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State Senate leaves DWIs out of expungement expansion

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Senate passed bills Wednesday that would allow hundreds of thousands of people to clear their criminal records to help them overcome barriers in society such as finding employment and housing, but stopped short of including DWI offenses in the proposed expungement process.

The state estimates the expungement measures would affect hundreds of thousands of people, including those with marijuana convictions before it was legalized for recreational use in 2018.

If signed into law, Michigan would have an automated system for expungements of certain felonies after 10 years and misdemeanors after seven years. The waiting period before people could ask to set aside offenses would be shortened as well, from five years to three years after the justice system ceases to monitor a person, depending on the offense.

The legislation aims to help more people to successfully navigate the expungement process in Michigan where only a few thousand people each year now receive expungements, according to the Chicago-based Alliance for Safety and Justice.

The package would let more people with multiple crimes apply and require multiple felony offenses to be treated as a single conviction if they occurred contemporaneously — within 24 hours, or as supporters say, “one bad night.”

Certain offenses involving assault or weapons are not included.

The legislation would also make many traffic offenses eligible for expungement, excluding operating while intoxicated. But senators on both sides of the aisle voiced concerns some people charged with driving under the influence should be included.

Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Waucedah Township, offered amendments that would include people with drunken driving convictions in the expungement reform but was voted down.

“This opportunity is escaping us, it’s slipping through our fingers to help thousands of people who at some point in their life did something dumb,” McBroom said. “The whole message for why we’re trying to do this expungement package could not be clearer than on somebody who’s got a DUI, one from 20 years ago when they’re 20 years old. To not make provision for that in this package is a terrible injustice and it’s not good for the people that I represent.”

Democrats representing southeast Michigan Sens. Jeremy Moss and Sylvia Santana echoed McBroom’s comments about an extension of grace for those with a DUI and voiced their hopes to take up the issue later in session

“We treat people with DUIs as the most irredeemable members of the criminal justice system,” Moss said. “There are people who have a path for a second chance, but we don’t ever provide that second chance to people who have made a mistake sometimes years and years and years ago.”

The state House will now weigh in on amendments made to the legislation and send them to the governor to be signed.

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Anna Liz Nichols is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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