Articles Posted in Revoked and Suspended Driver’s License

As much as I hate having to increase my fees, and like the idea of writing about it even less, as the lawyer I am, I believe that not being clear and upfront about costs is a huge red flag. Almost since I launched my first website over 10 years ago, I have always published various fee schedules specifying what I charge in driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals, DUI cases, and criminal matters. A published fee list always was and still is unusual amongst lawyers, to the point that I’m not aware of ANYONE else who does it. And while I understand how most lawyers would rather establish a rapport with a potential client before talking money, I have always been suspicious of any person or operation that avoids or otherwise skirts around the subject of cost. Given that I’m the only lawyer I know who actually lists fees, it’s obvious that I’m in the minority here, but I have always lived by the golden rule – to treat others as you would wish to be treated – and this is one way I do that. I will get to the actual numbers later in this article, but to be clear, as of January 1, 2018, my fees in driver’s license restoration and DUI cases will be going up, as will my fees in most misdemeanor cases, as well. That said, none of my fees will go up very much, but I want to give some advance warning AND protect myself so that if someone finds an old price referenced somewhere, I can rely upon this article as notice.

Picture1Undoubtedly, one huge benefit I derive from publishing my fees is that I don’t have to bother with “tire kickers” and time wasters who either cannot afford the kind of service my office provides or who are otherwise focused on low cost. Price matters, of course, but it should not be the primary consideration in certain decisions (particularly medical and legal issues), at least for those who can afford to not make it so. For example (and I’m not out to insult anyone), I have been a Verizon customer for many many years. Once, a long time ago, I got sucked into using Nextel (they’ve long since folded) based upon the appeal that I could save a lot of money on my cell phone bill. Things are a lot different today, with unlimited calling plans, but back then, cell phones could cost as much as 30 cents per minute, so any break was a good one. To manage costs, I left Verizon (I think it was called something different then), got my new Nextel phone, and tried to convince myself that the money I was saving was worth all the dropped calls and inferior service I had accepted in return. The last straw came one day, while in the back of a Home Depot store, where I couldn’t get service with my Nextel phone, I borrowed my wife’s, which was either a Verizon phone, or it’s predecessor, and made a call that could not be made on mine. This drove home the point that you often have to pay more for better quality, but that, in certain situations, it’s just worth it.

In my capacity, I don’t compete, nor, frankly, do I need to compete, with any other lawyers based on price. In driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals, I guarantee to win every case I take. In addition, you will never meet another driver’s license restoration lawyer with anywhere near the passion I have for license appeals. Take a look around this blog; I have written and published over 400 license restoration articles to date. That’s more articles than the number of license cases all but the fewest lawyers will ever take in their entire careers (I handle about 200 license restoration and clearance appeals per year). DUI cases make up the other major part of my practice (I have put up more than 320 DUI articles), meaning that alcohol is really at the center of almost everything I do. In that sense, I’m kind of like a Q-tip, with DUI cases on one side, license restorations for multiple DUI’s on the other, and alcohol as the stick that connects them both. To make sure I’m the very best at what I do, I went back to the University classroom and completed a post-graduate program of addiction studies. I use this clinical knowledge every single day to produce better outcomes for my DUI clients and to help win back the licenses for my license restatement clients. That’s not the kind of commitment and investment you’ll get from any bargain lawyer.

In part 1 of this article, we began our examination of DWLS (driving while license suspended) and DWLR (driving while license revoked) charges in Michigan. I pointed out that there are 2 key considerations for anyone facing such a charge whose driving record isn’t so good: minimizing the consequences to that record, and also protecting your ability to drive. The criminal penalties for a DWLS/DWLR charge apply both in conjunction with and also separately from the administrative sanctions imposed by the Secretary of State. I noted that, as the lawyer, I am always on guard for situations like where getting a suspended or revoked license charge dismissed entirely still doesn’t avoid the further loss of the person’s ability to drive. Indeed, what may be a great plea bargain in one case can create a nightmare on another person’s driving record. I also explained that your prior record follows you, like it or not, and the less you have on it, the better. We acknowledged that, in the real world, people sometimes just have to drive, and, unfortunately, they sometimes get caught, as well. Exactly where that happens can be the biggest factor in how any case turns out. Just like a prior record, though, it is what it is. Here, in part 2, we’ll look at some examples of how the criminal consequences and administrative sanctions interact, and how it’s easy for even a lawyer to miss some of these finer points.

