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Clearing of 280K Criminal Records Under Legislation Described as ‘Transformative’

One year after the implementation of Michigan’s “Clean Slate” legislation, over 280,000 individuals throughout the state have benefited from having their records cleared, granting them a fresh start, as reported by Safe & Just Michigan, an advocacy organization.

Prior to the enactment of this law, more than 2.8 million people in Michigan had criminal records, with half of these records now being either partially or entirely sealed, according to the group.

The “Clean Slate” law has empowered individuals with criminal backgrounds to pursue better employment opportunities, secure improved housing, and access additional educational prospects.

Since the law came into effect a year ago, over 1.4 million past convictions have been automatically expunged, significantly impacting the lives of many individuals, as highlighted by John Cooper, the executive director of Safe & Just Michigan.

The legislation allows for the automatic expungement of up to two felonies ten years post-release from prison, while up to four misdemeanor offenses with sentences of at least 93 days are cleared seven years after sentencing. Additionally, an unlimited number of misdemeanors with sentences under 93 days are expunged after seven years.

However, certain crimes like repeated domestic violence, child abuse, most criminal sexual conduct cases, and driving under the influence are not eligible for expungement.

Cooper emphasized the need to enhance the “Clean Slate” law by creating a user-friendly online platform for individuals to verify their current criminal records, as the lack of notification regarding the automatic clearance of records has hindered its effectiveness.

To qualify for the program, individuals must not have pending criminal charges, a requirement that Cooper believes is preventing some individuals from benefiting, even for minor offenses like traffic violations.

Before the “Clean Slate” law, individuals had to endure lengthy waits due to backlogs in the application process, with only 3,000 expungements granted annually. The new legislation has significantly streamlined this process.

While the law has positively impacted many individuals, it posed challenges for local courts tasked with manually reviewing numerous misdemeanor cases to determine their eligibility for expungement.

The 61st District Court in Grand Rapids expunged over 100,000 misdemeanors, albeit facing temporary closure of public record searches to protect sensitive information. This closure impacted third-party companies like Checkr, causing delays in background checks for services such as Uber and Lyft.

Despite initial hurdles, the court system has now adapted to the changes, with operations running smoothly and efficiently, according to Sarah Breen, a clerk at the 61st District Court.