Articles Posted in Revoked and Suspended Driver’s License

It’s a good thing to be a novice when it comes to facing criminal charges. As very experienced criminal lawyers, my team and I are lucky to spend most of our time with clients who are relatively inexperienced with the criminal justice system. A good person who finds themselves in a bad situation will do well with a lawyer who understands that all of this is new to him or her, and who can make things understandable for what is hoped will be a one-time (or last) trip through the criminal court process.

1_3TBatnV_zBfnXh5MzlcN4g-300x210Although we do handle a lot of 2nd and 3rd offense DUI cases, and even though they’ve been through the system before, those clients aren’t any kind of “criminals” in any real sense of the word. My team and I specifically concentrate our practice on the kinds of charges that don’t attract career criminals. DUI drivers may be facing a criminal charge, but repeat offenses in this field are much more about a troubled relationship to alcohol than anything else. Thus, even for people who have prior DUI convictions, the whole experience of getting arrested again for a subsequent DUI is unnerving, and still seems like a whole “new” experience.

It is, of course, normal for someone who suddenly finds him or herself having to hire a defense lawyer to have every intention to make the whole thing a one-shot deal. This is similar to needing a root canal, where a person is glad to find professional help, but hopes to never need the person’s services again. We get that a lot, and that’s a good thing. People with no, or relatively minor prior criminal records will usually fare better. Who you are (and who you are not) as a person matters in criminal and DUI cases, and the lawyer’s job is to use that to your fullest advantage

In a number of previous articles on this blog, I have tried to explain the impact of location on how things play out in DUI cases. In this piece, I want to expand the scope of that a bit, and make clear that, beyond OWI matters, the location of the court has an effect on all the types of cases I handle, including DWLS and DWLR (suspended and revoked license), indecent exposure, drug possession and embezzlement charges. For purposes of the discussion that follows, “location” should be interpreted to mean the location of the court where the case will be handled, and not merely the specific city in which the charge arose, although that plays a role, as well.

download-6There really is no way to over-emphasize the importance of location. No matter what the charge, if one of my team, or anybody else, for that matter, starts talking to me about a criminal or DUI case, the very first thing I ask is “where?” I know, for example, that a suspended license charge pending in the 52-3 Rochester Hills District Court is going to play out much differently than if was brought in the 41-A Shelby District Court, and that a DUI in Woodhaven’s 33rd District Court won’t be much like one pending in the 44th District Court in Royal Oak.

A criminal or DUI case is, for the most part, an accident of geography, because no one really goes out intending to get arrested. It would be absurd (but probably helpful) for a lawyer like me to publish a list of the best places for certain charges. I can already imagine how I’d break down something like that: if you’re going to drive drunk, avoid these places; if you’re going to drive without a license, these are the best places to get caught, etc.

DWLS and DWLR cases all start with one common factor – the lack of a valid driver’s license, but they go in many different directions from there. A person who picks up a DWLS charge after not paying a ticket is going to need different “lawyering” than someone facing a DWLR charge, and who has had his or her license revoked after 2 or more DUI’s, especially if that person has any intentions of every trying to get it back in the future. There is a prevailing misconception that suspended and revoked license cases are all pretty much the same. In fact, the reality is very different.

RD144-Proceed-with-CautionIn general, suspended and revoked license charges provide one of the best examples of the admonition that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Over the course of my career, I have, in many cases, had to explain subtle but important nuances of licensing law to both Judges and prosecutors. Because I am a full-time driver’s license restoration and DUI lawyer, I work with the laws and rules that affect driver’s licenses every single day. I deal with everything, from the most common issues to the most obscure. I’ve had to research license issues most lawyers, including Judges and prosecutors, would never know exist, and then figure out how to resolve them.

A central focus of our work is helping people win their licenses back, which helps explain why my team and I often get a better plea deal in a suspended and revoked license cases. Many of our clients are people who don’t have a license (usually, because of multiple DUI’s), and want to get it back. When someone who is, or will soon enough become eligible to win their license back winds up facing a revoked license charge, or any kind of charge that can legally delay their ability to file a license appeal, we have to work things out so that doesn’t happen, and they can mover forward sooner, rather than later.

