Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed criminal justice reform bills Monday that would expand 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. Whitmer said the legislation evolved from research by the 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 40 years. The bipartisan task force made recommendations, many reflected in the 20 bills Whitmer signed Monday to make the state “a national leader on criminal justice reform,” the Detroit News reports.
Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, co-chair of the task force, said the new laws address some of the driving factors pushing non-violent offenders into jails, including violations of probation and suspended licenses. The bills eliminate some provisions that require licensing sanctions for non-driving related offenses, including drug offenses. The task force said 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 bills make changes to law that avoid arrests for non-violent offenses and decrease probation and parole mandatory time periods and conditions. Police will be able 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. Other new laws reclassify traffic misdemeanors as civil infractions and eliminate mandatory minimum jail sentences for certain offenses.