A second chance for drunk driving offenders


By Marie E. Matyjaszek

Depending on the nature of your conviction, Michigan allows for expungement of the offense, which legally erases the conviction from your record. In the past, no one with a drunk driving offense was eligible. Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently signed into law House Bills 4219 and 4220, changing this exception. They both take effect February 19, 2022.

According to state officials, an estimated 200,000 individuals who are non-repeat offenders, and have an operating while intoxicated (OWI) conviction, can apply for the expungement. For legal purposes, Michigan’s blood alcohol content, or BAC, remains at .08.

The new laws also allow for expungement of the following convictions:  anyone who operated a vehicle while visibly impaired by alcohol or other controlled substance, an underage driver with a BAC of .02 or higher, and anyone operating a vehicle with “any bodily amount of cocaine or a Schedule 1 controlled substance.”

The applicant must wait 5 years after his or her probation ends before filing the petition. In considering the request to grant the expungement, the court can look at whether the person has participated in “rehabilitative or education programs, if any were ordered by the sentencing court, or whether such steps were taken by the petitioner before sentencing.” If the court does not think the individual benefited from the programs, or did not actually participate in any programs, the request can be denied.

Expunging a conviction can open many doors that were previously closed, including opportunities for jobs, schooling, and housing. The Governor stressed that one-time offenders should not have to be forever burdened by a past mistake.

However, not everyone is happy with the new law. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) believes that many individuals with first time convictions have driven drunk before. The conviction is not actually the first time they have committed the crime, it’s merely the first time they’ve been caught, according to officials with the organization. MADD requested that anyone who sought expungement be required to use a device for six months to prove they were sober while driving, but this was not included in the law.

The opportunity for a second chance will be celebrated by many in the judicial system and those convicted. Hopefully those celebrations will be conducted responsibly.


The author is an Attorney Referee at the Washtenaw County Friend of the Court. She can be reached at: matyjasz@hotmail.com.

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