Driving While License Suspended DWLS in the 16th District Court in Livonia Michigan
If you are charged with Driving While License Suspended in Livonia, you are facing a serious criminal charge. Many people underestimate the seriousness of a DWLS charge, thinking that it is simply a traffic ticket. By way of example, Judge Diane Dickow D'Agostini of the 48th District Court in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan has sentenced repeat offenders to 6 months to 1 year in the Oakland County jail for Driving While License Suspended. In Livonia, the district court judges do not routinely jail people convicted of DWLS, but it is still a very serious possibility. The ramifications of a DWLS conviction are serious enough that you want to hire an experienced Livonia attorney to help you resolve the case or challenge it at trial.
A Driving While License Suspended conviction leads to additional driver's license sanctions, and it is a jailable offense. The law is set forth in MCL 257.904, which states:
(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.
In order for a prosecutor to prove a charge of DWLS, however, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant was operating a motor vehicle. Typically, this is proven if the motorist was actually driving, but the jury instruction includes a broader definition of “operating” to include having actual physical control of the vehicle. Second, "that the defendant was operating that vehicle on a highway or other place open to the general public [or generally accessible to motor vehicles, including any area designated for the parking of motor vehicles]." Third, that at the time the defendant’s operator’s license was suspended or revoked. Fourth, that the Secretary of State gave notice of the suspension or revocation by first-class, United States Postal Service mail addressed to the defendant at the address shown by the record of the Secretary of State at least five days before the date of the alleged offense.
The Secretary of State is required to mail notice of the suspension to you. This is a weak link in the prosecutor's case, but the Michigan courts have made it easier for a prosecutor to prove this element by allowing the Michigan Secretary of State to "prove" that they mailed the notice through a certificate. For a brief period of time, it was held that the Confrontation Clause of US Constitution required the Secretary of State to appear and testify regarding this notice requirement. For better or worse, the Michigan courts have eliminated that requirement. In many instances, however, the suspended motorist never receives the notice. This might be due to a change of address, it may have been discarded because it looks like junk mail, or the clerical worker responsible for mailing the notice never bothered to actually mail it.
Nonetheless, Driving While License Suspended is not a crime that you commit inadvertently, and this is something that can be addressed a jury trial. You can take a DWLS to a jury trial and actually win.
You might also raise affirmative defenses to the charge. For example, MCL 257.904 “does not apply to a person who operates a vehicle solely for the purpose of protecting human life or property if the life or property is endangered and summoning prompt aid is essential.” MCL 257.904(15).
CAUTION: A Driving While License Suspended charge is typically reduced to "no ops" by municipal prosecutors, meaning that the motorist did not have his or her license on his person at the time of the traffic stop. A Michigan "no ops on person" is described in MCL 257.311:
257.311 Possession of operator's or chauffeur's license or receipt when operating motor vehicle required; display; identification.
The licensee shall have his or her operator's or chauffeur's license, or the receipt described in section 311a, in his or her immediate possession at all times when operating a motor vehicle, and shall display the same upon demand of any police officer, who shall identify himself or herself as such.
A Michigan "no ops" conviction has certain benefits to it, but it is reported to the Michigan Secretary of State and will result in the Secretary of State using this conviction as proof of driving during the suspension period. Unless you have no alternative, do not accept a reduction to no operators license on person. There are several Michigan attorneys who wrongfully claim on their websites that this does not result in an additional suspension. That advice is incorrect. There are alternatives that do not abstract to your Michigan driver's license, but no ops is a charge that most certainly does abstract, and this cause a litany of problems for you in terms of any suspension or revocation.