Sarissa Montague, criminal defense attorney at Levine & Levine Attorneys At Law, spoke with Detroit Metro Times regarding the renewed bipartisan push in the state House to allow for the expungement of first-time drunken driving convictions.
On Tuesday, Feb. 23, the Michigan House Judiciary Committee agreed to advance the bill to the full House for a vote, according to the Metro Times. The committee’s 11-2 vote comes less than two months after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, without an explanation, exercised a "pocket veto" by failing to sign the bill by the deadline.
Under the legislation, first-time drunken-driving offenders would be able to ask a judge for expungement, which clears the public record of a conviction so it’s not detected in a background check. The idea is to offer a fresh start for first-time offenders.
Expungement would not be automatic.
Sarissa Montague, a criminal defense attorney with Kalamazoo-based Levine & Levine Attorneys at Law, said expungement would be an “important milestone.”
“I strongly believe that those with a one-time offense of operating a vehicle while intoxicated should be eligible to clear their records,” Montague told the Metro Times.
Montague, who has defended countless individuals charged with OWI, believes that education programs that all offenders must go through have helped lower the number of repeat offender cases.
If passed, as many as 200,000 Michigan residents would be eligible for expunging their first-time drunken driving conviction.
Montague previously shared her support for this legislation, stating: “These programs have served as a great deterrent. We need to acknowledge the success of this program and allow this scarlet letter permanently placed on individuals’ records to be removed and to help them move on with their lives.”