Driving while license suspended, revoked, or denied (also called DWLS or DWLS/R/D) is a criminal offense that is treated seriously by many courts. This offense can be prosecuted under State law by a county prosecutor or under local ordinance by a city attorney. The possible penalty for a first offense DWLS, or a DWLS prosecuted under a local ordinance, is up to 93 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, court costs, possible probation with conditions (driver safety class, community service, no driving without a valid license, etc.), 2 points added to driving record, a driver responsibility fee of $500 for 2 consecutive years, and a mandatory suspension of driving privileges. DWLS prosecuted as a second offense carries up to 1 year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, court costs, possible probation with conditions, 2 points added to driving record, and a driver’s responsibility fee of $500 for 2 consecutive years. Additional DWLS offenses can lead to license plate confiscation and vehicle immobilization.
The philosophy that many Courts employ is to try and encourage Defendants to find ways to obtain a valid driver’s license. In some cases this is possible (if the DWLS conviction is not entered) by paying off outstanding tickets, paying reinstatement fees, and going to the Michigan Secretary of State office. However, in many cases it is impossible for the Defendant to obtain a valid license in a timely manner. Reasons for this include that the person’s license was revoked due to prior drinking an driving convictions, the length of the person’s current suspension does not allow for the person to get their license back in the near future, the person has health or vision issues that prevent the Secretary of State from issuing a valid license, financial issues, or the person is not a citizen or a green card holder and the State of Michigan will not issue a valid license.
One of the problems with Michigan are the cost and limited options for public transportation. In most cases driving is the only solution for a person to be employed, support their family, and otherwise get to and from different locations. Judges are by and large not sympathetic to this. For persons with bad driving records, or with a history of DWLS, jail is often ordered along with probation. For persons without bad driving records, probation is common. However, a common condition of probation is to not violate any laws, which includes not driving a car without obtaining a valid license. The person is placed in a catch-22 situation.