In August of 2021 Governor Whitmer signed into law legislation that allows for the expungement of certain first-time impaired driving offenders. This blog will elaborate on what this new legislation means for you and whether you qualify for expungement.

What does this law change?

Beginning February 19 2022, persons with a single OWI (operating while intoxicated) conviction are eligible to have the offense expunged. Qualifying OWIs under this law include

  1. Any person operating a vehicle with a BAC of .08 or more
  2. Any person operating a vehicle while visibly impaired by alcohol or other controlled substance
  3. A person under 21 years old operating a vehicle with a BAC of .02 or more
  4. Any person from operating a vehicle with any bodily amount of cocaine or a Schedule 1 controlled substance

Excluded from this list are those who have caused serious bodily injury or death in the course of their OWI.

When can I apply for expungement?

If your conviction qualifies, the next step is to determine if enough time has passed since the conviction. Under this new law, you must wait five years from whichever occurs last: imposition of the sentence; completion of probation; discharge from parole; or completion of any term of imprisonment. Once this waiting period is over, you may petition the court for expungement.

What must I show to the court?

Generally, when you seek to expunge a conviction, the court will look to your behaviors and convictions since your OWI, any supporting letters from your community vouching for your good character, and any affirmative steps you took, such as AA or NA meetings, rehabilitation, or other remediation. If you demonstrate good behavior (or a lack of bad behavior), the court will likely grant the expungement.

What is the effect of and limitations to expungement of my OWI?

An expungement means that you no longer have a conviction for an OWI on your record for purposes of, for example, employment applications. It does not remove the history of the court proceedings surrounding your conviction, though a criminal history search of your name will not show the expunged conviction. In addition, your driving record will continue to have an OWI listed and all “points” on your license will remain.

This “private record” of your OWI has the potential to have consequences down the line if you receive additional OWIs. While the conviction is not on the record, the court will be able to use the fact of your prior OWI to suspend or revoke your driver’s license if you receive an OWI within seven years of the first conviction or two OWIs within ten years of the first conviction.

I think I qualify. Now what?

If you believe you qualify for expungement under this new law, you stand to benefit greatly by obtaining competent legal counsel. Navigating the ins and outs of a petition for expungement, collecting the necessary documentation, and preparing your case can be tricky for a layperson and the denial of your petition can have important consequences. If the court rejects your petition, you will need to wait and additional three years from the rejection (absent an order from the court saying otherwise) before trying again.

Our attorneys and legal staff stand ready for you! We are happy to evaluate your case and, if appropriate, assist you with getting your OWI expunged. Please give us a call!

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