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Driving on a Suspended License Lawyer in Michigan (DWLS)

Not having a driver’s license in Michigan is a serious burden. Michigan is unique in that it usually takes 10 to 15 minutes to get just about anywhere you need to go, and the public transportation system can be inefficient and doesn’t go everywhere. Chances are if you do not have your driver’s license, you may have found yourself needing to be somewhere at one point or another and maybe you thought driving would be okay. Our best legal advice is not to drive on a suspended license or while your license is revoked, but if you have found yourself in the above situation and were arrested, then you are probably being charged with a Driving while License is Suspended (DWLS) or Driving while License is Revoked (DWLR). Our driver’s license attorneys can help; read on to find out how.

The Law for DWLS and DWLR

It might surprise many to know that the legal authority for both charges of DWLS and DWLR come from the same statute codified in MCL 257.904. However, a difference really exists in how a lawyer will argue the client’s case, and how a judge will sentence the defendant. We will discuss how to present the best defenses for both DWLS and DWLR after we look at the law in more detail.

First, let’s look at the statutory language of MCL 257.904 to determine the elements a prosecutor must prove to convict a defendant of DWLS or DWLR. The full text is rather long, so we will pare it down to its most important points.

  1. The person’s driver’s license has been suspended or revoked or whose application for license has been denied
  2. The person was operating a motor vehicle on a public highway or other place open to the general public including roadways and parking lots

Typically, a person’s guilt or innocence is pretty straightforward, either they were driving with their license suspended or revoked, or they were not. Even in a criminal case where the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt the prosecutor has an easy time if you were caught red-handed. However, a top-notch legal defense will artfully argue the circumstances and situation around a person’s life and the events that led up to an arrest to reduce the charges or get them dismissed. Comprehensive legal representation will make all the difference in getting the point across before the judge that sentences you. Find out more about our DWLS attorneys.

Criminal Penalties in Michigan for Operating on a Suspended or Revoked Driver’s License

The important thing to realize here is that this is not a traffic ticket or a civil infraction but a criminal misdemeanor. You will be tried in district court before a judge for the crime of operation of a motor vehicle without a valid operator’s license. That being said, there are plenty of things a skilled DWLS attorney can do to keep you out of jail and put you in the best position possible to get you back on the road as soon as possible.

First Offense DWLS or DWLR

A first offense of either a DWLS or DWLR carries a maximum sentence of up to $500 in fines and up to 93 days in jail. Here, the first objective is to get an outright dismissal. A secondary objective becomes keeping the client out of jail and plea-bargaining a reduction in sentence to get the least restrictions on driving privileges possible.

One possible outcome is a charge reduction from a first offense DWLS or DWLR to a No Valid Operator’s License on Person. This charge is codified in MCL 257.301 and is violation number 3010 in the Offense Code Index for Traffic Violations, but you may often see this charge referred to as a “No Ops.” Although a No Ops is still a misdemeanor, it does not carry a required license suspension. Additionally, there is a very low likelihood you will be on probation. To top it all off, if you walk away with a No Ops conviction, there are no additional points on your driver’s license. Short of a full acquittal, this is one of the best results for a first offense charge of DWLS or DWLR.

Practical Application of Suspension vs. Revocation

Although one law (MCL 257.904) covers both DWLS and DWLR, the situations and circumstances that lead a person to either have their driver’s license suspended or revoked are very different. For instance, a person could have their license suspended for having too many unpaid parking tickets, having more than 12 points on their license, or violating the provisions of a restricted license, like driving outside of the approved hours. Whereas, a person whom has their license revoked almost always has been convicted of multiple drinking and driving offenses. Therefore, a person being charged with a DWLS has a stronger case for a dismissal.

A revoked license is very different from a suspended license, because you no longer have a driver’s license. You can think about suspension and revocation respectively being similar to a suspension and an expulsion from school. When you are suspended from school after the suspension period is over, you are automatically readmitted into class. Similarly, when a suspended license is over you are automatically reinstated to drive, so long as you pay your driver license reinstatement fee. However, when a student is expelled they no longer go to that school, and he or she must reapply to be readmitted. Similarly, if your driver’s license is revoked you must reapply to the Office of Hearings and Administrative Oversight to have your driver’s license restored.

