How a DWLR (Driving on a Revoked License) Charge can kill a Michigan License Restoration Appeal

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v3-Gameover-300x199In fact, because of the way the law works, if a person whose license has already been revoked has anything placed on their driving record that indicates they were driving, their license will be re-revoked for the same period of time it was originally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:

Assume that Bad Luck Betty was convicted of her 2nd DUI about 8 months ago, and her license was revoked for the minimum 1 year. This means that, technically (although not practically), she would be eligible to file for a license restoration in 4 more months (8 months plus 4 months equals her 1 year). Unfortunately, Betty got caught driving to work one day. The officer felt bad for her, so instead of charging her with DWLS/DWLR, he cited her for a prohibited turn. Betty was so thankful to not get a suspended license charge that she ran and paid her ticket the next day, not realizing that if the SOS receives any information that a person was driving during a period of revocation, a mandatory additional revocation is, well, mandatory. A few weeks later, Betty did indeed receive a notice from the Secretary of State informing her that since she had been driving while her license was revoked she was going to receive an additional revocation – that “mandatory like additional,” of 1 year.

It’s important to point out here that mandatory additionals are concurrent, not consecutive, so Betty’s additional year will start right away, NOT after her 1st year is up. This means that Betty will be eligible to appeal in 1 year from now, which is 8 months more than if she hadn’t been caught driving.

Here’s where some people get confused; stay with me for a moment, and this will all make sense. No matter how long your original minimum period of revocation, and even if that passed a long time ago, until you actually win your license back, you are still considered “revoked” and the whole mandatory like additional thing applies. Another example using poor Bad Luck Betty will help clarify this:

Assume Betty had her first DUI back in 2007, and picked up her second in 2011. Because that’s 2 DUI’s within 7 years, her license would have been revoked for a mandatory minimum of 1 year, meaning she technically would have become eligible to file a license appeal in 2012. Assume further that Betty is pulled over the month this article was written, in June of 2018, and charged with DWLR. If, as a result of that charge, ANYTHING goes on Betty’s driving record, she will receive another “mandatory like additional” revocation of 1 year, putting her next eligibility date off until about June of 2019.

If Betty’s license had been revoked for 5 years as a result of 3 DUI’s within 10 years, everything covered here would apply the same way, except that her mandatory additional would be for 5 years.

Thus, if we modify our example a bit and assume that Betty had 3 previous DUI’s, one in 2007, another in 2011 and her third in 2015, we know that her license would have been revoked for 5 years, meaning she would have become eligible in 2020. If she gets pulled over in June of 2018 and charged with driving on a suspended/revoked license, and if anything whatsoever goes on her record, she will get that mandatory like additional, meaning another 5 years added to her revocation. Because mandatory additional are not consecutive, whereas she had previously been eligible to appeal in 2020 (5 years from 2015, the time of her last conviction), the 5 years will be added on from the time something new goes on her driving record, which in this case, is 2018, thus pushing her eligibility up to 2023.

One more example will cover all the bases: assume that Betty had 3 DUI’s from a long time ago, the first in 1998, the second in 2001, and her third, in 2007. Having been revoked for 5 years back in ’07, Betty became eligible to file an appeal in 2012, although she didn’t then, and has not yet. If she gets pulled over now, in June of 2018, and if anything whatsoever  makes it on her driving record, even though she has been eligible to file a license appeal for around 6 years, she will be revoked all over again, for another 5 years from now, thereby making her ineligible to file for restoration until 2023.

The upshot of all this is that if a person who is revoked receives ANY kind of ticket, the lawyer has to either get it dismissed outright, or plea-bargain it down to what is called a “non-reportable” offense, meaning something that does NOT go on the person’s record.  I rather dislike this cliche, but in this circumstance, results matter, for real.

