Whitmer expected to sign bill allowing 200K one-time drunken drivers set aside conviction

Michigan legislators voted Tuesday to let an estimated 200,000 one-time drunken drivers seek to set aside their conviction, again sending expungement bills to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer months after she refused to sign similar measures.

The legislation received wide bipartisan support, 92-16 in the Republican-led House. It would lift a prohibition barring DUI offenders from trying to clear their record.

To be eligible, they could have only one offense and it could not have caused another person's death or injury. A judge would review any request and make a decision.

Whitmer, a Democrat, "pocket" vetoed similar expungement legislation in January, allowing it to die after a review period. She gave no reason why, frustrating backers who noted she had earlier signed sweeping bipartisan "clean slate" legislation to automatically erase certain criminal records after a number of years and to ease the application process for those convicted of marijuana offenses.

The governor's office said she will sign the latest bills, which now include guidance to judges. They could consider whether the petitioner has participated in or benefited from rehabilitative or educational programs. They would not be constrained by the record from sentencing.

An expungement, or set aside, clears the public record of a conviction so it does not appear in a background check. Law enforcement still keeps a non-public record, but people no longer have to disclose their criminal past on job applications or other forms.

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There were about 30,000 arrests for operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs in 2019. If signed, the measures would take effect six months from their enactment.

"These bills were thoughtfully crafted to address the varying concerns and considerations around this issue while ultimately allowing hundreds of thousands of Michiganders with one OWI offense to move on from their momentary mistake," said Alex Rossman, external affairs director of the Michigan League for Public Policy. "With this new law, policymakers continue to open new doors to opportunity for state residents and acknowledge -- and relieve -- the problematic consequences of a criminal record long after a sentence is served, a lesson is learned and a behavior is changed."