Now that Michigan has legally approved the process of expunging past cannabis convictions, it’s time to put plans into action and get some of these past convictions overturned. In order to do so, the state held its first expungement fair last Wednesday to help clear records in record time.
Yvonne Morrow is one of the people who came out to Michigan’s first expungement fair to get her 20-year-old possession charge cleared. Even though the conviction happened so long ago, it still plagues her as a mark on her record.
“If it takes 20 years for somebody to get their record expunged for marijuana, I mean, come on,” she said as she waited in line for her record to be cleared.
The fair is a chance for people to either get their record completely cleared, or get help with the process. Currently, expungements for cannabis misdemeanors and select felony cases are on the table to be cleared, and folks with prior convictions are flooding in to make it happen and start with a clean slate.
“Today marks the day in history where the lives of 718 people will be set free, dignity restored, family trees changed forever,” said Sheriff Christopher Swanson regarding the move and the fact that lives will be changed positively by this exciting step in the right direction.
And, while the event was held at a local police department, the atmosphere was fun, including a dunk tank and music for those waiting in line. There was also a vaccination team on site to give COVID vaccines to those who needed them.
“It stopped me from getting a job. Employers really don’t want to hire you once they find out what type of background you come from,” said Clifton Sanders. Sanders was convicted for possession of a firearm, but the conviction happened when he was 16, and he’s 43 now, still dealing with the blowback. “I’ve been trying to get that taken care of so I can get me a better job.”
Last Week’s Expungement Fair is the First of Many
More expungement fairs will be coming to the state soon after the success of this one, as more and more people are eager to take care of their prior convictions.
“I was personally involved in crafting the bills that overhauled our state’s expungement law, including eligible misdemeanor marijuana convictions,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. “These changes offer an overdue second chance for residents who would otherwise have to carry the burden of a public criminal record well past the point of having paid their debt to society. I am thankful for the support and partnership of all involved and I am eager to help make a difference in the lives of eligible Michiganders.”
The new expungement law does not allow cleared convictions for homicide, but even if the person in question has been convicted of up to three felonies, or an unlimited number of misdemeanors, that don’t involve homicide, they can file for an application that would expunge prior convictions. Those with more than three felony charges are still not eligible.
On hand to help with the expungement process were volunteer attorneys from Legal Services of Eastern Michigan and Michigan Works. Staff from the Attorney General and Genesee County Sheriff office also helped out.
“Today, thanks to our collaborative efforts, we are addressing disparities that have impacted generations of Michiganders, especially people of color,” said Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist. “Michigan’s updated laws and events like today’s will have an immense positive impact on hundreds of thousands of residents who have faced a confusing and expensive process to apply for an expungement. There is more work to do, but Michigan is proud to be a leader in removing barriers to economic opportunity for people who deserve a second chance.”