Driving While License Suspended (DWLS) is one of the most common criminal charges you’ll find in the courts, particularly in the Metro-Detroit area of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties. In a very real way, these cases are also the easiest money-makers for the court system. Because DWLS and DWLR (Driving While License Revoked) charges are misdemeanor criminal matters, they deserve to be taken seriously; certainly, the possibility of forever having a criminal conviction stuck on your record is worth the effort to avoid that in the first place. From my perspective (I’m in court for up to 20 cases in a typical week, so I wind up handling a lot of suspended license cases), these matters are sometimes over-hyped by lawyers who use “fear based” marketing techniques, while other times overlooked by both lawyers and the public alike because actually going to jail is highly unlikely except for multiple, repeat offenders. To that last point, there is one local court, however, where the chance going to jail for a DWLS is disproportionately higher than anywhere else. What good is a rule, after all, without an exception? At any rate, the main point I want to make in this article looks beyond jail, and has to do with the impact of a misdemeanor conviction upon a person’s record, and how a DWLS in particular can turn out to be a real pain.
This really hits home when someone finds out he or she could likely have avoided a DWLS or DWLR conviction with a little good lawyering. To be perfectly honest, a misdemeanor conviction for a suspended license charge is not likely to derail anyone’s career path, unless the person had ambitions to be an ambulance, limousine or school bus driver. Even so, it seems foolish to allow one’s self to be put in the position to answer “yes” to a question on a job application or background investigation form that asks something like, “Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense?” This could also delay an application for a professional license, even though it would certainly not stand as an obstacle to ultimately obtaining it. Because there’s any significant cost to hiring a good lawyer to keep your record clean, there really is no reason to not handle a DWLS case properly.
In many of my other suspended and revoked license articles on this blog, I note that there are really 2 kinds of people who wind up facing these charges: 1., Those whose license is suspended or revoked because a DUI conviction, and 2., everybody else. Make no mistake, it’s always better to be part of the “everybody else” crowd. When a person has his or her license suspended for failure to pay a ticket, it’s usually due to an oversight, or maybe the budget was tight for a while. A DUI, however, carries certain consequences, including suspension or restriction of a person’s ability to drive, and when a person gets caught driving despite a suspension or revocation, it can be perceived as if he or she is giving the middle finger to the law. For my part, I certainly know how to navigate around this perception and spare my client’s record, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that, as a starting point, driving on a license that has been suspended or revoked for drunk driving doesn’t look very good.