Following the recent sweeping expansion in eligibility for post conviction relief in Michigan, legislation that would make most first-time drunk driving convictions eligible for expungement received a final approval from Michigan lawmakers. The bills, HB 4219, and HB 2220, were signed by Governor Whitmer on August 23,2021.
The bills received tremendous bipartisan support, especially after Governor Whitmer pocket vetoed similar legislation earlier this year with no public explanation.
The legislation will benefit more than 200,000 people in the state of Michigan who are carrying a criminal record that affects their lives in numerous ways. The bills pave a path to expungement for people with single driving under the influence convictions. Only first-time offenders are eligible under the new law change.
Expungement, or set aside, seals the public record of a criminal conviction so it does not appear in a background check. An expunged drunken driving conviction would still remain visible to law enforcement, prosecutors, judges and the Secretary of State.
Specific criminal convictions that may be expunged now include: driving with a blood alcohol content at or above 0.08; driving while visibly impaired due to any substance; anyone who is 21 or younger driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.02 or higher; driving under the influence of any amount of cocaine or other schedule I controlled substances.
The bills give drivers with a qualifying conviction to seek expungement of their first offense five years after probation ends, as long as the offense did not lead to the death or serious injury of a victim. The petition for expungement, once filed, would be reviewed in court and decided by a judge. The bills also include guidance to judges, advising them to consider whether the petitioner has completed or benefited from rehabilitative or educational programs.
Governor Whitmer also signed legislation that maintains Michigan legal blood alcohol content for driving at 0.08, eliminating a planned sunset that would have increased the limit to 1.0.
Lawmakers who support the bills state they want to provide a second chance to people with one misdemeanor operating while intoxicated conviction that have proven that they have changed.
This exciting change does not go into effect until February 19, 2022. We will likely begin taking clients for this service beginning in November of 2021.