Sarissa Montague featured in media about how Michigan’s new Clean Slate Act eliminates barriers

Criminal Defense Attorney Sarissa Montague spoke with media this week about how Michigan’s Clean Slate Act will eliminate barriers caused by old convictions.

Montague explained how the legislation works to WLNS TV6, WOOD TV8, WWMT Channel 3, and FOX 17. Aspects of the legislation, which launched Sunday, April 11, expands the number and types of felonies that can be wiped from records, and limited the period between when someone is convicted and when the expungement process can begin. Additionally, court and law enforcement authorities are allowed two years to secure funding and coordinate plans to allow for automatic set aside of some offenses. That means automatic set asides will not be implemented until April 2023.

“This is a really big deal and really an amazing thing for people who have gotten in trouble in the past but are no longer making bad choices that bring them into the criminal justice system,” Montague told Wood TV8. “And they’ve made changes and haven’t made mistakes in a number of years, and so this gives them the opportunity to move forward with their lives.”

Montague explained that the law makes it much easier for people convicted of having marijuana — which is now legal in Michigan — to get those convictions set aside. She told media the legislation will help people to get jobs, lower their insurance rates and back to a normal life.

“How it works is people who have previously been ineligible to seek expungements are now able to file applications with the court they were sentenced by and go back to the judges who sentenced them and ask the judge to set aside the conviction or convictions that were not previously eligible to get set aside,” Montague said during her interview with WLNS. “I think it’s really difficult for people who have criminal convictions on their records. Often times, the criminal conviction is a barrier to getting jobs. It’s a barrier to housing. It’s a barrier to business loans, maybe college loans. And so, having the convictions set aside really impacts a lot, particularly for people’s families. Imagine being a parent and raising your children the best you can and be ineligible for a number of jobs because of the criminal convictions on your record, or ineligibility for certain housing because of that.”

After the Clean Slate law is fully implemented in April 2023, it will automatically wipe some misdemeanors from records after seven years and some non-assaultive felonies after a decade.

“For people who made mistakes at one point, but then have made the changes that we, as a community and as a society, asked them to make, this provides them the opportunity to go forward,” Montague told WWMT.

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