In The News

In The News

Monday, December 7, 2020

Is the Michigan Legislature About to Allow for Expungement of Drunk Driving Convictions - Talk About Strange Timing

By Michael Nichols
Categories: Michael J. Nichols

If you are like me, you are obsessed with many things in life. One of those things is why do the people who “run the show” just not get it? Those who are elected to hold office just cannot seem to figure it out and it is infuriating. They play games, point fingers, hold press conferences, tweet and all while ignoring the one thing that the country needs: economic stability.

Just reach across the aisle. You are trying so hard to be the rising star that policy is dead. Policy is a sacrificial lamb to personal political ambition. This is a crisis felt around the world. It is killing people. It is killing businesses. Where are you when we need you? You are more concerned about not just survival but you are about angling for the next position.

On the one hand, my thought in the kitchen last night as I contemplated the next 3 months of doom and gloom as the media foretells it. Is that the only thing a state and federal legislature should be addressing right now is COVID-related legislation and in particular what aid is needed to struggling and scared constituents and their parents. On the other hand, if good and prudent policy is there for the making, why not pass it?

For example, did you know that Friday night, the U.S. House passed the Federal de-criminalization of marijuana act – for the first time … ever?

Of course, the bill has zero chance in the republican-controlled Senate; not a prayer, not even the toss of a prayer coin. Zip, zero, zilch, nada. So, why he even waste the time with it?

That brings me to policy. There is a bill to expand the expungement process to people with drunk driving convictions in Michigan. Expungement means that you have the right to say on job applications, grad school applications and other walks of life that the conviction never happened. It is also known as “setting aside.”

There are 2 house bills that have made their way out of the judiciary committee that would allow a person who has a drunk driving (OWI) conviction on their record to expunge it; wipe it out; never happened. A few things are important to consider here, a non-public record would remain so that law enforcement could still see it especially in order to decide whether to enhance the person’s OWI charge to a 2nd offense or, when appropriate to a felony.

Further, a person involved in an accident in which someone was seriously hurt or killed would be ineligible from having a chance to expunge an OWI. Additionally, expungement would not be “automatic” – despite the fact that most other misdemeanors, punishable by a maximum possible penalty of 93 days are automatically expunged under the recently-enacted “Clean Slate” Act that was passed in Michigan this year. It gives one the opportunity to make the pitch to the judge in 5 years after serving probation or jail.

The Senate has competing bills, SB 1254 that are before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, December 8, 2020. I will be testifying on behalf of the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan (CDAM). It is good policy, but as silly as it sounds, why do we need to spend time worrying about what happens with people who have a silly drunk driving conviction on their record? On the other hand, there is a chance to do some good; make a difference; affect the citizenry in a positive way – why let it slip by just because it is not the brass ring policy initiative that the state and country needs right now. As I have heard it said by people much smarter than me: “perfect is the enemy of the good.”

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Peer Recognition

Mike Nichols is a national leader in drunk driving defense. He is a member of the Forensic Committee and Michigan delegate to the National College for DUI Defense. He is also a Sustaining Member of the College. Nichols is also a founding member of the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys; a member of the American Chemical Society; an associate member of he American Academy of Forensic Science, Adjunct Professor of Forensic Evidence in Criminal Law and OWI Law and Practice at Cooley Law School. He is also author of the West OWI Practice book and several chapters in other books on science and the law.

Mike Nichols is recognized by his peers in Michigan as a “SuperLawyer” in DUI/Criminal Defense. Nichols has also been asked to speak at conferences by groups such as the NCDD; Various Bar Associations in other states.