Whitmer signs Clean Slate Michigan, allowing automatic felony expungement

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Clean Slate Michigan legislation is ‘good for our families, our small businesses and our economy as a whole.’ (Screenshot)

Hundreds of thousands more Michiganders will become eligible to have their criminal records wiped clean under legislation signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday.

Research indicates the package will have a sweeping impact on people who often struggle to get better jobs, higher wages and secure housing as they carry a criminal record despite years of good behavior. 

“For too long, criminal charges have created barriers to employment, barriers to housing and others for hundreds of thousands of Michiganders. These bipartisan bills are going to be a game-changer,” Whitmer said.

“When we help people get a good job so they can put a roof over their head, it is good for our state. It is good for our families, our small businesses and our economy as a whole. It’ll bring down the recidivism rate even more. And most importantly, it’s the right thing to do.”

The multi-bill package passed both chambers of the state Legislature with bipartisan support. While it’s not clear how many more people will be eligible for record clearing under the new law, some have estimated it will more than double the existing eligibility poll. 

The most significant bill is the Clean Slate legislation, which would automatically clear records of those who don’t commit another crime. Now, people have to apply to have records clean in a process that is often costly and confusing.

Researchers at the University of Michigan found that only 6.5 percent of people successfully expunge a conviction from their record within five years of becoming eligible. 

Beginning two years from the date it was signed, the Clean Slate law will expunge misdemeanors seven years after sentencing and felonies 10 years after sentencing or when they’re released from incarceration (whichever comes later). 

Under the new law, people will be able to get up to two felonies and four misdemeanors automatically cleared. Crimes punishable by more than 10 years in prison, violent crimes, “crimes of dishonesty” such as forgery, human trafficking and other serious crimes aren’t eligible. 

The Clean Slate law makes Michigan a nationwide leader in expungement reform. Only Utah, California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey allow low-level offenses to be automatically cleared from records, and Michigan will now be the first to include low-level felonies in the automatic process.

A separate bill in the package would expand the existing expungement system (which requires application, rather than the automatic process) to allow for more charges to be expunged. 

Under the new law, up to three felonies and an unlimited amount of misdemeanors could be expunged, but no more than two assaultive crimes and no more than one felony if it’s punishable by more than 10 years in prison.

Other bills signed Monday will go into effect in 180 days (April 10, 2021). They will: 

  • Make it possible for misdemeanors to be expunged after three years, felonies after seven years and serious misdemeanors or a single felony to five years, shortening the waiting time to apply for expungement. 
  • Allow felonies or misdemeanors from the same 24-hour period — or as lawmakers have called it, “one bad night” — to be treated as one conviction for expungement. Assaultive crimes, crimes involving a dangerous weapon and crimes punishable by 10 or more years in person can’t be included.
  • Bar certain crimes from expungement, including crimes that can bring a sentence of life in prison, domestic violence, traffic offenses where someone was seriously injured or died, child abuse, sexual assault, and driving while intoxicated — a point of contention for some lawmakers who argued DUIs should be included. 
  • Create a process for people convicted of multiple marijuana misdemeanors to apply for streamlined expungement, which would require prosecutors who choose to challenge the expungement to prove that the crime would still have been a crime if it occurred after adult-use marijuana became legal in 2018. Aggrieved parties would also be allowed to ask for a court to reconsider their decision on an expungement request. 
  • Whitmer said the bill related to the expungement of marijuana crimes is “in response to the referendum that the voters approved to legalize marijuana in 2018” and said it fulfills a 2018 campaign promise to forgive certain marijuana-related crimes.

Studies have found expungement contributes to higher wages and better jobs for people with criminal records without impacting public safety. One study found those who had their records expunged earned an average of 23 percent more the following year. 

“This is bigger than criminal justice reform,” Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said Monday. “This is about economic opportunity and full participation in our economy and our society.”

Criminal justice advocates  praised the package passing on Monday.

“For too long, our justice system has been stacked against Black and Brown people and individuals with lower incomes, and a criminal record has unfortunately continued those consequences in perpetuity,” said Michigan League for Public Policy President Gilda Jacobs in a statement. 

“Today, the governor struck a significant blow for racial equity and justice, economic security, and the true idea of redemption, while better supporting Michigan businesses, and we hope this momentum for smart and thoughtful justice reforms will continue.”

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Drunk driver fr...
Wed, 10/14/2020 - 2:43pm

What good is this when people still cant get themselves to a job without a license. I'm not at all happy with being put into a group of child molesters and murderers, over a simple dwi,that was over 20 years ago.

Jennifer Miller
Tue, 11/03/2020 - 7:09pm

I'm sorry but Governor whitmere needs to keep those people in prison I do not believe criminals that have 10 plus years for rape murder manslaughter robbery Grand theft whatever need to stay in f****** prison. Gretchen whitmere has lost her f****** mind

Tue, 12/01/2020 - 11:00am

In the article, it says those crimes do not apply........ like literally 3 different times...

