KALAMAZOO, Mich. — A group of Michigan legislators are trying to expand the state's expungement laws, which would give hundreds of thousands of residents with low-level criminal convictions a fresh start.
The package of bills is sponsored by State Rep. Graham Filler (R-DeWitt), chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
“The innovative reforms we’re proposing will make Michigan a leader in criminal justice reform,” said Filler. “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 bills include an expungement of certain marijuana convictions, which has been brought up in the state legislature since marijuana was legalized in Michigan.
The current expungement laws allow people with certain convictions to petition for the clearing of one felony or two misdemeanors after being free from the court system for at least five years.
The proposed legislation includes these six bills:
- Expand the number of people who qualify for expungement by allowing people with three felonies to apply if none of the convictions are for an assaultive, or violent, crime.
- Establish automatic expungement for people who would qualify with a petition if none of the convictions are for a violent crime or a serious misdemeanor.
- Allow the expungement of marijuana convictions for people with misdemeanors if the crime that led to the conviction is now legal.
- Allow for acts committed during "one bad night" to be forgiven. Crimes that are similar in nature may be treated as one felony, if none of them were violent, involved the possession of a weapon or had a maximum penalty of more than 10 years.
- Allow for certain traffic offenses to be expunged, but DUI, OWI and other traffic crimes causing serious injury or death would not qualify.
- Shorten the eligibility period. Under the proposal, more than one felonies application could be filed after seven years, a serious misdemeanor or a single felony could be filed after five years and an application for other misdemeanors and no felonies could be filed after three years.
The bills are sponsored by Reps. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit), Eric Leutheuser (R-Hillsdale), Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor), Pauline Wendzel (R-Watervliet), David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids) and Luke Meerman (R-Coopersville).
“Expungement of criminal convictions from the public record is an important part of creating a society where justice is focused on rehabilitating offenders,” LaGrand said. “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.”
The legislation will be formally introduced in the Michigan House this week.
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