Attorney DeBruin represents clients from across lower Michigan.

Attorney DeBruin represents clients from across lower michigan.

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Expunging first-time OWI offenses

On Behalf of | Jul 5, 2023 | OWI

Michigan’s operating while intoxicated (OWI) charge may sound different from the typical driving under the influence (DUI) charges laid in other U.S. states, but it’s still a criminal charge. On top of fines and jail time, the state’s OWI charges can also lead to convictions that can effectively stay on record for life.

While state law can be strict about repeat OWI offenders, what happens to young drivers who get their first OWI? Having an OWI early into adulthood can lead to consequences throughout a young adult’s life. Employers might shy away from hiring someone with a conviction on record. Similarly, financial services such as lenders and insurers might increase the rates of even someone whose only crime was drunk driving. And that’s on top of the fines and prison sentences convicted drivers face.

Fortunately, Michigan allows individuals to expunge records of their first-time OWI convictions. This can be helpful for young drivers who want to avoid the stigma and disadvantages of their early mistakes.

But how does this expungement work, and are there any limitations?

What are expungements?

Expungements are legal processes that “remove” criminal convictions from the records of individuals. But an expunged conviction doesn’t necessarily mean the complete erasure of a person’s crime. The person’s record will appear clear to anyone, such as employers, lenders, etc. But the court will maintain a record of the individual’s conviction that it won’t disclose to the public.

Michigan’s amended rules on expungements

Thanks to an amendment to Michigan’s rules, drivers with first-time OWI convictions from February 19, 2022, and onward can have the criminal offense expunged. However, drivers must meet certain criteria:

  • Their first-time OWI case shouldn’t have resulted in injuries or fatalities.
  • They’ve only committed a single OWI offense. Those with multiple OWI convictions are ineligible to set aside any of their convictions, even their first-time charges.

The state government is also strict about what it can expunge. Only one OWI offense can be expunged in an individual’s lifetime. It also takes five years to have a first-time OWI offense expunged from record.

But while Michigan allows the expungement of first-time OWI convictions, the process itself is complicated. You’ll have to apply for the process and attend a court hearing. The police officers and any victims involved in your OWI case will attend that court hearing as you plead with the judge. To increase their chances of clearing their records, drivers should consider hiring an experienced legal representative.