Criminal Defense Law Center
West Michigan

Every day, thousands of people in Michigan drive on a suspended license

Driving On A Suspended License

The burden people face in Michigan for not having a driver’s license is a harsh one. Here in West Michigan, the public transportation system is not where it should be. If you need to get to Grand Rapids or other suburbs like Kentwood or Jenison, you could be looking at a 30 to 40-minute drive depending on the traffic. If you don’t have a driver’s license, you have probably driven someone without one. It could be you needed to get to work or had a job interview.  You may not have a driver’s license for reasons that have nothing to do with your ability to safely drive.  If you have been arrested and charged with Driving While License is Suspended (DWLS) or Driving While License is Revoked (DWLR), please call our driver’s license attorneys today! We can help you out and give you guidance to what steps you need to take in order to get your license back as soon as possible.

Driving On A Suspended License Laws In Michigan

The authority for prosecutors and city attorneys to change someone for driving without a license is found from the statue that is found at MCL 257.904.  There is a major difference though between these two charges. The difference is how a lawyer will argue and defend the case and how the judge will go about sentencing the defendant.

Let’s look at the language found at MCL 257.904 and see what a city attorney or prosecutor has to prove in order to get a conviction. The statue is long, but is important to give you the full context of the law:

1) A person whose operator’s or chauffeur’s license or registration certificate has been suspended or revoked, whose application for license has been denied, or who has never applied for a license, shall not operate a motor vehicle upon a highway or other place open to the general public or generally accessible to motor vehicles, including an area designated for the parking of motor vehicles, within this state.

  (2) A person shall not knowingly permit a motor vehicle owned by the person to be operated upon a highway or other place open to the general public or generally accessible to motor vehicles, including an area designated for the parking of vehicles, within this state by a person whose license or registration certificate is suspended or revoked, whose application for license has been denied, or who has never applied for a license, except as permitted under this act.

  (3) Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person who violates subsection (1) or (2) is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable as follows:

  (a) For a first violation, by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both. Unless the vehicle was stolen or used with the permission of a person who did not knowingly permit an unlicensed driver to operate the vehicle, the registration plates of the vehicle shall be canceled by the secretary of state upon notification by a peace officer.

  (b) For a violation that occurs after a prior conviction, by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $1,000.00, or both. Unless the vehicle was stolen, the registration plates of the vehicle shall be canceled by the secretary of state upon notification by a peace officer.

  (4) A person who operates a motor vehicle in violation of subsection (1) or a person whose operator’s or chauffeur’s license or registration certificate has been suspended or revoked by another state who operates a motor vehicle during the period of suspension or revocation and who, by operation of that motor vehicle, causes the death of another person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 15 years or a fine of not less than $2,500.00 or more than $10,000.00, or both. This subsection does not apply to a person whose operator’s or chauffeur’s license was suspended because that person failed to answer a citation or comply with an order or judgment under section 321a.

  (5) A person who operates a motor vehicle in violation of subsection (1) or a person whose operator’s or chauffeur’s license or registration certificate has been suspended or revoked by another state who operates a motor vehicle during the period of suspension or revocation and who, by operation of that motor vehicle, causes the serious impairment of a body function of another person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 5 years or a fine of not less than $1,000.00 or more than $5,000.00, or both. This subsection does not apply to a person whose operator’s or chauffeur’s license was suspended because that person failed to answer a citation or comply with an order or judgment under section 321a.

  (6) In addition to being subject to any other penalty provided for in this act, if a person is convicted under subsection (4) or (5), the court may impose the sanction permitted under section 625n. If the vehicle is not ordered forfeited under section 625n, the court shall order vehicle immobilization under section 904d in the judgment of sentence.

