For those looking to erase public records of their past non-violent convictions, Michigan State University’s College of Law will be hosting an Expungement Fair on Saturday, Jan. 21, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Breslin Center.
Michigan’s Clean Slate Program allows citizens to get old misdemeanors and felonies wiped from public records. Misdemeanor convictions must be at least seven years in the past and felony convictions at least 10 years in the past to qualify.
While the term “expungement” is commonly used for these kinds of actions and fairs, the term “set aside” more accurately describes what can happen under Michigan law.
“Set asides” erase eligible convictions from criminal records in the public eye, while a non-public record is retained by Michigan State Police. Expungements, in which convictions are permanently erased even from state police records, do not exist in Michigan.
The MSU fair is open to all and will be staffed by volunteer attorneys and law students interested in helping Michiganders start applications for set-asides. Those interested are strongly encouraged to pre-register here.
Filling out an application is the first step to a fresh start.
“Now what do I do?” said a 50-year-old man to Stephen Rideout, staff attorney at the Oakland County Clean Slate Program, after a judge set aside three 30-year-old felony convictions that had been in the man’s public records.
“No one would ever hire him” while searches of public records showed these convictions, Rideout said. “He was starting fresh at 50 years old with no obstacles in his way.”
Rideout has helped file over 500 set-aside applications. Alongside the difficulty of obtaining a job or affordable housing with a criminal record, Rideout sees many parents and grandparents seeking a clean slate in an effort to participate in their kids’ and grandkids’ school and extracurricular activities.
“I have seen people’s lives change in the two minutes it takes a judge to grant someone’s request in a hearing,” said Rideout.
Michigan’s Clean Slate Program got a boost in 2020.
Michigan’s Clean Slate Program is aimed at promoting public safety as well as strengthening families, communities and local economies by allowing people the opportunity to clear certain non-violent convictions from their criminal record.
Legislation passed in 2020 increased the number of convictions eligible to be set aside from one felony and two misdemeanors per person to now allow up to two felony and four misdemeanor convictions per person.
Automatic Set Asides are supposed to begin sometime this April.
Additional changes are coming to the Clean Slate Program around April 2023 as Michigan gets ready to implement an Automatic Set Aside Process. The new process automatically sets aside eligible misdemeanors older than seven years and non-assaultive felonies older than 10 years.
Rideout said the majority of the older cases he sees are for retail fraud or shoplifting and are 20 to 30 years old. He’s most excited to see the impact of these Michiganders waking up with clean slates.
While this process is set to be implemented in April, it is uncertain how or if people will be notified regarding their automatically set aside convictions.
For those whose misdemeanors and felonies fall under the Automatic Set Aside eligibility, Rideout recommends paying a $10 fee to pull a copy of your iCHAT (public criminal record) sometime after May 1, 2023, to see the result of this legislative process.
Two MSU Law organizations have joined forces to put this fair together.
Taking the lead on this effort are MSU Law Criminal Defense Association’s President Audrea Dakho and Vice President Breia Lassiter plus MSU Law International Cannabis Bar Association’s Founder and President Alex Padla and Vice President Sam Weiser. They first developed the idea at the beginning of August 2022, and have not slowed down on the implementation since then.
“Our insistence on getting this done means something,” Dakho said. “This is beyond us being able to use our legal education to be agents of change and understand what community lawyering is about.”
She expressed excitement about playing “a small part of helping [applicants] move past their mistakes.”
These four leaders have organized the help of over 40 student volunteers, but are still seeking more volunteers, including attorney and notary volunteers, and funding for the event, which is quickly approaching.
“To me, this whole thing is about empowering people in our community who don’t deserve a life sentence for a misdemeanor or mistake,” Padla said.