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Whitmer won't sign first-time DUI offense expungement bill

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will not sign a bill that would have allowed for the expungement of first-time offenses of the state's operating while intoxicated law. 

At least two Republican lawmakers, including the bill's sponsor, said they received word from the administration Monday that the governor will not sign the bill, an effective "pocket veto" of the legislation since the 14-day period to sign it expires Monday while the Legislature is between sessions.

Whitmer's spokeswoman Tiffany Brown confirmed Monday the legislation won't be signed. It was not clear why.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

The bill, which passed 96-8 in the House and 32-5 in the Senate, would have allowed an offender to petition a judge to set aside his or her conviction for a first-time drunken driving offense.

The bill prohibited expungement for subsequent DUI offenses or for drunken or drugged driving offenses that lead to death or serious injury. Law enforcement would still maintain access to the record of the expunged offense for reference. 

Sen. Ed McBroom, the Vulcan Republican who sponsored bill, on Monday called the decision "very disappointing."

McBroom first raised hopes that such a bill could be passed in October when the Legislature voted on the "Clean Slate" package, comprised of several bills that allowed for expungement for many non-assaultive offenses. 

McBroom argued last month that without expungement legislation addressing drunken driving offenses, the state was at risk of "abandoning a very significant portion of our population who needed mercy, needed compassion because of this issue."

"The immediate outpouring of support for it from my colleagues and from around the state, the letters and phone calls I got from people were astounding," McBroom said in December.

The legislation was not opposed by the governor's office in the House or Senate, and no reason was given to lawmakers for the veto, said Rep. Graham Filler, the DeWitt Republican who chaired the House Judiciary Committee last session. 

"So a policy passes with major bipartisan support by leaders on both sides of the aisle, and is quietly vetoed," Filler said in a tweet Monday.

"Expungement helps people get jobs/educational opportunities and move on from their mistakes," Filler wrote. "OWI expungement would have had a massive impact and helped thousands of Michigan citizens. So I ask again, what is our governor doing?"

Whitmer signed more than 30 other criminal justice reform bills Monday that would lighten traffic offense penalties, expand shields over young offender records and reduce minimum probation and parole protocols. 

Another bill signed by Whitmer on Monday would allocate about $24 million for the state to set up an automatic expungement system for certain offenses after a seven- to 10-year period had passed. The funding mechanism makes possible some of the automatic expungement initiatives included in the "Clean Slate" legislation. 

eleblanc@detroitnews.com