Part 1 of this article focused on defining a DWLS 1st Offense charge, and what the law sets forth as possible consequences for such a charge. In part 2 of this article, we’re going to talk about the real consequences of a DWLS 1st Offense charge, and what can be done to avoid them, and perhaps the whole DWLS charge altogether.
While there are exceptions, pretty much all DWLS cases involve someone getting pulled over and caught driving. In that sense, the usual Client is caught “red handed,” as the term goes, and there are seldom any evidentiary issues to challenge, except, occasionally, the underlying Police reason for the Traffic Stop.
Therefore, in the usual, garden-variety DWLS 1st Offense case, a person has been pulled over for some reason and is found to have their License Suspended. Most of the time, they’ll be arrested and taken back to the Police Station, but sometimes, they’ll be let go with a Citation (Ticket). Of course, they’re not let go to keep driving; either someone in the car with a valid license will have to drive, or they’ll be allowed to call someone to come and pick them up. Depending on the circumstances, the car may or may not be impounded.
After all of that, they start looking for a Lawyer. They want to know several things, and first among them is whether or not they can be kept out of Jail. Good news here; unless the person has a really horrible prior Record, a 1st Offense DWLS is almost a slam-dunk for staying out of Jail. In fact, I cringe when people sometimes tell me some Lawyer or other told them he or she would keep them out of Jail. To me, that’s like a Dentist telling a person with a cavity that because of the filling they can put in, they’ll keep the person from getting brain-cancer. In fact, I can’t remember anyone I’ve ever represented even coming close to going to Jail on a DWLS 1st Offense charge.
Okay, so we know that in all but the rarest of rare cases, we’re not talking about Jail. Next on anyone’s list is (or at least should be) what can be done to avoid all the other consequences (Mandatory Additional License Suspensions, Points, Driver Responsibility Fees, etc.)? The answer to that question depends, more than anything, on the driver’s prior Record. If the person gets a DWLS 1st charge after having ignore 22 Tickets in 14 different Cities, and has 20 outstanding Suspensions for failure to take car of any of them, their chances of working out a deal to avoid all the consequences of a DWLS are a lot slimmer than a person who has 1 or 2 (or even 3 or 4) outstanding unpaid Tickets that have resulted in Suspensions.
That deal we’re talking about involves negotiating with the Prosecutor to drop the DWLS charge to the lesser offense of “Failure to Display a Valid Operator’s License,” or what’s known as “No-Ops.” A “No-Ops,” when it can be had, is the poster-boy of all plea bargains. No-Ops results in no Points, No Driver Responsibility Fees, and, best of all, avoids any further Mandatory Additional Suspensions.
Typically, the Prosecutor, as a prerequisite to any such “No-Ops” deal, with require that the person “clear up” any outstanding matters in other Courts. Sometimes that involves a lot of money, and the Client is simply not able to pay for all this at once, so an astute Lawyer will either buy enough time for the Client to do this, or work this requirement into the Sentencing for a “No-Ops deal.
Even those who have had their License suspended for a DUI are often able to have a “No-Ops” deal worked out for them.
Whether or not a person winds up on some kind of Probation depends, in large part, on which Court is hearing their case. Courts in Macomb County are more likely than their Oakland County counterparts to simply send someone out of Court without requiring them to report monthly for Probation. Wayne County Courts, especially those in and near Detroit, are also more likely to not impose rigorous Probation requirements on someone who has gotten a “No-Ops deal. Western Wayne County Courts tend, in my experience, to be a bit more conservative than those closer to Detroit.
No matter which Court is hearing a person’s case, the extent of any prior Record is an equally important factor in determining if the matter can just be resolved by the payment of a Fine, or if Probation (either Reporting, or non-Reporting) is ordered.
The point to all this is that although Jail time is legally possible in a DWLS 1st Offense case, it’s so rare that I’ve never even heard of it happening. The ultimate goal is to avoid as many of the legal consequences as possible, and the best way to do that is to negotiate a deal with the Prosecutor to reduce the DWLS to a “No-Ops” charge.
In the next articles, we’ll examine DWLS 2nd and Subsequent Offense cases, and see how having a prior Suspended License conviction (or convictions) can affect a person’s future.