In 2020, Michigan passed a series of expungement laws, appropriately named “Clean Slate for Michigan,” that permit individuals with certain offenses the ability to have their records cleared and remove themselves from the collateral consequences of a conviction. The laws expanded eligibility for those seeking to petition for expungement in several ways and created a new process that automatically seals certain nonviolent conviction records, like crimes involving cannabis, if a person has remained conviction-free for seven years for misdemeanors or 10 years for felonies. When the Clean Slate laws took effect on April 11, 2021, about 1 million people became eligible. Since then, tens of thousands of Michiganders have applied, and a majority have had their records cleared.
By having their criminal record expunged, folks with previous cannabis convictions may have an easier time applying for jobs. A 2019 study from the University of Michigan found that within a year of expungement, people saw their wages climb by an average of 23%. Moreover, a clean record could help them find safer and more affordable housing.
However, the road to expungement can still be rocky: The application process can easily become burdensome and costly, with multiple steps that require specific detail and understanding. Those who are looking to offset the cost may benefit from events like the upcoming Expungement Fair at Michigan State University, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday (Jan. 21) at the Breslin Student Events Center.
The fair is a partnership between MSU Law’s Criminal Defense Association and International Cannabis Bar Association. Thanks to an online fundraiser, it is free. It will not only walk each individual through the process of expungement but will also provide them with tools to successfully submit an application. Eligible individuals will meet with pro-bono Michigan attorneys who will walk them through the expungement process. MSU Law students will also work alongside attorneys to gain real-world experience.
A little background on the organizations hosting the event: The Criminal Defense Association is “committed to building a just society where exceptional legal representation is provided to all those accused of or convicted of a crime,” according to its page on the College of Law’s website. To do so, it provides members the opportunity to become familiar with all aspects of criminal defense work through events, skill seminars and other networking opportunities that offer perspectives from people throughout the criminal justice system. This includes criminal defense attorneys (from both the trial and appellate level), formerly incarcerated individuals, members of advocacy organizations and judges.
The International Cannabis Bar Association, formerly known as the Seven Point Society, is a group of students dedicated to the study and practice of cannabis and hemp law issues. The organization seeks to encourage and facilitate members of MSU’s College of Law community who have an interest in cannabis law to pursue positions where they can work with professional mentors. Along with its own social and networking events and mentorship program, the association provides opportunities for students to have written work published and receive national recognition in the field of cannabis law through the International Cannabis Bar Association website, news blog and other outlets.
Those interested in attending the fair are encouraged to pre-register at the Breslin Center’s website, breslincenter.com/event/sjmmsu-expungement-fair. All expungement application forms can be found in the “Applications & Checklists” section of the Michigan Attorney General’s website. Once the documentation has been received by the Michigan State Police, it takes about two months to be handled. Once processed, The Office of Attorney General will respond within three months and an expungement hearing will be set for the individual. The entire process can take up to eight months.
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