The most common thing that screws up someones ability to win back their driver’s license from the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) is getting caught driving while revoked. When a person has lost his or her license for multiple DUI’s, if he or she gets anything – anything whatsoever – placed on their driving record, they will wind up being revoked all over again. While DWLS (Driving While License Suspended) and DWLR (Driving While License Revoked) charges are fairly routine in the court system and can  be handled quite easily there, they can absolutely kill a person’s chance to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal.

v3-Gameover-300x199In fact, because of the way the law works, if a person whose license has already been revoked has anything placed on their driving record that indicates they were driving, their license will be re-revoked for the same period of time it was originally taken away for (either 1 or 5 years). There is no way to avoid this once something makes it on a person’s driving record, so it is absolutely necessary to make sure that nothing goes on there in the first place. If a person is cited for or charged with any kind of moving violation, including DWLS or DWLR, keeping it completely off their record is essential, and doing that often requires skillful legal maneuvering.

It gets worse before it gets better: even if a person is NOT cited for any kind of infraction whatsoever, but is involved in an accident, once the accident report makes it to the Secretary of State, their license will be revoked yet again. This is called a “like additional mandatory.” Under Michigan law, a person’s driver’s license gets revoked for either 1 year (for 2 DUI’s within 7 years) or 5 years (for 3 DUI’s within 10 years). Unless and until a person has his or her license restored, if the Secretary of State receives any information that a person has been driving, he or she will automatically get an additional period of revocation, for the same length of time as the original revocation, added on to his or her driving record. That’s why it’s called a “like additional,” because what gets added on is just like the original penalty. Let’s take a look at how this works in the real world:

Suspended and Revoked license cases account for the most common charges handled in all the district courthouses of the Metro-Detroit area. These cases seldom carry any real threat of jail (except for those who just don’t stop racking them up), but they do carry consequences to a person’s driving record that can not only result in remaining unable to drive legally (as in additional suspensions or revocations), but also cost a person a lot of money and headache that may otherwise be avoidable. Because driving offenses and driver’s licenses are at the center of everything I do in my role as a Michigan driver’s license restoration and DUI lawyer, and to borrow (and modify) a line from the Farmer’s Insurance Company TV ad campaign, “I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.”

rajasthan-results-300x300I’ve written a lot about suspended and revoked licenses, but it always gets hard, once I start, to keep things brief, because as simple as these cases may seem, there are a million things that go into them or that can affect how they turn out, making this rather meaty subject hard to keep short and simple. DWLS and DWLR charges arise from and are part of the very same law. At various points in this article, however, I might just make reference to a “revoked” license in one place, and a “suspended” license in another because a person’s license is either suspended or revoked for very different reasons, even though the specific law being violated is the same in either case. I think it is important for anyone facing a DWLS or DWLR charge who’s looking for a lawyer to ask, “what can you do for me?” Also, a person should be wondering if there’s any benefit to hiring one lawyer over another, and if paying more for a lawyer means getting better results, or is just a waste of good money.

There are seemingly 2 nearly parallel, but very distinct considerations in every DWLS/DWLR case: the prosecutor and the court. In other words, plea deals are negotiated with the prosecutor, and then the legal penalties are imposed by the court. Both of those things have to work out favorably for you. On top of that (quite literally) one must understand the overriding role of the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) and its administrative rules, because what might seem like favorable plea deal treated super leniently by the Judge can still cause the SOS to further suspend or revoke your driving privileges. In the real world, where these things happen, there are basically 2 kinds of people who wind up facing DWLS and DWLR charges: those who can’t drive because of a prior DUI (or multiple DUI’s), and everybody else. This generally (but not always) means that if your license is suspended for anything other than a drunk driving offense, you are in much better shape. Look, I’m in business to make money, but I’m also unfailingly honest, and any lawyer who doesn’t to tell you this up front, or says differently, is either frighteningly inexperienced or just plain lying. I point this because why you don’t have a license is THE starting point of any suspended license case. Another critical factor is where your charge is pending, because just like DUI cases, location really does matter in suspended and revoked license cases, as well. There are some courts where one of these charges can land a person on probation for a year, while the next court over may be more inclined to wrap the whole thing up with just a fine.

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 cases will be going up, as will a few others. 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.