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Gov. Whitmer signs expungement expansion legislation

October 12, 2020 GMT

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan will automatically expunge qualifying felonies after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed bills Monday in Detroit that supporters say will affect hundreds of thousands of people’s ability to work and thrive.

The “Clean Slate” legislation requires the state to create an automated system over the next two years for expungements of certain felonies after 10 years and misdemeanors after seven years.

The legislation does not expand expungement for certain offenses involving assault, weapons, felonies that carry a maximum sentence of life in prison or driving under the influence .

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Other parts of the package take effect in 180 days and allows those with marijuana misdemeanor convictions to apply for expungement if their offenses would have been legal for recreational use approved in 2018.

Whitmer was joined at the bill signing by supporters and lawmakers, including Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II who spoke about helping those who’ve made a mistake to have the opportunity to lead a better life.

“If we want a state where everyone has the opportunity to contribute to our society, secure meaningful work, provide for their families, find a home and build their futures, we can cannot maintain lifelong barriers for someone based on past mistakes,” Gilchrist said.

Safe & Just Michigan Executive Director John Cooper said traffic offenses make up half of all criminal cases in Michigan and now many of those people will be eligible for expungement.

“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 thousands of people to fully participate in our economy and our communities,” Cooper said.

Only 6.5% of people who qualify for expungement in the state end up clearing their records after five years of eligibility, according to a recent study from the University of Michigan. Being able to have a criminal record expunged, lowers recidivism rates and opens up opportunities for economic growth, speakers said citing the study.

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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.