(The Center Square) – Some Republican and Democrat lawmakers agree that charges stemming from a first-time driving under the influence (DUI) or operating while intoxicated (OWI) arrest in which no one is injured should be eligible for expungement.
Thousands of Michiganders have gotten behind the wheel with an illegal blood-alcohol content level that ended in an arrest. If the arrest results in a conviction, that black mark usually stays on their record for life.
Legislation passed last year allowed some felonies to be expunged but not first-time DUI and OWI misdemeanors, bringing criticism from Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain.
“These individuals deserve a chance to learn and move on from their past mistakes, much like other nonviolent offenders with the same opportunities,” LaFave previously said.
LaFave said this legislation would have helped Upper Michiganders with DUIs who have access to fewer jobs and housing opportunities.
The bills garnered support from former Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget McCormack, and Democrat Attorney General Dana Nessel.
The bills previously passed with overwhelming bipartisan support — 96-8 in the House and 32-5 in the Senate— before Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed the bill without explanation.
State Rep. Joseph Bellino, R-Monroe, has asked Whitmer to support the current legislation also sponsored by Democrat Rep. Tenisha Yancey
“As a former drug and alcohol addict, I firmly believe that a single misstep does not define someone’s life,” Bellino said in a statement. “The expungement package we passed last term showed Michiganders that our stance on criminal justice is one of reform, not punishment. But our efforts mean little if we don’t take action to fully support that position. The passage of these bills will allow those who have made a one-time mistake to learn from it and find gainful employment and opportunities without struggle.”
The criminal justice reform push aligned with University of Michigan Law school research that concluded people who receive expungements see a 23% increase in income within a year.
In 2019, there were about 30,000 arrests for operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It’s not clear how many resulted in injuries or would be eligible for expungement.