic violence, if the person has a previous misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence;
  • Any traffic offense committed by an individual with an indorsement on his or her operator’s or chauffeur’s license to operate a commercial motor vehicle that was committed while the individual was operating the commercial motor vehicle or was in another manner a commercial motor vehicle violation;
  • A violation of Michigan laws listed under chapter XVII of the code of criminal procedure, 1927 PA 175, MCL 777.1 to 777.69, the elements of which involve a minor, vulnerable adult, injury or serious impairment or death;
  • Any other offense that is punishable by 10 or more years of imprisonment.

There are more nuanced offenses that are not eligible to be set aside. You can find this information in the specific House Bills (linked below).

Why are these bills significant?

A criminal record can negatively impact an individual’s life and the opportunities available to them for years after their conviction.

State officials announced Monday that hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents can potentially benefit from having their criminal record expunged under the new laws — especially financially. According to a study conducted by the University of Michigan’s law school, people who have convictions set aside see about a 23% increase in their income within one year.

Michigan officials say the new laws will expand the state’s workforce and broaden the tax base.

“This anti-poverty, pro-job opportunity Clean Slate legislation will reinvigorate the economic potential of hundreds of thousands of Michiganders whose records have hindered their availability to get a job or secure housing, and it will help us grow our workforce,” said Michigan’s Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II. “This is the right thing to do on behalf of people everywhere who deserve another chance, and will help improve livelihoods. There is more work to do, but Michigan has now established itself as a leader in removing barriers to economic opportunity for people who have made mistakes. I will continue to stand tall for Michiganders across the state who need someone in their corner.”

Click the links below to review the individual Michigan House Bills signed by the governor Monday:

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