In Michigan, new laws aim to give ‘clean slate’ to hundreds of thousands of residents

December 23, 2020

Bipartisan bills signed into law this fall will give hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents the chance to have their criminal records expunged, a move that legislative supporters say will remove barriers to employment and housing opportunities.

Among the changes in HB 4980-4985 and HB 5120:

  • The creation of an automatic process for setting aside eligible misdemeanors after seven years and eligible non-assault felonies after 10 years.
  • An expansion of the types of felonies and misdemeanors eligible to be expunged.
  • The treatment of multiple felonies or misdemeanor offenses arising from the same transaction as a single felony or misdemeanor conviction, provided the offenses happened within 24 hours of one another, were not assault crimes, and did not involve possession or use of a dangerous weapon.
  • Ensure that people with past marijuana convictions can have those convictions set aside if the behavior that led to the conviction would be permissible under current state law. (The use of recreational marijuana is now legal in Michigan.)

Michigan Rep. Graham Filler, who helped lead work on this legislative package, wrote last year in CSG’s Stateline Midwest about the impact
that these measures could have on individual residents. “People whose criminal records are cleared tend to experience a sharp upturn in their wage and employment trajectories,” he wrote.

According to the Restoration of Rights Project, state laws vary widely on
expungement — for example, some allow no records to be closed, others only allow for the expungement of misdemeanors.