Gov. Whitmer expected to sign bills to expunge first-time drunken driving charges

Michigan expungement
Michigan expungement
Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 7:08 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to sign a package of bills soon that will make first-time drunk driving offenses eligible for expungement.

Months ago, Whitmer vetoed the legislation but has since changed her mind -- all while garnering overwhelming bipartisan support. The bills will affect about 200,000 drunken driving offenders in Michigan.

Anyone with a drunken driving conviction on their criminal record and has served their probation with no other legal within the last five years can have that conviction legally expunged -- or taken off their record -- likely very soon.

“A lot of times it’s two different groups. First time mistake people can be college kids just out having a good time, and they don’t really think about the consequences. And then you have the people that maybe go to wedding reception and have maybe one drink too many, and they get pulled over on the way home,” said attorney Matt Norwood, who handles a lot of drunken driving cases.

He knows many of his clients have to go on probation and attend classes that address alcohol and drug use.

“If those people complete those classes and complete the probation and don’t get in any more trouble, why shouldn’t they have the opportunity to have their record clean just like everyone else now?” Norwood said.

The legislation would make first time drunken driving offenders eligible to have the offense cleared from their record, which potentially will improve their employment opportunities. But, the offense will not be erased from their driving record.

Wesley Cross co-teaches the Symposium on Substance through Genesee County’s 67th District Court and deals with many first-time drunk driving offenders. A major part of his class is teaching people how alcohol affects the brain and decision making when someone’s sober versus under the influence.

“The expungement, I think it gives them another opportunity,” Cross said. “As long as they’ve had the proper education or the proper treatment, I think that’s the key.”

Whitmer has said she looks forward to signing the legislation, but there was no word yet on when exactly that will happen.

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