Drug crimes in Michigan are very serious offenses that are prescribed harsh punishments by the Legislature. Anyone convicted of using, possessing, delivering or manufacturing controlled substances can expect a lengthy probation, stiff fines and even incarceration. However, most people do not realize that a drug conviction can also cause you to lose your driver’s license, even if the criminal offense had nothing to do with operating a motor vehicle. The message is clear: if you mess with drugs, you lose your privilege to drive.
The court must impose the following license sanctions in addition to any other criminal penalties “[a]s part of a sentence or juvenile disposition for an attempt to violate, a conspiracy to violate, or a violation” of the Michigan Public Health Code or a substantially similar local ordinance:
- “If the court finds that the person does not have a prior conviction within 7 years of the violation, the court shall order the Michigan Secretary of State to suspend the operator’s or chauffeur’s license of the person for 6 months.” MCL 333.7408a(1)(a).
- “If the court finds that the person has 1 or more prior convictions within 7 years of the violation, the court shall order the secretary of state to suspend the operator’s or chauffeur’s license of the person for 1 year.” MCL 333.7408a(1)(b).
“A court shall not order the suspension of a person’s license if the person is sentenced to life imprisonment or to a minimum term of imprisonment that exceeds 1 year for an attempt to violate, a conspiracy to violate, or a violation of” the Michigan Public Health Code. MCL 333.7408a(11).
“The person whose operator’s or chauffeur’s license is ordered suspended under this section shall immediately surrender his or her operator’s or chauffeur’s license to the court.” MCL 333.7408a(2). The court must immediately destroy the license and forward the abstract containing the conviction to the Michigan Secretary of State so they can immediately suspend the license upon receipt. Id.
However, a person whose license is suspended due to a drug conviction may request that the court order the Michigan Secretary of State to grant a restricted license after a portion of the suspension period has been served. If the license was suspended for six months, then a restricted license cannot be issued during the first 30 days of the suspension. MCL 333.7408(1)(a). If the license was suspended for one year, then a restricted license cannot be issued during the first 60 days of the suspension. MCL 333.7408(1)(b). The court may order the Michigan Secretary of State to issue a restricted license if “the person states under oath, and the court finds by testimony taken in open court or by statements contained in a sworn affidavit on a form prescribed by the state court administrator, that both of the following apply:”
- “The person needs vehicular transportation to and from his or her work location, place of alcohol or drug education treatment, court probation department, court-ordered community service program, or educational institution, or in the course of the person’s employment or occupation.” MCL 333.7408a(8)(a).
- “The person is unable to take public transportation and does not have any family members or other individual able to provide transportation to a destination or for a purpose described in subdivision (a).” MCL 333.7408a(8)(b).
The defendant would have to file a motion with the court accompanied by Form MC 210a (Affidavit for Restricted Driver’s License). The court will generally require a motion hearing where the prosecutor or the probation department can voice their objection to the request, if any. If the defendant meets the criteria under MCL 333.7408a, then the court may order the Michigan Secretary of State to issue a restricted license. The Secretary of State cannot issue a restricted license under MCL 333.7408a unless it is ordered by the court and the person is otherwise eligible. MCL 333.7408a(9). A restricted license that is granted shall permit the person to whom it is issued to drive under the following circumstances:
- “In the course of the person’s employment or occupation.” MCL 333.7408a(6)(a).
- “To and from any combination of the following:”
- “The person’s residence.” MCL 333.7408a(6)(b)(i).
- “The person’s work location.” MCL 333.7408a(6)(b)(ii).
- “An alcohol or drug education or treatment program as ordered by the court.” MCL 333.7408a(6)(b)(iii).
- “The court probation department.” MCL 333.7408a(6)(b)(iv).
- “A court-ordered community service program.” MCL 333.7408a(6)(b)(v).
- “An educational institution at which the person is enrolled as a student.” MCL 333.7408a(6)(b)(vi).
- “A place of regularly occurring medical treatment for a serious condition for the person or a member of the person’s household or immediate family.” MCL 333.7408a(6)(b)(vii).
“The court shall not order the secretary of state under this section to issue a restricted license that would permit a person to operate a commercial motor vehicle that hauls hazardous material.” MCL 333.7408a(7). “While driving, the person shall carry proof of his or her destination and the hours of any employment, class, or other reason for traveling and shall display that proof upon a peace officer’s request.” MCL 333.7408a(10). Once the suspension period has passed, the defendant may pay the reinstatement fee to the Michigan Secretary of State to be issued a full operator’s license again.
Effective October 1, 2021, the Michigan Legislature has amended MCL 333.7408a to remove the court’s ability to order the Michigan Secretary of State to suspend driver’s licenses on the basis of drug convictions. However, the amendment is not retroactive and does not cancel suspended licenses ordered by the court before October 1, 2021. As a result, those defendants may still benefit from the assistance of a skilled criminal defense lawyer to ask the sentencing court to grant a restricted license during the remainder of the suspension period.
If you have further questions or need legal representation, then do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC for assistance today.