Whitmer to OK letting drunken drivers try to clear record
Lansing — Michigan legislators voted Tuesday to let an estimated 200,000 one-time drunken drivers seek to set aside their conviction, finalizing expungement bills that will be signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
The legislation received wide bipartisan support, 92-16 in the Republican-led House. It will lift a prohibition barring DUI offenders from trying to clear their record.
To be eligible, they can have only one offense and it cannot have caused another person’s death or injury. They will have to wait at least five years after their probationary term ends to apply. A judge will review any request and make a decision.
Whitmer, a Democrat, “pocket” vetoed similar expungement legislation in January, letting it die after a review. She publicly gave no reason why, frustrating backers who noted she had earlier signed sweeping bipartisan “clean slate” legislation to automatically erase certain criminal records after a number of years and to ease the application process for those convicted of marijuana offenses.
The governor’s office said she will sign the latest bills, which now include guidance to judges. They can consider whether the petitioner has participated in or benefited from rehabilitative or educational programs. They will not be constrained by the record from sentencing.
An expungement, or set aside, clears the public record of a conviction so it does not appear in a background check. Law enforcement still keeps a non-public record, but people no longer have to disclose their criminal past on job applications or other forms.
The measures will take effect six months from their enactment.
“Once again, we are proud to work with Democrats and Republicans to negotiate another piece of legislation that will give people full opportunity to participate in their community and compete for jobs,” Whitmer spokesman Bobby Leddy said. “The governor looks forward to signing this legislation to get things done that make a difference in the lives of Michiganders across the state.”
There were about 30,000 arrests for operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs in 2019.
“These bills were thoughtfully crafted to address the varying concerns and considerations around this issue while ultimately allowing hundreds of thousands of Michiganders with one OWI offense to move on from their momentary mistake,” said Alex Rossman, external affairs director of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “With this new law, policymakers continue to open new doors to opportunity for state residents and acknowledge – and relieve – the problematic consequences of a criminal record long after a sentence is served, a lesson is learned and a behavior is changed.”