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Over 200,000 Michigan residents will soon have the opportunity to clear their records of drunk driving convictions as a result of legislation recently signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The Michigan legislature has, over the past decade, enacted broad sweeping changes to the laws that govern expungements, and, accordingly, the underlying convictions that are eligible for expungement. Despite years of progress, there has been one notable exception: convictions for DUI, “Driving Under the Influence,” or what Michigan calls OWI, “Operating While Intoxicated.”
However, on August 23, 2021, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed House Bills 4219 and 4220, which make anyone with one, non-repeat drunk driving conviction eligible to expunge (or set aside) the conviction from their criminal record. The law is set to go into effect on February 23, 2022, and it is expected that hundreds of thousands of non-repeat drunk driving offenders will avail themselves of this chance at a “clean slate.”
The first step in the DUI expungement process is determining eligibility. There are specific criteria that govern eligibility; however, the primary factor is whether the DUI conviction was a one-time offense. 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 younger than 21 driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.02 or higher; or driving under the influence of any amount of cocaine or other schedule 1 controlled substances.
As with all previous expungement laws, there is also a waiting period before you are eligible to apply. For a DUI or OWI, the waiting period is five years following the sentence or completion of probation – whichever is later.
There are three notable exclusions to eligibility under the new law. First, the DUI conviction must be your first (and only) drunk driving-related conviction. If you have two or more DUI convictions, you are not eligible for expungement.
The second exclusion is whether the DUI caused death or serious injury. This is a critical distinction because even if you have been convicted of only one DUI, if that DUI involved death or serious injury, you are nevertheless ineligible.
Finally, if the DUI occurred when operating a commercial motor vehicle with a commercial driver license (CDL), you are ineligible.