Applying to Set Aside (Expunge) an Adult Criminal Conviction

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Applying to get your criminal conviction set aside can take about six months or more. This includes gathering your records, having a hearing, and having your conviction set aside. 

Go to Expunging (Setting Aside) Adult Criminal Convictions to find step-by-step instructions. For more information, you can also read What Convictions Can You Expunge (Set Aside) with an Application?

Automatic Set Asides: No Applications Necessary

Some adult convictions will be automatically expunged without an application. There are different rules for the automatic expungement process. Read Automatic Expungement (Set Aside) of Adult Convictions to learn more.

The information below is just for expungement by application.

Get a Copy of Your Record

If you have questions about your record, use Michigan’s Internet Criminal History Access Tool (ICHAT) to get a copy of your criminal history. You can download it from ICHAT for $10. Your ICHAT record will have three segments: arrest, charge, and judicial. Look at the judicial segment to find the information you need to see if you are eligible to set aside your convictions.

If you need more information, you can also go to the court where you were convicted to get a copy of your order of conviction. Your certified record will have all the information you need about that specific conviction. To learn more about this process, read Step 2 of the Instructions on the Expunging (Setting Aside) Adult Criminal Convictions page.

If you need to review your criminal history in other states, you can get a report from the FBI’s Criminal Background Check website. The cost is $18. You will need to submit a copy of your fingerprints.

The Set Aside (Expungement) Application Process

Go to Expunging (Setting Aside) Adult Criminal Convictions to find step-by-step instructions.

The first step in the process is to complete an Application to Set Aside Conviction and have it notarized. The easiest way to do this is to use the Do-It-Yourself Expungement (Adult Conviction) tool.

Then you will need to go to the court where you were convicted and get a certified record of conviction. Make five copies of your application and your certified record. To learn more about this process, read Step 2 of the Instructions on the Expunging (Setting Aside) Adult Criminal Convictions page.

Then you need to get fingerprinted. You can do this at a local police station or a Michigan State Police (MSP) post.

Next, file your application with the court where you were convicted. Then you will send a copy of your application, the certified record of conviction, and your fingerprints to the MSP, along with a $50 check or money order, made out to the State of Michigan.

Finally, you need to notify the Michigan Attorney General and the prosecutor who handled your conviction by sending them each a copy of your application and certified order of conviction. The court clerk will schedule a hearing. Read “Prepare for and Attend the Hearing” below to learn more. You can find detailed instructions in Expunging (Setting Aside) Adult Criminal Convictions.

Prepare for and Attend the Hearing

After your application is processed by the MSP, you will have to attend a hearing in the court where you were convicted. At the hearing, you will explain to a judge why your conviction should be set aside. It is helpful if you can testify that you haven’t been involved in criminal activity since your conviction. You may also want to explain how you have changed your life since your conviction. Some examples of positive changes include:

  • Doing community service or volunteering
  • Being involved in or completing a drug or alcohol treatment program
  • Participating in an educational or vocational program, or getting a degree, certificate, or license
  • Getting a new job or getting promoted at work
  • Improved relationships with family, or becoming a parent

It also helps to testify why you want to clear your public record, such as wanting to get a professional license or wanting more employment opportunities.

You may want to ask people close to you to write letters of support. Some examples of people you can ask to write letters of support are your family, friends, employer or work supervisor, church leaders, or other community members. The letters should include information about how they know you, how long they have known you, and positive information about you. Some examples of positive information about you can include how you are a:

  • Great and reliable parent, family member, or friend
  • Hard worker who is always on time and trustworthy
  • Devoted member of the church or community who is always quick to volunteer to help

One person’s letter may include all of these examples and other positive information. Letters that give specific examples of good things you have done are more meaningful than letters that just generally say that you are a good person.

Ask people to write letters with enough time so you can file copies with the court before your hearing. Also serve the prosecutor and Michigan Attorney General with copies. Be sure to keep copies of the letters for your records and take them with you to your hearing.

People who are not able to write letters but still want to support you could go to your hearing and testify as witnesses. If you have witnesses, be sure to let the judge know when your hearing starts.

Law enforcement officials and the victims of your crime may testify at the hearing to support your application or to object to it.

If the judge agrees that your conviction should be set aside, they will sign an order to set aside conviction. The court should then send a copy of it to the MSP and the police agency that arrested you. However, you may want to ask to make sure the court will send it and that you don’t have to.

What Happens to Your Records If the Judge Sets Aside Your Conviction

If the judge orders your conviction to be set aside, the court will send a copy of the Order On Application to Set Aside Conviction to the MSP. The MSP will keep a nonpublic copy of the order and other documents related to your conviction, like the arrest record, fingerprints, and sentence. The MSP will then remove the conviction from your record on ICHAT. You can check after about a month to verify that your record appears clear.

There are still some times when courts, law enforcement, or the government can see expunged records. Read An Overview of Michigan’s Expungement Laws to learn who can see an expunged conviction and what they can do with the information.


Restitution is money that a defendant is ordered to pay the victim. Setting aside a conviction does not affect restitution. If you are still paying restitution, you may want to speak with a lawyer about whether you should wait to file your application until after you finish paying it.

Denied Applications

If you applied to set aside a conviction and you were denied, you may have a few different options.

Request a Rehearing

You can ask the judge to reconsider their decision within 21 days of the date of the order, by preparing and filing a Notice of Hearing and Motion. Title your motion “Motion for Rehearing.” The body of the Motion will need to explain why the jude's decision is wrong. File your forms at the court clerk's office and ask the clerk for a hearing date. You will also need to send a copy to the prosecuting official.

Appeal the Decision

You can appeal the judge’s order to the next highest court. If you are in a state district court, you will need to appeal to the county circuit court for your area. If you are in a  state circuit court, you will need to appeal to the Court of Appeals. The rules for each appeal are different depending on whether you are appealing a district court decision or a circuit court decision. There are fees for both kinds of appeals.

You may want to talk with a lawyer if you decide to ask for a rehearing or appeal your case. Read “Finding a Lawyer” below for more information.

Wait Three Years

If you applied to set aside a conviction and you were denied, you must wait three years from the date of denial to apply again. However, a judge can allow you to apply sooner than the three-year period. If a judge denies your application at a hearing, you may want to ask that they include a statement in the order that you will be allowed to reapply in less than three years.

Other Options

If you do not qualify to set aside your conviction or the judge did not order your conviction to be set aside, you can ask the governor for a pardon. For more information about this option, visit the Michigan Parole Board Information webpage.

Finding a Lawyer 

In some cases, setting aside a conviction can be complicated. If you need help, you may want to talk to a lawyer. Many counties around Michigan have free expungement fair events where you can talk with a lawyer who will help you fill out your application. Visit the Legal Clinics and Events webpage or do an internet search to find upcoming expungement events near you.

Some counties have also created an intake process to help people looking for assistance. Visit Safe and Just Michigan to see the list of resources available in your county. Scroll to the bottom of the page for a list. 

If you have low income, you may qualify for free legal services. Whether you have low income or not, you can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers in your area.