Judges and lawyers appreciate this distinction, and as such, the way a skilled attorney will argue a DWLS will vary markedly from arguing a DWLR. This is where the specific facts and circumstances that led to your arrest will become important. At Grabel & Associates we have the experience and skill necessary to passionately and eloquently plead your case to humanize you and your situation before the judge. If a person is caught driving on a suspended license, because they accumulated more than 12 points on their license and were on their way to work or to taking their kids to school, then we can more than likely keep them out of jail and have a very good chance of getting the charges dismissed.

Being Charged with a Second DWLS or DWLR

A second offense of either DWLS or DWLR carries fines of up to $1000 and up to one year of jail plus additional court costs. Unfortunately, a second offense DWLS or DWLR also carries an additional term of suspension or revocation. This extension can range from restarting the original period, to run from the time of sentencing, up to and including, doubling the original term. Therefore, if you were serving a one-year revocation for a second OWI and were convicted of a second DWLR then the judge could extend the revocation to two years from the date of sentencing.

The good news is that just because you are being charged with a second DWLS or DWLR does not mean that is what you are going to get convicted of. This is one of the most common crimes adjudicated in Michigan. Therefore, prosecutor’s often do not wish to use significant time and resources toward fighting these charges. A good argument can yield a favorable plea deal in the form of a charge reduction from a second DWLS or DWLR to a first offense. This is a big deal, because it means you can avoid having the suspension or revocation doubled.

DWLS or DWLR That Results in the Injury of Another Person

If you were arrested for DWLS or DWLR and you were involved in a car accident that resulted in the injury of another person, then fines could be as high $5,000. The crime also carries a maximum sentence of up to 5 years in prison. These situations, however unfortunate, do happen. If you find yourself in this situation, it is not so much about what has happened, but more importantly about what you do next that determines the outcome. We will work with you to put a plan in place to demonstrate you are on a good path. The key is demonstrating all of your good decisions to the judge, and bringing all available defenses forward to seek the most favorable result from the judge possible.

The Situation Where a Reasonable Person Would View Driving as a Necessity

Finally, regardless if you are being charged with either first or second offense of DWLS or DWLR there are certain situations where a person absolutely must drive. The law recognizes these situations and carves out a specific defense in MCL 257.904(15). Let’s look at the statutory language of the defense:

This section does not apply to a person who operates a vehicle solely for the purpose of protecting human life or property if the life or property is endangered and summoning prompt aid is essential. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 257.904 (West)

Obviously, this defense will not be as effective if you were on your way home from the store with a trunk full of groceries, as compared to if you were driving your pregnant wife to the hospital. However, it does go a long way to show that the law takes circumstances into account. Grabel & Associates will do everything possible to convey to the judge the circumstances and hardships that you have been dealing with that led to your arrest. Our lawyers will fight for an acquittal or a reduction in charges. In the event that you were protecting you or someone you love by seeking medical attention, this defense will certainly go a long way towards clearing you of all charges.

Call 1-800-677-9795 or contact us online today so we can set up a free consultation and begin working on the particular details of your case.

Please note: Recently Administrative Hearings Section (AHS) changed their name to the Office of Hearings and Administrative Oversight. Common use of the name Office of Hearings and Administrative Oversight has not yet been widely accepted and the entity responsible for driver's license hearings is still referred to as AHS in almost all legal areas, which is why we continue to use the term "AHS" throughout our website. More information about this change can be found at the Michigan Secretary of State's website.

Client Reviews

There are many lawyers out there that claim to be able to get your license returned to you. I can truly say Scott Grabel and his team helped me get my driver’s license back the first time! Even though I thought it was an insurmountable task they walked me through every step of the process. Grabel & Associates are the people you need because they seem to have a formula that works D.A.
This firm is no joke! DO NOT waste your money on any other law firm in the state. I paid $3000 for a "high-level" attorney and was denied twice. After having a consultation with Grabel & Associates, they could not believe I was ever denied and got my license back first try. I am telling you from first hand experience - INVEST IN GRABEL & ASSOCIATES!! Rob
The best law firm in the state. Outstanding communication and friendly. If you want or need to win your case this is the law firm that will take you there. All Personnel at this firm will do whatever it takes to win. They help me get my driver’s license back without me having to leave Alaska. From 1 to 10 THEY ARE #1 Tim K.