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2nd Offense License Consequences

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In our work as Michigan DUI lawyers, we answer a lot of questions about this. Accordingly, the purpose of this section is to emphasize the importance of what happens to your driver’s license in a 2nd offense Michigan DUI case.

Under Michigan law, if you are convicted of a second Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) offense within 7 years of any prior offense, your driver’s license will be revoked. 

This is not the same thing as merely having your license “suspended.” 

“Revoked” means taken away for good, and that’s just the beginning…

When your license is revoked, for a 2nd offense DUI, it is taken away for life. This means that until and unless you win a formal driver’s license restoration case through the Michigan Secretary of State, you won’t get your license back, no matter how long you wait.

Under Michigan’s DUI law, if you are convicted of a 2nd offense, you must wait AT LEAST 1 full year before you can even begin the process of asking for it back.

A simple high-school example works best here to explain the difference between having your license revoked, as opposed to merely having it suspended:

If you are a student and you wind up being suspended from school, it will be for a certain number of days, as in “from Monday, February 1, through Friday, February 5,” or something like that. 

In the example above, you are due to return to school on a date certain (i.e., on Monday, February 8). 

When the subject is the suspension of a person’s driver’s license, there is always a “from-to” or “from-through” date.

If your license is revoked, it’s like being expelled from school. Someone expelled from school is taken off the student register. He or she is no longer considered a student at all. 

In order to get back into school, someone who has been expelled must apply to be readmitted. 

When a driver’s license is revoked, it means the person doesn’t have any kind of license whatsoever, and never will unless and until he or she files and wins, and must go through a formal driver’s license restoration appeal.

Thus, a suspended student is still a student, just as a driver with a suspended license still has a license, even though both are temporarily sidelined. 

A student who has been expelled is no longer a student, in the same way that a driver whose license has been revoked has no license whatsoever.

The most important thing to understand about facing a 2nd offense DUI and the only way around the legally required revocation is to get into a Sobriety Court program. 

If an individual facing a 2nd offense DUI is not allowed into a Sobriety Court program (and there are multiple reasons why that may happen) then there is no way to avoid the mandatory license revocation upon conviction for a 2nd offense DUI. 

I have been asked this question 10,000 different ways and the answer is always the same: It does not matter how much you need a license: If you pick up 2 alcohol-related convictions within 7 years, your driver’s license will be revoked, and you will not be able to file a license appeal for at least 1 year.

Once your driver’s license has been revoked for multiple DUI’s, the only way to ever get it back is to file and win a driver’s license restoration appeal. There is a lot to the license restoration process. 

First and foremost, the whole point of a license appeal is to make sure a person has given up drinking for good. 

License restorations are a complex area of the law, but if the reader is interested, he or she should explore the subject area on this website, and in the Driver’s License Restoration section of my blog, which has hundreds and hundreds of detailed and informational articles explaining every facet of the license appeal process.

Before you have any chance of winning a driver’s license restoration appeal, however, you first have to be sober

For everything that goes into a license appeal case, there are 2 main issues that need to be proven in order to win:

  • That your alcohol problem is under control, and
  • That your alcohol problem is likely to remain under control

Essentially, these issues translate as follows:

  • That you haven’t had a drink for a legally sufficient period of time. In our office, we generally require a person to have been completely alcohol-free for at least 18 months before we’ll move forward with a case, and
  • That you have both the ability and commitment to remain alcohol-free for life. In other words, that you are a safe bet to never drink again.

This, of course, can be a shock to some people facing a 2nd DUI. 

It is very often at this point that people divide themselves into 2 very different camps: Those that accept that their drinking has become a problem, and those that don’t. 

I’m not here to tell anyone that they have a problem or not, but a person facing a 2nd DUI needs to know that, in these cases, the court and the Secretary of State automatically presume that a drinking problem exists. 

In fact, under Michigan law, if you pick up a second DUI within 7 years, you are considered a “habitual alcohol offender.” It is precisely this “habitual offender” status that results in the license revocation. 

It is also this automatic designation as a “habitual offender” that requires the Judge to order a person into counseling.

This means that if a person wants to get through this, they’re going to have to understand and accept certain things. and that begins with the simple, legal reality that if you’re convicted of a 2nd offense DUI, your driver’s license will be revoked because you are presumed to have some kind of problem with alcohol, and you have become a demonstrated risk behind the wheel.

Th Secretary of State, for its part, puts everyone who files a license appeal through the wringer about having quit drinking for good before it will even consider giving them back a restricted license. 

Even then, a person will have to drive for at least the first year on a restricted license with an ignition interlock installed in his or her vehicle. 

Anyone who refuses to acknowledge that they have a drinking problem may make it through their DUI case unscathed, but they’ll never get their license back.

In practice, the license appeal process can’t be started (at least with any chance of winning) for the better part of 3 years from the time of a 2nd offense DUI. Therefore what a person does in that 2nd offense DUI case to address what the court (and later, the Secretary of State) sees as their alcohol problem will ultimately take center-stage in their license appeal. 

It comes down to this, really: In a 2nd offense case, the Judge is required, by law, to order some kind of counseling and/or treatment. You can gripe about it all you want, but if you just sit there and complain, you’re going to be sent to whatever counseling program the court is sending people to at the time.

If you are proactive, and find a decent program beforehand, not only can that be used as a bargaining chip in your DUI case and help the outcome of your 2nd offense case, but it will serve to pay huge dividends down the road, when it’s time to gear up for a license appeal.

The value of having been proactive, and having started counseling early on is hard to overstate in the context of a license appeal case. 

It’s rather hard to convince the Secretary of State that you took a 2nd DUI as a “wake up call” if you didn’t do anything about it except wait around to go to whatever program the court ordered. 

On the other hand, and as the old saying goes, “actions speak louder than words.” If you took the initiative and found your way into a good counseling program before the court shipped you off to one of its choosing (and doing this, by the way, puts you in control of things like how often and where you go to counseling, and how much it costs), then you’ve already got a head start.