Restoring your Michigan Driver’s License Begins with Restrictions

This article will explain the restricted license that is granted when you win a Michigan driver’s license restoration appeal. Because the what you can and can’t do aspect of a “restricted license” is not often examined in detail, there is a misunderstanding that the restricted license you win after a restoration appeal is identical to the kind you get after a DUI. Although the legal meaning of “restricted license” in Michigan is fixed, there can be some big differences between the kind of driving allowed after a successful license appeal at the Secretary of State, and what’s permitted by the restricted license automatically issued after a 1st offense OWI conviction., let’s understand what a restricted license is, and that’s best described by defining what it is not: a restricted license is not a full license. It is an accommodation, like a half measure, that is understood will NOT completely cover a person’s driving needs. A restricted license, by definition, is a license with restrictions. The intended result of a restricted license is to give a person some help in getting by, and this may work better for some people than others. That’s a given, and just the way things are. Moreover, this limited ability to drive is all business, without any provision for fun or recreation.

Under Michigan law, a restricted license allows for certain, specified things, and only those things. It needs to be pointed out (often, in fact) that there can be NO modification to the terms of a restricted license, except that, in a Michigan driver’s license restoration case, the hearing officer can expand the hours during which a person can drive, and during those expanded hours, the person may drive for any reason whatsoever, and not just for the purposes permitted by a restricted license.

We’ll sort this all out in the coming paragraphs, but what the reader needs to understand here is that if a person wins his or her license restoration case, and unless granted extra hours by a hearing officer, a restricted license is limited to what is outlined below:

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.

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.

These are the only reasons a person can drive while on a restricted driver’s license, period.

Here’s the chorus again: there are no possible exceptions or modifications that can be made to the purposes specified above. This means, for example, that with a restricted license, a parent cannot take a child to school, or drive to any school-related functions for that child (this can be different in the case of a sobriety court restricted license but that’s not at issue here). The only “school” driving a person can do is for themselves, and only if formally enrolled at an actual school. Accordingly, things like karate lessons don’t count.

A restricted license is issued after a 1st offense DUI, and is also what is usually granted by the Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (soon to be renamed the “Office of Administrative Hearings and Appeals”) when someone wins a driver’s license restoration appeal. When I say this the kind that’s “usually” granted, I mean in about 98% of all cases. By law, a person has to spend the first year on a restricted license using an ignition interlock.

We’ll skip discussion of the interlock unit for now, because that’s a whole subject in its own right, and I have addressed interlock issues in other articles.

It goes without saying that being given additional “hours” that allows a person to drive beyond the terms of a restricted license – and for any reason whatsoever – is something everyone would want, and could almost certainly use. In fact, I’m hard pressed to imagine any case where a person wouldn’t prefer that. However, that’s not the way things play out, except in very few cases.

The purpose of a restricted license is to provide a little help to someone, not fix everything for them. It is understood that every person could use more driving. The fact that they aren’t getting it is part of the process of going from no license to restricted license to full license. This is not considered to be a hassle, or a shortcoming, but is seen, instead, as exactly the way things are supposed to be. A restricted license is really a “better than nothing” license, and, as I noted before, it may work better for some people than others. In fact, I’ve had clients for whom it has worked so well that they’ve driven on it for years!

Anyone on a restricted license as part of a DUI suspension, or granted through a sobriety court program, is limited to precisely the terms laid out above. It’s the same for anyone granted a restricted license by the Secretary of State after a successful driver’s license restoration appeal, UNLESS, and ONLY IF, the hearing officer grants additional hours along with a restricted license. This is called a “time-based” license.

A time-based license can only be granted by a Michigan Secretary of State AHS hearing officer, and can never be issued by a sobriety court Judge, or as part of any other restricted license, like the kind that automatically follows a 1st offense OWI, Impaired Driving, or High BAC conviction.

In the context of a Michigan driver’s license restoration case, a person may be given either a regular restricted license, a hybrid restricted license with additional times for driving, or an entirely time-based license.

Here’s an example of a time-based license:

Imagine that Fred, who is 71, wins a driver’s license restoration appeal. He has been sober for over 15 years, but has been retired for 3 years, as well. He doesn’t need a license for work, nor school, and both he and his wife are relatively healthy, so they only go to the doctor’s a few times per year, and none of those visits are for a “serious condition.”

What good would a regular restricted license do for Fred? Moreover, how could the state “monitor” his driving, if he doesn’t drive at all. Thus, a guy like Fred would be a candidate for a time-based license. This would allow him to drive from, say, 6:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. and for any reason whatsoever. In fact, if Fred just wanted to go out and drive around the block all afternoon, he could do that. However, Fred would not be allowed to drive after 7:00 p.m. for ANY reason whatsoever.

This kind of license often works for people like retirees or stay-at-home parents who don’t work outside of the house.

In some cases, though, a person can be awarded a hybrid license that allows them to drive for all the purposes allowed under a restricted license, with additional hours built around that. This is a special “gift,” and is not very common. When it is granted, it’s usually to accommodate someone with really unusual circumstances.

Let’s go back to our example with Fred. Assume that, instead of being fully retired, Fred is a plumber and that a few years ago, he passed his business over to his son, who has a severely disabled child at home and whose spouse is a nurse that works the night shift. Usually, once or twice (but sometimes ever more) times per week, the business gets an emergency, after-hours call. Because his son can’t do these runs while at home alone taking care of the disabled child, Fred handles them, with the help of his wife or a neighbor, who drives the van.

The hearing officer could give Fred a time-based license so he could drive for any reason between 6:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m., and then also allow him to drive for work (for those emergency, after-hours calls) at any time, day or night. This is a hybrid license

Or, the hearing officer could simply not grant any such privileges beyond a regular restricted license. It is completely within the hearing officer’s discretion to give Fred either a regular restricted or hybrid license, despite his circumstances.

The point is that, unless you’re like Fred, or have really super-exceptional circumstances, if you win a driver’s license appeal you should prepare yourself to spend the first year on a regular restricted license. As I’ve tried to make clear, the fact that a restricted license alone won’t fulfill your needs is a given. Still, any kind of license beats the hell out of bumming rides or waiting for the bus.

As the old saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. In the context of license restoration appeals, the journey to a full license begins with one that is, at first, restricted…

If you have lost your license for multiple DUI’s and need to win it back, do your homework and look around. As you consider which lawyer to hire, read what they’ve written and see how they explain things. For my part, I guarantee to win every case I take, but a person must have honestly quit drinking first.

All of my consultations are free, confidential, and done right over the phone, when you call in. We are really friendly people who will be glad to answer your questions and explain things. We’re here to help, and can be reached Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., at 248-986-9700 or 586-465-1980.

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