This also means that if a person whose license is revoked is involved in an accident, and even if he or she is NOT given a ticket for anything (meaning the police officer gives them a break), once the collision report makes it to the SOS in Lansing and the accident gets put on his or her record, a mandatory like additional revocation will be added to his or her driving record. There is no way to avoid this from happening. If the Secretary of State finds out a person had been driving, and even if the person wasn’t issued a ticket for anything, the “mandatory like additional” revocation will automatically be tacked on

There’s more to all this than just the legal eligibility to file a license appeal that’s at stake, because even when you can and eventually do file, the SOS isn’t going to be happy that you’ve been driving without a license. One of the more overlooked provisions of the main rule governing license appeals (Rule 13) requires that you prove, by clear and convincing evidence that you have “the ability and motivation to drive safely, and within the law.” This translates to showing that you can be a safe driver who will meet all the requirements mandated by the state. A bad driving record shows quite the opposite, but it’s even worse when you kept driving after losing your license, and worse still if you kept doing it after you claimed to have quit drinking. Driving on a suspended or revoked license is a crime, and the SOS will remind you of that, and that having done so raises questions about your “ability and motivation to drive safely, and within the law.”

Imagine a hearing officer asking why you should be trusted to follow the rules when, even after your license was taken away, you kept driving (and getting caught). It’s one thing to say that everything changed when you got sober, but it’s another to have to explain how and why, as a sober person, you still disobeyed the law and drove. How do we explain our way out of this? The same way you disarm a bomb; very carefully. The consequences of getting caught driving after your license has been revoked linger well beyond your eligibility to file a license appeal, and will affect you even during the appeal process.

The biggest (and, unfortunately, most common) mistake many lawyers make, when dealing with revoked license charges in court, is to accept certain kinds of plea bargains, like “Failure to Display a Valid License” (most often called “No Ops”) believing that it won’t cause an additional revocation. It will. I can’t account for why so many lawyers misunderstand this, but it seems likely that they don’t fully comprehend the difference between legal penalties and administrative sanctions. Mandatory additional revocations are administrative sanctions. They are still penalties imposed by law, but there is a difference between them and the possible criminal, and statutory penalties that a conviction for driving with a suspended or revoked license carries. Unless a lawyer really understands this distinction, he or she is playing with fire, and the client will be the one who winds up getting burned.

The easiest way to clear this up is to understand this simple fact: if anything, absolutely anything shows that a person was driving, no matter what it is, goes on his or her driving record during a period of revocation, there will be a mandatory like additional period of revocation tacked on.

This requires that, in my role as a DUI and driver’s license restoration lawyer, I make sure to negotiate a deal so that NOTHING does, in fact, get abstracted to my client’s driving record. This can sometimes get rather involved, but for anyone at risk for an additional revocation, every effort should be made to do this. As I’ve noted, beyond the immediate consequence of a mandatory additional revocation, getting caught driving while your license is revoked never looks good, and, in some cases, can (at least for a time), be a deal killer in a restoration appeal. Even after a mandatory additional period of revocation expires and a person becomes legally eligible to file a license appeal, the taint from getting caught driving after his or her license was revoked, especially if that happened after he or she claims to have quit drinking, will follow him or her through the restoration process.

I’m not one to engage in any kind of “fear based” marketing, but if you’re facing a revoked license charge and you have any notion of eventually winning your license back, you don’t want to underestimate the importance of this situation. This is not the place for some lawyer who thinks he or she can “handle” the case, or some cut rate lawyer whose main attribute is affordability. I cannot count how many times I confront situations in my license restoration practice where someone who might have been eligible to appeal sooner had to wait because the lawyer they hired didn’t understand all the nuances of what’s involved here, or otherwise didn’t know how to properly negotiate the kind of deal that would have kept anything from going on his or her record, thereby triggering a mandatory additional administrative revocation.

If you’re facing a DWLS or DWLR charge and looking to hire a lawyer, be a good consumer and do your homework. Read around, then check around. All of my consultations are confidential and done over the phone, right when you call, so if your case is here, in the Detroit-area (anywhere in Oakland, Macomb or Wayne County) contact my office. We’re open Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., and can be reached at (586) 465-1980, or 248-986-9700 or 586-465-1980. We’re here to help.