The impact of Michigan’s clean slate laws on first time juvenile offenders

At the beginning of this year, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer took further steps to reform the current criminal justice policy in the state. One of the bills included in this signing was the Good Moral Character and Clean Slate for Kids package, which provides opportunities for a fresh start for youth caught up in juvenile court matters. 

This package follows on the heels of another group of bills she signed earlier in the day called the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration “Smart Justice” package. These new legislative actions seek to provide access to support for individuals with a criminal past who seek to improve their life situations.

Governor implements crucially needed juvenile reforms

Whitmer has made it her mission to reform Michigan’s criminal justice system to have meaningful impacts on residents. Her establishing the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration to provide guidance on the development of alternatives to jailing and focus on reducing overall sentence lengths has been a success in this regard. It has also played a significant role in the two bills she signed that directly affect how juvenile offenders can get out of the school-to-prison pipeline that has been a troubling aspect of the state’s current justice system. 

She hopes by limiting how much time a juvenile offender can be jailed for truancy, running away from home, or being unruly with their parents, that the focus can turn to why they committed these offenses to begin with. With additional government dollars set aside for education and counseling programs, she hopes that troubled youth can get their lives back on track through additional support and court programs. This is also crucial in removing educational and employment barriers to cut back on youth offender recidivism.

For Lansing criminal defense attorneys, this comes as hopeful news for their current and past clients with juvenile crime convictions on their records. At Coontz Law, our defense lawyers see this as an opportunity to allow youth to avoid a lifetime of prejudice based on mistakes made while young. These bills are specifically intended to help those with criminal histories that have already paid their dues for their crimes and need additional avenues to better their lives. Allowing Michiganders to have a true second chance is something that many feel is long overdue. 

Clean slate for kids legislative package

The Clean Slate for Kids package is comprised of Senate Bills 681 and 682. These two critical pieces of legislation aim to give juvenile offenders exiting the justice system a fresh start. By allowing the sealing of court records related to their crimes and making it possible to automatically expunge these records if they do not re-offend, these bills create life-changing reforms of Michigan juvenile law.   

Below is a quick overview of each senate bill Governor Whitmer signed:

Senate bill 681 

This bill creates automatic expungement options for certain juvenile offenses and expunging of traffic crimes for non-reoffending youth with convictions.

Senate bill 682 

Starting on January 1, 2021, this bill made juvenile court records nonpublic in Michigan. It also expanded specific categories that qualify those considered “legitimate interests” when seeking to view closed hearings and nonpublic documentation, essentially limiting access to law enforcement.

Your child deserves a second chance 

For individuals with juvenile records, or families of troubled youths, the impact of a prior conviction in a Lansing criminal case can be devastating to their future. Everyone makes mistakes, especially when young and immature, and thanks to this new legislation, new opportunities are now available to move on with your life. 

If you or a juvenile loved one has faced or is currently charged with a crime, it’s also important to protect your guaranteed rights under the law. We have helped many young adults get another opportunity to become positive contributors to society. Contact Coontz Law right away if your child is facing criminal charges. We believe in second chances and will bring an aggressive criminal defense strategy on your behalf.