Northern Michigan Attorney, Sheriff Discuss New Michigan Criminal Just Reform Laws

Governor Whitmer signed a number of bills into law Monday addressing jail and criminal justice reform in the state.

Much of the legislation has been in the works since 2019.

The package of bills signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer address a number of issues in Michigan’s criminal justice system, including certain mandatory minimum sentences, reclassifying many traffic misdemeanors as civil violations as well as changes in the juvenile system.

“I think the bonding issues are starting to be addressed, I think it’s imperative we not set bonds that are out of reach for people, and come to a recognition that you’re still innocent until proven guilty which is hard, I’m delighted to see the homes youthful offender act has been expanded but the problem becomes whether the courts will use it or not,” said Traverse City Attorney Craig W. Elhart.

The legislation received bipartisan support in Lansing after the state’s jail taskforce began looking at changes they believed Michigan needed to make.

“The Michigan Sheriff’s Association worked hand in hand with a lot of these, and I think we worked out a lot of details that we felt should be changed. Some of the minor offenses like the driving with no license, we still have the option to bring them in to positively identify them, yet we don’t arrest them where before we could arrest them for not having their driver’s license,” said Clare County Sheriff John Wilson.

But even with these changes, it’s likely not the last time the state lawmakers will visit this issue.

“Everyone that I’ve met has a problem in some fashion, and I think it’s imperative that we understand that you just can’t criminalize everything all the time, and start giving people a fresh start,” said Elhart.

The governor did not sign a bill that would have allowed for first time drunk driving offenses to be expunged from someone’s record.

01 05 21 Jail Reform Pkg 5.00 01 34 16.still001