Understanding Michigan’s clean slate legislation

In early October, Governor Whitmer signed a series of bipartisan criminal justice reform bills colloquially known as the Clean Slate legislation. House Bills 4980-4985 and 5120 have officially reformed Michigan’s criminal expungement laws. This means it is now easier for individuals who have been convicted of certain felonies and misdemeanors to have their criminal record removed.

Changes in House Bills 4980-4985 and 5120 include the following: 

  • Creating an automatic process for setting aside eligible misdemeanors after seven years and eligible non-assaultive felonies after 10 years.  
  • Expand the number and revise the types of felonies and misdemeanors eligible to be set aside by application.   
  • Revises the waiting periods before being eligible to apply. 
  • Treat multiple felonies or misdemeanor offenses arising from the same transaction as a single felony or misdemeanor conviction, provided the offenses happened within 24 hours of one another and are not assaultive crimes, or involves possession or use of a dangerous weapon, or is a crime that carries a penalty of 10 or more years in prison.  
  • Expands expungement eligibility to various traffic offenses  
  • Allows a person to petition to set aside one or more marijuana offenses if the offense would not have been a crime if committed after the use of recreational marijuana by adults became legal in the state. 

Although most of the laws will take effect in April 2021, the automatic expungement process will happen later so that Michigan can get the right systems in place. In 2019, professors Sonja B. Starr and J.J. Prescott of Michigan Law School published a study revolving around expungement. Their research found that wages go up on average by 25% within two years after an individual’s record is expunged. Also, expungement recipients have extremely low subsequent crime rates.

At our firm, we understand how vital second (third or fourth) chances are for our clients. We see too many people make small mistakes that end up following them for the rest of their lives, affecting their opportunities to become productive members of Michigan and the country at large. If you or someone close to you needs legal representation in Lansing, Coontz Law is here for you. To set up a consultation with our firm, give us a call at (517) 940-8004.