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Whitmer Signs Bills Offering Alternatives to Jail Time for Low-Level Crimes

On January 4, 2021, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed bipartisan legislation to allow low-level criminals an alternative to jail time. These low-level crimes are offenses that do not pose a public safety risk.

Alternatives to Jail Time

The changes that plan to be made are: 

  1. Reducing penalties of misdemeanors to civil infractions on a suspended licenses and eliminating license suspensions for violations unrelated to dangerous driving.
  2. Eliminating mandatory minimum jail sentences.
  3. Issuing a summons instead of arrest warrants for first-time failures to appear in court. 
  4. Reforming Michigan's probation and parole policies, capping jail sanctions for technical probation violations, and allowing more discretion to assess risks and needs.
  5. LIfting a ban on food assistance for people with more than one drug-related felony on their record.
  6. Redefining the term "good moral character" in state law to remove barriers in obtaining many occupational licenses for people with a prior criminal conviction.
  7. Sealing juvenile court records from public view and creating an automatic expungement process for juvenile records.
  8. Expanding law enforcement discretion to issue citations for most misdemeanors and presuming citations instead of arrests in many cases.

    Legislation Introduction

    The dozens of bills signed were introduced by Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II and Chief Justice Mary McCormack, who led a yearlong study into Michigan's criminal justice system. Their reasoning for the legislation is simple, jails are overcrowded and many low-level offenders receive extensive penalties that do not fit the offense.

    For example, in July of 2020, a story came out of a young Michigan resident named Eric committing a low-level offense. Eric had unpaid tracking tickets but knew he just could not pay them.

    One day Eric was pulled over, and he would come to find out his driver's license was suspended for failing to pay those tickets. It would take seven years until Eric was able to reinstate his drivers license.

    Legislation Benefits

    A positive aspect of the legislation is it will help those who are unable to pay their traffic tickets and fines. The bill was signed in hopes to help people like Eric and make a dramatic difference in the lives of countless Michigan residents. According to Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), the task force changes are "thoughtful and purposeful".

    In the recent decade, criminal justice reform has been launched into the public spotlight. Taken into consideration by all political parties, and fought for by advocates, public officials, business groups, and law enforcement alike.

    Even though there is still a long road ahead, there have been monumental steps made. In fact, this legislation launches Michigan into the forefront of the criminal justice reform efforts, hoping to inspire others to join.

    Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney | Fausone Bohn, LLP

    In addition, a person with a limited criminal history is eligible for expungement, traffic violations excluded. If you are eligible or think you may be, there are a variety of challenges you could face. The opportunity for a second chance by having a clean record is very valuable. If you need an offense expunged from your record, contact Attorney Mark Mandell today at (248) 380-0000.

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