For the most part, expungement laws have been extremely restrictive or completely non-existent in the United States even though expungements allow people a second chance at a clear record, and positive lifestyle. Advocates for expungement laws point to the position many ex-offenders find themselves in once they have served their time and wish to move on with their lives, but cannot because of a criminal record.

Michigan has always been one of the most liberal states when it comes to expungement. Currently, individuals with only 1 felony and no more than 2 misdemeanors are eligible to expunge their felony in Michigan. Individuals with no felonies and only 2 misdemeanors are eligible to expunge one, or both, of the misdemeanors [1]. Some felonies, including those with a maximum penalty of life in prison, are not eligible for expungement in Michigan. Driving misdemeanors, such as DUI or OWI are also not eligible for expungement in Michigan.

Next year, Maryland is expanding the number of criminal offenses eligible for expungement, including second-degree assault which previously could not be erased from public records [2].

The majority of crimes eligible for expungement in Maryland will have a 10-year waiting period before an individual can apply for an expungement, starting from when a person is released from incarceration, or discharged from probation; whichever is later. Under current Michigan law, a person must wait 5 years from their release from incarceration, or their discharge from probation, whichever is later, before becoming eligible to apply for an expungement [4].

Some newly eligible crimes in Maryland will be immediately available for expungement, including possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana. Under current Maryland law, possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana is not eligible for expungement [1].

In Illinois, new legislation allows juveniles to have nonviolent offenses expunged immediately after all court proceedings related to the offense [2]. Old Illinois law allowed for juvenile expungements only in rare cases, or only after an individual turned 21 years old.

Illinois State rep. Barbara Wheeler said in a statement “[all] kids make mistakes; they all make occasional bad choices. If society is going to hold those bad choices over juveniles’ heads as they attempt to build a successful future for themselves, we are doing nothing to improve society…” [3].

Kentucky also recently passed a new expungement law that allows either a single class D felony, or several D felonies “arising from the same incident”, to be removed from a person’s criminal record [4]. The law also allows any number of misdemeanor charges to be expunged [4].

Stay tuned to Rights First Law for more on this and other legal news.

Rights First Law is a law firm working in criminal defense and appeals, family law and civil and commercial litigation. Rights First Law has offices in San Diego and Metro Detroit where we emphasize client-centered lawyering by putting clients, and their rights, first. Our clients know at Rights First Law we work with you to protect your rights.