FLINT (WXYZ) — Nearly 20 years after she was convicted of possessing marijuana, Yvonne Morrow thought it would have been off her criminal record by now, but it wasn't.
"If it takes 20 years for somebody to get their record expunged for marijuana, I mean, come on," she said as she stood in a long line outside the Genesee County Sheriff's Office and jail Wednesday.
It was Michigan's first Expungement Fair and every person in line had been prescreened to get their records expunged or to get help on completing the process.
Expungements are being allowed for some misdemeanors, including marijuana crimes and select felony cases.
"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.
And the atmosphere was that of a county fair, complete with a dunk tank and music.
Vaccinations were also offered, but the event was about giving people a fresh start.
"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 who was 16 years old when he was convicted in a gun case. He's now 43. "I've been trying to get that taken care of so I can get me a better job."
Expungement Fairs are expected to take place in other parts of Michigan very soon.
“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.”
With the exception of more serious crimes including homicide, the new law allows a person who has been convicted of up to three felonies, and an unlimited number of select misdemeanors, to file an application with the convicting court to expunge all his or her convictions.
People with more than three felony convictions on their criminal record are not eligible to seek expungements under the new law.
Volunteer attorneys and staff from Legal Services of Eastern Michigan and Michigan Works joined staff from the Attorney General and Genesee County Sheriff offices to help people navigate the expungement process.
“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.”
Click here for more information on seeking expungements under Michigan's new law.