Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Oct. 12, 2020

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks in Detroit before signing "Clean Slate" bills on Oct. 12, 2020

(The Center Square) – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed bipartisan “Clean Slate” bills on Monday, which could help hundreds of thousands of Michiganders expunge old criminal records.

University of Michigan Law school research concluded people who receive expungements see a 23% increase in income within a year.

But that study estimated only 6.5% of those able to expunge their records did so within five years of eligibility due to costs and other complications.

House Bills 4980-4985 and 5120 aim to boost that number by increasing expungement access for people who have committed a wider variety of certain felonies and misdemeanors.

HB 4982 will create a process to sideline marijuana convictions for crimes that would have been legal as of Dec. 6, 2018, when voters chose to legalize recreational marijuana in Michigan.

“This is a historic day in Michigan. These bipartisan bills are a game changer for people who are seeking opportunities for employment, housing, and more, and they will help ensure a clean slate for hundreds of thousands of Michiganders,” Whitmer said in a statement. “This is also an opportunity to grow our workforce and expand access to job training and education for so many people.”

Rep. Graham Filler, R-DeWitt, said the law will increase public safety and provide a broader tax base while correcting “out of whack” expungement laws.

The package will expunge eligible misdemeanors automatically after seven years and eligible non-assault felonies after 10 years; make many traffic offenses eligible; and reduce the waiting period to file an expungement request to three years.

“Everyone deserves the chance to build a good life for themselves and their families. But far too many people enter the criminal justice system and end up cut off from those opportunities and are pushed toward a cruel cycle of poverty and crime. That’s not right, and it creates bad outcomes for all of us,” House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, said in a statement.

“These bills are an important step to righting that wrong and helping good people who’ve paid their debt get back on their feet.”

California, Pennsylvania, Utah and New Jersey already use automatic expungement to scrub low-level crimes from public records without applicants applying for or attending a hearing.

HB 4984 would increase the number of misdemeanors and felonies a person can have expunged to an unlimited number of non-assault misdemeanors and up to three felonies.

A person can’t have expunged more than two assault felonies or expunge multiple convictions of the same crime if the crime’s maximum sentence is a penalty of 10 or more years of incarceration.

“Thousands of Detroiters who want to work and be a part of Detroit's comeback have been held back for too long because of mistakes they've made in their past,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement.

“Thanks to the Governor and our state legislators, more than 80,000 Detroiters now will be eligible to have those past mistakes removed from their record and a chance at a new start.”

HB 4985 seeks to allow expungement of multiple convictions arising from a single criminal transaction as a single offense if those crimes are not assaultive crimes, involve possession or use of a dangerous weapon, or carry a penalty of 10 or more years in prison.

“This package will increase economic productivity, increase our tax base, expand our workforce, increase incomes for hundreds of thousands of people and their families, and allow hundreds of thousands of people to fully participate in our economy and communities,” Safe & Just Michigan Executive Director John S. Cooper said.

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.