DWLS and DWLR - Long Version
The charges of Driving While License Suspended, commonly designated by the letters “DWLS” and Driving While License Revoked (DWLR) are perhaps the most common “crimes” that wind their way through the Judicial System. In this section, we’ll examine some of the more common aspects of these cases, and what they mean to a person facing either of these charges. Throughout this section, there will be multiple links to many blog articles I have written that relate directly to our discussion.
Amongst all the cases that proceed through the Court system, DWLS and DWLR cases are huge generators of revenue. It would be unrealistic to consider these cases without acknowledging that, from the Court’s side of things, they represent good money. Most DWLS and DWLR (and DUI) Driver’s are all too happy to line up and throw money at these kinds of charges to make them go away, or at least walk away from them. While that oversimplifies what’s involved in these cases, anyone who sees DWLS, DWLR and DUI cases as a kind of “low hanging fruit” isn’t far off the mark.
It is important to note that how any DWLS or DWLR case plays out is very often and very much a function of geography. In other words, where a case is brought can have as much impact on the final result as anything else. Generally speaking, Oakland County is much tougher than either Macomb or Wayne Counties, not only in DWLS and DWLR cases, but also for pretty much every kind of Criminal case.
Many people are surprised to learn that a charge of Driving While License Suspended or Driving While License Revoked violates the very same Law, and, at least criminally speaking, carries identical potential penalties.
Although the two Charges are part of the same Rule of Law, they arise from very different prior circumstances, and that impacts the real world outcome someone facing either of these charges can expect. For example, it only makes sense that someone who forgot to pay a Ticket and whose License was Suspended, and who, after getting charged with a DWLS, pays off the outstanding Ticket and shows up to Court with a reinstated License, will be treated less severely than someone whose License was Revoked for multiple Drunk Driving convictions, and who gets caught driving again, despite having been clearly informed that they could not do so, under ANY circumstances
DWLS charges always involve a License that has been Suspended. This is different from one that has been Revoked.
Typically, a person’s License is Suspended for things like an unpaid Ticket or Tickets, too many points, or some kind of prohibited driving, like driving in violation of (usually meaning driving outside the restricted hours or purposes allowed by) a Restricted License.
A Suspended License falls into 1 of 2 categories:
1. It gets reinstated either after a certain time. This is easily identified on a person’s Driving Record as the “from-to” dates: For example it might read “Suspended from July 4, 2012, until July 3, 2013,” or
2. It gets reinstated after the happening of a certain event, that almost always being the paying of money. This means any outstanding Tickets must be paid, along with any associated costs or late fees an/or reinstatement fees.
A Revoked License is, as noted above, most frequently the result of multiple DUI convictions. “Revoked” differs from “Suspended” in that a Revoked License never gets reinstated, or Restored, until the person has a Hearing before the Michigan Secretary of State’s Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD), and is approved for Restoration of Driving Privileges.
The difference between a Suspended and Revoked License can be likened to the difference between being suspended from school, as opposed to having been expelled from school.
If a student is suspended, they are either given a date to come back (remember, “from-to”) or are instructed to do something in order to be readmitted (complete your overdue term paper, or serve 5 detentions).
A student who has been expelled from school can only be considered for readmission after a formal hearing-type process has taken place and a decision made, usually by the school board of some sort, to either allow that student to come back, or not.
In the real world, the reason or reasons why a person’s License has been Suspended or Revoked figures prominently into how their case will be resolved.
If a person’s License has been Revoked because they’ve picked up several DUI’s, it’s safe to assume they have not placed themselves in a position to get the benefit of a lot of sympathy from anyone in the Criminal Justice or Court system (Relax, at least I AM sympathetic…). This is just a reality, and one that I have to work around in order to protect my Clients’ interests.
For the record, there are cases where, at least for a short while, a person can have a DUI and have a Suspended License. The principal difference is that multiple DUI’s ALWAYS result in a License Revocation, whereas a 1st Offense DUI most commonly results in a Restricted License, although in some circumstances that Restricted License follows a short period of what’s called a “hard” (meaning absolute) Suspension. Given that these Suspensions are limited to a 30-day period, not many DWLS charges involve this kind of circumstance. The same holds true for cases involving a License Suspension resulting from a Drug Crime.