Wed, 12/02/2020 - 5:17am

Jennifer Miller she is not speaking of people with violent crimes or crimes against children. Only crimes that could get you less than ten years. And, no one is going to be let out because of the changes. It has to do with people who are all ready out and have served their time. Not all felonies or even all misdemeanor charges are eligible to be expunged. Read it again.

Fri, 12/04/2020 - 5:34am

She did say they will let child abusers out.

Kia Chante
Fri, 12/04/2020 - 11:43am

How do we go about this process? Would you happen to know where to begin? If so, please help

Fri, 01/08/2021 - 1:55am

I don't think those will be included.

Mon, 11/30/2020 - 4:14pm

I suppose the bigger question is, why don't you have a license if your only offense was DWI and it was over 20 years ago? Michigan eliminated the huge cost factor so unless you lost your license for life on a DWI, I sure don't see why you can't get it back.

Denise Cutler
Mon, 11/30/2020 - 6:03pm

Not understanding why you can’t have a license after 1 DWI that happened 20 years ago??? Doesn’t make any sense. Did you do everything that was asked of you?

Retired Correct...
Tue, 12/01/2020 - 2:23pm

This is absolutely outrageous! The Michigan Department of Corrections and The Director Heidi Washington, and Governor Whitmer have turned the Judicial System and in this state into a complete Three Ring Circus. If, a person does get Incarcerated into the Prison System they can Attend School to receive a GED, go to College, Learn a Trade, such as Welding, Building Trades, Horticulture, Auto Mechanics, Custodial Maintenance, Culinary School and I'm sure I missed a few. But thats better then our kids get now! AND THEY GET PAID! And if you keep up on these paroles and probationary Felons are making the news everyday throughout the state! Doing what they know best. Killing, Theaving, Raping, they haven't changed. Oh maybe a few but Very Few! KEEP THEM BEHIND THE FENCES! Do the Crime Do the Time!

Natalee Carnes
Mon, 11/30/2020 - 12:49pm

Open the state and let people work... Expunging all the reconds of those that deserve the struggle isnt going to help....when all the businesses are CLOSED due to some stupid crap from the same idiot claiming she is creating jobs....you cant close businesses and create jobs at the same time it dont work like that idiot governor

Bradley C.A. Hawes
Mon, 11/30/2020 - 7:34pm

This bill is horse crap I have felonies from when I was 19yrs old when I stole my parents checkbook so my felonies are for Forgery and Uttering and Publishing. Under this new policy or law even 25yrs later and no other criminal convictions or issues with law enforcement, I still have to pay for what I did when I was a teenager by the way I'm 44yrs old . It should get revised to cover all non-violent crimes under the same guidelines. But yet again the drug dealers and users all get their records cleared. And once again 25years later I'm still paying for my crimes even after I did all the time.

Frank Palmer
Tue, 12/01/2020 - 12:45pm

I can relate in a small way i was charged with domestic assault for throwing a slice of pizza at my ex. And thats all i did but she did alot more then i did she threw a plate of pizza at me plus she tried to stab me in the chest with a knife and she bit my arm and she only got disturbing the piece. the system is broken why punish me for something so small but not her now im stuck with it for ever

Latonya Gray
Mon, 11/30/2020 - 9:03pm

My son at 17 pleaded guilty to armed carjacking. He was right place at the wrong time. He is now 29 and don't do drugs or drink but every time he apply for a job. He pass drug test now the interview , he let them know he has a felon they never call back what are we to do. He has a family and the temp service offer 7dollars to him but his friend would get the same position for 16dollar plz help

Pamela Clark
Tue, 12/01/2020 - 8:40am

The Governor is doing a great job I love her for keeping us safe

Angela Parney
Tue, 12/01/2020 - 10:03am

What difference does it make to lift felonies or misdemeanors so that people can get better jobs if she is killing our state anyway? Bcuz she kept us shut down for so long and then shut us down again people are losing their businesses due to lack of income. She is causing an economic crisis in Michigan and doent even care. Plus do you have any idea how many false positives have come on covid testing? It's not as bad as she claims it to be and shes no longer "saving our people" now shes only worried about herself and the constant panic she keeps putting in people. Shes destroying Michigan while claiming shes saving it. How in the hell is Michigan the worst state with covid issues out of 50 states?

Fri, 12/04/2020 - 5:02pm

Now she will have more democrat votes...I get it!

Ev3 Johnson
Fri, 12/04/2020 - 11:40pm

I have a felony on my record but was never charged what can I do because im being denied jobs.

Wed, 01/13/2021 - 4:01pm

Well sure...more voters for the dems. Our country is doomed.