Whitmer Signs Bills Offering Alternatives to Jail Time
On January 4, 2021, Michigan 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
Some offenses that are considered eligible for jail time alternatives are:
- Reducing penalties of misdemeanors to civil infractions for suspended license and eliminating license suspensions for traffic violations unrelated to dangerous driving.
- Eliminating mandatory minimum jail sentences.
- Issuing a summons instead of arrest warrants for first-time failures to appear in court.
- Reforming Michigan’s probation and parole policies, capping jail sanctions for technical probation violations, and allowing more discretion to assess risks and needs.
- Lifting a ban on food assistance for people with more than one drug-related felony on their record.
- Redefining the term “good moral character” in state law to remove barriers to obtaining many occupational licenses for people with a prior criminal conviction.
- Sealing juvenile court records from public view and creating an automatic expungement process for juvenile records.
- Expanding law enforcement discretion to issue citations for most misdemeanors and presuming citations instead of arrests in many cases.
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. Inmates, especially low-level criminals, are issued extensive penalties that do not fit the offense.
For example, in July of 2020, news came out about Michigan lawmakers’ interest in making changes to the criminal justice system. A story followed with it, of a young Michigan resident named Eric committing a low-level offense.
Eric knew he had traffic tickets but could not pay them, what he did not know was his driver’s license was suspended for failing to pay those tickets. But Eric did not learn of this until he was pulled over, and it would take seven years until he was able to have his license reinstated.
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 big difference in the lives of Michigan residents. According to Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), the task forces changes are “thoughtful and purposeful”.
In the recent decade, criminal justice reform has been considered by political parties, advocates, public officials, business groups, and law enforcement. Even though there is still a long way to go, 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.