Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (DWLS/DWLR) in Michigan

As a Michigan driver’s license restoration and DUI lawyer, just about every part of my job and every case I work with involves someone operating a vehicle. This is so much the case that I wish there was some better way to describe myself, and am currently considering the name or URL “Michigan Center for Driver’s Rights.” Whatever comes of that some day, the reality for me is that just about every day, I am in court dealing with issues that arise from or are directly related to a person driving, including things like possession of marijuana and driving while license suspended or revoked charges. In this article, I want to look at those very common, but very aggravating revoked and suspended license (DWLS/DWLR) charges.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for coplights.jpgDriving while license suspended (DWLS) and driving while license revoked (DWLR) are misdemeanor criminal charges. They can either be 1st offense or 2nd offense charges. Depending on who wrote the ticket or if the matter is a 2nd rather than a 1st offense charge, these can either be “state law” cases, meaning that the charge is brought by county prosecutor, or “city” or “township” cases, meaning that the charge is handled by a local, municipal lawyer. Generally speaking, municipal attorneys have more flexibility in working out better plea deals and can often be more lenient. Most municipal attorneys are private lawyers who have a contract with the city or township to handle its legal work, and part of that work includes handling misdemeanor ordinance violations. This means that he or she may be defending someone for a DWLS or DUI offense on a another day and in a different court. That someone has been hired and taken money from a client to go make things better makes working with that kind of person much easier.

Many people get all worried about the potential jail part of a DWLS charge, but avoiding that is relatively easy in almost every case I handle, including 2nd offense cases. There is far more to worry about in one of these cases, however, than just going to jail. Keeping, getting back, or at least preserving the ability to get back your license is very important and should never be overlooked in the celebration of not getting locked up. It is incredibly easy for a lawyer to handle a DWLS or DWLR case for a client and keep him or her out of jail, yet simultaneously wind up costing the person his or her license, or otherwise take some action that prevents the person from reinstating it sooner, or even straight away. And this is where trouble begins to breed trouble, because the reality is that people need to drive, and will drive, and if you leave someone without a license and they get pulled over again, that just kicks the can down the road by further delaying the time when their license can be reinstated, and then, if they get caught again…. You get the idea, except there comes a point when a person will rack up one too many DWLS or DWLR charges and then wind up in front of a Judge who thinks jail is the only way to stop such behavior. Better to avoid this mess in the fist place, which is why handling these cases involves a lot more than a quick plea deal that merely keeps the client out of jail…

Even having acknowledged the distinction between 1st and 2nd offense cases, there are really 2 kinds of DWLS/DWLR charges: Those that can be traced back to a DUI or DUI’s, and then everything else. It is far better to be in the “everything else” camp, and to pretend otherwise is a profound mistake. That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot that can be done just because someone’s license troubles started with a DUI, but if a person is without a license because of drunk driving, things have to be “finessed” a little bit differently.

By contrast, if a person’s suspension is related to something like too many points or unpaid tickets, it is just easier to appeal to the more understanding side of the prosecutor and Judge. In many of these situations, I will adjourn the case so that my client can take care of any outstanding tickets or fees and reinstate his or her license, knowing that my bargaining position improves when my client now has gone through the hoops to reinstate his or her license and that unless I work out a really generous plea bargain, a conviction for the original DWLS or DWLR charge will just cause him or her to lose it all over again. Generally speaking, nobody wants that. In the case of a DUI revocation for multiple DUI’s, however, the whole notion of getting a license “reinstated” involves the much more complex process of restoration. Yet I still have, many times, been able to push a case off long enough for my client to at least begin, if not complete, the driver’s license restoration process.

By way of descending order of the things we’ve discussed so far, we first take the steps to avoid jail, then go on to protecting a person’s license, or the ability to get it back. Yet any discussion of these cases must include the reality that they are “bread and butter” offenses to a court, and represent a steady stream of revenue. In other words, you’re going to pay some money, and this is a prime way the courts earn income. If you like the beautiful court building in which your case is brought, then know that you’re helping pay the mortgage. If your case is being heard in an out-of-date, cramped facility, then know that you’re helping pay for the building that’s likely being planned.

Beyond the money part of things (the amount varies from court to court and also depends on the “kind” of probation you get, with some places charging way more than others), there is also the very real risk of winding up on probation. You’ll have to pay for that, as well, and if you do get stuck with probation (something I try very hard to avoid for my clients), you’ll wind up with anything from a short term of non-reporting probation (the best kind, and requires you to nothing but stay out of trouble) to a year of reporting probation, where you have to report once a month. Probation isn’t hard, but it is still a pain in the rear. Not getting probation, however, involves more effort than just stomping your feet and saying you don’t want it. This is where skillful handling of the case comes into play. That can mean a lot of different things, depending on the circumstance, but at least after 25 years, I know how best to do that in each individual case.

DWLS and DWLR cases are not murder cases, but they are misdemeanor criminal offenses that can have long-term consequences to your ability to drive and your driving record, and can be very inconvenient if you wind up on probation. If you’re facing a DWLS or DWLR charge in any court in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County, I can help. As always, I strongly advise that you read as much as you can, find the lawyers you “like,” and then pick up the phone and call around. I do my consultations over the phone, right when you call. My office is open Monday through Friday, from 8:30 to 5:00, and can be reached at 586-465-1980. We’re here to help, so as you make your inquiries, make sure you call to get my take on your situation, as well.