The Number of Offenses Eligible for Expungement in Michigan


People v. McCullough
Court of Appeals of Michigan
January 24, 1997

Holding: MLCS § 780.621 requires that a defendant only have one conviction for one offense arising from one occurrence. A defendant with more than one offense will be ineligible to have his records expunged.

Why This Case is Important: The Michigan expungement statute is very particular on who can apply for relief. MLCS § 780.621 states only a person who has been convicted of no more than one offense may file an application for an order setting aside the conviction. Because the statute is clear and unambiguous, the court will construe the statute in the way that the legislature intended and will strictly comply with its requirements.

As a result, a defendant who has multiple offenses and is convicted of those offenses, even if there is only one sentence or one plea of guilt for both offenses, will be ineligible for expungement under Michigan statute. This case confirms that MLCS § 780.621 is only for those persons who have one conviction from a single crime from a single occurrence. It further establishes that the court only has authority to expunge one conviction and a defendant may not pick and choose which conviction he wants expunged. As such, MLCS § 780.621 takes an all or nothing approach, where it is either the defendant is eligible with one conviction, or he is not eligible at all.

Facts of This Case: The defendant in this case pleaded guilty to unarmed robbery and assault. The defendant subsequently petitioned under MLCS § 780.621 to set aside his conviction, and the trial court granted his petition.

The Court of Appeals of Michigan reversed the trial court’s decision. The court of appeals held that the clear and unambiguous language of the statute required that the defendant only have one conviction arising from one offense in order to be eligible for criminal record expungement. The appeals court determined that the defendant pleaded guilty to two offenses and therefore, contrary to the defendant’s argument, had two convictions.

The court of appeals determined that the trial court was wrong for two reasons. First, the trial court overstepped its authority by expunging two convictions. The trial court had granted the set aside of both the assault offense and the unarmed robbery offense. Being that the court of appeals determined that this amounted to two convictions and the trial court only had authority to expunge one, the trial court erred in this respect.

Second, the trial court should never have granted expungement in the first place, because the defendant was ineligible for relief. The court of appeals determined that only a defendant with a single conviction from a single offense was eligible for relief. Being that the defendant in this case had more than one conviction, he was not eligible for relief.

Furthermore, the court of appeal determined that the defendant could not choose one of the two convictions for expungement. Again, this was because the language of the statute required the defendant to have one conviction. To allow a defendant to choose between two convictions would be contrary to the purpose of the Michigan expungement statute.

As a result, the court of appeals reversed the trial court’s decision and remanded the cases back to the trial court to reinstate the convictions.

Key Language: The only viable interpretation of a person convicted of not more than one offense is that only those persons whose criminal records are blemished by a single conviction for a single crime (crime being synonymous with offense) committed on a single occasion meet the threshold requirement and are eligible for expungement.

“Michigan expungement law clearly defines who is eligible for expungement relief. It is important to know and understand the details of this law to determine eligibility. Seeking the aid of experienced counsel will without a doubt greatly assist a defendant in making such a determination.” -Attorney Mathew Higbee.

Expert Advise: “Michigan expungement law clearly defines who is eligible for expungement relief. It is important to know and understand the details of this law to determine eligibility. Seeking the aid of experienced counsel will without a doubt greatly assist a defendant in making such a determination.” -Attorney Mathew Higbee.

To read about more cases that help to define record clearing relief laws click here.

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