Could expungement reform in Michigan soon be a reality? It’s looking that way.

Last Wednesday, the Senate approved bipartisan legislation that was introduced by the House last September. Yep. A year ago.

The legislation consists of a number of bills that will enable people to clear their criminal records from public view as well as automate the process for certain offenses.

Governor Whitmer is expected to sign it.

Expungement Reform in Michigan Is a Long Time Coming

The passing of these bills is expected to affect hundreds of thousands of people and help to remove barriers to employment, housing, and other opportunities for those with criminal histories who have rehabilitated themselves.

Many have said their criminal convictions – even those from decades ago –  have held them back from finding meaningful work.

“With these reforms, thousands of good, hardworking people will become more employable at a critical time when job providers are in dire need of a ready, able and reliable workforce,” said State Rep. Graham Filler, R-DeWitt, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee.

It’s also a milestone in state criminal record-sealing policy. The current process for sealing a criminal record from public view is complicated and cost-prohibitive. And there are narrow restrictions. People can apply to have one felony or two misdemeanors set aside five years AFTER their monitoring by the justice system ends.

Even at that, a study from the University of Michigan Law School found that only 6.5% of people who qualify for expungement in Michigan have their records cleared within five years of becoming eligible.

Not the best odds.

The study also found that those who are able to get their records expunged experience higher earnings and low recidivism rates.

What the Seven Bills Will Change

The automated expungement process bill – also known as the “Clean Slate” – gets the limelight for bringing the most major changes. It would create an automated system that would clear certain convictions after a period of time.

Similar to laws in California, Utah, and Pennsylvania, the Michigan law would be the first to automatically clear prior low-level felony offenses.

The bills would also change the following:

  • increase the number of convictions eligible for expungement
  • reevaluate multiple convictions resulting from “one bad night” as a single offense
  • lessen the waiting period to apply for misdemeanor expungement
  • allow for expungement of most traffic offenses

In addition, the bills would create a process that would streamline expungement of convicted marijuana offenses that if, under the recreational marijuana law, would have otherwise been considered legal.

It’s not clear exactly how many people would benefit from the reform, but currently in Wayne County alone, people who qualify for expungement is 152,000. The reform legislation, if enacted, would take that number to 358,000.

Both sides of the aisle have supported the bills, with the exception of a Republican who represents the Upper Peninsula and feels it’s “a terrible injustice” to excuse driving under the influence of marijuana while still criminalizing driving under the influence of alcohol.

Whatever the case, there was enough support from other Republicans to make this a reality. It’s truly a red letter day. Maybe we really CAN all get along…

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