https://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2017/09/08e50d3b-0660-48af-a87e-7463b1a5988c_1.94397e605ca2e9187a36f7b47d7d3975-300x218.jpegThe the old saying that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” is very relevant here. Many people, including lawyers, don’t understand that, when it comes to driver’s license issues, there are 2 separate tracks: what the court does (often, as required by statutory law), and what the Secretary of State does, separate from that, as required by administrative rule. This is a finer point that has HUGE implications for your ability to drive. Let’s look at a few variations of a hypothetical example that happens all the time in the real world.

Assume that Sober Sam had his driver’s license revoked about 3 years ago for 2 DUI’s. He hasn’t won it back yet, for whatever reason, so it is still revoked. One day, while driving home from work, Sam gets pulled over for speeding and is also charged with DWLR (driving while license revoked). Sam hires Lazy Lisa the Lawyer, and she manages to negotiate the dismissal of his speeding ticket and gets his DWLR charge dropped down to failure to display a valid license (often called “no ops”). Whereas the DWLR charge carries points, the further suspension of the driver’s license, and a driver’s responsibility fee assessment, the “no ops” carries none of those. Both the prosecutor and Lisa figure this will be good and safe for Sam because there is no further license suspension as a statutory penalty for this offense, and to him, it sounds like a good deal, so he gladly takes it, winds up paying a fine to the court and goes home happy.

Because of my work handling driver’s license restoration, DUI and suspended license cases, you could accurately call me a Michigan driver’s license lawyer. Quite literally, almost everything I do, every single day, involves driving, in some way, shape or form. I handle over 200 license restoration and probably at least another 150-plus DUI and suspended/revoked license cases each year. In the course of my practice, I have seen just about every situation you can imagine, and have had to resolve some license issues so complicated and tied in legal knots that you couldn’t make them up if you tried. Yet for all of that, everyone who finds themselves in trouble for driving on a suspended (DWLS) or revoked (DWLR) license does so for the same, simple reason – they got caught driving without a legal license to do so. When this happens, my job, as the lawyer, is aimed at minimizing the consequences. This involves a lot more than just keeping someone out of jail. In fact, jail is almost never a concern for me in these cases for 2 main reasons; first, for most people, going to jail simply is NOT on the menu, and for those whose circumstances (think: really bad record) make the possibility of jail something of a reality, I’m still usually able to keep them out, anyway. The real concerns in these cases are always the longer term consequences to your driving record and how this will affect your ability to drive in the future. We’ll split this article into 2 parts to explore them.

kiddie-car-300x198These 2 things – the consequences to your driving record and how your ability to drive in the future will be affected – are always connected, but also separate and distinct. We’ll examine this further, but to make my point, understand that, on the one hand, there are many situations where a driving offense can have a huge and expensive impact to a person’s record, but not interfere with his or her ability to drive, whatsoever. On the other hand, there are circumstances where a suspended or revoked license charge can be worked out in court to stay off of or otherwise have no impact upon a person’s record, but the incident itself can still result in him or her not being able to drive again legally for up to 5 more years. Fortunately, in the real world, most of the cases I see fall between these two extremes.

If and when you find yourself facing any kind of criminal charge, including DWLS or DWLR issues, the very first thing everybody looks at is your prior record. This can be a good thing, a bad thing, or not much of a thing. It doesn’t take a legal scholar to figure out that the less of a record you have, the better. Usually, though, a person’s license is suspended or revoked precisely because of some prior issues that show up on the driving (and even criminal) record, like previous DUI’s or suspended license convictions. Sprinkled in amongst them are the kind of “never been in trouble before” people who merely forgot to pay a ticket, only to find that out when they get pulled over and cited for DWLS. The main point here is that, within the context of a suspended or revoked license charge, it’s your traffic record that matters most, and the better it is, the better for you.

