Michigan's new Clean Slate Law takes effect Tuesday; here's what it means

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Posted at 9:36 AM, Apr 11, 2023

Michigan's new Clean Slate Law took effect on Tuesday, and it's a game-changing step toward helping those formerly incarcerated turn their lives around.

The law will allow people to have certain offenses expunged, and it comes with updated policies for some expungements to happen automatically. The state anticipates over 1 million residents will have their convictions automatically expunged today.

Darrell Siggers, who runs an organization that helps returning citizens, said he's dealing with issues every day from people getting out.

He served 35 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, and he turned his exoneration into a springboard for helping others, including those working to have certain prior convictions expunged.

“Because of prior convictions, it’s prevented them from getting employment. From getting housing," he said.

The new Clean Slate package goes beyond simply widening expungements given for marijuana, traffic and other minor offenses.

The new system can automatically expunge up to two felony convictions 10 years after sentencing or a person's release, whichever comes later, and up to four misdemeanors, seven years after sentencing.

The Michigan Attorney General said those expungements will not be possible for assaults, crimes against children or vulnerable persons, human trafficking or injury causing death.

“We really owe the state legislators a tremendous amount of credit for taking on this initiative," Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein said. "This gives people the opportunity to have access to housing and employment. It allows for people to take pride and keep up their heads.”

Attorney Wolf Mueller says oftentimes, a court conviction and finishing a prison term still don’t lead to a viable path forward. Something this change addresses.

"The benefit of this statute is allowing people to move forward. We want to embrace redemption,” Mueller said.

Michigan State Police can not automatically notify courts daily and provide files of all eligible convictions being set aside. The new initiative aims to foster more opportunity so prior offenses don't have a permanent impact.

"The clients I’ve had have had a lot of difficulty. Some don’t have the resources, serving a term of imprisonment the idea is you are rehabilitated when you come out. You shouldn’t be stigmatized really until this statute for the rest of your life," Mueller said.

"It gives people the most important thing, that any man or woman could ever have. It gives them their dignity," Bernstein said.

"It’s a really big deal. It helps tremendously in providing a fair opportunity for individuals who are returning citizens, to have a reasonable and fair chance at success," Siggers said.

Below are details from the state on the new Clean Slate Law

  • Up to 2 felony convictions will automatically be expunged the later of 10 years after sentencing or the person's release from custody.
  • Up to 4 misdemeanors will automatically be expunged 7 years after sentencing.

The following convictions are not going to be eligible for automatic expungement

  • convictions for "assaultive offenses";
  • convictions for "serious misdemeanors";
  • convictions for offenses punishable by 10 or more years imprisonment;
  • convictions that involve a minor, a vulnerable adult, injury or serious impairment of a person, death of a person;
  • convictions that involve human trafficking; and
  • any conviction that cannot be expunged under new MCL 780.621c.

For more information on the clean slate legislation, click here.