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.
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.