Expungement clinic coming to Grand Haven

A criminal conviction doesn’t have to define someone’s entire life.

An expungement clinic at the Grand Haven Courthouse Friday, April 29, will help those with eligible convictions wipe their records clean.

The Ottawa County Public Defender’s Office is hosting the expungement clinic noon to 4 p.m. April 29 at the courthouse, 414 Washington Ave. 

“Especially with the new legislative changes, we wanted to make sure people were aware of that and be able to take advantage of it,” says Anna White assistant public defender and one of the event’s co-organizers. “It can be a really confusing process for people, and we want to make that easier.”

Clean Slate

The Clean Slate Act went into effect last year and brought with it big changes to Michigan expungement laws. The type and numbers of offenses that can be wiped from a person’s record have expanded. In the year since the law went into effect, the number of expungement petitions has doubled over the previous year. 

“Hundreds of thousands, if not millions” are now eligible for expungement, according to the Michigan Attorney General’s office. 

At the clinic participants can:
  • Obtain conviction records 
  • Be fingerprinted
  • Complete paperwork
  • Schedule a court date

The clinic is by appointment only. To make an appointment and find out whether they qualify, those seeking expungement may fill out an online form. The pre-registration form is also available in Spanish and a Spanish-speaking attorney will be available at the event.

Not all offenses are eligible to be expunged, so pre-registration paperwork is necessary. The criminal record will not be cleared at the event; the expungement process can take several months. 

"In Ottawa County, we understand that some residents have made mistakes in their pasts, have served their sentences, and are on roads to better lives,” says Patrick Kolehouse, an assistant public defender and one of the event’s co-organizers. “Criminal records can put obstacles in those paths for those residents and their families. We want to ease that burden so these residents can more easily find jobs, housing and other opportunities for better futures.”

Volunteer attorneys

The Ottawa County Public Defender Office is also seeking attorney volunteers. Contact Kolehouse (pkolehouse@miottawa.org) for details.

The Michigan Attorney General's office determines whether an applicant is statutorily eligible to have a conviction expunged from his or her record.  The current wait time to receive a response from the Attorney General's office is about six months.  

Those wishing to have convictions wiped from their records must formally request the records, be fingerprinted, obtain their full criminal record, and schedule a hearing, among other things.

“For somebody who’s not an attorney it can be really confusing to make sure you get that paperwork right,” White says.

A number of attorneys from the public defender’s office and others are volunteering their time for the event to help navigate the process.

“Our goal is to help people live their best lives,” White says, “and so many people are held back by a convection we don’t think should define them any more.”

Read more articles by Andrea Goodell.