Driving Without a License in Michigan

If you are caught driving without a license the penalties and costs can be very serious. As with many areas of the law, the outcomes and determinations made by a judge are all going to depend on your circumstances and situation as well as the quality of legal representation that you receive. Driving without a license can range from simply not having a driver’s license on your person, because you left it in your wallet on your dresser, to driving on a revoked license because of two drinking and driving offenses within seven years. There are also situations where someone moves from another state, or even another country, and never applies for a driver’s license at all. We will look at some of the more common cases of driving without a license in Michigan, what you can do about it, and the penalties you can expect.

Driving Without a License, Driving While Your License is Suspended (DWLS), and Driving With A Revoked License (DWLR) All Fall Under One Law

No matter what the situation that led you to being charged with driving without a license, you are going to be charged under MCL 257.904.

Therefore, whether you left your license at home, never had a driver’s license, or were caught driving while your license was suspended or revoked, MCL 257.904 will govern your case. Although, the same law governs all of the various charges, both how a lawyer argues the case and how a judge will sentence it will vary significantly. Let us look at each situation.

Driving Without A License- No Operator’s License on Person

If you are caught driving without a license but possess a valid driver’s license in the state of Michigan, then the consequences will be much less severe. There are many instances and circumstances where a person may have forgotten their license. If you left your license at home and are pulled over, you may just get a warning. However, you could also be charged with either having no valid driver’s license or having no operator’s license on your person. This is a criminal misdemeanor and depending on the county jurisdiction may also be a civil infraction with additional costs. For example, In Kent County there is also a civil infraction with a $265 fine associated that may be reduced to a $75 fine if a valid driver’s license is produced.

Our experienced driver’s license attorneys at Grabel & Associates can help you fight a Driving Without a License charge. If you have a valid license and can produce it, then our attorneys can help you try to get the charges dropped or reduced.

Driving While License Suspended (DWLS) or Driving While License Revoked (DWLR)

The maximum sentence for a first offense DWLS or DWLR is up to 93 days in jail, and $500 in fines, two points on your driving record and a criminal conviction on your record. As mentioned earlier, whether the charge is DWLS or DWLR the charge will be under MCL 257.904. However, the practical ramifications for a DWLS are very different from a DWLR. You could have your license suspended for many different reasons including, having more that 12 points on your license, failing to pay child support, driving without auto insurance, first offense OWI, and even stealing gasoline. Alternatively, if you have your license revoked, it almost always has to do with multiple drinking and driving offenses. Therefore, a person caught driving on a suspended license likely has a more sympathetic position compared to a person caught driving on a revoked license, because a person caught driving on a revoked license was likely ignoring the law and restrictions after multiple drinking and driving convictions.

Defenses to DWLS or DWLR

The circumstances leading up to your arrest will have a great deal to do with how your case should be argued. A person with unpaid traffic tickets going to work presents a very different situation from one who is going to pick up groceries on a revoked license with multiple drinking and driving arrests. The real question is, does it present a very different picture when a person with multiple drinking and driving offenses is going to work to support their family? That is where having a skilled, experienced attorney makes all of the difference. There is no black and white, easy answer to questions regarding when a person is driving somewhere they need to be. Consequently, it is a legal counselor’s duty to present the best case to a judge and show the humanity of the situation. The best legal advice is do not drive if you do not have a valid license, and we will help you restore your license as soon as you are eligible. However, if you are already being charged with DWLS or DWLR let us help fight to keep you out of jail, seek a reduction in charges if at all possible, and try to keep any charge off your record.

Reduction in Charges: Non-Abstractable Offenses

One possible outcome for a first offense DWLS or a DWLR is a reduction of charges to a non-abstractable offense. A non-abstractable offense is either a civil infraction or criminal offense, but neither is reported to Secretary of State and has no impact on your driver’s license. The goal is not to cause you to suffer further implications from DWLS or DWLR charges. There is also a low possibility of probation, plus, there are no additional points on your license. If a full dismissal is not possible, then a reduction to a non-abstractable offense is a very powerful negotiating tool in our toolbox.

Being Charged with a Second, Third, Fourth, or Fifth DWLS or DWLR

A second offense of either DWLS or DWLR has fines of up to $1000, up to one year of jail, and additional court costs. Additionally, a second offense DWLS or DWLR can also carry an additional period of suspension or revocation ranging from restarting the original period to doubling the original term. Finally, you can have your vehicle immobilized for up to 180 days. DWLS and DWLR is a very common charge in Michigan, so prosecutor’s often do not wish to devote a great deal of time and resources to fighting them. Therefore, a well-reasoned legal presentation for a meritorious case is ripe for the possibility of a charge reduction from a second DWLS or DWLR to a first offense DWLS or DWLR. Consequently, it may be possible to avoid jail time and having a suspension or revocation doubled.

The maximum penalty for a third or fourth offense can result in up to a year in prison and a $1000 fine. Whereas a fifth offense DWLS or DWLR has the same penalties as a third or fourth offense, and the added possibility of up to three years of vehicle immobilization and the potential of having your license plate confiscated. Similar to a DWLS or DWLR second offense, the possibility for a favorable plea deal exists. It is possible to bargain down the charge to a first or second offense, and in certain situations possibly even non-abstractable charge. However, the more serious the person’s driving record, the more important keeping the person out of jail becomes. No matter what you are being charged with, we will fight to seek the best possible outcome for you and your driving privileges.

Grabel & Associates will work to understand the particular circumstances that led to your arrest so we can artfully explain your situation to the judge. Let us fight for you. Call 1-800-677-9795 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 here.

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