Every Michigan driver knows that they cannot operate a motor vehicle on a road or highway unless they have been issued a driver’s license from the Secretary of State. Did you know that, even if issued a legal driver’s license, it is a crime to operate a vehicle without having the physical license on your person? If you cannot produce a valid license upon request of a police officer, you can be in trouble.
Michigan law requires drivers to observe the following rules:
- “The licensee shall have his or her operator’s or chauffeur’s license… 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.” MCL 257.311.
- A person who violates this statute is guilty of a misdemeanor conviction punishable by a fine up to $100.00 or up to 90 days in jail, or both. MCL 257.901(2). However, this offense is considered a non-moving violation that does not impose any points or license sanctions.
Fortunately, drivers can correct this mistake before it results in legal penalties. If a person receives a citation for failure to display a valid license (also called “No Valid Ops”), “the court shall waive any fine and costs, upon receipt of certification by a law enforcement agency that the person, before the appearance date on the citation, has produced his or her operator’s or chauffeur’s license and that the license was valid on the date the violation occurred.” MCL 257.311a. Unless there is a specific date on the ticket, the appearance date is usually 10 days from the date of citation.
However, if you fail to properly cure the citation in a timely manner, you will be required to appear in court before a judge. If you are found guilty by a judge or jury, you will have a criminal conviction on your record punishable by a fine, probation or even jail. In this situation, you need to have a traffic lawyer in your corner that will protect your rights. Even if the evidence against you is strong, a lawyer may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor a reduction to a civil infraction or even a dismissal if the violation was eventually corrected.
This offense is distinct from the crime of driving a vehicle while license suspended, revoked, denied or never issued (MCL 257.904(1)). A person who operates a vehicle on a road or highway without ever having a license issued to them is guilty of a crime punishable as follows:
- For a first offense, a person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail or a fine up to $500.00, or both. Additionally, vehicle registration plates will be cancelled. There will also be 2 points added to that person’s driving record and additional license sanctions.
- For a second or subsequent offense, a person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail or a fine up to $1,000.00, or both. Additionally, vehicle registration plates will be cancelled. There will also be 2 points added to that person’s driving record and additional license sanctions. There may also be license plate confiscation and vehicle immobilization consequences.
- For a person who operates a motor vehicle without being issued a license and causes the serious impairment of a body function of another individual is guilty of felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison or a fine between $1000.00 and $5000.00, or both. In addition, 6 points will be added to your driving record and you cannot obtain your driver’s license unless permitted by a hearing officer.
- For a person who operates a motor vehicle without being issued a license and causes the death of another person is guilty of a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison or a fine between $2,500.00 and $10,000.00, or both. In addition, 6 points will be added to your driving record and you cannot obtain your driver’s license unless permitted by a hearing officer.
If you or a loved one is accused of failure to display a valid license or any traffic offense and need legal representation, do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC today.