New MI Drunk Driving Expungement Law: How Can Medical Professionals with an OWI Take Advantage?

Medial Professional Drinking Beer Behind the Steering Wheel of a vehicle.

Our FAQ Covers Everything Michigan Health Care Providers Should Know About the New OWI/OWVI Expungement Law

Thanks to a new Michigan law, certain criminal convictions stemming from drunk driving and impaired driving can be wiped from criminal records. For health care professionals with a single Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) or Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI) violation, this opportunity for expungement means your record will no longer be stained because of it.

For physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other licensed healthcare providers, having a criminal conviction is a serious matter, especially for instances involving drunk or impaired driving. After all, as a health professional, you’re held to a high standard, with people’s lives literally in your hands.

A one-time lapse in judgment that would lead to getting pulled over for drunken driving can also result in collateral consequences. For example, a nurse with an OWI violation can have her nursing license suspended. If a pain management specialist has an OWVI on his record, he could face mandatory enrollment in the Health Professional Recovery Program (HPRP), Michigan’s impaired practitioners program. And, should a physician with OWI offenses go before a peer review board, she could lose her credentials and be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB).

But the new Public Acts, which Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed August 23, 2021, and are in effect as of February 19, 2022, will help on the criminal side of things. Public Acts 78 and 79 of 2021 will now allow for an estimated 200,000 people who have one OWI or OWVI conviction to ask the court to strike it — or expunge it — from their criminal record as if it had never happened.

Should you be given a judge’s OK for an OWI/OWVI expungement, things will be a bit easier. For example, you won’t have to answer “Yes” to questions about criminal convictions on employment, housing, insurance, and other applications that require background clearance.

However, the Michigan OWI/OWVI expungement process doesn’t cover everything, and not all OWI-related convictions qualify. Further, there are crucial timelines involved, as well as a detailed application and filing process that leaves no room for errors.

Our criminal law attorneys for Michigan health care providers have answers to what the new law is all about, how you can take advantage of it, and stipulations for which you must be careful.

Who Can Qualify for OWI Expungement on Their Michigan Criminal Record?

If you have received one OWI/OWVI conviction in Michigan (defined as a conviction under Michigan’s Drunk Driving Statute, MCL 257.625, by a person who, at the time of the violation, had no prior convictions), and at least five years have passed since your probationary or parole term ended, you are eligible to apply for expungement.

What OWI-Related Offenses Will Be Eligible for Expungement in Michigan?

The new OWI law applies to any “first violation operating while intoxicated offense,” which includes:

    • Operating under the influence of alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, other intoxicating substance, or any combination thereof, MCL 257.625(1)(a)
    • Operating with an unlawful bodily alcohol content (BAC) at or above 0.08, MCL 257.625(1)(b)
    • Operating with a high BAC of 0.17 or greater or “Super Drunk Driving,” MCL 257.625(1)(c)
    • Authorizing or permitting an intoxicated person to operate a motor vehicle, MCL 257.625(2)
    • Operating while visibly impaired (OWVI), MCL 257.625(3)
    • Minor (under the age of 21) operating a motor vehicle with any BAC, MCL 257.625(6)
    • Operating with the presence of any Schedule 1 or Schedule 2 controlled substance (OWPD), MCL 257.625(8)
    • Any local ordinance, law of an Indian tribe, law of another state, or law of the United States “substantially corresponding” to any of the above violations

Which OWI-Related Offenses Are Not Eligible for Expungement?

    • OWI with a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle (“Child Endangerment”), MCL 257.625(7)
    • OWI causing serious injury, MCL 257.625(5)
    • OWI causing death, MCL 257.625(4)
    • Operating a commercial vehicle with unlawful bodily alcohol content in system
    • Any second or subsequent offense
    • Any local ordinance, law of an Indian tribe, law of another state, or law of the United States “substantially corresponding” to any of the above violations

How Will I Be Able to Get My OWI Expunged from My Criminal Record?

Unlike other crimes that can be expunged automatically under the recent “Clean Slate” law — such as certain traffic convictions, minor crimes including theft, and marijuana possession — an OWI conviction will not be automatically expunged. This means you must apply to have it removed.

But be warned: this process is a meticulous and burdensome one. You must obtain your record, get fingerprinted, fill out an application and get it notarized, complete a proof of service, and have everything prepared for your hearing. Any slip-up or mistake you make on your documents could mean waiting a full three years before you’re able to apply again.

