Coping with the aftermath of an arrest or conviction can be tough. Even after you’ve completed your sentence or paid your fine, you can face consequences that keep haunting you. In Michigan, a criminal record can restrict your access to housing and public benefits, bar you from certain jobs and professional licenses, affect your chances in a custody proceeding, and even present a deportation risk if you are not yet a U.S. citizen.
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However, in some cases, you may be able to clear your criminal record by expunging it. Expunged convictions are set aside, meaning that they disappear from your record and, for most intents and purposes, no longer exist to anyone except law enforcement personnel.
At Mas/Stig-Nielsen, we can help you explore options to deal with your criminal record. Many of our clients are shocked to learn that even if they were only arrested or never convicted, the incident can stay on their criminal history, sometimes for decades. A Traverse City criminal defense attorney at our law firm can review your case and determine whether you qualify for relief through the expungement process.
Do You Qualify for an Expungement in Michigan?
Legally speaking, an expungement is the equivalent of a record erasure. Afterward, you can honestly state in employment, housing, and financial applications that you have never been convicted of a crime. You can put a mistake behind you and benefit from a fresh start.
In Michigan, there are strict rules outlining who may expunge their criminal history and under what circumstances.
Until recently, you could only be granted an expungement if you had one criminal conviction OR two ‘minor offenses’ (misdemeanor offenses or ordinance violations committed by someone no older than 21 and punishable by a maximum jail term of 90 days or less and/or a fine of no more than $1,000) on your record. Today, the law allows those with two misdemeanor convictions to clear their record. In addition, if you have one felony and no more than two misdemeanors, you may be eligible to have the felony expunged.
If you wish to set aside your record, you must wait five years from the date you served your sentence or five years after you have completed your probation or been discharged from parole (whichever is later). A Traverse City expungement lawyer can explain whether the time is right for you to set aside a conviction.
Certain Michigan Criminal Offenses Cannot Be Expunged
Not all criminal offenses can be expunged from your record. Those that can’t be set aside include the following types of convictions:
- Felonies with a maximum punishment of life in prison
- Attempted felony charges with a maximum punishment of life in prison
- Human trafficking violations
- A domestic violence conviction if you have a previous misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence
- Certain sexual conduct offenses, such as criminal sexual conduct in the first, second, or third-degree
- A conviction for child abuse
- Repeat drunk driving offenses
An experienced expungement attorney at Mas/Stig-Nielsen can advise you whether the criminal convictions you wish to expunge from your record are eligible for removal. If the answer is yes, let us help you get started. Our knowledgeable legal team in Traverse City has helped dozens of clients reclaim their futures through the expungement process and will seek the same result for you.
Sealing a Criminal Record vs. Criminal Record Expungement: What’s the Difference?
You’ve probably heard about individuals getting their criminal records sealed, and may be wondering if it’s the same thing as criminal record expungement. It isn’t.
With a petition for expungement, your conviction is cleared off of your criminal record. Strictly speaking, it’s as if you were never convicted in the first place. Sealing a criminal record, on the other hand, only makes it unavailable to the public. Although no longer a public record, it still exists and can be accessed when someone does a criminal background check after you apply for a job, gun license, etc. This is why expungement is by far the preferred method for dealing with your record.
Do I Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer to Expunge My Record?
According to the Attorney General, you may not need to hire a lawyer to expunge your record. However, unless you understand Michigan’s expungement law and the application process, it’s strongly recommended that you hire an experienced lawyer to assist you.
For example, if you make a mistake and your application for expungement is denied, Michigan law has a waiting period of three years before you can file another petition concerning the same conviction. Therefore, it is imperative that you confirm you meet all eligibility requirements before making your attempt at expungement. A criminal defense attorney at Mas/Stig-Nielsen in Northern Michigan can help you increase your chances of a successful petition by providing the right legal advice and direction.
How Can Your Firm Help Me Expunge My Record?
The defense attorneys at Mas/Stig-Nielsen have several years of criminal court experience, so we know how to fight for the rights of clients caught in the justice system. We regularly handle criminal expungements for both adult and juvenile offenders and understand the laws that govern who is eligible to clear their record and who isn’t.
There are several steps involved in setting aside convictions. You must first file an application with the court where you were convicted. You must be fingerprinted, send specific documents with your application, and pay a fee to the state of Michigan. Additionally, you will need to notify specific parties, such as the prosecutor who handled your case, the Michigan state police, etc. Then you will have to appear at an expungement hearing and convince the judge that your conviction should be set aside.
These are all requirements that can be difficult for those unfamiliar with the workings of the criminal justice system. As experienced expungement lawyers in Traverse City, we can provide the dedicated guidance you need to get this important fresh start.
Talk to a Traverse City Expungement Lawyer Today
Your criminal record can negatively impact your life even if you have made up for your past mistakes. Loans, housing, and public benefits can all be denied to you, even if you have maintained a clean record since your arrest or conviction.
At Mas/Stig-Nielsen, we know how important a second chance is to you and believe that expungement can help you rebuild your life. We can confirm your eligibility for expungement, identify which prior charges can be sealed, and show you how to navigate the legal process so your request has the best chance of succeeding. To schedule an initial consultation in Traverse City or Frankfort with our expungement attorneys, call (231) 714-4128 or contact us online.