MI Capitol 9:25

Thousands of Michiganders will have a chance at a well-deserved fresh start after “clean slate” legislation passed the legislature this week.

The full package of bills will automatically set aside and seal records of many nonviolent, lower-level convictions for former offenders who have proven they can stay on the straight and narrow for five years or more for some offenses. Studies show recidivism is extremely rare after five or more years of good behavior. Nobody with pending charges is eligible.

HB 4980-85 focuses on automatic record-sealing on prior convictions, HB 5120 expunges particular marijuana offenses, and HB 5846-53 concerns suspension of a driver’s license.

The current process for clearing a prior conviction is a tedious and time-consuming task that too few people pursue. The practice of automatically sealing records will reduce costs and boost the number of people who will get their records sealed, and it will increase the likelihood they can find employment, housing, and other necessities.

In addition, the state’s economy can expect to benefit from an increase in income and employment.

Of particular interest, HB 5846-53, introduced in House, ends driver license suspensions on conduct that is not related to driving practices and lowers some traffic penalties from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction. License suspension puts people in an awful position of having to choose between risking breaking the law by going to work so they can afford their fines, or losing their job. If their initial offense has nothing to do with safe driving, it does not make sense to suspend their license and potentially send them down a path of escalating offenses.

ATR President Grover Norquist testified in support of Michigan’s “Clean Slate” legislation earlier this summer.

Having a criminal record carries significant collateral consequences that end up making it tougher for people to build a life, and sometimes that leads to them committing more crimes. Michigan has taken big steps to reduce recidivism, improve public safety, and provide a path toward a second chance for people who have proven they deserve it.