Michigan’s Governor Whitmer signed the Clean Slate Act of 2021 into law, assembling significant changes to the state’s criminal record-sealing laws. These changes have driven the state’s clean slate law as one of the most expansive in the country, significantly expanding Michigan residents’ ability to clear their records and become eligible for employment, housing, and other opportunities.

The comprehensive legislation, however, has also left many with questions about the expungement effects. Essential questions such as: how does this affect criminal records? How does the process work? And who is eligible for automatic expungement? We have compiled these answers:

About Expungements in Michigan

Under Michigan’s law, an expungement will shield a criminal record from public view, meaning it will not appear on a background check. With an expunged conviction, individuals may claim they do not have that criminal record on employment, housing, and other applications.

Previously, an individual was required to petition a court to expunge criminal records. This process led to many who may qualify for expungement never attempting to have the records removed. However, under Michigan’s new regulations, courts will automatically seal non-violent convictions that meet specific criteria and expand who qualifies for expungement by application.

Criteria for Expungement

This new legislation allows an individual up to three felonies and an unlimited number of misdemeanors set aside in their life through expungement by applications. In addition, up to four misdemeanors and two felonies that meet specific standards may qualify for automatic expungement.

In addition, the state’s clean slate law has also introduced a “one bad night” policy. This policy provides the opportunity to seal three or more felonies if they occurred within 24 hours of each other and meet the requirements. In this case, they will be considered one felony or misdemeanor for expungement.

Criminal records must meet specific criteria to qualify for expungement. This criterion includes the following:

  • To be expunged, the individual must have waited for the specific conviction period. Depending upon the severity of the conviction, that time may be three, five, or seven years from the completion of imprisonment, parole, or probation.
  • Before qualifying for expungement, an individual must have paid any required costs, restitution, or fines based on the court’s judgment.
  • An offense must not be categorized as assaultive, a serious misdemeanor, a crime of dishonesty, or be punishable by ten years or more.
  • Convictions punishable by life in prison, most sex-related convictions, human trafficking, federal convictions, traffic offenses by a CDL holder operating a commercial vehicle, offenses that resulted in injury or death, and certain other offenses do not qualify for expungement.

Final Decisions on Expungement

Once an individual meets the criteria for expungement, the final decision to set aside a record will rest on a judge. First, the judge will determine whether an individual has reformed. In addition, the judge will balance the benefits to the individual against the public interest to decide whether to expunge a particular record. Individuals must wait three years before applying again when denied expungement.

This Bill became effective on April 11th, 2021, 180 days from the Governor’s signature, but automatic expungement has a two-year implementation which, at the earliest, will go into effect in April 2023.

What Does This Mean for Employers?

Michigan’s Clean Slate Act is one of the country’s most expansive clean slate laws. Unfortunately, as this complex litigation shows, keeping up with the ever-shifting legislation regarding criminal background checks can be difficult. With this in mind, working with a background check provider you can trust to help you comply with the myriad of local, state, and federal laws governing employment screening is crucial.


For more information and details on the Bill: Michigan Clean Slate Act FAQs


Information provided here is for educational and informational purposes only and should not constitute as legal advice. We recommend you contact your own legal counsel for any questions regarding your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.