Michigan DWLS/DWLR Charges – Getting the best Results in your Case

Suspended and Revoked license cases account for the most common charges handled in all the district courthouses of the Metro-Detroit area. These cases seldom carry any real threat of jail (except for those who just don’t stop racking them up), but they do carry consequences to a person’s driving record that can not only result in remaining unable to drive legally (as in additional suspensions or revocations), but also cost a person a lot of money and headache that may otherwise be avoidable. Because driving offenses and driver’s licenses are at the center of everything I do in my role as a Michigan driver’s license restoration and DUI lawyer, and to borrow (and modify) a line from the Farmer’s Insurance Company TV ad campaign, “I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.”

rajasthan-results-300x300I’ve written a lot about suspended and revoked licenses, but it always gets hard, once I start, to keep things brief, because as simple as these cases may seem, there are a million things that go into them or that can affect how they turn out, making this rather meaty subject hard to keep short and simple. DWLS and DWLR charges arise from and are part of the very same law. At various points in this article, however, I might just make reference to a “revoked” license in one place, and a “suspended” license in another because a person’s license is either suspended or revoked for very different reasons, even though the specific law being violated is the same in either case. I think it is important for anyone facing a DWLS or DWLR charge who’s looking for a lawyer to ask, “what can you do for me?” Also, a person should be wondering if there’s any benefit to hiring one lawyer over another, and if paying more for a lawyer means getting better results, or is just a waste of good money.

There are seemingly 2 nearly parallel, but very distinct considerations in every DWLS/DWLR case: the prosecutor and the court. In other words, plea deals are negotiated with the prosecutor, and then the legal penalties are imposed by the court. Both of those things have to work out favorably for you. On top of that (quite literally) one must understand the overriding role of the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) and its administrative rules, because what might seem like favorable plea deal treated super leniently by the Judge can still cause the SOS to further suspend or revoke your driving privileges. In the real world, where these things happen, there are basically 2 kinds of people who wind up facing DWLS and DWLR charges: those who can’t drive because of a prior DUI (or multiple DUI’s), and everybody else. This generally (but not always) means that if your license is suspended for anything other than a drunk driving offense, you are in much better shape. Look, I’m in business to make money, but I’m also unfailingly honest, and any lawyer who doesn’t to tell you this up front, or says differently, is either frighteningly inexperienced or just plain lying. I point this because why you don’t have a license is THE starting point of any suspended license case. Another critical factor is where your charge is pending, because just like DUI cases, location really does matter in suspended and revoked license cases, as well. There are some courts where one of these charges can land a person on probation for a year, while the next court over may be more inclined to wrap the whole thing up with just a fine.

You should be paying for a lawyer who knows this, and knows it well. In other words, the last thing you want to do is drag some lawyer from the other side of the state into a local, Detroit-area (Wayne, Oakland or Macomb County) court who is not familiar with how each Judge handles these cases (the opposite, applies equally, as well). Indeed, there are courthouses here, in Metro-Detroit, where the same case can play out differently depending on the specific Judge to whom it’s assigned. There are plenty of times when I explain to my client that in City X, if the case is assigned to Judge #1, it will work out this way, but if it’s assigned to Judge #2, it will work out differently. I’m rather fond of saying that when you hire a lawyer, you should be paying for his or her experience, because, if not, then you’re paying his or her tuition to get that experience. At the end of the day, your lawyer has to know how to navigate around the way things are done in any particular court, and/or before any particular Judge, in order to bring about the best outcome.

For the most part, people have their license revoked (as opposed to suspended) for multiple DUI’s. One of the more important considerations when handling a case for someone in this position is trying not to cause his or her license to be revoked further. This can get real messy because many seemingly great plea deals that carry no additional court-required license penalties still wind up triggering mandatory additional license penalties through the Secretary of State (SOS). In my capacity as a driver’s license restoration lawyer, this is one of the most frequent missteps I see other lawyers make. I could probably teach an entire seminar on this, but here’s the simple, if somewhat elusive takeaway: if your license is revoked, and you are found guilty of or responsible for ANY moving violation, or ANYTHING whatsoever winds up on your driving record, then your license will be revoked all over again by the SOS for the same number of years it was previously revoked.

This means that if Sober Cindy racked up 2 DUI’s a long time ago, and had her license revoked for the mandatory minimum of 1 year, and even if she was otherwise eligible to try and get her license back 10 years ago, but she never got around to doing it, if she is ticketed for a suspend/revoked license offense now, and even if her lawyer goes in and gets it knocked down to something like “Failure to Display a Valid License (No Ops), her license will be automatically revoked again for another whole year, making her ineligible to file to get it back. And believe me, the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS), the division that decides license appeals, isn’t going to be inclined to giver her license back fresh off the heels after getting caught driving with no license, so in the real world, that 1-year revocation is more like 2 years, at least.

