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Michigan lawmakers advance bill to expunge first-time drunken-driving convictions


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The state House is renewing its bipartisan push to allow for the expungement of first-time drunken driving convictions.

The Michigan House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday agreed to advance the bill to the full House for a vote.

The committee’s 11-2 vote comes less than two months after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, without an explanation, exercised a "pocket veto" by failing to sign the bill by the deadline.

Under the legislation, first-time drunken-driving offenders would be able to ask a judge for expungement, which clears the public record of a conviction so it’s not detected in a background check. The idea is to offer a fresh start for first-time offenders.

Expungement would not be automatic.

Sarissa Montague, a criminal defense attorney with Kalamazoo-based Levine & Levine Attorneys at Law, said expungement would be an “important milestone.”

“I strongly believe that those with a one-time offense of operating a vehicle while intoxicated should be eligible to clear their records,” Montague said in a statement.

If passed, as many as 200,000 Michigan residents would be eligible for expunging their first-time drunken driving conviction.

In October, Whitmer signed a “clean slate” bill that allows residents convicted of many pot-related crimes to have an opportunity to clear the offenses from their criminal record.

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