As a Criminal Defense Lawyer who Practices exclusively in the Metro-Detroit area, I handle loads of Driving on a Suspended License (DWLS) Cases. In my attempt to use this Blog to answer some of the more common questions I hear, let’s address a question that is not often, but should always be asked by someone looking to hire a Lawyer to help them with one of these cases. That question is (or at least should be) “What should I do first?”
And the answer is pretty simple. For a good many people, perhaps even most of those charged with DWLS, the reason their License was suspended in the first place is either due to an unpaid, outstanding Traffic Ticket or Tickets, or their failure to pay an outstanding Driver Responsibility Fee to the Secretary of State. In either case, the first thing a person should do after being arrested for DWLS is to clear up the outstanding matter or matters. This means that if there is an unpaid ticket, or tickets, they should be paid. If there is an outstanding Driver Responsibility Fee, it should either be paid off, or arrangements made with the State for a payment plan, which can now spread the outstanding balance over a period of 24 months.
As a Lawyer for someone charged with a DWLS, the first thing I think about is trying to keep the DWLS completely off of their record. DWLS carries some consequences which, to be honest, are rather harsh. First, a person will receive a “Mandatory Additional Suspension,” meaning their License will be suspended for an even longer period of time. Second, DWLS carries a mandatory Driver Responsibility Fee of $500 for two consecutive years. Also, and on top of a potential (but usually unlikely) Jail sentence, and additional fines and costs, a DWLS conviction carries 2 Points on a person’s Driving Record.
When I represent someone who has been charged with DWLS, if I can show the Prosecutor that the person has paid their outstanding tickets, or scheduled them for Court dates, or paid their outstanding Driver Responsibility Fees or otherwise arranged a payment plan, I can usually get the Prosecutor to agree to reduce the DWLS charge to one that carries no “Mandatory Additional Suspension,” no Driver Responsibility Fees, and no Points. Most often, this plea deal allows the DWLS to be dismissed and the person will instead Plead guilty to “No Ops,” which means No Valid Operator’s License on Person. Although “No Ops” is still technically a crime, I have never, in nearly 20 years of doing this, even heard of a person getting any jail time for it.
Bottom line: If someone calls me, the first thing I’m going to talk to them about is clearing up their outstanding matters. Even if a person cannot afford to do it all at once, a Defense Lawyer will know how to buy time so that the person can get enough accomplished to make a “No Ops” deal a reality. If you’re facing a DWLS charge, the first thing you should do is fix whatever got your License suspended in the first place, or at least start fixing it, if it cannot all be done at once..