Offenders could wipe away their convictions easier under proposed legislation

State Rep. Graham Filler announces a bipartisan plan to streamline Michigan’s expungement laws today in Detroit. He was joined by a bipartisan coalition of legislators, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and business leaders.
By  | 

LANSING (WJRT) (9/10/2019) - A bipartisan group of lawmakers is working to expand Michigan's criminal expungement laws, allowing people with old convictions for minor crimes to be wiped clean.

Lawmakers hope that would allow residents with a fresh start at life and obtaining a good job.

“The innovative reforms we’re proposing will make Michigan a leader in criminal justice reform,” said State Rep. Graham Filler, a Republican from DeWitt. “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.”

Three Democrats and three Republicans have joined Filler, who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, as sponsor of the legislation.

“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 State Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, a Democrat from Detroit. “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."

Offenders in Michigan currently can apply for expungement of one felony or two misdemeanors five years after they complete their sentences and no longer have contact with the court system.

The six-bill legislative package unveiled during events in Kalamazoo and Detroit on Monday:

-- Allows three felony charges to be expunged unless they are for crimes that involve assault. Two felonies and four misdemeanors involving assault could be expunged.

-- Allow automatic expungement of crimes that don't involve assault and don't carry a sentence of 10 years or more in prison.

-- Expunge all marijuana-related crimes that now are legalized under Michigan law.

-- Create a "one bad night" clause, that allows multiple crimes committed during a single act to be considered a single felony charge as long as they don't involve assault, weapons possession or a prison sentence or 10 years or more.

-- Allow expungement of traffic offenses, not including intoxicated driving charges or any crimes involving death or serious injury.

-- Shorten eligibility for expungement to seven years for multiple felony charges, five years for a single felony or serious misdemeanors and three years for only misdemeanors.

“Expungement of criminal convictions from the public record is an important part of creating a society where justice is focused on rehabilitating offenders,” said State Rep. David LaGrand, a Democrat from Grand Rapids. “People who make mistakes, but who have turned their life around, shouldn’t be given a life-sentence of public shame.”

State Rep. Eric Leutheuser, a Republican from Hillsdale, said Michigan's current expungement laws discourage some eligible offenders from applying because they don't know about the program and it's too costly or time consuming.

“The goal is to make the expungement process as simple as possible for people who have proven themselves worthy of a second chance by being a good citizen for 10 years or more,” he said.

The legislation will be formally introduced in the Michigan House this week.