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Home Blog Driver's License Restoration What Kind of License You Win

One of the most common questions asked about the license restoration appeal process is what “kind” of license a person wins back. It’s a given that everyone would prefer to win a full license instead of some kind of restricted license. 

As a result, everyone wants to know if there is some way to avoid having a restricted license, and/or an ignition interlock (sometimes described by those who don’t know its actual name as a “blow unit” or a “blow and go”) and go straight to having full driving privileges.

The short answer is twofold:

  1. If you are a Michigan resident, you absolutely must drive on a restricted license and an ignition interlock unit for at least 1 year. After that, you have to file another license appeal to have the restrictions and interlock removed, meaning get a full license.

  2. If you are a resident of a state other than Michigan, then you will win a “clearance” that removes the Michigan hold on your driving record that is a result of the revocation for multiple DUI’s.

If you are a Michigan resident (notice how that’s the controlling phrase, and not “if you live in Michigan,” because many Michigan people live outside of the state for periods of time, like those in the military, but their state of residence, meaning where they can vote, remains in Michigan) the law requires that you prove yourself for 1 full year on both a restricted license and an ignition interlock (a/k/a the “blow unit”). 

There is no way around this. It does not matter how inconvenient this may be, or how much you need or would prefer a full license; you have to start with in interlock and restrictions.

Yet for all of that clarity and simplicity, there are really 2 kinds of restricted licenses: purpose-based and time-based. To be clear, an ignition interlock is required no matter which or the 2 license types is granted.

The default restricted license is purpose based. In most cases, the hearing officer granting a license appeal will just order a purpose-based, restricted license. This type of license allows a person to drive to, from and during the course of employment, to and from school or educational (or employment) training, to and from any necessary medical treatment for the person or a member of his or her immediate family, and to and from any counseling or support groups, like AA. 

There are no hours or time limitations on this type of license. If the boss calls at 3 am and says “You need to get in here, now!” that’s okay. As long as the person is driving for one of the state purposes, it does not matter when they are driving.

The less common option is time-based. This license simply provides days and times a person can drive, no matter what the reason. While this sounds great, at first, the time window isn’t especially broad (usually something like 6 am to 7 pm or 8 pm) and is inflexible. Thus, if a person normally gets home from work by 6:30, but needs to stay late for a special project, and their license cuts off at 8 pm, they cannot drive thereafter, period, even if the boss is paying them overtime to work until 9 pm. 

This kind of license works well for someone who has a schedule that is set in stone, but can be a nightmare for anyone whose schedule can ever change or vary. The time allowance is fixed, no exceptions can be made. A person may not drive outside of the stated hours ever, or for any reason.

Most people, if they have a choice, go for the purpose-based license, although as I noted, most people aren’t given a choice in the first place.

Those who are no longer a Michigan resident don’t win any kind of license back. No state can give a driver’s license to someone who is a resident of another state. Thus, if a person has a Michigan “hold” upon his or her driving record, but is a resident of another state, they can only be awarded a clearance of that hold, meaning Michigan steps out of the way so that they can obtain a license in their new home state.

Almost without exception, getting a clearance means the person can obtain a full license in their new state.

Normally, at about this point, some people start thinking “I wonder if I can get a clearance using a different address, and then ‘conveniently’ move back to Michigan and transfer and get that full license?” 

That kind of plan isn’t exactly original, and is rather well known to the Michigan Secretary of State’s Driver Administrative Hearing Section (AHS, also known, beginning in January of 2019, as the Office of Hearings and Administrative Oversight). 

The answer is no. It won’t work

To obtain a clearance, the Secretary of State requires proof of out of state residency, usually in the form of a state ID or a utility bill with the person’s name and address on it. Even so, there are cases where a person has won a clearance and a week or two later, has had to move back to Michigan for some reason, like a better job opportunity.

The bottom line is that if you’re a Michigan resident, you win a restricted license and are required to drive with an ignition interlock for at least 12 months before you can file an appeal to get a full license. If you are no longer a Michigan resident, you win a clearance so that you can obtain a license (almost always meaning a full license) in your new home state.