FILE - Michigan State Capitol

The Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan.

The House on Tuesday passed a plan that would allow automatic expungement for some criminal offenses and expand expungement to hundreds of thousands of Michiganders who don’t currently qualify.

The bills would allow automatic expungement for some felonies after 10 years and misdemeanors after seven years, with a maximum of two felonies and four misdemeanors.

Automatic expungement doesn’t apply to drunk-driving offenses, criminal sexual conduct and assaults.

State Rep. Graham Filler previously told The Center Square the automatic expungement plan was a “bipartisan winner” that creates punishments more proportional to the crimes, so those with criminal records are no longer barred from employment and housing.

The bills stretch expungement opportunities to low-level driving offenses and marijuana charges for crimes that are now legal under state law.

The package would reform the time required before filing for expungement to between three and seven years, depending on the severity and number of convictions.

Michigan law currently allows people to erase one felony or two misdemeanors if they don’t reoffend for five years.

Those with an assault record could petition for two felonies and four misdemeanors to be expunged after three years.

If the applicant has no assault charges, that person would be able to petition for up to three felonies and unlimited misdemeanors to be expunged after three years.

The bills also would treat multiple offenses from the same act as a single conviction, if none were classified as assaults, involved weapon possession or carried a maximum penalty of 10 or more years in prison, as one conviction for expungement.

The legislation follows a University of Michigan Law School study that estimated only 6.5 percent of those able to expunge their records did so within five years of eligibility.

Jesse Kelly, a government affairs specialist at The R Street Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization, previously told The Center Square expunging a record can increase that person’s likelihood for employment by 11 percent, raise their income by 25 percent, and provide better housing options.

“Removing barriers for reformed citizens is the right thing to do,” Filler said in a statement. “People have committed a crime, they have paid their price and we acknowledge that they broke the social trust. Now we’re giving them the opportunity – if they want – to move on from that.”

Co-sponsor Rep. Jack O’Malley, R-Lake Ann, said the bills will help Michigan as a whole.

“Not only is this plan going to help struggling people improve their lives, it will strengthen our economy by making thousands of ex-offenders more employable at a time when businesses across Michigan are having trouble finding skilled workers,” O’Malley said in a statement. “It’s time to start giving people who have already taken accountability for their past mistakes an opportunity to start fresh.”

House Bills 4980-4985 and 5120 now move to the Senate.

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.