Western Michigan University Law School’s Access to Justice Clinic, in partnership with WMU-Cooley graduate and attorney Amanda Sterkenburg, held an Expungement Clinic on Saturday, Feb. 29, for those wanting to learn about the expungement process and receive assistance in their expungement application.
Student attorneys were on hand during the event to discuss the expungement process and help attendees determine their eligibility. Those who qualified will be paired with a student attorney for pro bono assistance with their expungement application, while resource packets were available to those who did not qualify.
“A lot of people struggle with things that were from their youth and might have even happened 10, 15, even 20 years ago, but still, when they check that box, it becomes an automatic barrier,” Sterkenburg said. “I feel like a lot of people are entitled to second chances, but are intimidated by the process and procedure to actually apply for it and to have the opportunity.”
Michigan allows for the expungement of offenses when a person’s criminal record is limited to one felony and two misdemeanors or no more than two misdemeanors. Certain offenses are excluded. The Clean Slate legislative package currently pending would increase the number of convictions a person can have expunged over a lifetime, add certain traffic violations to the list of eligible convictions, and shorten the timeline before a person becomes eligible for expungement.
“It is our goal to help those in our community overcome barriers from their past so they can move forward and live a life without that burden on their shoulders,” said Tracey Brame, WMU-Cooley Access to Justice Clinic Director. “With the pending Clean Slate legislative package, we hope to assist even more people with minor convictions get their second chance.”
WMU-Cooley’s Access to Justice Clinic provides legal representation to those seeking to expunge their criminal convictions or address other barriers presented by their criminal history. Through volunteering at community outreach events, and giving presentations on the topics such as expungement, the clinic also educates the general public about issues facing ex-offenders as they seek successful re-entry into society. Since its inception in 2006, the Access to Justice Clinic has helped dozens of people in Kent County win expungement of their prior criminal convictions.