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New Michigan Law Expands Criminal Records Expungement

The bill was signed into law by Governor Gretchen Whitmer in October 2020. For years, numerous advocacy groups had been pushing for reforms to Michigan’s laws that can be used to seal or expunge records. The previous laws allowing the sealing of criminal records were costly, complicated, and the restrictions were unduly narrow. “These bipartisan bills are going to be a game changer. They will ensure a clean slate for hundreds of thousands of people. And they will help us grow our work force and expand access to education and skills training,” said Whitmer.

Lawmakers and reform advocates, such as Safe and Just Michigan, declared at a news conference that the new bill makes Michigan a national leader in expungement reform. The bill also received support from Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, a national organization.

Aswad Thomas, himself a survivor of gun violence and the group’s managing director, said the reforms will increase public safety by allowing people access to education and employment.

A University of Michigan study found that a mere 6.5% of former offenders who may qualify to have their records expunged will actually have their record cleared within five years of legibility under the old law. The same study found that lower recidivism rates and higher earnings for people who’ve had their records expunged.

Within two years, wages are found to have increased 25% on average.

State Representative Graham Filler, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said, “You’re in your community, you’re invested in your community, you’re spending time with your family, you’re working, you’re accessing housing. We have less recidivism, less victims. This is what happens when you access expungement.”

The Clean Slate bill gives Michigan two years to fully implement the new automatic process.

Michigan follows California, Utah, and Pennsylvania in states updating their procedures and automatically wiping some low-level felonies from public records.

Under the new bill, misdemeanors can be cleared automatically in seven years and some felonies in 10, after either sentencing or release from incarceration, whichever comes last. No more than two felonies and four misdemeanors can be eligible for automatic expungement.

The bill also expands eligibility for the application process to expunge a record. Traffic offenses, up to three eligible felony offenses, and unlimited misdemeanors can be expunged by application. The application process, as opposed to the automatic portion of the bill, requires an application to clear the record be filed with an appropriate court. The judge then has 60 days to grant a qualifying application so long as the state does not file any opposition. Any adverse determination made by the court is able to be appealed. However, even under the application process, the waiting period of three to seven years must lapse before eligibility begins.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan contends up to 80,000 people may be eligible for expungements. “There’s a whole lot of folks in this city, that if you go through the process, we can move you into middle class,” said Duggan. The list of which offenses qualify, and all the related criteria, need to be examined closely by those who believe they may be eligible to benefit from the Clean Slate bill.

According to Duggan, by going to the website https://detroitmi.gov/departments/law-department/project-clean-slate, or projectcleanslate@detroitmi.gov, for email requests, interested people can find the information to take advantage of a Clean Slate. The legislation is effective in spring 2021. 

 

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