As Michigan driver’s license restoration and DUI lawyers, my team and I deal with DWLS (Driving While License Suspended) and DWLR (Driving While License Revoked) charges almost every day. In this article, we’re going to focus on why getting caught driving when one’s license is revoked can really hurt a person’s ability to get back on the road again legally. Specifically, we’re going to look at what happens when the Michigan Secretary of State learns that a person has driven after his or her license has been revoked for multiple DUI’s.
Under Michigan’s DUI laws, if a person is convicted of 2 DUI’s within 7 years, his or her license will be revoked for a minimum of 1 year, and if he or she is convicted of 3 DUI’s within 10 years, then their license will be revoked for a minimum of 5 years. State law also requires that, if a person gets caught driving while his or her license is revoked, what’s called a “mandatory additional” period of revocation be imposed, meaning that he or she will get an additional revocation slapped on top of his or her current period of revocation.
Once a person’s license gets revoked, it will stay revoked unless and until he or she files and wins a formal driver’s license restoration appeal. The “mandatory additional” means that, once someone’s license is revoked, if he or she gets caught driving at any time before it is legally restored, then an additional revocation will be added onto to his or her existing period of revocation. This action is, as noted, mandatory, and it does not matter if a person is or was “eligible” to file a license appeal at the time he or she got caught driving.
Instead, the only thing that the Michigan Secretary of State can (and must) take into account is that he or she had not yet filed AND won his or her license back, and then was found to be driving.
A little bit of history is important to understand the law as it stands now: Before 1999, all mandatory additional revocations ran consecutively, and were “stacked,” one on top of the other, with each new period of revocation starting only after any and all prior periods had been fully completed. In other words, any new mandatory additional revocation didn’t even start until each and every one of a person’s existing periods of revocation started and ran out, one at a time, in consecutive order.
This can get confusing, but the bottom line is that someone who got caught driving several times times after his or her last DUI could wind up being revoked for 30 or more years. Indeed, this was not uncommon, and some of the absurd results it created was part of the reason the law was amended.
Fortunately, this all changed in 1999, and from then forward, all mandatory addition revocations began to run concurrently, and start from the time when a person was caught driving. This revision to the law was huge.
In practice, it meant that a person could only get an additional revocation of either 1 year or 5 years – a “like” period, depending on whether they had originally been revoked for 1 year or 5 years, and that it would begin from the time of the new offense. In other words, the “stacking” of revocations that required each one to start, in order, only after the conclusion of the prior period of revocation had run, was eliminated.
As part of the revised law, people who had previously been revoked for a ridiculous number of years were afforded the opportunity to go to court and basically have those mandatory additional revocations changed from being stacked up consecutively to have them run concurrently from the time they were imposed.
It’s a given that, in 1999, the law changed for the better, but the simple fact, and what really matters for our purposes here, is that any mandatory additional revocation still imposes a rather substantial penalty on someone who gets caught driving while his or her license is revoked.
Usually, when we speak of someone who “gets caught driving,” it means that they get cited for DWLR (Driving While License Revoked). Sometimes, though, a person may get what they think is a break and NOT get charged with DWLR, but rather ticketed for something else.
In fact, a person doesn’t even need to be cited for or convicted of any moving violation to be subject to the “mandatory additional” penalty. All that has to happen is that the Michigan Secretary of State learns that a person was driving during a period of revocation, and the law requires the imposition of an additional period of revocation.
Here’s a real life example:
Some years ago, a lady came to see us about getting her license back. She was genuinely sober, and proud of it, and otherwise seemed like the ideal client. As we talked, she told me that what really got her motivated to get her license back was a (then) recent experience that, at least at the time, seemed like a lucky break.
Even though her license was revoked, this woman had been driving herself to and from work. Her 2 DUI’s had taken place quite a few years before, and she had been eligible to file a license appeal for some time by then, but she just hadn’t gotten around to it.
One morning, as she was sitting at a red light, she was rear-ended by another totally at-fault driver. When the police showed up, the officer felt bad for her, and told her he wouldn’t cite her for anything if she promised to start the restoration process right away.
She kept her word, and a few days later, contacted our firm.
Unfortunately, I only had bad news for her. I informed her that even though both she and the officer thought she had gotten a real break by not being cited for any driving offense, the fact that she was noted to have been the driver of the car that was struck in the crash report would be enough to cause her license to be revoked all over again.
I told her to wait a short while and then get a copy of her driving record. She did that, and even before she received notice of her additional revocation from the Secretary of State, her driving record showed that, because she had been found to be driving during a period of revocation on the traffic crash report, she was revoked all over again for another year, after which she would then be eligible to file a driver’s license restoration appeal.
Eligible, though, does not necessarily mean a person is anywhere near able to win, and that takes us to another important part of our discussion.
Beyond the setback of either another 1 or 5 year revocation imposed for getting caught driving while a person’s license is revoked, there is an additional legal issue brought into any license appeal case he or she may file, and it’s precisely because he or she has been caught driving while revoked.
Before we get into that, let’s look at the the key takeaway from main rule governing driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals. It provides that a person must always prove, by what the law defines as “clear and convincing evidence,” these 2 things:
First, that his or her alcohol problem is “under control.” This means that a person must demonstrate complete abstinence from alcohol (and any other substances, including recreational marijuana) for a “legally sufficient” period of time. While the exact amount of time required can vary from case to case, our firm generally requires any client to have been completely abstinent from all substances for at least 18 months before we’ll file an appeal.
