There are many avenues available to people who have made a mistake in their past, but are otherwise upstanding citizens.The most popular options are expungements, HYTA status, and first time offender programs. These programs seek to give otherwise harmless offenders a fresh start uninhibited by their past momentary indiscretions.
An expungement refers to a particular lawsuit where an offender with only one criminal conviction seeks to have any record of that earlier process “sealed” or “removed” from their record. By successfully completing this process, any criminal history that is expunged will not be available to Federal or State repositories. Any trace of the criminal conviction will basically disappear. There are many criminal offenses that cannot be removed from a person’s record. Life offenses cannot be expunged. There are also some sexual offenses and controlled substance violations which cannot be removed from a person’s record either.
The Holmes Youthful Trainee Act(also known as HYTA) is an act which allows any person convicted of a criminal offense between the age of 17 and 21 the right to keep offenses off their record. This is similar to expungement in that no charges are to appear on the person’s record. It is different because there is no waiting period, the offender must immediately enter and complete the program to keep his record clean. If probation is violated, the HYTA status can thus be revoked, which causes the criminal charge to remain on their record.
There are also many first time offender programs available to those who qualify. Many, all though not all, of them operate on the County level, but most Counties have some form of programming. For example, first time shoplifters may qualify for local diversion programs. Many counties also have first time offender programs for other minor offenses. There are also first time offender programs for first time domestic violence offenders under Michigan law, as well as 7411 status to assist first time offenders with drug charges.
It is becoming increasingly more difficult to keep a person’s criminal history sealed these days. This has nothing to do with the court systems, but rather with private industry. Electronic records which were once stored on paper within correction departments, law enforcement agencies and courts are now stored digitally and then sold within the private sector for use in private investigative companies.
This information can then be accessed for use in private background screenings. There are commercial databases which contain millions of criminal records. These databases are supposed to be updated regularly and show up in most criminal background checks. The problem is that it is often a time consuming process to update these electronic files completely. This means that while a person’s criminal record may have been sealed or expunged, the criminal information may still be available for a period of time through private agencies.
This process threatens the right of one time offenders to really have a clean slate. If these records are not update, there are individuals who may be denied employment or other benefits based on a non-existent criminal history. If you have had your record expunged or have had a criminal offense set aside in another way, have a criminal history check done on yourself. If you find information that should not be appearing on your record you should file a dispute with the company to have them update the record. Just like with an error in your credit report, there is always a process to correct a mistake – once it is discovered.