  (7) A person shall not knowingly permit a motor vehicle owned by the person to be operated upon a highway or other place open to the general public or generally accessible to motor vehicles, including an area designated for the parking of vehicles, within this state, by a person whose license or registration certificate is suspended or revoked, whose application for license has been denied, or who has never been licensed except as permitted by this act. If a person permitted to operate a motor vehicle in violation of this subsection causes the serious impairment of a body function of another person by operation of that motor vehicle, the person knowingly permitting the operation of that motor vehicle is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 2 years, or a fine of not less than $1,000.00 or more than $5,000.00, or both. If a person permitted to operate a motor vehicle in violation of this subsection causes the death of another person by operation of that motor vehicle, the person knowingly permitting the operation of that motor vehicle is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 5 years, or a fine of not less than $1,000.00 or more than $5,000.00, or both.

  (8) If the prosecuting attorney intends to seek an enhanced sentence under this section based upon the defendant having 1 or more prior convictions, the prosecuting attorney shall include on the complaint and information, or an amended complaint and information, filed in district court, circuit court, municipal court, or family division of circuit court, a statement listing the defendant’s prior convictions.

The elements required to get a conviction for DWLS or DWLR are a person has to have 1. A suspended or revoked license and 2. The person was operating a motor vehicle on a public highway or other open place to the public. These other open places include a parking lot. I saw a kid run a stop sign at a local Meijer’s store and he was pulled over and issued a citation because it was considered an open place to the public.

When it comes to these types of cases, a person’s guilt or innocence is usually clear. Rarely have we seen someone come into our office and tell us they were issued a DWLS or DWLR misdemeanor ticket when they were caught driving. It is not tough for a local prosecutor to prove you were driving a car or truck when the police officer catches you red-handed.

This doesn’t mean your case can’t be won. There are times where the Secretary of State has had a technical glitch and we have even seen times where a person gave a law enforcement officer a fake name when they were pulled over and a poor innocent person gets notice of a court date.

If you can’t win your case, a great criminal defense attorney can skillfully argue and persuade city attorneys and local judges that the situation and circumstances that led to the arrest call for a reduction or dismissal of the charges. The Criminal Defense Law Center of West Michigan will stop at nothing to make sure all mitigating factors are presented to the local prosecutor in order to get you the best results possible!

Criminal Penalties in Michigan for Driving While License Suspended

A lot of people are shocked to find out the ticket they gave was not for a civil infraction but was a misdemeanor criminal offense that requires to them come to court. If you have a trial, the case will be held in front of a district court judge. You cannot afford to have a trial without a talented criminal defense attorney by your side. Trying a case by yourself would be the absolute worst possible thing to do! A person who is foolish enough to do this is putting their future well being in serious jeopardy.

Penalties for First Offense DWLS or DWLR

If you are convicted for a first offense of Driving While License Suspended or Driving While License Revoked, you will be facing up to 93 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. It is very rare that a person goes to jail for a first offense conviction of this charge. Do not hire a lawyer for this charge because they tell you they can keep you out of jail. You could go into court and enter a guilty plea at your arraignment and not be at risk of incarceration. The goal here is to have your lawyer fight for a dismissal or an acquittal at trial. The next objective is to get a lesser offense that will allow you to not have any restrictions on your ability to drive legally.

If trying to get a plea deal is in our client’s best interest, we try to get the city attorney to agree to let our client plea guilty to the charge of No Valid Operator’s License on Person. This law is found at MCL 257.301.

One possible outcome is a charge reduction from a first offense DWLS or DWLR to a No Valid Operator’s License on Person. This charge is codified in MCL 257.301.  The common legal lingo for this charge is “No Ops.” While this charge is still a misdemeanor crime, there is no license suspension attached as a penalty to being convicted of this crime.  It also makes getting probation as part of your sentence even lower. The other major advantage of this plea deal is there are no points added to your driver’s license. So, unless an acquittal is possible in a case, this is the next best possible resolution.

Penalties for a Second Offense DWLS or DWLR

The cost of a fine goes up substantially for a second offense of DWLS or DWLR. The maximum is now $1,000.  A person faces up to one year in jail and court costs. There is also an additional suspension or revocation.  These additional punishments can be restarting the original period of suspension.

