Michigan Law Allows for Expungement of First-Time OWI Conviction

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On August 24, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed House Bills 4219 and 4220 into law, allowing for expungement of a conviction for a first violation of operating while intoxicated (OWI) if certain conditions are met.

Advocates have been working for years to revamp expungement laws on traffic offenses. In April, the state of Michigan finally saw changes to its expungement law; people with one-time OWI offenses were largely left behind, however.

HB 4219 and 4220 make certain first-time convictions eligible for expungement:

  • Driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08%;
  • Driving under the influence of any amount of a schedule 1 controlled substance or cocaine;
  • Driving while visibly impaired due to any substance;
  • Allowing an intoxicated person to drive; and
  • Driving while under the age of 21 with a BAC of 0.02% or higher.

HB 4220 makes it clear that the court reviewing the application to set aside a conviction may “consider whether or not the petitioner has benefited from rehabilitative or educational programs…and may deny the petition if it is not convinced that the petitioner has either availed himself or herself of rehabilitative or education programming or benefited from rehabilitative or educational programming he or she has completed.”

There has been much discussion among the public and legal communities regarding whether the OWI conviction that is set aside can be used to enhance a future OWI charge. If a petitioner is granted the expungement, the OWI conviction is removed from the petitioner’s criminal record. The new legislation makes it clear that the traffic offense will not be removed from the petitioner’s Secretary of State (SOS) driving record, however. This would seem to mean that law enforcement officials and prosecuting officials could use an expunged OWI conviction to enhance a future OWI charge, as the offense would remain on the driving record maintained by SOS.

The new legislation does not apply to offenses that caused injury, death, or child endangerment or those that occurred when a person with an endorsement to operate a commercial motor vehicle was operating a commercial motor vehicle.

One can petition for expungement three to five years after the latest of the following events: date of sentencing, completion of any term of incarceration, or completion of a term of probation. People may start applying for expungement of OWI convictions February 19, 2022. If one obtains another conviction or has a pending criminal case during the waiting time, this could cause one to be disqualified or to have to wait longer to be eligible for expungement.

If you have a first offense OWI on your record and are seeking to have it expunged, our defense attorneys at Grewal Law PLLC are here to help. We are highly experienced in helping Michigan clients through expungement, which can lead to better employment, housing, and schooling opportunities, and more.

Put the past behind you. Contact Grewal Law PLLC online or at (888) 211-5798 for a free, confidential consultation.

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