Second, that his or her alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control.” This essentially boils down to a person showing that he or she intends to remain abstinent, and has both the ability (meaning the tools) and commitment (i.e., intention) to remain sober for life. In other words, a person has to prove that he or she has quit drinking (and smoking recreational marijuana) and intends to “stay quit.”
There is a third requirement under the rule, and in any case where a person has been caught driving after his or her license has been revoked, it becomes directly relevant:
Anyone filing a license appeal must also prove that he or she “has the ability and motivation to drive safely and within the law.”
Obviously, getting caught driving while your license is revoked is clearly the opposite of driving “within the law.”
Not surprisingly, the longer it’s been since a person last got caught driving before he or she files a license appeal, the better. In the real world, though, a lot of people get motivated to try and get their license back precisely because of the legal problems they run into from getting caught driving while revoked.
The Secretary of State will legitimately question how committed any such person can be to following the rules that come with a restricted license and an interlock if he or she continues to disregard the law and drive without a license.
Not to condone driving illegally, but in real life, people do sometime just find themselves “needing” to drive. It’s really easy for someone who has a valid license to get all preachy about it, but it’s a different thing for someone who needs to get somewhere and has no other real choice.
The hearing officers who decide these cases are, of course, constrained by the rules. That said, my team and I have worked through many cases where, despite a person having been caught driving somewhat recently before his or her license appeal, some of the hearing officers have been, to put it diplomatically, rather “understanding.”
Understanding has its limits, though. If a person just looks like he or she just doesn’t give a damn about the law and keeps on driving without a license, however he or she see fit, that’s another thing altogether.
Of course, it’s better to not count on getting any breaks from the Secretary of State, and try to avoid any legal consequences whatsoever if a person finds him or herself in a driving while license revoked situation. In any such case that goes to court, the best thing that can be done is to avoid having anything go on his or her driving record.
Think back to the woman who was rear-ended, but didn’t get any citation from the police. In her case, the problem was that, even though she didn’t’ get a ticket, something did go on her driving record from the accident report. There was nothing that could have been done to avoid that.
However, as long as there isn’t an accident, there is always a chance that we can work out some kind of plea deal in court for a citation (whether it’s for DWLR or anything else) so that ultimately, nothing does go on a person’s record. The key, though, is understanding Michigan’s Motor Vehicle code AND the Secretary of State’s rules. A simple misunderstanding can screw that all up.
Here’s an example drawn from a fairly common situation:
Assume that Danger Dave had his license revoked after his 2nd DUI, and never got around to getting it restored. One day, on his way to work, he gets pulled over, and winds up getting cited for DWLR.
Dave hires Simple Simon, the lawyer, to get him out of this jam. Simon, who doesn’t handle a lot of driver’s license restoration cases, goes to court, and explains to the prosecutor that Dave would like to get his license back, and asks for a break.
The prosecutor, who had no reason to understand the nuances of the driver’s license restoration process, tries her best to help Dave and Simon, and offers to dismiss the Driving While License Revoked (DWLR) charge and allow Dave to plead guilty to the less serious offense of No Valid Operator’s License on Person (No Ops).
No ops does not carry any mandatory driver’s license penalties, nor does it carry any points.
Dave and Simon are happy with the offer, and take the deal.
A few weeks later, Dave gets a notice in the mail from the Secretary of State informing him that his revocation has been extended another year from the time of his “No Ops” conviction.
Confused, he calls Simon, who is likewise perplexed.
Simon does a little legal research, and only then learns about the whole “mandatory additional” revocation that must be imposed any time the Secretary of State is notified that a person was driving. Because the “No Ops” conviction goes on Dave’s driving record (and obviously, means he was driving while his license was revoked), he’s going to take the hit for an addition revocation.
Our office hears stories like this all the time from people whose lawyers didn’t understand this.
If we had represented Danger Dave, we’d have pushed for a plea deal that would have resulted in NOTHING winding up on his driving record. That can take some creative negotiating, a subject that can get very deep in its own right, and goes well beyond the scope of this article.
Whatever else, though, precisely because we are Michigan driver’s license restoration and DUI lawyers, we know what needs to be done, and how to do it. Indeed, we’ve handled many cases where the prosecutor has agreed to a “no record” plea deal contingent upon our client proceeding with a license appeal.
In some of these cases, proof of payment of the first part of our fee for that appeal has been enough to secure the plea bargain, while in others, we’ve found other kinds of workarounds to keep the client’s record clear so that he or she can proceed with a license restoration case.
The main point is that in order to be any kind of “deal” in a situation like this, the arrangement can’t screw up a person’s ability to file a license appeal. This is done by making sure that nothing whatsoever winds up on his or her driving record, and, therefore, he or she is not subject to a mandatory additional revocation.
If your driver’s license has been revoked for multiple DUI’s and you get caught driving, make sure you hire a lawyer who really knows the nuances of what’s involved in keeping your record clear. This article should give the reader at least a starting point for understanding the implications for any future license appeal.
If you are looking for a lawyer, either for a pending driving offense or to get your license back, be a wise consumer and read around. Pay attention to how different lawyers explain the law and the process, and how they explain their various approaches to those things.
When you’ve done enough of that, start checking around. You can learn a lot by speaking with a live person.
Of course, give our office a ring, as well. All of our consultations are free, confidential, and done over the phone, right when you call. My team and I are very friendly people who will be glad to answer your questions, explain things, and even compare notes with anything some other lawyer has told you.
We can be reached Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (EST) at either 248-986-9700, or 586-465-1980.