This may not come as any surprise to you (or to anyone, really), but Michigan’s criminal justice system is not perfect. Over the years we’ve discussed this many times with our readers, and it certainly seems to reflect a widely-held perspective that the Great Lakes state could use some help when it comes to updating our laws and making the criminal justice process more fair for everyone involved. Obviously “more fair” is totally subjective and opinions vary widely.
But it seems our legislators have finally jumped on the bandwagon as well, and are now pursuing some bipartisan changes that will hopefully make life easier for a great many people around the state, including Grand Rapids, and in other areas like Ingham County, Barry County and Livingston County.
What criminal justice issues are lawmakers hoping to address?
House Representative Tenisha Yancey, a Democrat from Detroit and former assistant Wayne County prosecutor, says that these bills line up with what people want right now here in Michigan. “When people are calling for systemic change in police accountability and law enforcement practices, understand that these bills constitute huge progress toward that systemic change.” she explained in an interview with the Detroit Free Press.
She went on to say that “decriminalizing minor infractions, eliminating mandatory minimum jail times and stopping driver’s license suspensions for hundreds of thousands of safe drivers every year will significantly reduce how many people interact with the police and get arrested.” It’s a different and controversial position for her to take.
What kinds of changes can we expect to see if these bills pass?
If the proposed legislation gets signed into law, we would see a reduction in the number of low level offenses, like speeding, that result in a suspended or revoked driver’s license for repeat offenders. (This is a big deal because losing your driver’s license makes it very hard to get or keep a job! On the other hand, speeding causes crashes and loss of lives. It’s not a simple issue.) Other changes would include reducing or even eliminating jail time requirements for certain driving-related offenses, allowing officers to issue tickets instead of arresting offenders. However, it’s important to note that police officers in Michigan had a lot of discretion already about whether to arrest an offender.
Also, under the proposed new laws, certain offenses that are currently misdemeanors would be made into citations (like being in possession of a fake driver’s license, or driving a motorcycle without the proper endorsement.). This way, law enforcement officers would have some leeway when it comes to how they deal with issues, allowing them to issue tickets instead of charging them criminally. Once again, there are good arguments on both sides.
What is prompting these changes to Michigan’s criminal justice system?
In January, the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration issued a total of 18 recommendations they believe would make the state’s criminal justice system safer and more effective. “The purpose of jail (here in Michigan) has gotten a bit muddled,” House Rep. Bronna Kahle, told the Free Press. Kahle, who sponsored some of the reform legislation in the House, notes that the whole point of jail is to remove dangerous people from society. “But people also go to jail in huge numbers … for low-level, nonviolent offenses, for technical violations on their probation rules or simply missing a court date. That’s not what jail is for.”
Kahle is only partially right about the purpose of jails. We do need to remove dangerous people from society. Other important goals of incarceration include the deterrent effect of possible jail sentences and deterrence of repeat offenders.
Change is often slow. You may need help before then!
As top rated criminal defense attorneys, we are in favor of any change that makes the process more fair and equitable for everyone involved. But we also understand that change is often slow to catch on, and doesn’t mean everything will suddenly be fair and equitable across the board for everyone.
So until we’ve worked all the kinks out of our system, make sure you call The Kronzek Firm at 866 766 5245 if you live in Howell, Adrain, Lowell, Ionia or Novi, and you’re in danger of going to jail. Our aggressive and experienced criminal defense attorneys can help you protect your rights and ensure that you get a strong and effective defense. We’ve been aggressively fighting for our clients for the past 25 years.