One of the most common questions I am asked in my role as a Michigan DUI lawyer (especially one who also concentrates in driver's license restoration cases after multiple DUI's) is "What will happen to my driver's license?" This is usually followed by some explanation about how the person needs to drive to get to work (or school, or both, or to take the kids to school, etc.). It goes without saying that everyone needs their driver's license, but it also goes without saying that when you are caught up in a Michigan DUI, something will absolutely happen to it. In this article, I want to look at the very real world situation where a person is facing his or her 1st DUI offense, including a High BAC charge. In an upcoming installment, we'll look at the very different situation and results that take place when a person is facing his or her 2nd DUI charge within 7 years, or 3rd within 10 years. For now, however, we'll limit our examination to 1st offense charges.
Obviously, if you've never been convicted of OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) before and you've been arrested for drunk driving, you can only face a 1st offense charge. Given that I sometimes handle more than 12 drinking and driving cases in a single week, I see just about every situation you can imagine, and one of them that isn't as uncommon as you'd think involves a person with a prior DUI conviction that occurred more than 7 years ago who winds up facing yet another. In many of these cases, the person will conclude that because he or she had a prior conviction, this new one is automatically a 2nd offense. This is where legal technicalities matter: In Michigan, a "2nd offense" means that a person was convicted of (meaning pled guilty to or found guilty of) a prior OWI offense within 7 years of the date of the arrest for the current charge. The implication here is that your second offense may not actually be a "2nd offense."
Here's the good news: If you don't have a prior DUI conviction within 7 years (and don't have 2 within the preceding 10 years), you will NOT lose your driver's license. You may have to deal with a short suspension, and you will certainly have to drive with some restrictions for a while, but your license will not be "yanked" (revoked) by the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS). And this is perhaps the most important point of all: The driver's license sanctions for each and every drinking and driving offense are set by law, imposed by the SOS, and cannot be modified in any way, or for any reason. The court has nothing to do with what happens to your license, nor can any Judge make a restriction or suspension shorter or longer. The license penalties are set in stone, and no matter what your circumstances, you will receive the exact license sanction for the specific DUI conviction you wind up getting. This means, however, that in many, if not most cases, the charge first made against you after your arrest is more serious than what can and will ultimately be worked out by a Michigan DUI lawyer, like me. Thus, it does little good to run and look up the penalties for your initial charge when I can usually get that charge reduced to something less serious and that carries less of a penalty to your license. Let's see what this means in the real world of 1st offense DUI cases: