Nessel supports expungement bills, but suggests changes

Dana Nessel
Attorney General Dana Nessel at the Michigan Elder Abuse Task Force meeting in Flint, July 26, 2019 | Andrew Roth

A bipartisan bill package that would expunge certain criminal convictions has Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s support, but she also suggested amendments to the bills.

The “Clean Slate” package — for which the Michigan House Judiciary Committee again took testimony on Wednesday — is sponsored by multiple state representatives. The committee did not vote out the bills.

Bipartisan ‘Clean Slate’ criminal expungement bills get House hearing

HB 4980 to HB 4985 would amend Michigan law to allow for a less tedious expungement process, according to state representatives backing the bills. They said the legislation offers people with previous nonviolent criminal offenses a shot at a clean record and strengthens their chances to move on with their lives by finding employment, housing and more opportunities.

Nessel was present at the hearing and voiced her support for easing the expungement process for those who qualify. 

“These are people who desperately wanted to enter the workforce and had, I believe, paid their debt to society, but really had no hope of becoming taxpaying workers again because they were forever stopped from gainful employment as a result of their criminal histories,” Nessel said.

Bipartisan lawmakers eye next criminal justice reform: expungement legislation

In a Facebook post, Nessel said she supports the bills as a whole, but noted concerns about individuals who would be excluded from having their convictions set aside.

“For instance, a defendant who commits a low-level traffic offense or a first-time drunk driving can never have their conviction expunged, but a petitioner who beats a person in the head with a baseball bat and is convicted of Assault with intent to do Great Bodily Harm, or who punches an 80 year old woman in the face while robbing her of her purse and is convicted of Unarmed Robbery can,” Nessel said in the post. 

Nessel also said she believes it should be easier for low-level misdemeanor and felony marijuana offenders to have their records expunged. She said she has proposed a bill to the Legislature to allow that.

Irwin bill would clear marijuana-related crimes from records

Here is what the package does, according to the Legislature:

  • HB 4980 allows for certain convictions to be set aside after a period of 10 years, under certain circumstances.
  • HB 4981 would allow a traffic offense committed by an unlicensed person to be set side.
  • HB 4982 deals with marijuana-related offenses and amends the process of expunging them.
  • HB 4983 amends the time period a person must wait to ask for their conviction to be expunged. 
  • HB 4984 increases the number of misdemeanors and felonies that may be expunged.
  • HB 4985 for certain circumstances allows expungement of multiple felonies in the same criminal transaction. 
Claire Moore
Claire Moore covers the environment and the Capitol. She previously worked at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland as a public affairs staff science writer. She also previously covered crop sustainability and coal pollution issues for Great Lakes Echo. In addition, she served as editor in chief at The State News and covered its academics and research beat. She studies environment journalism and film at Michigan State University.

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