A bipartisan expungement reform legislative package is moving in the Michigan Legislature and it is worthy of support. Hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents would have a chance to clear their legal records. At a time when economic growth is being hampered because too many employers are unable to fill positions. These reforms (House Bills 4980 through 4985, and House Bill 5120) would expand the applicant pool and talent base for employers.
Current expungement law requires a five-year wait for individuals with certain convictions to petition for the erasure from their records of one felony or two misdemeanors. This requires the individual to avoid any contact with the court system for five years. The legislative package would shorten this period to three years, and it would allow individuals who have been convicted of not more than three felonies (two in the case of assaults) to apply to have all convictions set aside, felony or misdemeanor.
The package would also provide for automatic expungement of certain convictions. This would help clear the records of some individuals unable to afford legal assistance, or uncomfortable with the legal system. Those with marijuana convictions that are now legal under current law would have those convictions expunged, and several low-level traffic violations would also be eligible for removal.
These reforms would allow for multiple charges from some specific offenses committed during a single act to be treated as a single conviction. Current expungement limitations would stay in place for drunk driving offenses, first through third degree assaults, and any crimes punishable with life sentences.
In addition to the specifics of this legislative package, the broad goals of reforms like these are in-line with the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber’s Workforce Pipeline Initiative (WPI). At its March 2019 Workforce Pipeline Summit (the start of the WPI), inclusion of returning citizens specifically, and expansion of the workforce pool broadly, were both identified as urgent needs for our local business community. This legislative package is an important tool in that effort.
If passed, it will not only help improve the lives of individuals, it would have an immediate benefit to businesses by broadening their pool of prospective employees. In addition to its impacts, this legislative package represents a great example where the Michigan Legislature can work together in a bipartisan fashion with support across ideological lines, on an issue that impacts the entire state. We applaud this and other examples of bipartisan effectiveness.