(Tuesday - January 05, 2021) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday signed a series of criminal justice reform bills that would expand Michigan shields over young offender records, decrease the number of non-driving-related crimes punishable by a driver's license suspension and reduce probation and parole in some cases.

The legislation, Whitmer said, was born out of the research and collaboration of the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration, which studied Michigan's criminal justice and jail systems to determine why the jail population had tripled in fewer than 40 years.

"This is not reactionary policy - it's thoughtful and purposeful," said Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake. "These bills are rooted in data, informed by research, and built on the consensus and compromise of a diverse group of stakeholders."

The bills signed by Whitmer Monday include seven House bills and a concurrent resolution that would eliminate some provisions that require licensing sanctions for non-driving related offenses, including drug offenses.

The Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration found last year that the third most common reason people were in jail in Michigan was because they didn't have a valid driver's license, in part due to earlier offenses that triggered licensing loss.

Another package of five bills would make changes to law that would avoid arrests for non-violent offenses and decrease probation and parole mandatory time periods and conditions.

Specifically, the bills would allow police to issue an appearance ticket for certain misdemeanors instead of an arrest, a summons in place of a warrant in non-assault cases, expedited arraignments for people who voluntarily report, and a 48-hour grace period between a failure to appear and the issuance of a bench warrant.

The legislation also would extend the eligibility age for the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act from 18 to 23 years old, allowing young offenders in some cases to have their convictions dismissed and files closed to public inspection upon successful completion of probation.

Another six bills would reclassify traffic misdemeanors as civil infractions and eliminate mandatory minimum jail sentences for certain offenses.

Other criminal justice reforms:
Whitmer on Monday also signed other criminal justice reform bills that fall slightly outside the recommendations of the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration.

Ten separate bills - the Good Moral Character Package - adjust sections of Michigan's occupational licensing laws to place limits on licensing boards or agencies considering "good moral character."

Essentially, the bills put limits on licensing boards and agencies from considering past criminal convictions or civil judgments when considering licensure so the past offenses do not create undue burdens on licensing opportunities.


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