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Package of bills aim to expand Michigan expungement laws

Lawmakers at the state Capitol will start looking at bills to take certain crimes off criminal records. A committee hearing on a package of bills is scheduled for Tuesday.

The goal is to expand the state’s expungement laws so that more people set aside criminal convictions for low level crimes or those that happened long ago.

Rep. Graham Filler (R-DeWitt) is chair of the committee that will hear the bills. He says these bills are an “economic driver.”

“Should an individual really be sort of stopped from having good job prospects for the rest of their life for a felony or misdemeanor or felony that happened 10, 15, 20 years ago? I don’t think anyone on the political spectrum would think that’s so,” Filler says.

One of the bills would allow for some crimes to be automatically taken off a person’s record after 10 years.

Livingston County Prosecutor Bill Vailliencourt is the president of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan. He says the group is in favor of expanding the state’s expungement laws, but he’s concerned about automatic expungement because every case is different.

“There may not necessarily be a one-size fits all approach to addressing those circumstances,” Vailliencourt says. “So, we just want to make sure that there’s the ability for victims and prosecutors to be heard.”

Current law allows for a person to have one felony or two misdemeanors set aside. Some of the bills would increase the number of convictions that can be set aside and change the time period a person has to wait before they can petition the court for expungement. Another would change the process to set aside some marijuana offenses.

Filler says the committee will likely hear testimony on the bills for a couple weeks before moving them.

“This does impact hundreds of thousands of people,” Filler says. “And then, presuming that we’ll make some small changes here and there, but I think it’s got support across the board.”