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Michigan Restricted Driver’s License

Since the changes in Michigan law that occurred in 1999 there has been a trend to remove the imposition of driver license sanctions from the court, and give them entirely to the Michigan Secretary of State. There has also been a trend to make all driver’s license sanctions essentially uniform.

If you are given a restricted license (also sometimes called an occupational license) as part of any sentence for a drunk driving (OWI) conviction, then the restrictions will nearly always allow driving for work purposes.

A restricted license allows limited driving privileges. Since October 1, 1999, these privileges are generated automatically pursuant to MCL 257.319, based upon receipt of conviction information. This conviction information is sent to the Secretary of State (the Department) by the court where your case is pending. Unlike the “punitive sanctions” imposed by the court, the driver license sanctions are not “individualized.”

This means that the Department exercises no discretion whatsoever. Consequently, it does not matter if you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation or a self-employed plumber, the sanctions will be the same. These sanctions are authorized and by the Legislature.

It is important that motorists understand that they must carry proof of destination and hours when driving their car pursuant to a restricted license. Such proof is required so that the police can make sure that you are in compliance with the restrictions authorized.

Occupational Driver’s License Restrictions

Restrictions include:

  • In the course of the person’s employment or occupation.
  • To and from any combination of the following:
    • The person’s residence.
    • The person’s work location.
    • An alcohol or drug education or treatment program as ordered by the court.
    • The court-ordered probation department.
    • A court-ordered community service program.
    • An educational institution at which the person is enrolled as a student.
    • 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.

Suspensions and/or restrictions that are imposed by the Secretary of State will be for a definite period of time, and you will be notified of them by mail. Prior to receiving such notice, you may continue driving on your paper license, until you are notified of the appropriate driver license sanction by the Secretary of State. After receiving notice of a drunk driving conviction, the Secretary of State will examine your prior driving record, and the driver license sanction will be based on what is contained in this record.

The Secretary of State only considers prior alcohol-related convictions. The Secretary of State will notify you by mail of the applicable driver license sanction once this record examination has been completed. (Driver license sanctions are imposed only by the Secretary of State, and will not, therefore, be a part of any sentence imposed by the Judge). This process usually takes about three weeks after your conviction.

The letter you receive from the Secretary of State will indicate when the occupational driver’s license sanction begins and ends. This notice will come in the form of new “paper license”, and will indicate a “from” and “through” dates. When a “through” date is reached, you will be required to pay the reinstatement fee before you can obtain a full (plastic photo) license. This, of course, assumes that there are no other “holds” on your license and that there are no other open licensing actions. If not the fee is paid, then you will remain on an “invalid” license status.