Failing to Pay a Fine in Michigan for Suspended Driver's License
You can have your driver’s license suspended in Michigan for many reasons including leaving the scene of an accident, reckless driving, or Operating While Intoxicated (OWI). However, you can also have your license suspended for failing to pay fines. For instance, you can have your driver’s license suspended for failing to comply with a judgment of the court or failing to appear in court. This often involves failing to pay fines, fees, or judgements. Additionally, you can have your license suspended for failing to pay three parking tickets. In this section we will examine how not paying fines and fees can result in additional charges and suspensions.
Driving While Your License is Suspended (DWLS) and Driving While Your License is Revoked (DWLR)
It does not matter what the reason was for your underlying suspension or revocation, if you are caught driving or you receive a ticket or moving violation, then you may be charged with driving while your license is suspended or revoked. Driving while your license is suspended (DWLS) and driving while your license is revoked (DWLR) are both misdemeanor crimes under MCL 257.904. The maximum penalty is up to 93 days in jail and $500 in fines. Additionally, you will have two points added to your driver’s license if you are convicted, and could have an additional term of suspension or revocation.
However, the reason why your license was suspended or revoked does matter for determining the additional period of suspension or revocation. The law under MCL 257.904(10) and MCL 257.904(11), differentiate between indefinite suspensions and revocations and definite suspensions and revocations. This is important, because if you have a definite period of suspension or revocation, then the statue specifies that the Secretary of State will suspend your license for “an additional like period of suspension or revocation.” This means that if you had your driver’s license revoked for a second OWI and were caught driving or have a moving violation conviction, then you would have an additional year of revocation. Similarly, if you were serving a 90-day suspension for leaving the scene of an accident and were caught driving while your license is suspended or convicted of a moving violation, then your license would be suspended for an additional 90 days.
However, the law treats indefinite suspensions differently for DWLS and DWLR, because the Secretary of State cannot issue an additional like period of suspension for a suspension that has no definite time limit. Consequently, the Secretary of State adds an additional 30 days to the suspension if a person is caught driving while their license is suspended or receives a moving violation during an indefinite suspension. Therefore, if you are serving an indefinite suspension for something like a failure to appear in court or a failure to comply with court judgment, and you receive a DWLS or a moving violation, then you will be issued an additional 30-day suspension.
Failure to Comply with Court Judgment and Failure to Appear in Court
You may not appear in court, because you did not know when your court date was, did not have adequate legal representation, or just forgot. However, failing to appear in court is a misdemeanor crime in Michigan. If you are released on bond or your own recognizance and do not return for your court date, then two things will happen. First, the court may issue a bench warrant for your arrest. Second, you will be issued a notice that if you fail to comply with the judgment or the hearing notice within fourteen days, then the court will notify the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State will immediately suspend your driver’s license indefinitely after receiving a notice from the court.
This is one of the tools of the court to make sure that people appear for their court dates. Unfortunately, once the suspension is issued you cannot have your driver’s license reinstated until you comply and pay any fines, fees, or associated costs. Once you do, then you will need to pay a $45 reinstatement fee to the court for them to issue a clearance, and then you can get a letter of termination from the Secretary of State and pay the $125 driver reinstatement fee. Additionally, the failure to appear in court itself is a misdemeanor that has a maximum penalty of up to 93 days in jail and a $100 fine.
A failure to comply with a court judgement is very similar to a failure to appear in court, but it has a much broader application. For instance, you could be ordered by the court to pay child support, and if you fail to comply with the court order by not making the payments, then the court may determine that it is necessary to issue a notice. The notice will specify that if you fail to comply within fourteen days, they will notify the Secretary of State. If you do not comply within the fourteen-day window, then the court will notify the Secretary of State and they will immediately suspend your driver’s license indefinitely.
This is also a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of up to 93 days in jail and a $100 fine. This means that your driver’s license is suspended indefinitely, and you will not be eligible for reinstatement until you pay all of your fines, tickets, and the additional costs associated with the FCJ. This will typically include a $125 driver’s reinstatement fee, as well as a separate $45 reinstatement fee paid directly to the court where the FCJ took place.
If you receive a moving violation while you still have your license indefinitely suspended, then you will receive an additional 30-day suspension pursuant to MCL 257.907(11). Any moving violation, including speeding, will trigger the additional 30-day suspension. Once the moving violation gets reported to the Secretary of State, then they will immediately issue an additional 30-day suspension. After the suspension is over you will have to pay a $125 driver reinstatement fee.
What Should You Do if Failure to Pay a Fine Has Resulted in Suspension of Your Driver’s License?
The best thing you can do is contact the experienced driver’s license attorneys at Grabel & Associates. As is often the case in matters of the law, the correct solution for any situation depends on the particular circumstances. For instance, you may need to pay fees or fines associated with a ticket, but paying a ticket can also indicate guilt. If the offense will cause an abstract of the conviction to be sent to the Secretary of State, then it may be in your best interest to contest the ticket rather than pay it. You need to speak to an experienced attorney to determine what the best course of action is for you based on your situation. Grabel & Associates is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and we would be happy to schedule a free consultation for you to determine exactly what course of action you should take to minimize the impact on your criminal record and potential points on your license, as well as get the most favorable outcome for your driving privileges.