Eligible first-time DUI offenders in Michigan could have convictions expunged under new bipartisan bill


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A new piece of legislation on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's desk would clear records for first-time first-time operating while intoxicated (OWI) offenders.

The legislation, which has been passed by the Michigan House and Senate, is an amendment to Clean Slate Michigan, the marijuana criminal record expungement reform signed by Whitmer in October.

The original bill package allows a person to apply to set aside one or more marijuana offenses if it would not have been a crime if committed after the 2018 recreational legalization of marijuana in Michigan. It also expands expungement eligibility for select traffic offenses and allows multiple felonies or misdemeanors from the same 24-hour period to be treated as one conviction for expungement.

“These bipartisan bills are a game-changer for people who are seeking opportunities for employment, housing, and more, and they will help ensure a clean slate for hundreds of thousands of Michiganders,” Whitmer said after signing the Clean Slate reform bills. “This is also an opportunity to grow our workforce and expand access to job training and education for so many people.”

First-time drunk driving convictions, however, were not among those convictions eligible for forgiveness.

Enter Senate Bill 1254. Introduced by Republican state Sen. Ed McBroom, the proposed amendment would allow eligible individuals with first-time OWI convictions to apply to clear their records through the courts and would require a judge to sign off on the request. The bill was introduced to Whitmer on Dec. 21 and could take effect starting April 11, 2021.

“This is the right thing to do for people who have made a one-time mistake and earnestly want to move past it,” Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield said in a statement earlier this month. “But this is also the right thing to do for their family, friends, and neighbors who benefit from having people back on the job and parents able to drive their kids to school all around the state.”

Currently, there are an estimated 200,000 Michiganders with OWI convictions on their records who are likely eligible for the expungement program. Michigan residents with more than one OWI, or whose drunk driving resulted in physical harm, death, serious injury, or a felony conviction, would not be expunged under the legislation.

As per the original Clean Slate legislation, expungement of select misdemeanors only affect public records and the visibility of those convictions. Courts and law enforcement will still be able to access prior OWI/DUI conviction history.

Under current Michigan law, drunken driving offenses remain on an individual's record for life.

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