When are you Eligible to win back your Michigan License?

Before you can begin the process of restoring your Michigan driver’s license (or obtaining a clearance of a Michigan “hold” on your driving record that prevents you from getting or renewing a license in another state), you first have to be eligible. Eligible means legally able. And while the rules regarding eligibility are rather clear, the complex situations in which some people find themselves can make it difficult to figure things out.

At its most basic, Michigan law provides that a person’s driver’s license shall be revoked by the Secretary of State (SOS) for a minimum of one year if the person receives 2 DUI within 7 years. If a person received 3 DUI’s within a 10-year period, then the Secretary of State is required to revoke his or her license for a minimum of 5 years.

There is no way to shorten either of those time periods. Nor does the Secretary of State care how much you “need” a license, because there is no mechanism to care. Either you are eligible, time-wise, on not.

As anything concerned with the law goes, however, what at first appears to be simple can become frustratingly complex. Normally, you’d think that “2 DUI’s within 7 years” is pretty clear. As applied within the state, however, “7 years” isn’t exactly 7 years. As the popular saying goes, “it’s complicated.”

In reality, “2 DUI’s within 7 years” means something more like “anything to do with 2 DUI’s in a 7-year period.” Thus, if Dan the Driver is arrested for a DUI in November of 2005, but is not actually convicted until January 2, 2006, the effective “date” of his first DUI is the latter (1/2/2006). In other words, the 7-year period begins running upon his conviction, not his arrest. But that only counts for the first DUI…

If Dan is next arrested for a DUI on January 2, 2013, and even if he was not convicted until July of 2013, he will still have his license revoked for “2 DUI’s within 7 years.” Thus, the 7-year period is given the longest reach possible. Think of how different things would be if the 7 years went from arrest to arrest, or conviction to conviction. Dan was certainly not convicted of 2 DUI’s within 7 years, nor was he even arrested for 2 DUI’s within 7 years, but the law allows the clock to start running at the last step of the first case, and lets it run until the first step in any subsequent case.

Of course, this same analysis applies to 3 DUI’s within 10 years.

Perhaps the biggest ‘eligibility” complication occurs if a person is caught driving at any point during his or her period of revocation. And to be clear, even though the state revokes a license for a “minimum” of either 1 or 5 years, unless and until a person has filed and won a formal driver’s license restoration appeal with the Michigan Secretary of State's Administrative Hearing Section (AHS), he or she is still revoked. In other words, you’re still revoked until you actually win back your license, no matter how long you may have been eligible to file an appeal.

If the Michigan Secretary of State receives notice from any court that a person with a revoked license has been convicted of any moving violation, that person will receive what is called a “mandatory additional” revocation, meaning another identical period of revocation (either 1 or 5 years) upon his or her driving record.

A “mandatory additional” is an administrative penalty imposed by the Secretary of State. It has nothing to do with any license penalty that may or may not be imposed for the particular infraction. Instead, it’s more or less a “gotcha” where the SOS discovers that someone has been driving, and, regardless of the penalty carried by the violation to which the person pleads guilty, simply sanctions him or her for the act of driving during the period of revocation. This means that even if a person is ticketed for 5 over on the freeway, an offense that carries no points and does not have any separate license sanctions, he or she will still get stuck with a mandatory additional.

Often enough, I see cases with multiple mandatory additional revocations piggy-backed upon each other. To make matters even worse, even the Secretary of State makes a mistake on a person’s driving record. I’ve also seen mistakes made by a court show up on a person's driving record that have had to be rectified. In some cases, mistakes made by a court in reporting a DUI conviction cannot be fixed, and the law actually allows that!

The simplest way to figure things out is for me to review your driving record. 

I have always been willing to look over anyone’s record, and will always do so without charge. If you are wondering if you can begin the driver’s license restoration process, and you’ve actually quit drinking, I’d be happy to see if, or at least when, you’re eligible to file a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal so that we can plan on getting you back on the road.

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