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.

https://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2017/04/girls-pulled-over-2.0.jpgThis 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.

As a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer, I am contacted all the time by people facing something like a drunk driving, suspended license or possession of marijuana charge and are worried about the upcoming date on their citation.  In this very short article, I merely want to explain what this means and help the reader understand that, for the most part, and despite what it may seem like, the date on your ticket is most often NOT any kind of fixed “court date.”  This is very relevant to those who contact me after something like a DUI arrest. worried about getting an appointment right away and saying something like, “My court date is next Tuesday.”  To be sure, every criminal case begins with a first court date called an arraignment.  I’ve written extensively about that, and would encourage the reader interested in a detailed examination of what that proceeding is all about to read the linked articles.  Here, we’ll look at arraignments in more superficial terms of its position in the larger picture of a criminal or DUI case and how it gets started.

imagesSometimes, a person is brought before a Judge or Magistrate for arraignment while he or she is in custody after an arrest.  This can be done by video or by actually having the person come into a courtroom.  If you’ve already done that, then you can skip this article entirely.  For everyone else, imagine your notice to appear or instruction to otherwise contact the court (this can be on the ticket, on a separate piece of paper, like a bond receipt, or just be something the police tell you as you’re released) in the way you’d think of an email confirmation to register with a website; once you confirm your contact details, then all relevant notifications can be sent to the right place.  Before you wonder what the hell that means, let’s look at one of the most common situations following an OWI arrest: A person is released with a ticket that arises them to appear in court “on or before” a certain date, or to contact the court within so many days.  If the person just picks up the phone and calls the court, many times, the clerk will simply confirm the person’s address and then tell him or her that notice of when to appear will be sent.  That notice can be for something called an arraignment, a pre-trial date, or a combined arraigment/pre-trial; the details don’t matter as much as the fact that all a person needs to do is call the court to find out what to do next, and much of the time, he or she will be told to just wait for something in the mail.

In some cases a person is given a date to appear for an arraignment.  The short explanation of the arraignment is that it is a proceeding in which a person is formally told the exact charge(s) against him or her ( e.g., Operating While Intoxicated), advised of his or her constitutional rights (“You have the right to a lawyer…”), and given conditions of bond (“Do not leave the state without the court’s permission…” etc.).  For those released from lockup without posting any money, a bond amount (usually a few hundred dollars, at most) may be required, as well.  In many courts, depending on the charge, that arraignment can be “waived” by a lawyer so that a person does not need to go.  When a lawyer files the papers to waive an arraignment, a “not guilty” plea will automatically be entered for him or her, and the person and the lawyer will await a notice from the court to show up for what’s called a “pre-trial” date, where discussions about resolving the case are had between the lawyer and the prosecutor.

As a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer, about 2 of the most common questions that I’m asked are, “Am I going to jail?” and “Can you keep me out of jail?”  Even the quickest look at a sampling of DUI lawyer websites reveals that the whole “Avoid jail!” theme is used everywhere, by everyone.  It seems to be the strongest pitch a lawyer can make for your money.  I’m no exception; I make it, too, and I know that if I was in a pickle, staying out of jail would certainly be my first and biggest concern.  However, as I have pointed out in many of my various DUI articles on this blog (as well as my website), in the kinds of drunk driving cases and clients I handle, jail is usually not, for the most part, even on the menu.  But the cold truth that I have not seen addressed (until now) on any lawyer site is that some people do, in fact go to jail., and you can be sure that the folks sitting there didn’t book themselves in voluntarily.

