Michigan DUI – 1st Offense Means a Restricted License

This article will examine the kind of restricted license that a person receives following a 1st offense DUI. In the previous installment, we looked at and explained the restricted license that’s granted after a successful driver’s license restoration appeal for someone whose privileges were revoked for multiple DUI’s. Here, we’ll focus on the restricted license that is automatically issued as a result of any of the 1st offense OWI charges in Michigan.

images-1The best way to understand a restricted license is by explaining what it does not allow. A restricted license is a far cry from a full license. It is a serious restraint on the kind of driving a person can do, and provides a limited – severely limited – ability to drive, but at least it’s something, and a hell of a lot better than not being able to drive at all. Essentially, a restricted license is supposed to allow most people to drive enough to merely “get by.”

This arrangement will work better for some people than others, and there are folks for whom it will be little to no help at all. That’s just the way it is. There is no provision in a restricted license for a person to do many of the things we consider “normal,” like taking kids to school, going to the gym, or doing grocery shopping, and there is nothing that can be done about that.

In the real world, people often ask things like, “Well, how do they expect me to [insert question here, like “feed my family,” etc.]? The cold answer is that, first off, there is no “they” that expects anything; these penalties are part of the written law, and they are what they are. In addition, part and parcel of getting a restricted license after a 1st offense DUI is that it is a form of punishment. It’s supposed to suck.

The fact that a restricted license may work well for one person, but not work at all for another is simply an expected casualty of the DUI process. What’s more, there is no way to modify or otherwise even request a change in the terms of a restricted license. This is important to note, because almost every person who gets a restricted license will still ask if there is any possible workaround so that they can drive for some purpose not specified in the law.

There is not.

The purposes for which a person can drive on a restricted license are spelled out in the law, and are specifically limited to the following:

1. In the course of the person’s employment or occupation.

2. To and from any combination of the following:

  • The person’s residence.
  • The person’s work location.
  • An alcohol or drug education or treatment program as ordered by the court.
  • The court probation department.
  • A court-ordered community service program.
  • An educational institution at which the person is enrolled as a student.
  • A place of regularly occurring medical treatment for a serious condition for the person or a member of the person’s household or immediate family.
  • An ignition interlock service provider as required.

3. While driving with a restricted license, the person shall carry proof of his or her destination and the hours of any employment, class, or other reason for traveling and shall display that proof upon a peace officer’s request.

No matter how much you may need drive for any reason not stated above, you cannot, and, as I have already pointed out (and will again, later) there is no mechanism or procedure to even request a change to or modification of these terms. They are set in stone.

The reason this article focuses on 1st offense OWI cases is because only first offenders get any kind of license after a conviction. A 2nd DUI within 7 years (or a 3rd within 10 years) results in the revocation of a person’s license, meaning it is taken away for good.

All first offenders, by contrast, are automatically given a restricted license. While it is true that 2nd and even 3rd offenders can be granted a restricted license if they participate in a sobriety court program, the terms of those licenses are nearly identical to those that we’re discussing here. Although not relevant here, a sobriety court Judge can issue a restricted license that allows a person to take his or her child to daycare or school, and school-related activities.

With that possible exception, there is no variation in what a restricted license allows, and certainly none among the kind that are issued automatically by the Secretary of State after a 1st offense OWI. In that context, a restricted license is a restricted license. The only difference between the various first offenses – Impaired Driving (OWVI), Operation While Intoxicated (OWI) and Operating with a BAC of .17 or Greater (High BAC) – is when that restricted license kicks in.

Remember, when you can drive again depends on the final charge to which you plead guilty, and one of the main reasons you hire a lawyer in the first place is so that he or she can try and get your case dismissed, or, if that’s not possible, negotiate a plea bargain for you. What this means is that the charge you first face may very well NOT be the charge that ultimately goes on your record.

For example, it is always the goal of the lawyer for someone charged with OWI or High BAC to either get the case dismissed or negotiate a plea deal to the lesser offense of Impaired Driving (OWVI) in order to spare the client the license consequences of the original and more serious OWI or High BAC charge.

Let’s look at when the restricted license takes effect in each of the 3 first offense charges. We’ll begin with OWI, because that’s the most common charge brought in MichiganDUI cases:

OWI: License completely suspended (meaning absolutely no driving for any reason) for the first 30 days, followed by a restricted license for the next 5 months.

High BAC: License completely suspended (no driving) for the first 45 days, followed by a restricted license that requires use of an ignition interlock unit for the next 10 and 1/2 months.

OWVI: This is the least serious of all OWI offenses, and although it is seldom made as an initial charge against anyone, it is the most common charge to which people wind up pleading guilty: License restricted for 90 days. There is NO suspension period during which a person cannot drive.

What’s important to remember is that the license penalty imposed in a DUI case is a direct result of the final conviction offense, and NOT the initial charge. In other words, if a person is first charged with High BAC, for example, and his or her lawyer works out a deal reducing that charge to OWVI, then his or her restricted license will take effect immediately, and the delay and interlock required for a High BAC conviction will be avoided entirely.

It’s the same if a person is charged with a High BAC and the lawyer negotiates a plea bargain down to the lesser charge of OWI.

Beyond the timing, however, there is no “difference” in the restricted license issued as a result of any of the 1st offense DUI offenses, only a difference in when it takes effect (and, in the case of a conviction for High BAC, the fact that a person must use an ignition interlock unit while driving on it).

And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll repeat that there is absolutely, 100% NO WAY to change or modify any of the terms of a restricted license…

If you’re facing a DUI anywhere in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb County and are looking to hire a lawyer, then take your time, do your homework, and be a good consumer. Read around, then check around. All of my consultations are free, confidential, and done right over the phone, when you call in. We’re really friendly people who will be glad to answer your questions and explain things. You can reach my office Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., at 248-986-9700 or 586-465-1980. We’re here to help.