Legislation expanding the state’s expungements laws to allow residents to set aside old and low-level convictions will be introduced in the House this week, lawmakers announced in Detroit and Kalamazoo on Monday.

The legislation has been in the works for much of the year and has general support of prosecutors and law enforcement (See Gongwer Michigan Report, July 12, 2019).

A six-bill package will formally be introduced this week in the House, lawmakers said, and would allow those with up to three felonies to have their convictions set aside as long as none are assaultive. Individuals with an assaultive crime on their record can apply to have up to two felonies and three misdemeanors set aside.

Some could also see convictions automatically set aside if they otherwise qualify and none of the convictions are for an assaultive crime or serious misdemeanor and all are punishable by less than 10 years in prison.

“The innovative reforms we’re proposing will make Michigan a leader in criminal justice reform,” House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Graham Filler (R-DeWitt) said in a statement. “By removing barriers for former offenders, we will give them new opportunities to thrive while simultaneously expanding the pool of workers available to Michigan job providers looking to grow.”

The proposed bill package would also allow for those with misdemeanor marijuana convictions to petition for a set aside if the behavior that led to the conviction is legal under current law; allow separate convictions from the same incident to be considered one felony if none of the crimes were assaultive and none had a penalty greater than 10 years in prison; and allow for the expungement of some traffic offenses, though driving under the influence and traffic crimes causing serious injury or death would not qualify.

Current law allows those with one felony and no more than two misdemeanor convictions to apply to have only the felony set aside. Those with no more than two misdemeanors can apply to have one or both set aside.

“Under current law, those who have already taken accountability for their actions may still find it difficult to move ahead in life because of their record,” said Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit), one of the bill sponsors. “Reforming our state’s expungement process will ensure eligible community members are able to access gainful employment, financing options for housing, and pursue or continue their education.”

Under the bills, those seeking to set aside misdemeanors with no felonies could petition after three years, those with a serious misdemeanor or a felony could petition after five years and those seeking to set aside more than one felony could petition after seven years.

“Expungement of criminal convictions from the public record is an important part of creating a society where justice is focused on rehabilitating offenders,” said Rep. David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids). “People who make mistakes, but who have turned their life around, shouldn’t be given a life-sentence of public shame. I’m glad to be a part of this bill package on improving the rules for expungement and look forward to working with my colleagues on this issue.”

Hundreds of thousands of people could benefit from the proposed reforms, lawmakers and advocates said.

“By expanding eligibility and automating significant parts of the expungement process, this package takes significant steps toward fixing Michigan’s broken expungement system and puts Michigan on track to be a national leader on expungement reform,” Safe and Just Michigan Executive Director John Cooper said in a statement. “Clean slate legislation is smart policy that will open up opportunity for thousands of people. Clean slate is good for Michigan’s workforce, good for taxpayers, and good for public safety. We look forward to working with Representative Filler to ensure that everyone working hard to succeed has a real chance in Michigan.”

David Guenthner, with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, also praised the bills, saying those who have committed crimes should be punished appropriately, but also deserve the opportunity to get out from under past mistakes.

“Unfortunately, too many Michiganders continue to be deprived of jobs and suitable housing due to decades-old criminal convictions, many for minor offenses,” he said. “Public safety is enhanced when those who have committed crimes don’t repeat or escalate that behavior. By offering ex-offenders in Michigan the potential to find better jobs and move on with their lives, the expungement bills provide a clear incentive for them to model upstanding behavior.”


Original source: www.gongwer.com
Release date: September 9, 2019