jail-thumbIt is generally understood that, as a lawyer, talking about this isn’t good for business.  That’s why attorneys avoid it like the plague.  That’s also a disservice, however, to someone seeking real world information about what happens after a drunk driving arrest.  Of course, it’s my first goal to avoid jail as much as possible, in every situation possible, but even the WORST lawyer out there has the same goal, although perhaps not the skill to do it quite so well.  There is no hard and fast rule about who does get some jail time as opposed to who doesn’t, but there are a few helpful observations we can make to clarify things a bit.  On the one hand, if you’re facing a 1st offense DUI, you’re not really facing any jail time.  On the other hand, someone with a bad record has a much better chance of doing some time than a person with no prior record.  I addressed this in a recent article, and common sense is a pretty good guide here.  If you’re facing your 5th DUI, then yeah, you can count on some time.  Beyond that, however, there is a mix of variables that figures into all of this.  Some jurisdictions are really tough, while others are much more forgiving.  In fact, one Judge can be way more lenient than another would be in the exact same situation.  You also have to include the prosecutor in this mix of variables, as well, because not only do individual prosecutors from the same office have different approaches to things, but some offices are much more flexible than others.

Our discussion here will be limited to the things I handle my own practice: DUI cases and criminal cases involving things like suspended and revoked license charges, drug possession, and other misdemeanors and lower-level felonies, mostly for professionals or other good wage earners. meaning good people caught up in a bad situation.  For the most part, if you’re a solid citizen and haven’t been in trouble before, and you’re facing something like a DUI or suspended license charge, jail isn’t really on the menu at all.  Even if you have had a prior scrape with the law, including, perhaps, a prior DUI, you’re still probably safe in almost every one of the courts where I practice.  But here’s where things get dicey:

Under Michigan law, it is a misdemeanor offense to drive with a suspended or revoked license.  In the real world, DWLS/DWLR cases are amongst the most common that pass through the court system.  For the most part, these cases can be handled painlessly, but the concerns they present run deeper than just staying out of jail, although that’s not always obvious at first glance.  In this article, I want to look at a few things:  The difference between a suspended license and a revoked license, the legal concerns and implications of each, and how, as a practical matter, these two types of cases, often confused as the same thing, play out differently in court and in a person’s life.

tprtrafficstop-beacon_334353_7 First, let’s define these acronyms:  DWLS stands for “driving while license suspended,” and DWLR stands for “driving while license revoked.”  The difference between suspended and revoked is pretty significant.  A suspended license is a license that has been taken away for a specific time period, or will be returned upon the happening of a specific event, like the payment of money.  A revoked license is one that has been completely taken away by the state, and will not be returned until and unless a person, when eligible, files and wins a full driver’s license restoration hearing, no matter how long he or she otherwise waits.  It’s easy to understand this in school terms: A student is suspended for a period of days or weeks, but returns to school thereafter.  A revoked license is like being expelled; you’re out for good unless you formally petition the appropriate board and win your appeal.  If you don’t, then you remain expelled or revoked.

For the most part, revoked licenses are the result of multiple DUI convictions.  By contrast, a license can be suspended for any of many reasons, although the most common are unpaid tickets, unpaid driver responsibility fees, or a 1st offense DUI or drug crime.  As it works out, there are really 2 classes of people, separated by how they are perceived and treated in the court system:  Those whose suspension results from a DUI (remember, revocations almost always do), and everyone else.  As a practical matter, if the reason for your suspension is anything other than a drunk driving conviction, you’re better off than if it is.

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…
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Leaving the scene of a property damage accident (sometimes written up as something like “leaving scene of PDA,” or “leave scene PDA,” and often referred to simply as “hit and run” or “PDA”) is one of the more common offenses I see in my role as a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer. Most people don’t understand how seriously these cases are taken until they find themselves in the middle of one. The reason for this is simple: In many, (if not most) PDA cases, the driver who took off did so because he or she had been drinking and didn’t want to deal with the police and get arrested for a DUI. Of course, this isn’t true in all cases, but the assumption is nonetheless there in every case. Not surprisingly, a lot of these charges wind up in courts with robust DUI caseloads, including Oakland County’s Rochester Hills’ 52-3 and Troy’s 52-4 district courts, along with Royal Oak’s 44th district court. In Macomb County, the Sterling Heights 41-A district court and Shelby Township’s 41-A Shelby division, along with Clinton Townships 41-B and Roseville’s 39th district court see their fair share of PDA cases, while in Wayne County, the 16th district court in Livonia, the 18th district court in Westland, and the 35th district court in Plymouth/Canton deal with as many of these charges as any other local, Detroit-area court.

