Legislature makes progress on more bipartisan criminal justice reforms

By: - December 3, 2020 3:29 pm

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A bipartisan bill package that would revise current laws dealing with low-level crimes, youth crimes and probation passed through the Senate Thursday. This was the first day the upper chamber was in session since the Legislature’s annual hunting break in November.

Senate Bill 1046, introduced by Sen. Roger Victory (R-Georgetown Twp.), would revise a law that lets police issue an appearance ticket and release an offender for certain low-level offenses, rather than detaining and booking the individual. 

The bill, which passed through the Senate with a unanimous vote, would also prohibit police from detaining and booking a suspect for illegal drug use crimes, misdemeanors, ordinance violations subject to less than 93 days in jail or offenses that involve property theft or damage. 

Senate Bill 1047, introduced by Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), would require prosecutors to seek a court summons rather than an arrest warrant for certain assault and domestic violence crimes. This bill passed through the Senate with a 35-2 vote.


Senate Bill 1048, introduced by Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit), aims to establish a rebuttable legal presumption that the court will sentence people convicted of non-serious misdemeanors with a fine, community service or other non-jail and non-probationary sentences. This bill passed through the Senate with a 36-1 vote.

Senate Bill 1049, introduced by Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), aims to raise the age at which offenders are eligible for “youthful trainee status” to 26. Under current law a prosecutor must approve this for offenders under age 24.

This bill, which passed unanimously through the Senate, would also allow for less serious crimes to be left off a youth’s permanent record. 

Senate Bill 1050, introduced by Sen. Michael MacDonald (R-Macomb Twp.), would reduce the maximum probation sentence from five years to three years for felonies, plus an additional year if a court finds it would serve a “specific rehabilitation goal that has not yet been achieved.”

This bill passed through the Senate with a 36-1 vote.


Senate Bill 1051, introduced by Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan), would require parole order conditions to be “individualized” and be “the least restrictive conditions necessary to address the assessed risks and needs of the parolee.” This bill passed through the Senate unanimously.

The bills move to the House for consideration.

The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday passed two bills that would offer expungement for first-time convictions of operating while intoxicated (OWI) offenses.

In a joint statement Wednesday, House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering), Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget McCormack and Attorney General Dana Nessel shared support for the recent expansion of criminal justice reforms to include first-time OWI offenses. 

“Our judicial system establishes penalties and sentences for breaking the law. However, for some violations, such as a first OWI offense, a person should not have to face a lifetime of obstacles if they have served their sentence,” Nessel said. “These one-time mistakes can have lasting impacts on career opportunities, educational possibilities and one’s overall quality of life. With certain exceptions, such as repeat offenders or those who have seriously injured or killed others during the course of their crime, this legislation will provide those who made a mistake and learned from it with an opportunity to put that lapse in judgment behind them and move on with their lives.”


House Bills 5029, introduced by Rep. Tenisha Yancey (D-Harper Woods) and 6453, introduced by Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain), build on the recent expungement changes signed into law in October, House Bills 4980-85 and 5120. The initial laws expanded eligibility for expungement and made it easier for people to clean their slate, but did not include OWI offenses.

“Everyone knows someone who has struggled with alcohol dependency, and anyone who has supported a friend or family member who has step-by-step reclaimed their lives is keenly aware that they have done the hard work to earn a second chance,” said McCormack. “In addition, a one-time mistake shouldn’t mean a lifetime of punishment. This is simply the right thing to do.”

Chatfield said including this expansion for OWI offenses is “the right thing to do.”

“Helping people get their lives back on track works far better for all of us than pushing them further into difficult circumstances and hopelessness,” he added. 

The House as a whole still needs to vote on the bills before moving to the Senate for consideration.

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.