Driving on a suspended license in Michigan (DWLS)
Generally, driving on a suspended or revoked license (DWLS) is a misdemeanor under Michigan law. For a first offense, the penalties are imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both, plus court costs. Most courts do not order any period of incarceration for driving on a suspended license, particularly first offenses. A second offense or greater is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $1,000.00, or both, plus court costs. Again, most Michigan courts do not incarcerate repeat DWLS offenders, but some do. The risk of incarceration potentially deters some suspended motorists from driving.
In reality, it can be difficult--if not impossible--to avoid driving on a suspended license. The State of Michigan considers driving a "privilege." Without widespread public transportation, however, many suspended motorists must choose between earning a living and breaking the law. As a practical matter, this is widely recognized, and a charge of DWLS may be reduced by the prosecuting attorney to a less serious offense, particularly a first offense. Nonetheless, there are several important reasons for a suspended motorist to obey the law.
Imposition of Additional Period of Suspension or Revocation
Consider that, even if a DWLS charge is reduced to a less serious charge, the Michigan Secretary of State will "impose an additional like period of suspension or revocation." This means that a person convicted of OWI 2nd and subsequently revoked for a minimum period of one year will have a second year tacked onto the revocation period. The suspended motorist is later notified of his or her revised eligibility date. For each instance that the Michigan Secretary of State receives proof of driving on a suspended or revoked license, the eligibility date is moved farther into the future. Some suspended motorists are not likely to live long enough to be eligible to petition the Driver License Appeal Division (DLAD) for reinstatement of their license.
The Risk of Serious Felony Charges
Consider also that a suspended or revoked driver who is involved in a serious automobile accident may face felony charges. In an accident where a person is seriously injured, the suspended driver may be charged with a felony punishable by imprisonment for up to 5 years and/or a fine of not less than $1,000.00 or more than $5,000.00, plus court costs. If a person is killed in an accident involving a suspended motorist, the suspended driver may face a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 15 years and/or a fine of not less than $2,500.00 or more than $10,000.00, plus court costs. (Note that neither of these felony sections apply to a motorist who is suspended for failing to answer or pay a traffic citation.)