1743060_G.JPGAs it often plays out, a person, while driving, sideswipes another vehicle, or else hits a parked car, a mailbox or some kind of road sign, and just keeps going. Many times, when a driver hits another vehicle in traffic, the license number of the vehicle that caused the contact is obtained, and later given to the police. Obviously, it’s easier to plow over a mailbox at 3 a.m. and go undetected than it is to hit another driver. Also, because alcohol is often involved, the offending driver may completely underestimate the degree of contact or amount of damage he or she caused. I’ve had cases that involved contact so slight that the person didn’t realize it and that resulted in an almost undetectable scratch, to cases where the driver beached the car somewhere after breaking off a wheel, left it, and went home, only to be roused by the police knocking at the front door.

A key thing to remember is that a PDA situation is kind of like a bad DUI (at least in those cases where a person is unable to demonstrate that he or she was not drinking) specifically because there was an accident. Most drinking and driving arrests don’t involve an accident. In fact, in the vast majority of drunk driving cases, the person simply gets pulled over for something like speeding or swerving and then winds up getting caught after having had a few too many. A DUI with an accident is always worse than a simple DUI without one. When it’s believed a person charged with leaving the scene of a PDA had been drinking, it makes sense that he or she is seen as even more dangerous than someone merely stopped for drinking and driving without having hit anything. So what are consequences, as in punishment, for a PDA hit and run?
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In my role as a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer, I often wind up speaking with people whose cases are pending in courts beyond the geographic area where I practice. I have always believed that a lawyer should be relatively “local” to the court where a case is pending, and that’s why I only handle DUI and criminal cases in the Metropolitan Detroit area. In a recent conversation with a caller, the person (whose case was in a distant county) asked me whether she should spend the money for her own lawyer or just go with a court appointed lawyer. I knew that my answer was going to be “hire your own,” but I had to pause for a moment to think about how to say that without sounding “obvious.” This will be a rather short article that addresses the question “Should I spend the money for my own lawyer or just go with court-appointed, instead?”

Line 1.3.jpgThe way for me to put it came quickly; just tell the truth – the unvarnished truth. Sometimes, we try to be diplomatic when we answer a person’s question. If someone asks how you like his or her new car, and even if you didn’t, and you also thought the color was horrible, you wouldn’t just bluntly say so! Can you imagine responding, “I think it’s kind of ugly, and man, that color looks like puke!” Instead, you’d probably just say something like, “Oh, wow, it’s nice and roomy.” My point, skipping all pretensions of diplomacy, is this: If you can, you should always hire your own lawyer. Let me explain why:

When I get back to my office and one of my staff tells me about a caller who is considering hiring me for a drunk driving or criminal case, but already has a lawyer, my gut reaction is 1 of 2 things: If the caller had hired the lawyer, chances are he or she doesn’t like what they’re hearing, and expected a better outcome; in other words, there’s a good chance that person is just someone else’s unhappy customer. Sometimes, of course, the person can be right and the old lawyer may just not be up to the task, or he or she is getting exactly what they paid for by hiring a “cheap” lawyer, but for the most part, in those situations, the problem is the client’s unmet or unrealistic expectations, rather than any supposed under-performance of the lawyer. I am rarely enthused about or interested in these cases, and most often decline to get involved unless the caller has made an obvious mistake by doing something like hiring the family friend lawyer who isn’t experienced with the kind of case at issue, or employed some kind of bargain, cut-rate lawyer who answers his or her own phone. Court-appointed lawyers, however, are an entirely different matter…
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