I get calls about this all the time, even from lawyers, so let me try clarifying this even further: when a person’s license is revoked, and no matter how long ago he or she may otherwise have been eligible to file for a license appeal, if anything goes on his or her driving record, the license will be revoked all over again for what is called a “mandatory like (meaning the same) additional” period. Revocations are either for 1 or 5 years. Anyone who racks up 2 DUI’s in 7 years will be revoked for the 1-year minimum, while someone who racks up 3 or more DUI’s within a 10-year period will receive a 5-year minimum revocation. This applies even if the person is in the middle of a period of revocation. Thus, if Bad Luck Billy picked up his 3rd DUI about 4 years ago, and was revoked for 5 years, and, at the time of his DWLR charge was only a year away from being eligible to file for restoration of his driving privileges, if ANYTHING whatsoever winds up on his driving record that shows he was driving, he’s going to get another 5 year revocation slapped on, which, in his case will make him ineligible to appeal for at least another 6 years.

When I say if “ANYTHING” goes on his driving record, I mean anything. For example, a person could driving without a license, and maybe he or she does nothing wrong, but is rear-ended at a stoplight, and even if the nicest, most sympathetic police officer in the world DOESN’T write him or her up for any offense, once the traffic crash report is received the SOS and they cross-reference that the person was revoked at the time of the accident, and even if that driver was not cited for anything, his or license will still be revoked for that mandatory like additional period.

In truth, this is actually easy to understand, but hard to accept, because almost every person will start asking questions that begin with words like, “But what about….,” or “Yeah, but what if…” and so on. There is at least some comfort, even if it’s cold, in the absoluteness of the way the rules work. If the SOS finds out you were driving, you will be revoked all over again, period.

To protect my clients, I have to maneuver around this. Please don’t confuse my confidence for cockiness, but there is no one who can do this better than me. I say that first because, in the interests of honesty, there are some times (thankfully, those are the exception) when the kind of plea deal that won’t result in anything going on a person’s driving record just cannot be had. If I find myself in that position in a case, I at least know that no one else could have done anything better or differently, and the situation is what it is. Look, if Dangerous Dave has 5 prior DUI’s and 3 prior DWLS/DWLR charges, the prosecutor is going to say something like “your guy is an a$$hole, and I’m not giving him that kind of break.” It happens. As good as I am, some people can outstrip all of that with a combination of a bad record and some bad luck. No matter how dire my client’s situation, however, I will always make sure that I exhaust every possible way to work it out so that he or she doesn’t face that “mandatory like additional.” Over the course of more than 25 years, I have come up with some very creative solutions.

For the most part, properly handling these kinds of situations is pretty routine for me. It gets a lot easier in straight-up DWLS cases where the person has not lost his or her driving privileges for being a habitual alcohol offender. Most true suspended license cases involve either the failure to pay a ticket of the failure to have paid those dreaded (and, thankfully, soon to be abolished) driver responsibility fees, although there are plenty of other reasons a person’s license can be suspended, as well. Whatever the reason for a license suspension, and even if a person is suspended for a single DUI, he or she is still in way better shape than someone whose license has been revoked for multiple DUI’s. Honestly, this doesn’t (and really shouldn’t) require a lot of explanation.

In my role as a driver’s license restoration lawyer, and because DWLS and DWLR cases are often part of, if not an ongoing issue with license appeal cases, I have had to develop a deep and practical understanding of everything driving related, in a way that would have never happened if I was just some DUI lawyer, or lawyer “doing” criminal and suspended license cases. This has been the driving force behind some of the creative solutions I have worked out to spare my clients from additional license revocations and suspensions when they face a DWLS/DWLR charge. It goes without saying that any lawyer wants to spare the client as much grief as possible, and get him or her out of the case with as little consequence as can be had. That’s beyond a “given,” but the real target in these cases is to minimize the impact to the clients’ driving record.

If you are facing a DWLS/DWLR case anywhere in Wayne, Oakland, or Macomb (or a surrounding) County, I can make sure you get the very best outcome possible. If you’re looking to hire a lawyer, do your homework, read how other lawyer explain these things, and then begin checking around. You can reach my office Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., at (586) 465-1980. All case screenings are confidential and done over the phone, right when you call. We’re here to help.