Expungement of drunk driving convictions has never been allowed in Michigan until recently. On August 23, 2021, Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Enrolled House Bills 4219 and 4220. Collectively, these two Bills amend the current expungement laws to allow the expungement of a “first violation operating while intoxicated offense.”
While this is a huge step forward for those with drunk driving convictions, the law is not perfect, and has many potential limitations, snags and pitfalls, many of which are clarified below.
When can I file for expungement of my OWI conviction?
First off, the law says it has “immediate effect,” but that can be confusing. The law specifically states, it will take “immediate effect” on February 19, 2022. This means that while you can file for an expungement prior to that date, the first day you can have a hearing and obtain an expungement of an OWI conviction is February 19, 2022. While this will mean that patience is required, it will also give those who wish to seek such an expungement plenty of time to begin the process and be prepared to be the first to take advantage of this opportunity. Unlike many other misdemeanors and felonies, which will soon begin automatically being removed from criminal records, you will need to petition the court to get your OWI expunged.
There is some advantage to this delay however because it will give those who wish to seek expungement of their first offense OWI plenty of time to find a lawyer to assist them, and to prepare and file their case with the court.
A lawyer is likely necessary because, unlike other misdemeanors and felonies, which will be automatically removed from criminal records, a detailed and at times cumbersome process is required to prepare your case for filing with the court. What may seem like small errors in the paperwork can result in the expungement being denied.
How many drunk driving convictions can I have expunged?
One and only one. The new law only allows an expungement of a “first violation operating while intoxicated offense.” It will therefore not allow a second expungement if you have already had a previous OWI offense expunged. Consequently, if granted, your OWI expungement will be a once in a lifetime thing.
The new law also only applies to the first violation you received chronologically, even if you have received multiple “first offense” OWI convictions.
What drunk driving convictions are eligible to be expunged?
The following drunk driving offenses are eligible for expungement:
- Operating While Intoxicated
- Operating While Visibly Impaired
- Allowing an Intoxicated Person to Operate a Motor Vehicle,
- High BAC or Super Drunk Driving
- Minor with any BAC (Zero Tolerance), and
- Operating with the Presence of a Controlled Substance conviction.
Drunk driving offenses not eligible for expungement include:
- “Child Endangerment,” also OWI with a child under 16 in the car
- OWI causing serious injury
- OWI causing death.
How long after my OWI conviction can I file for expungement?
Once you determine that your Michigan first offense drunk driving can be expunged, there are various timelines that apply. These timelines are based upon your overall criminal record and the specific facts of the offense. These timelines range from three to seven years after the full completion of any jail or probationary period.
It is best to speak to an attorney to help understand how the timelines will affect your specific circumstances. It’s also important to remember that OWIs are not eligible for automatic expungement. Instead, even if you go longer than the minimum period, nothing will happen until you take the required steps to obtain an expungement.
What if I have had other charges after the OWI?
During your waiting period, you cannot have been convicted of any further crime(s), nor can you have a criminal case pending during the application for expungement. So, if you have additional charges or convictions, you will have to wait longer to become eligible again. Therefore, it is imperative that you avoid new offenses while waiting to become eligible for expungement.
What are the procedures for filing for a Michigan driving expungement?
The legal process and procedures necessary to successfully obtain an expungement of your first offense DUI are covered in our next article. In this article all seven of the necessary steps are discussed.
What are the benefits of a Michigan OWI conviction?
There are many benefits to having your first offense OWI conviction expunged, and these benefits are discussed in the third article we wrote for this series. Expungement has many benefits, but it is not a 100% solution, so it’s important to understand what expungement is and is not. Be sure to discuss this with your lawyer before you get started.
How do I get started?
Historically, one of to most damaging consequence of all Michigan Operating While Intoxicated convictions was that it created the permanent stain of a criminal record. Thankfully, for many persons previously convicted of drunk driving, that permanent stain can be removed. And make sure you hire the right attorney, because, in the words of Michigan’s own, Eminem, “you only get one shot” to have your drunk driving conviction expunged.
If you believe you are eligible for expungement of a Michigan OWI conviction and would like more information on the process, or if you are ready to start the process of expunging your Michigan OWI conviction, call the OWI expungement attorneys at the Barone Defense Firm for a free consultation.