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What Happens to My CDL if I’m Convicted of Drunk Driving in Michigan?

Dec 7th, 2018 OWI What Happens to My CDL if I’m Convicted of Drunk Driving in Michigan?

If you have a CDL (commercial driver’s license) then a Michigan drunk driving conviction will have many implications relative to your driving privileges, both private and commercial.  The exact nature of these implications will depend on your prior criminal record, specifically prior OWI convictions, as well as the nature of your current drunk driving conviction.

Non-Commercial Driver’s License Sanctions

If this is your first drunk driving conviction, or if you have prior offenses that are more than 10 years old, then our prior article entitled “Driver’s License Sanctions for First Offense Drunk Driving” adequately sets forth all the driver license sanctions applicable to your non-commercial driving privilege.

If this is not your first drunk driving conviction (anywhere in the country), and if at least one of your prior drunk driving convictions occurred 7 or fewer years ago, then your non-commercial driving privilege will be revoked for a minimum of 1 year and will remain revoked unless and until you have a successful restoration hearing.  If you have three prior convictions within the prior 10 years, then your license will be revoked and will remain revoked until such time as you have a successful restoration hearing.  You may seek such a hearing after either 1 or 5 years depending on the circumstances.

Commercial Driver License Sanctions

If you have been convicted of drunk driving in Michigan, and have no prior drunk driving convictions, then your CDL will be suspended for a minimum of one year. This one-year suspension applies even if you were not driving a commercial vehicle at the time of your drunk driving arrest.  This one-year suspension also applies if you were driving a commercial vehicle at the time of your arrest.

On the other hand, if you are arrested a second time for drunk driving, and you have at least one prior drunk driving conviction within the prior 7 years, then your CDL will be revoked for a minimum period of 10 years.  As with the first offense drunk driving conviction, it does not matter if you were driving a commercial vehicle at the time you are arrested for your second drunk driving.  Also, prior offenses in states other than Michigan almost always trigger this second offense CDL sanction.  As indicated, the look-back period for this 10 year revocation is 7 years, and the calculation runs from date of conviction to date of conviction.

As discussed below, a revocation means no ability to do any kind of commercial driving.  You must petition for and conduct a successful restoration hearing before your CDL will be returned to you.  There is no guarantee that you will win this hearing, and there is a high burden of proof that you must meet in order to prevail.

With a second offense drunk driving within 7 years, the only difference between the non-commercial driver license sanction and the CDL sanction is the timing of the restoration hearing. You may petition for restoration of your non-commercial driver’s license after 1 year, but you must wait 10 years before you can petition for restoration of your CDL.

Difference Between Suspension and Revocation

There is an important difference between a revocation and a suspension.  With a suspension, your license is automatically reinstated after the suspension period.  You need only appear at the Secretary of State and pay a reinstatement fee. Consequently, there is no need to appear at a driver license restoration hearing. With suspensions there is also often some restricted driving allowed, such as for work purposes, etc.

With a driver’s license revocation, be it for your private operator’s license or your CDL, you have absolutely no right to drive for any purpose whatsoever. In fact, a revocation puts you in the position of never having had a driver’s license.  And during the minimum revocation period there is also no way to obtain any kind of restricted driving privileges.  Then, in order to become newly license (or re-licensed), you must petition the Secretary of State to request a driver license restoration hearing, file paperwork, and appear at a hearing for live testimony.  There is a high burden of proof that you must meet at this hearing, and there is no guarantee you will win.  Additionally, you may only petition for a restoration hearing once per year. This means that any time you lose a restoration hearing, you must wait at least another year before you can try again.