A second offense of either DWLS or DWLR carries fines of up to $1000 and up to one year of jail plus additional court costs. Unfortunately, a second offense DWLS or DWLR also carries an additional term of suspension or revocation. This extension can range from restarting the original period, to run from the time of sentencing, up to and including, doubling the original term. Therefore, if you were serving a one-year revocation for a second OWI and were convicted of a second DWLR then the judge could extend the revocation to two years from the date of sentencing.

Driving While License Suspended Third and Fourth Offense

The maximum fine a person could face for this conviction is $500. The car will be immobilized for 90 to 180 days. You must have two of these priors within the past seven years.  The maximum punishment for incarceration you can face is up to one year in jail.

Driving While License Suspended Fifth or Subsequent Offenses

A person convicted for this offense will be facing a mandator license suspension, license plate confiscation, having their vehicle immobilized for at least one year and up to three years. If you are convicted for this offense you will be facing up to one year and jail and likely face some time behind bars. The more convictions you get, the higher the chances are that you end up in jail.

Suspension vs. Revocation

As mentioned above MCL 257.904 covers both DWLS and DWLR. However, the situations and circumstances that cause a person to get either of these charges is different. An individual may get their license suspended for having too making parking tickets that are not paid. A person could have their license suspended for having too many points on their driving record for speeding.  Attorney Shawn Haff also sees people get their license suspended for driving during hours of the day that are in violation of a restriction of their license.

When our office sees someone getting charged with DWLR, it is almost always because the person has multiple OWI convictions. Because of this, a person who has a DWLS has a better chance of getting their charges dropped than someone who is charged with a DWLR. Local prosecutors have very little sympathy for people driving on the roads when they shouldn’t be because prior problems with driving and driving.

A person who has had their license revoked no longer has a license. A person who has had a license suspended still has a license they just can’t use it now. If you license is suspended for not paying a reinstatement fee, it will be reinstated immediately after those fees are paid. If you want to get your license back from a revocation, a person needs to apply for a license and have a hearing.

Just like prosecutors who have very little sympathy for those who lose their license from a DUI, judges feel the same way and are more likely to hammer someone for a DWLR than DWLS.  

DWLS or DWLR Causing Injury of Another Person

This charge is a felony that results in a person facing up to five years in prison and a huge fine of up to $5,000. When people come into our office facing this charge, they are very scared. We ease our clients concerns and outline a comprehensive defense that will get our clients the best results possible. We will show you how to show the judge and prosecutor you are on the right path.  Our office will show to a city attorney or local prosecutor all the factors that scream out of a good plea deal. We will show the judge why you deserve a lenient sentence.

The Defense of Driving As A Necessity

A person can drive a vehicle on Michigan roads when a person’s life or property is endangered. An example of this is someone taking a person to the hospital if they are having a heart attack or if their wife is having a baby.  While these situations do not happen all the time, our lawyers will fight hard for you to get the best results possible under these circumstances. We will make sure you have the proof needed to win with this defense. A local prosecutor is not going to take your word for it that you were having a medical necessity.

I Didn’t Know My License Was Suspended.

Many prosecutors and judges show no mercy to people who claim ignorance. Attorney Shawn Haff has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to defending his clients and protecting their rights. If you are hit with a DWLS charge and didn’t get proper notice that your license had been suspended. We will fight hard to get your case dismissed.

In the People v Patman, the Court of Appeals in Michigan issued an unpublished opinion. They reversed the defendant’s conviction for DWLS because the prosecutor only presented evidence of the accused driving record and offered no evidence of notice from the Secretary of State.

The Michigan Supreme Court in the People v Nunley, held that prosecutor can produce a certificate of mailing that was created at the same time as the notice without producing a witness from the Secretary of State to authenticate the document. If the certificate was mailed out later than notice was issued, a member of the Michigan Secretary of State may have to verify its authenticity if the prosecutor hopes to have this evidence admitted into trial.

Call Shawn now at 616-438-6719 for a free case strategy session. Shawn knows how to get results and will stop at nothing to get you an acquittal of the best results possible.  Call now!

Get A Free Case Strategy Session