Your best move is to have an experienced Michigan attorney who practices criminal law assist you with this process.

Who Determines Whether My OWI/OWVI Conviction Will Be Expunged from My Criminal Record?

Your matter will be in a judge’s hands once you apply for expungement. Under the new law, that judge will take certain factors into consideration, including:

“[W]hether or not the petitioner has benefited from rehabilitative or educational programs, if any were ordered by the sentencing court, or whether such steps were taken by the petitioner before sentencing for the first violation operating while intoxicated offense conviction he or she is seeking to set aside. The reviewing court is not constrained by the record made at sentencing.”

To put it another way, your application and your appearance in court must make a compelling case that your OWI/OWVI was a one-time mistake, you have learned from it, and you are making sure it never happens again.

How Does My Participation in HPRP Affect My Request for OWI/OWVI Expungement?

For healthcare professionals, participation in Michigan’s Health Professional Recovery Program (HPRP) may qualify as a “rehabilitative” program in a judge’s eyes. But be aware, this new expungement law does not change anything about the HPRP program itself. If you are currently participating in a monitoring agreement with HPRP, this change in the law does nothing to modify the terms of your monitoring agreement. Similarly, if you have recently been referred to HPRP following an OWI/OWVI conviction, this change in the law does not affect that referral.

Would My Driving Record Also Be Cleared of My First-Time OWI/OWVI?

No. This change to Michigan’s expungement laws does not have any effect on your driving record. If your driver’s license is currently restricted, suspended, or revoked as a result of an OWI-related conviction, the new law does nothing to change the status of your license with the Michigan Secretary of State. Similarly, if you have any points on your driving record as a result of an OWI/OWVI conviction, those points are not removed by an expungement. This means law enforcement officials and prosecutors could still use the information in your driving record — including any OWI-related violations — if you’re being investigated or charged with a new offense.

Your driving privileges can only be fully restored via the Secretary of State’s normal administrative process.

How Many OWI/OWVI Convictions Can Be Expunged?

You can get only one “first violation operating while intoxicated offense” expunged. That means if you have more than one OWI offense on your record, only one of those can be removed once the court grants your request. Also, the new law is chronologically based, meaning that if you have multiple “first offense” OWI convictions, the only one that can be expunged would be the first violation you ever received.

Once My OWI/OWVI is Expunged, Will I Be Able to Have Any Possible Future OWIs Expunged?

No. Under the new law, you will have just one opportunity to have an OWI-related conviction expunged. Any subsequent OWI-related conviction would not be able to be expunged.

In addition, if you have a pending criminal case or are convicted of a crime during the waiting time between filing for expungement and your expungement hearing, you could be disqualified or be required to wait longer for expungement eligibility.

What Happens If the Judge Denies My Request for a First-Time OWI Expungement?

You will not be able to apply for expungement for another three years.

Why Should I Reach Out to the Healthcare Criminal Law Attorneys at Chapman Law Group About OWI Expungement?

We at Chapman Law Group know exactly what Michigan health care professionals are up against when it comes to criminal matters such as OWI — because we are dedicated solely to defending healthcare providers.

Our seasoned criminal law lawyers work with healthcare providers on their OWI-related matters in the following ways:

    • Zealously defending clients against OWI/OWVI criminal charges in district and circuit courts across the state of Michigan
    • Reporting any client convictions to the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) as required within 30 days of the conviction date
    • Advising clients regarding referrals to HPRP and HPRP evaluators
    • Defending clients against Administrative Complaints that can result from OWI-related convictions to avoid disciplinary action being taken against clients’ professional licenses
    • Assisting clients in obtaining licensure with one or more prior convictions

Our Detroit office represents health practitioners in large and small cities, counties, and communities all across Michigan — from the Metro Detroit area and Ann Arbor, to Grand Rapids and Lansing, and from Saginaw and Flint, to Midland and Kalamazoo.

Don’t trust just any Michigan OWI attorney to help you with your one chance at expungement. Trust the professionals who know what is on the line for those in the health care industry. Call us today for a consultation.

Need an Attorney? Contact us now!

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Robert J. Andretz

Senior Attorney

Professional Licensing & Regulatory Affairs, Criminal Law

Michigan Office
1441 W. Long Lake Road, Suite 310
Troy, MI 48098
Phone: (248) 644-6326

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