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What is expungement?

Once a person completes a prison or jail term, it might seem like he or she has paid his or her debt to society. Under our legal system, in some ways a conviction, or even arrest, may haunt you for years, perhaps the rest of your life.

For example, it may be very difficult to get a job or find an apartment. When applying for one of these necessities, you will probably be asked to disclose any convictions or arrests on your record. Answering honestly can cost you any chance of getting that job or rental home.

People in Michigan looking to put an old arrest or conviction behind them may be eligible for expungement, also known as expunction. An expungement erases, or “seals,” a person’s criminal record for most purposes. This means it will not turn up in most background checks, and the expunged person will no longer be obligated to disclose that history on various applications.

Expunging your record does not totally erase your criminal history. The expungement itself will be viewable by law enforcement, the courts and certain other government agencies. Having a conviction under seal may be used against you during certain proceedings, like sentencing for subsequent convictions and deportation proceedings.

If this sounds like something you might want to pursue, keep in mind that the court does not grant expungement for everyone. Factors the judge will consider include how much time has passed since the conviction, the nature of the crime, and the petitioner’s criminal record in other parts of the country, if any.

Expungement has helped many people looking to move on from prior mistakes, so that they can lead a successful life.

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