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Nessel offers suggestions to House committee on expungement bills

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

The state Attorney General has recommendations for changes to bills on expunging criminal records. The bills are up for debate in the state Legislature.

At a Tuesday hearing in front of a House Judicial committee, Nessel said she is, overall, in support of expanding the state’s laws to set aside some crimes on a person’s criminal record.

But she had ideas that she said could improve the bills. One area of concern was a bill to automatically remove certain crimes from a person’s record after 10 years.

“Who is it who will monitor or supervise the Michigan State Police to ensure that these convictions are automatically set aside? Secondly, realistically, how is this going to work?” she said.

Nessel said a lot of the information is kept in local courts and there could be a breakdown in communication between those offices and the MSP.

She said she is concerned the bill could subject the state to lawsuits if people’s records are not expunged.

Another area of concern raised by Nessel was which crimes could be expunged, and which are exempt from expungement.

Nessel says some of the exceptions in the bills for which crimes can be expunged are confusing. For example, some assault crimes can be expunged, but a variety of traffic offenses cannot.

“To say that they can be expunged but not a traffic offense that occurs in a work zone?” Nessel said. “It just doesn’t make sense to me.”

Nessel also offered to have a unit in her office designated as a place that people with questions about possible expungement could contact.

And she advocated for allowing a drunk driving offense to be cleared from a person’s public record.

House Bills 4980 through 4985 have now had several committee hearings, but still have not been voted on.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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