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‘It’s going to open doors for a whole class of people’: Clean Slate bill goes into effect

WMU law professor, criminal defense attorney say they’re 'excited' about the new act that’ll help thousands of people in the state.
Posted at 8:57 PM, Apr 16, 2021

MICHIGAN — For over a year, Tracey Brame has kept a close eye on the Clean Slate bill. In early 2020, it was approved by the House. Then in September, after it stalled for a few months due to COVID, the Senate approved it. The following month, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the bill.

Sunday April 11, it went into effect.

“It’s exciting,” said Tracey Brame during a Zoom interview with FOX 17 this week. “It’s going to open up again doors for a whole class of people who would not have been eligible before, which I think is really groundbreaking and will just alleviate a lot of concerns for a lot of people about their criminal history.”

Brame is the associate dean of experiential learning at WMU’s Cooley Law School. She said specifically the new act wipes clean the records of people who have up to three felonies and "relatively unlimited misdemeanors."

“It’s important to know that it’s not an exoneration, meaning that those convictions that are there are still there,” Brame emphasized. “The police run a lien; they’ll see it if you get in trouble again. The judge can consider those prior convictions. But, [your record] will not be privy to the public, and it’ll be something that is truly in your past.”

One of the provisions of the newly signed Clean Slate Act is automatic expungements. Criminal Defense Attorney Sarissa Montague, of Levine and Levine Law in Kalamazoo, said it doesn’t apply to all people with criminal records.

“What that means is for certain people who’ve been convicted of certain crimes, if a certain number of years have lapsed since the last conviction and you haven’t gotten in trouble in the interim, then those convictions could automatically be set aside at some point,” Montague said during a Zoom interview this week. “Now intermingle the Clean Slate Act that went into effect [last Sunday], but that provision of the Clean Slate Act, the automatic expungement provision, does not go into effect until--I believe it’s April of 2023.”

She added that there’s a different set of criteria for marijuana offenses as well. She recommended that anyone seeking to get their records expunged to consult an attorney to go over your options.

She said expungements will help people apply for jobs, loans and housing worry free.

“It’s really, really exciting for people who have been shamed for the last 10, 20, 30, 40 years because of things that they did when they were younger. And I’m just really happy for people who have done everything right since making mistakes,” Montague said. “It is shameful for many people to have to check the box that says ‘yes, I’ve been convicted of something’ when their current life does not represent the person that they were when they made those bad choices.”

Montague said she looks forward to standing next to her clients in court when their records become expunged.

Brame echoed the same sentiment.

“When you see the relief on the faces of the people who get their petitions granted and the judges say to them you no longer have to check that box saying that you’re a felon, it is just so rewarding to see that,” Brame said. “Now we’re going to be able to do that for even more people. Even for the judges, we were in district court not too long ago, and the judge just talked about this is one of his favorite things that he gets to do as a judge, to preside over someone’s second chance.”

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