The last two articles about Michigan OWI expungement addressed how to determine if you are eligible for expungement and provided an overview of the procedures that must be followed to obtain an OWI expungement. In both articles we explained why its important for you to seek the advice and assistance of a Michigan Expungement Lawyer. In this article we will explain some of the benefits and limitations of an OWI expungement.
What does expungement actually mean?
An OWI expungement will remove the conviction from your criminal record, and in most respects, the expungement allow you to proceed in your affairs as though you had never been convicted. For example, with some limitations that are beyond the scope of this article, a successful OWI expungement will allow you to avoid having to answer “yes” when asked about prior convictions on job and school applications. Again, with some limitations, a successful OWI expungement will also prevent the OWI conviction from showing up on a background check. and background questionnaires. Consequently, a successful OWI expungement will close out that chapter of your past and give you a fresh new start.
Will anyone be able to find the conviction?
It many instances the answer is no, the conviction will be removed from your record. A more resolute answer is not possible because there are many different kinds of records available to many different kinds of requestors. What might be available to a police officer or prosecuting attorney is different from what might be available to a corporation’s HR department. For example, while the standard criminal background check may not find the conviction, there may be deep background checks that do discover the arrest and final expungement resolution.
Background and criminal checks available to law-enforcement are different from what LARA may have available to it when you are renewing or applying for a state license. Lawyers also have their own licensing, character and fitness commission, and the records available to the State Bar might be different from those available to others. In summary, as someone considering expungement, it is important to understand that the OWI will not be removed from every conceivable record, but for most people most of the time, expungement will serve its intended purpose.
To elaborate further on this important question, the State of Michigan will keep a non-public record of the charge and conviction, which will be available to police and court personnel. This will be available to the police and prosecutors if you are ever charged again and may impact decision making as your case is filed and makes its way through the court system.
What about my driving record?
The law also specifically prevents the conviction from being removed from your driving record. This means that even if you remove the first offense OWI from your criminal record, you would still have the conviction listed on your visible driving record for seven years from the date of conviction.
After seven years, the public driving record will continue to show the conviction as “one prior reportable driving conviction.” People who review this record may know what this means, and may therefore look further back into your driving record. So it’s important to know that even after 7 years the appropriate notation will still be visible on your master driving record with the Secretary of State. That means that if there was another conviction, the Secretary of State could assess driving sanctions considering the expunged first offense OWI, even if you could only be charged with a first offense drunk driving. The law is not clear how this will be handled by the Secretary of State, and as of the date of this article, they have provided no comment or guidance. We will update our blog once this occurs.
Will employers really search both criminal and driving records?
The answer to the question is unequivocally, maybe. Employers filling positions that require driving or in which a company vehicle will be issued have much greater incentive to search both criminal and driving records to find out whether there has been an OWI conviction in the distant past. Jobs for which employers will probably search driving records and find OWI offenses expunged in the last 7 years include, among others, CDL truck drivers, vehicle test engineers, outside sales professionals, and gas and electric utilities workers.
Why is important to have a charge expunged?
No one wants a criminal record. The intent of the legislature is to give people with OWI convictions the ability to remove the mistakes of the past and approach the future with a clean slate. This will help any time you are seeking employment, background checks for volunteering, applications to undergraduate and graduate schools, or just being asked about your past.
The removal of the first offense OWI will also mean that any future drunk driving charges will not be able to use the expunged offense to enhance the charge and therefor the severity of the maximum penalty. While most people will not face another drunk driving charge, it is possible, and this fact may prove beneficial in the event you are ever arrested for OWI again. And as with any legal proceeding, you will stand your best chance at not having to report a prior OWI conviction if you hire the best attorney possible to help you expunge your OWI conviction.