Different Ways to Expunge (Set Aside) Convictions
A conviction is any misdemeanor or felony charge for which you were found guilty. You could have been found guilty by a judge or jury, or you might have signed a plea agreement stating that you were guilty of a crime.
Setting aside a conviction is the process that clears your public criminal record. This is sometimes called an “expungement.” Starting in 2021, Michigan's Clean Slate laws have made it easier for some people to set aside convictions.
Adult or Juvenile Expungement
This article gives an overview of the laws that apply to setting aside an adult conviction. To learn more about setting aside a juvenile adjudication, read Setting Aside a Juvenile Adjudication.
Expungement Can Be Done Automatically or with an Application
There are two separate adult expungement processes:
- You can apply for an expungement; or
- Starting in April 2023, a conviction can be automatically expunged.
The two programs each have their own process and rules. Some convictions can only be expunged with an application. Some convictions can only be expunged automatically. Other convictions cannot be expunged at all.
To learn about the application process, read Applying to Set Aside (Expunge) an Adult Criminal Conviction or What Convictions Can You Expunge (Set Aside) with an Application?.
To learn about the automatic process, read Automatic Expungement (Set Aside) of Adult Convictions.
Who Can See Expunged Convictions
After a conviction is expunged, it is non-public. In many ways it is like you were never convicted.
You may want to have a conviction set aside if you are looking for a new job or a professional license. If your conviction is set aside, most employers will not be able to see it with a background check.
The Michigan State Police will still keep a non-public record of a conviction that has been set aside. The non-public record can only be accessed by the following:
- A court that has authority to review your conviction
- An agency of the judicial branch of state government
- The Department of Corrections (DOC)
- A law enforcement agency
- A prosecutor or assistant prosecutor
- The attorney general
- The governor
These are the only reasons why someone listed above can access your non-public records:
- You submitted a license application that requires someone who works for the judicial branch to review it
- To show that you filed an application to set aside a conviction or had a conviction set aside
- You are convicted of a new crime that carries a possible sentence of imprisonment of more than one year, and a court is determining how to sentence you
- The governor is reviewing your request for a pardon of a different conviction
- You apply for a job with a law enforcement agency or the DOC
- They need to determine whether you need to be registered under the Sex Offenders Registration Act (SORA) or whether you violated SORA
Anyone other than those listed above who makes your set aside conviction public, uses it to make a decision about you, or publishes information about it is guilty of a misdemeanor. They could be in jail for 90 days, fined $500, or both. The victim of the crime is not subject to this penalty.
What If You Need Your Expunged Records?
You may need to get a copy of your non-public record for immigration, adoption, or personal use.
You can ask for a personal records check from the MSP. This costs $30 and you must get fingerprinted. The report will show you convictions that are still public. The report will also show you expunged convictions that are non-public.
For instructions, go to MSP’s instructions page. Look for the second option, which is called: “Procedure to search criminal history records for visa, immigration, personal records check or adoption (fingerprints are required).”
Expungements are not recognized by the immigration system. You may still have to give information about your criminal convictions, even if they have been expunged. Not providing these records could result in a denial of your application for immigration relief.
If you have a criminal record and are trying to get immigration relief, you may want to speak to a lawyer. 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.
Restitution is money paid to a crime victim that is meant to cover any financial losses that resulted from the crime. After a conviction is expunged, you must keep paying any restitution you owe for that conviction.
If you have a conviction related to driving a car, truck, or motorcycle, expunging the conviction will not take it off your driving record. Visit Restoring a Michigan Driver’s License for more information about your options.
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. Visit the Legal Clinics and Events webpage or the state Expungement Fairs page, or do an internet search to find expungement events.
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 their 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.