Legislation gives reformed citizens access to better job opportunities
A bipartisan plan announced today would expand Michigan’s expungement laws and give hundreds of thousands of residents with old, low-level criminal convictions a new opportunity to start fresh.
State Rep. Graham Filler, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and the bipartisan group of bill sponsors unveiled the legislation today during stops in Detroit and Kalamazoo. In a show of widespread support, they were joined by legislative colleagues from both the House and Senate, local business leaders and county prosecutors, as well as Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell.
“The innovative reforms we’re proposing will make Michigan a leader in criminal justice reform,” said Filler, R-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.”
Bill sponsors include 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).
“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,” Gay-Dagnogo said. “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. I’m proud to stand with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in support of legislation that has the potential to help so many Michiganders get a fresh start at building their future.”
Michigan’s current expungement law allows people with certain convictions to petition for the expungement of one felony or two misdemeanors after being free of contact from the court system for a minimum of five years.
The six-bill legislative package:
- Expands the number of people who qualify for expungement. A person with up to three felonies may apply to have all their convictions set aside if none of the convictions are for an assaultive crime. If the person has an assaultive crime on their record, they can apply to have up to two felonies and four misdemeanors set aside.
- Establish automatic expungement for certain offenders. This would be available to people who would otherwise qualify for expungement via petition if none of the convictions are for an assaultive crime or serious misdemeanor and all are punishable by less than 10 years imprisonment.
- Allow for the expungement of marijuana convictions. People with misdemeanor marijuana convictions would be able to petition to have the convictions set aside if the behavior that led to the conviction is permissible under current law.
- Allow forgiveness for acts committed during “one bad night.” For the purposes of expungement, crimes similar in nature that were committed in the same act may be treated as a single felony if none of the crimes were assaultive, none of the crimes involved the possession of a weapon, and none of the crimes had a maximum penalty greater than 10 years.
- Allow for the expungement of some traffic offenses. Offenses such as DUI/OWI and other traffic crimes causing serious injury or death would not qualify.
- Shorten the eligibility period for expungement. Under the plan, an application to set aside more than one felony could be filed after seven years; an application to set aside a “serious misdemeanor” or single felony could be filed after five years; and an application to set aside other misdemeanors with no felonies could be filed after three years.
“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.”
Leutheuser, who is sponsoring the automatic expungement legislation, said many people currently eligible for expungement do not realize they are qualified, and others are deterred by the cost and time it takes to complete the process.
“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,” Leutheuser said. “Once people have a clean slate, it opens them up to new opportunities so they can better their lives and provide for their families.”
The legislation will be formally introduced in the Michigan House this week.