Expungement of criminal record to help ‘tens of thousands’

First-time OWI offenders would then be on equal footing to compete for jobs.
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About 200,000 Michiganders will be beneficiaries of the state’s newest expungement law.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently signed legislation that allows for the expungement of criminal records for first-time offenders who were convicted of operating while intoxicated (OWI).

“No one should be defined by a mistake they have made in the past,” said Whitmer. “These bills allow Michiganders to move on from a past mistake in order to have a clean slate. We must clear a path for first-time offenders so that all residents are able to compete for jobs with a clean record and contribute to their communities in a positive way.”

Individuals who are eligible to have their OWI criminal record expunged are first-time offenders who were operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08 or more. The 0.08 BAC level was set to increase to 0.10 on Oct. 10, but the new law eliminated that possibility.

“Michigan is the only state in the country not to have a firm 0.08 blood alcohol concentration limit for operating a motor vehicle,” said Rep. Graham Filler, R-DeWitt. “Eliminating the sunset is not only the right thing to do, but it ensures the safety of those traveling on our roads.”

In addition to the 0.08 or more BAC level, first-time offenders who are operating a vehicle while visibly impaired by alcohol or other controlled substance; those who are under 21 years old operating a vehicle with a BAC of 0.02 or more; and those who are operating a vehicle with any bodily amount of cocaine or a Schedule 1 controlled substance are all eligible to have their criminal records expunged after their five-year probation period ends. 

Individuals who are eligible and interested in having their OWI record expunged must submit a petition to the court, which will be reviewed and determined by a judge. 

The new law, however, excludes those who have caused death or serious injuries to individuals while driving intoxicated.

“Safe & Just Michigan thanks Gov. Whitmer for signing these popular, bipartisan bills, which represent a long-awaited chance for a fresh start for tens of thousands of Michiganders whose opportunities have been limited by a single old DUI conviction,” said John S. Cooper, executive director of Safe & Just Michigan, a nonprofit that works to advance policies that end Michigan’s over-use of incarceration and promote community safety and healing. “Drunk driving is a serious problem in Michigan, but permanently limiting a person’s ability to work and drive based on a one-time, decades-old mistake does not make sense. People who can show that their DUI conviction was a one-time mistake should have an opportunity to make a fresh start.”

This is just the latest expungement effort in Michigan. In April, the Clean Slate Act was signed into law, which allows individuals who committed low-level misdemeanor marijuana offenses and traffic offenses to apply for expungement.

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