In previous Blog articles, I have covered the broader subject of Driving While License Suspended/Revoked/Denied. We have examined how each of those Offenses is part of the same Michigan Law. We have examined how DUI’s can eventually lead to Driving While License Revoked charges, but we haven’t really focused in as much on the bread and butter of all Traffic Offenses, the simple Driving While License Suspended.
This article will focus specifically on Driving While License Suspended (DWLS), and instead of a wider, more inclusive focus, we’ll narrow in on what is becoming, by far, the most common Criminal Traffic Offense being charged, and how an ever-increasing number of these charges are the result of unpaid Driver Responsibility Fees.
The term “bread and butter” really has multiple meanings here. In terms of revenue, a DWLS brings into Court the lowest severity Criminal Defendant on the planet. Many DWLS Defendants have no prior Criminal Record, or, if they do, just have a few Driving Offenses upon it. They are typically non-violent, not dangerous, and often accurately describable as a “creampuff.” They come to Court scared, and are more than willing to part with money to avoid any kind of Jail sentence.
From the Police perspective, these “creampuffs” are the least threatening (although every Traffic Stop does present a certain threat level to a Police Officer) and usually the most easily managed of all encounters.
From a Defense Lawyer’s point of view, these Clients are typically amongst the easiest to deal with. I’m not likely to have a phone consultation with some hardhead who begins by saying “I got a Suspended License charge, and I want to sue the Police for arresting me because they never read me my rights.”
Instead, I’ll often speak with someone who is a bit of a “Nervous Nellie” and whose first concern is, in fact, staying out of Jail. In most cases, staying out of Jail is so much more likely than getting thrown in that it’s a waste of time to dwell too much upon it.
Let me repeat that, and be clear: In most DWLS cases, it is easily manageable for a person to NOT be put in Jail. Even in those cases where a person has racked up a pretty bad Driving Record, and owes a King’s ransom in Driver Responsibility Fees, and seems a million miles away from being anywhere close to having, or even being eligible to have their Driver’s License reinstated, with some diligent Legal work, they can walk out the front door of the Court and avoid Jail.
And that is NOT a set-up for some outrageous Legal Fee, either. A DWLS case should NEVER cost more than about $1600 total. Of course, whatever Fee a person pays is going to depend on any number of factors, including how far the Lawyer a person hires is going to have to travel.
To be completely honest, when I evaluate a case, I have to take into account the “pain in the a$$” factor. How difficult is the particular Court, and the Judge(s) in that Court to deal with? In the real world, all the Courts in Macomb County, and many of the Courts to which I travel in Wayne County are rather pleasant to deal with in these cases, and beyond just being accommodating to the Lawyer, are easier on the Defendant, as well. For whatever reason, it seems that those Courts that are toughest on the person facing the charge are also those that are the least pleasant to deal with as a Lawyer.
For me, telling a Client (at least in most cases) that “I can keep you out of Jail” is kind of like a person’s Dentist saying “If I get that cavity filled right away, I can prevent your whole jaw from having to be amputated.” A bit of an overstatement, don’t you think? That’s’ not to say, however, that there aren’t some Courts or circumstances where going to Jail isn’t a real possibility.
This really helps outline the rest of our discussion. In those Courts or circumstances where a person is facing a realistic chance of getting locked up, staying out of Jail becomes job number 1. Let’s be real; if some Lawyer came to me and tried to explain the “benefits” of any “deal” that was going to get me locked up, I’d gladly take a pass on all those “benefits” and suffer any consequences other than being put in Jail.
In that majority of cases, where staying out of Jail is pretty much a done deal, then we look to consequence management, which means avoiding or minimizing as many as possible. Here’s where a more astute, experienced Lawyer really earns his or her Fee. In the 2nd part of a 2-part article I previously wrote about 1st Offense DWLS, I pointed out that the ultimate goal in any DWLS case is to avoid the whole DWLS thing altogether. In other words, even though the Client may have been pulled over with an unquestionable Suspended License, the goal is for the lawyer to convince the Prosecutor to dismiss the DWLS charge, and allow a Plea to some lesser Offense, usually called a “No Ops,” meaning Driving with No valid Operator’s License on Person. This essentially means that a normal. Licensed driver left home without his or her wallet, and thus forgot to actually carry their Driver’s License. This Offense carries no Points, avoids any further Suspension of the Driver’s License, and also carries no Driver Responsibility Fees. A DWLS is a Misdemeanor which carries up to 93 days in jail, 2 points on the Driver’s Record, requires that the Driver’s be hit with a Mandatory Additional License Suspension, and will result in the imposition of additional Driver Responsibility Fees.
Getting this deal can require some maneuvering. To make a long story short, it might require coming back to Court a time or two (which, by the way, does NOT involve any additional Fees, at least in my Practice) and/or clearing up other outstanding Traffic matters before that return trip, but if it results in avoiding all the consequences of a DWLS, then it’s certainly worth it. The money saved alone from this deal goes a long way to paying for the Lawyer.
Thus, if going to Jail is a realistic possibility, then staying out of Jail is the first order of business. Where staying out of Jail is easily avoided, or once that has been accomplished in a case where it’s a real threat, then minimizing the other consequences of a DWLS are the order of the day.
The irony to all this is that very often, the reason a person had their License Suspended in the first place was because they didn’t have the money to take care of a previous Ticket. In other cases, a person meant to take care of a prior Ticket, but somehow lost track of it in the shuffle of life. Whatever the reason or reasons, they subsequently get pulled over and charged with a DWLS.
It’s at this stage that procrastination must be replaced by action, and if necessary, the money to take care of business must be borrowed from somewhere. Facing a DWLS may not be the most serious of Legal predicaments, but NOT taking care of it the right way can lead to regrettable, and completely avoidable problems, as the person facing this charge already knows too well.