State Rep. Graham Filler is sponsoring six bills aimed at easing criminal expungement requirements that he says he will introduce in the House this week.
Filler, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said the package creates punishments more proportional to the crimes, so those with criminal records are no longer barred from employment and housing.
The Dewitt Republican said the package was “a complete bipartisan winner” in terms of public health and safety reform because the safest communities are those filled with people who are working, with their family, and who feel invested in their community.
One bill would shorten the expungement eligibility period for those with multiple felonies to seven years, and five years for those with a single felony or serious misdemeanor.
Those with an assault crime could petition for two felonies and four misdemeanors to be expunged after three years.
Another bill would allow expungement for low-level traffic offenses, not including DUI and traffic crimes that caused severe injury or death.
The current expungement process is to file a document in the court that is sent to the attorney general’s office to decide eligibility, who then forwards it to the sentencing judge who makes the final decision.
The automatic expansion shreds the whole process if that person has no assault or serious misdemeanor charges punishable by fewer than 10 years of imprisonment.
Filler said that people with no assault charges would be able to petition for up to three felonies and unlimited misdemeanors to be expunged after three years.
Automatic expungement would wipe out a lot of time spent on paperwork for those who have decades-old criminal histories, Filler said.
“I think that would allow prosecutors and anybody in law enforcement to focus on the really bad actors,” Filler said.
The current process allows those with criminal records of one felony or two misdemeanors to petition for expungement.
Filler said that about 100,000 people in Wayne County, one of Michigan’s most-populated counties, would be impacted instantly.
Nila Bala, R Street Institute’s associate director of Criminal Justice and Civil Liberties, told The Center Square that one out of three Americans has a criminal record.
Bala said this package gives those people a second chance, citing a University of Michigan Law study from J.J Prescott and Sonja B. Starr that found individuals who expunged their records experienced a wage jump of more than 20 percent.
“Those individuals, if making more money, will be able to provide for their family in a better way, be a consumer, and pay taxes: all good things for Michigan,” Bala said.
Bala said these bills honor research that three or four years after a misdemeanor, an individual who committed the misdemeanor is no more likely than anyone from the general public to commit a future offense.
Michigan is the fifth state to introduce this "Clean Slate" legislation, Bala said.