Michigan Record Expungement

Record Expungement Defined

Simply put, record expungement is a way to make your criminal history or arrest record disappear (or, at least, a certain offense).

Having a record expunged means your record is no longer accessible to the public and you legally can answer “no” if asked whether you’ve been charged with or convicted of a crime.

Expunged Records vs. Sealed Records

Some states use different definitions for “expunged” and “sealed” records, and for the most part those definitions are similar.

Generally, though, sealed records differ from expunged records because sealed records still exist; they’re not accessible to the general public or via background checks, but certain entities (such as government agencies) can obtain a court order to access the records.

Expunged Records vs. Pardons

When you receive a pardon for a criminal offense, it means you’ve been forgiven for that crime; however, pardons show up as part of your criminal historyright along with the conviction unless part of the pardon conditions state you can apply to have the record expunged.

Generally, judges don’t have the authority to issue pardons. For a pardon, you must turn to governors, secretaries of state, attorney generals, and sometimes even the President.

Certificate of Actual Innocence

As the name implies, a Certificate of Actual Innocence is reserved for someone found not guilty of a crime.

Remember, even if you’re charged with a crime and found not guilty, you still could have a criminal record of that event.

Thus, a Certificate of Actual Innocence is the highest form of record expungement. Not only does a Certificate of Actual Innocence expunge a criminal record, but also it states that the record never should have existed in the first place.

Eligibility for Record Expungement

Each state sets its own eligibility requirements; however, these laws are generally based on:

  • Your age at the time of the conviction.
    • For example, were you a juvenile or adult? Many states are more apt to grant a record expungement to juveniles.
  • Qualifying convictions.
    • What was the crime? Often, states will expunge first-time drug offense records if you successfully complete an ordered drug or alcohol treatment program, but not more serious crimes such as weapons-based offenses.
    • Also, misdemeanor crimes are more likely to get expunged than felonies.
  • Current criminal record.
    • Many states are more likely to expunge your record if it’s a first-time offense and you’ve completed all requirements (such as jail time and payments of all fines); however, if you have multiple offenses on your record, expungement is unlikely.

How to Expunge Criminal Records

Just like your eligibility requirements, your process to expunge your criminal record depends on your state’s laws, and while you can file for record expungement yourself, your best bet is to hire a criminal attorney.

Regardless of your state, some steps you can expect to take include:

  • Determining whether your case is eligible for expungement.
    • Your state might require a completed eligibility application.
  • Obtaining copies of your criminal record and any other related court documents.
  • Filing the appropriate paperwork and paying any required filing fees.
    • Some states require a petition for expungement.
    • After you file the paperwork and pay the fees, the court might automatically set your hearing date; if not, you must request a hearing date yourself.

These steps might seem daunting, which is why hiring a criminal attorney to represent you is a smart idea. He or she knows your state’s laws on expunging records and can obtain documents, file paperwork, and handle hearing requests for you—not to mention make the best possible case for you in front of the judge.


A criminal record can create difficult downstream consequences, whether the record is for having been arrested or convicted (or both). For example, employers and landlords commonly ask job applicants and apartment seekers whether they have ever been convicted of (or perhaps even arrested for) a criminal offense. Employers might not hire—and landlords might not rent to—people who answer “yes” to these questions. The good news is that, in some cases, you may be able to get an arrest or conviction expunged from your record.

What Is Expungement?

Expungement refers to the process of sealing arrest and conviction records. Virtually every state has enacted laws that allow people to expunge arrests and convictions from their records. Though the details can vary from one state to the next, most states’ laws provide that once an arrest or conviction has been expunged, it need not be disclosed, including to potential employers or landlords. For example, assume that Joe was convicted of petty theft and later had the conviction expunged. This was Joe’s only brush with the criminal justice system. If Joe applies for a job and the application asks, “Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense?” Joe can honestly answer, “No.”

Eligibility for Expungement

Since an expungement can offer a fresh start of sorts, one of the most important actions that people who have been arrested or convicted can take is to investigate their jurisdiction’s expungement procedures. Start by checking with your county’s criminal court, or even the law enforcement agency that handled your arrest. Specifically, ask the following questions about eligibility for expungement and the procedure that’s involved:

Is a particular offense eligible for expungement? For example, a jurisdiction may allow expungement only for arrests and misdemeanor convictions and not allow felony convictions to be expunged.

When is a person eligible for an expungement?

For example, expungement may be available only after people have finished serving their sentences, including any term of probation. (But, if there’s a good reason, a judge may shorten a period of probation in order to allow expungement to take place earlier.)

What does the expungement process involve?

Expungement doesn’t necessarily require hiring an attorney. Many courts have forms available, with titles along the lines of “Motion for Expungement.”

What are the consequences of expungement? Even if a conviction has been expunged, could it still show up in some circumstances?

For example, police departments and some licensing boards may be able to find out about job applicants’ expunged records.

Getting a “Certificate of Actual Innocence”

A Certificate of Actual Innocence is perhaps the most powerful form of expungement. This certificate does more than seal a prior record, it proves that a record should never have existed at all. Let’s say that Joe is arrested for vandalism for spraying buildings with graffiti, but the charges are later dropped. Or perhaps Joe is charged with vandalism, and he goes to trial and is found not guilty. In either situation, Joe might seek to obtain a certificate establishing that he was factually innocent of the offense.


Drug Crimes and Juvenile Offenses

In many jurisdictions, people who have been arrested or convicted for drug crimes and juvenile offenders may have an easier path to expungement.

Drug offenses. Many people arrested for drug offenses are eligible for diversion programs. These programs typically provide for the expungement of records following the satisfactory completion of a program.

Juvenile offenses. People who were arrested or convicted as juvenile offenders may have an easier time getting their criminal records expunged or sealed. Usually this is an option once the person reaches the age of 18, and they’ve otherwise stayed out of trouble with the law.


Our lawyers are admitted to practice before the Michigan Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court, the U.S. District Courts for the Eastern and Western Districts of Michigan, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court. We are able to look at all variables and put forth the strongest defense possible.

Contact The Law Offices of Raymond A. Cassar, P.L.C., at (248) 855-0911 or via email to discuss Michigan criminal record expungement in a free consultation with a one of our attorneys.


Meet Our Criminal Defense Attorneys

The Law Offices of Raymond A. Cassar, P.L.C., is a criminal defense law firm with a reputation for passionately and skillfully representing thousands of people charged with a federal or state felony or misdemeanor in Michigan. Our team of criminal defense attorneys backs up your defense with over 50 combined years of effective courtroom trial experience. Call us today at The Law Offices of Raymond A. Cassar, P.L.C., to schedule an opportunity to discuss the circumstances of your criminal charges. Our experience and reputation in the criminal justice system are your best defense.

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