Beyond a Revocation for multiple Drunk Driving convictions, everything else falls into a group essentially called, not surprisingly, “everything else.” In other words, there are 2 kinds of Clients facing a DWLS or DWLR charge:
1. Those whose License has been Revoked or Suspended due to a previous alcohol-related (usually DUI) traffic offense, and
2. Everyone else.
At their core, these cases boil down to whether or not the person accused of Driving with a Suspended or Revoked License was, in fact, driving, and whether or not, in fact, their License had been Legally Suspended or Revoked. There are a few tangential issues that arise every once in a blue moon, but in all except the absolute rarest of cases, there is little or no question of guilt or innocence; the person got caught driving and their License was Legally Suspended or Revoked, even if they didn’t really know it.
My job is to both:
1. Keep my Client out of Jail (easily done in most cases), and
2. Minimize the impact or consequences to my Client’s Driving Record.
To be clear, and almost without exception, keeping the Client out of Jail is rather simple. In fact, as I think back over the last nearly 22 years in which I’ve handled these cases, I can only recall 3 or 4 instances in which anyone ever got locked up, and those were EXTREME cases involving things like 5 prior DUI’s, dozens of prior Suspensions, and otherwise really bad Records.
Since Jail is so unlikely in the usual case, I’d be wasting my time if I concentrated my efforts solely on that. In fact, I’d also be shortchanging my Client if I failed to take into account the long range and realistic consequences of a DWLS/DWLR charge.
If a person is convicted of DWLS, then the Secretary of State will impose a “Mandatory Additional” Suspension, meaning that they will wind up having their License Suspended again, and wind up paying the dreaded Driver Responsibility Fees to the Secretary of State for 2 years.
This makes AVOIDING a conviction for the DWLS charge the first order of business. I routinely negotiate a plea bargain for my DWLS Clients that avoids a conviction for DWLS, and thereby avoids having their License additionally Suspended, and keeps them from getting socked with Driver Responsibility Fees.
In cases where a person has racked up a truckload of prior DWLS convictions, then keeping them out of Jail may be primary the focus of my efforts. Even then, I will try to minimize as many of the other consequences of the charge as possible, so they can either stay or get back on the road without unnecessary delay.
The same considerations apply in a DWLR case. The difference, really, is that DWLS might be more “Little League,” and DWLR is more “Major League.” The same rule regarding “Mandatory Additionals” applies, except here the “additional” penalty is another Revocation, and not just an additional Suspension. In repeat Offense DWLR cases, a person can wind up being “Revoked” and unable to even file for a Driver’s License Appeal for years and years.
Yet there is a certain reality to DWLR charges that is understood by most Judges. Even if a person has lost their License due to multiple DUI’s, if they have a job, or have kids to get to and from school, it is often difficult to the point of impossible to get by without driving. My job is to make sure that I remind the Judge and the Prosecutor of those realities, and help differentiate such a Client from someone whose reason for driving was that they were unable to find a ride to the bar.
There is an old saying that “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” If I were a magician, and not a Lawyer, I’d simply turn back time for a Client facing a DWLR charge and undo everything.
Since that cannot be done, I have to work within the parameters of the Legal System.
When I find myself representing a DWLR Client who explains to me that he or she got caught driving to or from work, or taking the kids to or from school, I have to exploit and use that to drive a bargain with the Prosecutor that keeps my Client out of Jail and from facing any of those “Mandatory Additional” Revocations that will keep them off the road for years.
In that regard, my job as Lawyer shifts from “Mr. Constitutional rights and due process guy” to the person who, on a bad day, has the negotiating skills to sell an air conditioner to an Eskimos, and on a good day, to be able to sell him another just for backup.
Beyond negotiating a good deal with the Prosecutor, walking out of Court without feeling like you’ve been “hammered” means being able to be persuasive with the Judge. Very persuasive.
This specifically means NOT just standing before the Court and droning on in a monotone voice. Instead, it means grabbing the Judge’s attention with your first words.
Whatever else, it is a necessary skill of a Lawyer, like me, who makes his or her living arguing for their Clients in Court, to grab and hold the listener’s attention and to be charismatic and persuasive. A Lawyer lacking in these skills is like a Surgeon with unsteady hands….
If a Lawyer can captivate the Judge from the start, and can “read” the Judge, then walking out of Court with a happy Client is much more likely. If a person sees a Lawyer droning on to the Judge while the Judge is looking down and writing, it means the Judge is probably already filling out the Orders in the case. Whatever is being said is just background noise.
I limit my Practice to the Courts of Macomb, Oakland and certain parts of Wayne County. I know the Judges before whom I appear, and I know what will fly with them and what will not. Part of finding the right Lawyer, at least in my opinion, means finding a Lawyer who regularly Appears in the Court where a case is pending. If a Client is taking a Lawyer before a Judge with whom he or she is not familiar, then instead of paying the Lawyer’s Fees, the Client winds up paying the Lawyer’s tuition. That should never be.