Can a DUI/OWI be expunged in Michigan?
As of February 19, 2022, drinking and driving cases can finally be expunged from your criminal history. A drunk driving case is not something that will come off of your record by itself. You have to take affirmative action in order to take advantage of the new law. There are caveats of who qualifies and there is a waiting period before you are eligible, but once eligible, the benefits of obtaining an expungement can be life-changing.
What’s the difference between a DUI and OWI?
OWI and DUI are both acronyms used to refer to drunk driving. While many refer to it as DUI (driving under the influence), the proper legal term in Michigan is OWI (operating while intoxicated).
What drunk driving cases are eligible?
Only first-offense OWIs are eligible under the new law, which was passed by Governor Whitmer. It specifically outlines the following offenses:
- Operating While Intoxicated
- Operating with Combination Alcohol/Drugs
- OWI High BAC (“Superdrunk”)
- Allowing an Intoxicated Person to Operate
- OWVI (“Visibly Impaired”)
- Minor with any BAC (“Zero Tolerance”)
- Operating with the Presence of a Controlled Substance
If you have one of the listed offenses, you may be eligible for expungement. It is important to note that there are other drunk driving cases that do not qualify for expungements. The following drunk driving convictions cannot be expunged under current Michigan Law:
- OWI/OWVI/Combo Causing Serious Impairment of a Bodily Function,
- OWI/OWVI/Combo Causing Death
- OWI w/Child under 16-Years (“Child Endangerment”).
- OWI Commercial Vehicle
Additionally, you can only get one drunk driving conviction expunged in your lifetime.
How long do I have to wait until I can get my drunk driving conviction expunged?
In most cases, there is a five-year waiting period to be eligible to get your drunk driving conviction expunged. This includes cases where you may have had a drunk driving conviction concurrent with another felony conviction. This is common where someone is charged with drunk driving, as well as a felony like Fleeing and Eluding, Resisting and Obstructing a Police Officer, or Carrying a Concealed Weapon.
In situations where you are attempting to have multiple felonies expunged at the same time as a drunk driving charge, there may be a seven-year waiting period. It is important to understand the different approaches and strategies that can be taken with your individual situation, which is why it is important to speak to an attorney to tailor the case strategy to your specific needs.
When calculating whether the waiting period has lapsed, it is important to know exactly when it starts. The waiting period starts from whichever of the following took place last:
- The date you were convicted and/or sentenced
- The date you completed probation
- The date you were discharged from parole
- The date you were released from prison
Why should I get my drunk driving expunged?
Before the new law, you could not get drunk driving convictions expunged, no matter how old they are. The new law has created a pathway to a fresh start for many.
First, successfully removing a drunk driving conviction from your record is a tremendous benefit in itself. Your past will be shielded from public view – it will not be seen by your current or potential employers, schools and universities, or current or potential landlords.
- Employment: Most employers will run a criminal background check on an applicant. Having to explain why you have a drunk driving conviction, or attempting to get the employer to see who you are past the conviction, can be difficult. By getting your conviction expunged, you do not have to explain to disclose a past mistake.
- Schools and Universities: In the application process, you will be asked to disclose criminal convictions. It is difficult to get a fresh start, which is what getting a degree ultimately does, when you are stuck in your past. Depending on what you are applying for, having a conviction may preclude you from entering programs and career paths that you aim for.
- Housing: Rental agencies and landlords routinely run background checks on possible tenants. They are much more likely to rent housing to someone who does not have a criminal record. Imagine not being able to live where you want because of a one-time mistake in your past.
- Credit and getting a loan: Loan agencies also run background checks on applicants. Having a criminal record can stop you from obtaining a loan, even if your conviction has nothing to do with any time of theft, embezzlement, or fraud.
Most importantly, by having your criminal conviction expunged, you have peace of mind. You know that a past mistake is not going to continue to burden you or hold you back, professionally or socially.
Second, successfully removing a drunk driving conviction from your record is that law enforcement cannot use the first drunk driving conviction against you for enhancement purposes. This means that if you have your first drunk driving conviction expunged and you were to make the same mistake, the expunged conviction will not count against you and you cannot be charged with a second offense, which carries heavier fines and penalties.
Do I need to hire an attorney to get my drunk driving record expunged?
No, you can apply for expungement on your own. However, like with almost anything else when dealing with the criminal justice system, having an experienced criminal defense attorney increases your chances at a successful outcome. Additionally, if you apply for expungement of your drunk driving case and are denied an expungement, you trigger an additional 3-year waiting period.
At Rabaa and Nachawati, we have a 100% success rate on our expungement cases. The reason for this is that we are honest and upfront about your eligibility, and we know what needs to be done to show the court why you are worthy of the expungement. The court does not just look to see how many years have passed and what type of conviction is on your record; the court looks to see why they should give you a fresh start.
What makes you different from the person you were when you got the conviction?
How will having this off your record affect your life, and how will it affect the general public?
By hiring an attorney, you invest in having a dedicated professional who will listen to your story and walk you through the process, all while representing you in the professional manner necessary to get your drunk driving record expunged.