Task force aims to end disproportionate sentences for minor crimes

LANSING — The final report of the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration found most arrests in Michigan are for misdemeanors that harmed no one.

Research shows police squander hours and large amounts of taxpayer dollars to arrest, book and jail people for minor offenses. The task force recommended reclassifying many minor offenses as ticket-able infractions.

Safe & Just Michigan hosted a webinar June 8 to examine what that change would mean for Michigan.

The event was moderated by Erika Parks, senior policy associate for The Pew Charitable Trusts; with task force members Sen. Sylvia Santana, (D-Detroit);  Craig DeRoche, senior vice president for advocacy and public policy for Prison Fellowship and a former Michigan House Speaker (R-Novi); also on the task force is  Josh Hoe, policy analyst for Safe & Just Michigan.

In its report, the task force recommended:

“Reclassifying some misdemeanors as civil infractions, including: non-moving traffic misdemeanors; most snowmobile, offroad vehicle, and marine safety misdemeanors that are not related to operating while intoxicated; most Department of Natural Resources misdemeanors; and most animal-related misdemeanors, except those related to animal cruelty or animals causing injury. Local jurisdictions should be required to align their own ordinances with these statutory changes.”

A bill resulting from this recommendation to reclassify some misdemeanor traffic offenses as civil infractions has yet to be unveiled to the Legislature, but it is currently being prepared for introduction.

Changing these offenses from ones that bring potential jail time to lesser charges that result in tickets and fees or fines would come as a relief to citizens who receive a ticket, and to police officers who write the tickets.

Civil infractions don’t typically count against a person on a job or housing application like a felony or even misdemeanor could.

And police officers told the task force that booking and processing a person on even a minor crime involves hours of time at a desk that could be spent in the community.

A video of the discussion is available on Safe & Just Michigan’s YouTube channel at http://bit.ly/YouTubeSJM.


Subscribe to the Legal News!


Full access to public notices, articles, columns, archives, statistics, calendar and more

Day Pass Only $4.95!

One-County $80/year

Three-County & Full Pass also available