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How to Pardon a Michigan Drunk Driving Conviction - The Benefits of Being Politically Connected

legal-protection-xs.jpgA drunk driving conviction cannot be expunged in Michigan. However, receiving a Governor's pardon can erase the conviction from your criminal record. That's what recently happened for politically connected high powered attorney Alan Gocha Jr., a member of Michigan's economic board. Gocha received a rare pardon from Governor Rick Snyder (R) this winter.

Attorney Gocha was convicted of drunk driving in 2008. He was stopped by a Bloomfield Township police officer in December 2007. The police officer observed Gocha swerving between lanes in his Saturn Outlook. He refused to take the roadside breathalyzer test. He was taken into custody and was mandated to take a breathalyzer at the station. His blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.11%, well over the legal limit. Attorney Gocha later pleaded guilty to drunk driving and served 6 days in jail.

Because drunk driving convictions cannot be expunged under Michigan State law, Gocha only had the option of applying for a pardon to have the conviction removed from his criminal record.

[Gocha] continued to challenge the stop in higher courts. By spring 2011, he had lost at every turn. His next step: pursue the pardon. The application asked for charitable or civic activities. Gocha listed his church, a law school speech and board membership at the state Chamber of Commerce. One of Gocha's references was Bob LaBrant, a Republican strategist who is the Chamber of Commerce's former lawyer and a Snyder appointee on the Michigan Employment Relations Commission. Gocha gave $26,500 to the chamber's political action committee from 2011 through 2013. Detroit News.

As mentioned above, Govern Snyder approved his request for pardon. The action taken by Governor Snyder is significant due to the fact that he has only approved 11 applications for pardons. He received a grand total of 750 applications since his time in office.

Snyder followed the Michigan parole board's recommendation and pardoned Alan Gocha Jr. in December - one of only 11 pardons out of roughly 750 applications since the governor took office. Each year, thousands of people in Michigan are convicted of drunken driving and can suffer long-term consequences, such as lost work and higher insurance costs. Gocha, a $250,000-a-year lawyer for the maker of 5-hour Energy drinks, now is in the clear.  Associated Press.

As a DUI attorney, I believe it is highly unlikely for a governor to grant a pardon for a drunk driving conviction, especially when hundreds of applications are pending. I usually advise DUI defendants to hire a lawyer to help fight any pending charge and to reduce as many negative consequences as possible. Having the charge reduced or dismissed is pretty much the only way to try to keep a DUI conviction off your criminal record. It is almost impossible to receive a pardon, unless you are politically connected. If you or a loved one has been arrested for drunk driving in the Washtenaw County area, contact me for a consultation.


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