What Restricted Driver's License Use Does Michigan Grant for a Suspended License?

When it comes to drinking and driving offenses and having a license suspended, then we are more than likely talking about a first conviction of Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), a high Blood Alcohol Content (HI-BAC) OWI, or an Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI). Although a suspension is very different from a revocation, while the suspension is active you will have the same driving privileges that you would have if your license was revoked. You will have zero driving privileges while your driver’s license is suspended during the first 30 days after a first OWI in Michigan, or for 45 days after a high BAC OWI. However, unlike a revoked license, you will become eligible automatically for a restricted license after the 30 day or 45 day period is over. Following is a quotation directly from the statute explaining the rules for issuing a restricted license in Michigan: “The secretary of state may issue the person a restricted license during a specified portion of the suspension, except that the secretary of state shall not issue a restricted license during the first 30 days of suspension.” MCL 257.319.

Getting and Using Your Restricted License After a Suspension

Since the state legislature approved P.A. 1998, No. 347 in 1999, the rules for restricted licenses have become uniform. The discretion that used to be in the hands of judges, is now left to a bright line rule promulgated by the house legislature and enforced by the Secretary of State. Therefore, effective as of October 1, 1999 judges no longer make the decisions about what types of restrictions to impose on driving privileges. Instead, the restrictions are now governed by the statute MCL 257.319.

However, it is still worth understanding how and when the driving restrictions take effect. One thing that is difficult for some people to understand is that what happens at court has little to do with what happens to your license. The charge that you end up pleading to or being convicted of determines what action the Secretary of State will take against you, but the judge’s sentence will not affect your driver’s license. Since we are focusing on license suspensions in this section, we will use the example of a first-time offender. Let’s say that Drew Driver was driving and was arrested and found to have alcohol in his system and charged with a first OWI, but after reviewing all of the information the prosecutor agreed to knock-down the charge from a first OWI to an Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI).

This is helpful for Drew, because a first OWVI does not have a mandatory suspension, and he could begin his restricted license immediately. However, here is the important point, nothing will happen to Drew’s license while he is at court. The judge’s sentence does not affect Drew’s driving privileges. The only thing that will end up affecting his right to drive is the actual conviction.

The court clerk will send a record called an “abstract of conviction” to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State is the only entity that has any authority over your driving privileges in this example, and even the Secretary of State is required to follow MCL 257.319. This really highlights why having a great drunk driving defense attorney is so important, because once the conviction is entered the future of your driving privileges is essentially set in stone.

Let us do one more example using the information we have discussed using Suzy who has plead guilty to a first OWI. The court clerk is going to enter an abstract of conviction which will be received by the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State will issue a notice to Suzy who will have between one and two weeks before her suspension begins. Once her suspension begins, she will have zero driving privileges until the full 30 day term of her suspension is over. After her 30 day suspension she will have the same uniform restricted license as anyone else in her situation. The license will be paper and received in the mail. After using the restricted license for 150 days, she can pay the $125 driver’s license reinstatement fee and get her plastic driver’s license back.

Your restricted license will allow you to go to and from your work, school, court probation, community service, and alcohol and drug treatment. However, it is important to note that you must carry proof of your destination with you at all times. If you are pulled over and do not have proof of your destination, then the police officer can issue you a ticket and it can result in an additional suspension. Therefore, it is important not to try to smudge the lines. For instance, you are allowed to drive to the educational institution that you are currently enrolled as a student, consequently, you cannot drive your kids to school. The full list of places you are allowed to go is provided directly below from MCL 257.319.

  • To and from your employment or occupation
  • Any combination of the following:
    • To a person’s residence
    • To a person’s work
    • To an alcohol or drug treatment program ordered by the court
    • To the court probation department
    • A court ordered community service program
    • An educational institution which the person is enrolled as a student

One additional restriction specified in MCL 257.319(19):

While driving with a restricted license, the person shall carry proof of his or her destination and the hours of any employment, class, or other reason for traveling and shall display that proof upon a peace officer’s request.

Violations of Restrictions

Violating the restrictions of your driving privileges can be very serious. If you violate the specific restrictions of your driving privileges, then the Secretary of State may call you in for a driver assessment reexamination. The magistrate or Secretary or State official that conducts your reexamination will decide if the current restrictions are appropriate, and make a determination whether additional restrictions should be put in place. If you are being called in for a driver reexamination, then it would be a good idea to consult with the attorneys at Grabel & Associates before you go, because they can help you decide if it would be beneficial to have an attorney present to represent your interest at the driver reexamination.

Avoiding a Second OWI

If you have received an OWI in Michigan, then you really have a tremendous opportunity to turn your life around before you get a second one. No one ever plans on getting a second OWI, but if a first drinking and driving offense is a slap on the wrist, then a second drinking and driving conviction is a slap across the face. It is difficult to express how much a year without driving can affect your life and set back your career and your plans. It might be worth talking with a counselor and pursuing some self-examination to determine if you have a drinking problem. One thing to look for is when a person tells themselves they are no longer going to drink, but ends up drinking anyway or drinks much more than they had planned. With one OWI you are not currently a habitual offender, however, if you get a second OWI you will be and many things will change for you and your future. You can save yourself thousands of dollars and many missed opportunities by avoiding a second OWI.

If you have any questions about your driving privileges in Michigan, or if you are being charged with a drinking and driving related offense, please do not hesitate to contact Grabel & Associates at 1-800-677-9795.

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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