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Driving Without a License in Michigan

Driving Without A License Attorney in Michigan

In Michigan, if you drive while your license is suspended or revoked, you’re liable for “driving while license suspended” or “DWLS” (the terms “driving while license suspended” and “DWLS” are often used synecdochally even when your license was revoked or you never had a license in the first place). MCL 257.904. Importantly, DWLS is a misdemeanor—not a civil infraction like a speeding ticket—punishable by up to 93 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. So if you’re convicted, you’ll have a criminal record. And DWLS is not expungable, so it will remain on your record forever. Second and subsequent DWLS convictions are punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

What if you have a valid license but just forgot it?

That’s a misdemeanor, too, usually called “failure to display a valid license” or “no operator’s license on person” or “no ops” for short. It’s punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $100. MCL 257.311; MCL 257.901. We know what you’re thinking—“Really, I can be charged criminally just for forgetting my license?” It sounds crazy, we know. In practice, though, the charge will usually be dismissed or reduced to a civil infraction if you later show a valid license.

If I never received notice that my license was suspended or revoked, can I still be prosecuted for driving without a license in Michigan? Yes, you can be prosecuted for DWLS in Michigan even if you have not received notice of the suspension or revocation. This wasn’t always the case. Before 2015, the law required prosecutors to prove that the Secretary of State mailed notice of a suspension or revocation. Apparently, that was too much work for prosecutors, so the law was changed. Now, you can be convicted of DWLS even when the Secretary of State admits that they failed to send you notice.

Still, lack of notice isn’t worth nothing. In a case where you had good cause to be unaware that your license was suspended or revoked, an attorney can often persuade the prosecutor to reduce the charge. That said, most prosecutors have heard “I didn’t know my license was suspended!” about a million times. So the onus is on you to show that your lack of knowledge was reasonable.

What is a good outcome if I’m charged with driving while license suspended in Michigan?

There are a couple likely outcomes if you’re charged with DWLS in Michigan. Let’s be honest—in the typical DWLS case, you’re probably not going to have a good defense to the charge. In other words, there’s going to be no legitimate way to dispute (1) that you were driving and (2) your license was suspended or revoked. So in most cases, your attorney will primarily be angling for a favorable deal.

What kind of deal? In a routine DWLS case, the prosecutor and your attorney can usually work out a deal allowing you to plead to one of two reduced charges. The first is no ops (see above). It’s still a misdemeanor, but the fines are less, potentially saving you hundreds of dollars. The second charge is allowing an unlicensed driver to drive under MCL 257.904 (it’s meant for situations where someone knowingly allows an unlicensed driver to drive their car, but in this context, you are the unlicensed driver you let drive your car). It’s a misdemeanor as well but with one advantage—it doesn’t “abstract” (go on) your driving record. This distinction is particularly important for people getting ready to apply for reinstatement of their driver’s license. If a new offense or civil infraction abstracts onto their driving record, they’ll typically have to wait another year before they can apply for reinstatement.

Please note: Recently DLAD/DAAD changed their name to the Administrative Hearings Section (AHS). Common use of the name AHS has not yet been widely accepted and the entity responsible for driver’s license hearings is still referred to as DLAD/DAAD in almost all legal areas, which is why we continue to use the term “DLAD/DAAD” throughout our website. More information about this change can be found at the Michigan Secretary of State’s website here.

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If you are reading these reviews you are about to make a decision that will have a large impact on the rest of your life. I choose Grabel and Associates to represent me in my case and I could not have been more satisfied with the level of professionalism and dedication to their clients. I had the opportunity to meet and work with multiple lawyers in the practice all of which showcased a vast knowledge and understanding of the inner workings of the legal system. When you choose Scott Grabel to represent you will open yourself up to all of his resources. Depending on your case Grabel knows experts in all fields. I worked with polygraph examiners, investigators, and forensics experts. Grabel and Associates will defend without prejudice of innocence or guilt. Scott Grabel was able to lead me through every step of the process with great communication the whole way. I would recommend Scott Grabel and Associates to my friends, family and anyone who is in need of representation. B. A.
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Best attorney in state of Michigan. Caring and a true friend. Scott was with us every step of the way. He fought for a great injustice for our son and was able to provide an outcome that gave his life back. L. A.
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Scott and his firm did an awesome job representing a family member of mine, I would highly recommend him and his firm! They were extremely reliable, trustworthy and very informative and did a great job with the case. I couldn't be happier with the results that we received, I can't speak highly enough about the great job he did. If you are thinking about using his firm, I would highly recommend, I would definitely use his firm again if needed, he is an a great attorney with a great firm, you won't be disappointed! M. F.