Governor signs Kahle’s plan to eliminate unnecessary license suspensions
Residents in Lenawee County and throughout Michigan will soon experience a fairer and more rational criminal justice system, thanks to a plan spearheaded by state Rep. Bronna Kahle that was signed into law today.
Kahle, of Adrian, said her new laws eliminate unnecessary driver’s license suspensions and end the over-criminalization of low-level traffic offenses in Michigan. Both pieces of legislation received unanimous bipartisan support in the House and Senate before being signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
“Our criminal justice system has been broken for far too long. These common-sense reforms represent a big step in the right direction,” Kahle said. “No longer will our state laws strip people of their driver’s licenses because they miss a court date or can’t afford to pay a fine. It was a counterproductive practice that made the lives to already struggling Michiganders even harder with no benefit to public safety.”
The Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration was formed last year to study the state’s criminal justice system. The task force found Michigan’s jail population had tripled in just 35 years, and most admissions were for misdemeanors and low-level offenses. Driving on a suspended license was the third-most common reason for someone to be admitted to jail.
In 2018, Kahle said Michigan suspended nearly 358,000 driver’s licenses for failure to appear in court or failure to pay court fines and fees. Thousands more suspensions occurred for other violations completely unrelated to driving safety, such as failure to pay child support and possession of a controlled substance.
Kahle helped lead a bipartisan coalition of state legislators who developed a plan of action based on the task force’s recommendations, with a goal of reducing barriers to employment for people who commit minor infractions and refocusing the use of jail and other public resources on cases that truly involve a danger to the public.
Specifically, House Bill 5846 will eliminate license suspensions for violations of state law unrelated to dangerous driving. House Bill 5853 will also reclassify many traffic misdemeanors as civil infractions, so people would have the option to pay a ticket rather than making an appearance in court. Both measures are sponsored by Kahle.
“Taking a smarter approach to low-level crimes is going to benefit every community in our state,” Kahle said. “These reforms will save time for residents, law enforcement and court staff, and free up resources so our law enforcement can focus time and attention on more serious issues that threaten public safety.”
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