ALPENA — People who once broke the law stood under sap-laden trees in an alley Friday afternoon, hoping to get their lives back.
A crowd of 100 or more showed up at an Alpena Wipeout Clinic, hosted by the Bay View Center and sponsored in part by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, for free help hiding old lockers legal proceedings against potential employers and owners.
In dress shoes and flip-flops, fisherman hats and caps, people waited their turn in an alley outside the building, hoping the lawyers inside would have time to help them lift the burdens they had been carrying for years.
Crimes and violations from long ago make it impossible to get a house or a job, said Michael Swider, who arrived early to try to get help overturning his three impaired driving convictions. drunk.
Like many people with a criminal record, he said, he works in construction, prevented from advancing in that career because of his record and unable to use his qualifications for other higher paying jobs.
“I understand the penalties for what I did,” said Swider, who has gone more than a decade without getting in trouble again. “But we have paid our due.”
Waiting in the aisle with Swider, Andrew Hornak, of Ossineke, said he believed he would never be able to seek the quashing of his three felony convictions at another time in his life.
Recent changes to Michigan laws mean he could be eligible for expungement, a process Hornak hopes will allow him to own a gun, live where he wants and get a good job.
“It will drive Alpena forward,” giving workers-hungry employers a better chance of hiring qualified and enthusiastic employees, Swider said.
The attorney general’s office has already held radiation clinics elsewhere in the state. Attorney General Dana Nessel, during a visit to Alpena earlier this year, promised to use her resources to establish a clinic in Alpena.
Nessel was on hand for the first part of Friday afternoon’s clinic, addressing members of the crowd in the aisle.
Had she known more help was needed, she would have brought a team of lawyers to Alpena, Nessel said.
Inside the Bay View Center, four Alpena attorneys sat at tables, walking attendees through the paperwork needed to apply for disbarment.
Before they could reach attorneys, participants had their names go through a background check to see if they qualified under the state’s new debarment guidelines.
Those who qualified received free legal aid, then were fingerprinted and given papers to mail out for final state processing.
Outside, Alpena’s Kelly Wellman hoped lawyers could help her out of a long-running violation: “So when my kids have grandkids, I can watch them,” said she declared.
As people entered the building and others arrived in the alley, Swider and Hornak imagined life with their driving licenses back – no more asking for rides and paying for taxis – and without have their car searched every time they get pulled over for a traffic violation because of crimes from a long time ago that appear on their record.
If necessary, Hornak would have quit his job so he could be at the radiation show to attempt a changed life, he said.
“I was a geek when my dad told me about it,” Swider said. “I waited too long.”
A small crowd gathered around Lynsey Barden, of Alpena, as she exited the building, papers in hand.
Impatient, they asked him how it had gone.
The process had been easy, she said, displaying a fingerprint card which she will send to the correct address, along with $50 – far less than the thousands she expected to pay if she were to hire a lawyer or figure it out herself, she said.
After 12 years under the thumb of his case, the clinic gave him hope for a “fresh start,” Barden said with a smile.
Amidst the crowd, Nessel promised that his office would see to it that another radiation clinic soon reached Alpena, this time with more lawyers.
She urged those not receiving help not to be discouraged.
“We will be back,” she said. “And we will help the people of Alpena and surrounding counties as much as we can.”
Her office has hired staff specifically to handle the multitudes of disbarment requests from across the state, she said.
Some people, especially those who have committed only one or a few minor crimes, could likely navigate their own expungement process online, starting with a link available on the state’s website, he said. she stated.
Hours into the event, Swider and Hornak — along with a small but still large crowd — leaned wearily against a wall in the alley, still waiting.
For those who receive help and come out of their records, “All of your aspects and all of the doors in life can open,” Hornak said.
For more information about expungement, including a link to a request to expunge conviction form, visit michigan.gov/ag/initiatives/expungement-assistance.
Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @jriddleX.