Michigan scales back driver's license suspensions; tens of thousands to get license back immediately

Starting Oct. 1, Michigan will no longer suspend a person's driver's license for non-driving-related issues like missed court appointments and some traffic violations which will now count as civil infractions, making them ineligible for arrests and jail time.

Additionally, a package of new laws that passed the legislature in 2020 will remove infractions from some 73,000 Michigan drivers. Approximately half of those people will get their license back immediately. 

The scaling back of license suspensions follows a bipartisan-endorsed series of bills recommended by the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration.

Rep. Bronna Kahle (R-Adrian), the lead sponsor on the bill said despite Michigan being the home of automobiles, "We've created all these unnecessary barriers that prevent people from driving: high insurance rates, driver responsibility fees, and license suspensions for unpaid tickets. In Michigan, people need to drive to work, and the legislature is taking huge steps now to make that possible."

According to the Michigan Department of State, letters will be sent to impacted residents, explaining if they'll have infractions removed or if they'll get their license back immediately. The following violations will no longer count toward suspending someone's driver's license:

  • Open Intoxicants in Vehicle
  • Open Intoxicants in Vehicle (Passenger)
  • Person Under 21 Transport/Possess in Vehicle
  • Person Under 21 Transport/Possess in Vehicle (Passenger)
  • MIP (Person Under 21 Purchase/Consume/Possess Liquor)
  • Failure to Comply with Civil Infraction
  • Person Under 21 Used Fraudulent ID to Purchase Liquor
  • Sold/Furnished Alcoholic Liquor to a Person Under 21
  • MIP (Person Under 21 Purchase/Consume/Possess Liquor)
  • Felonious Driving
  • Controlled Substance
  • False Report or Threat of Bomb/Harmful Device (School)
  • Holds placed on licenses for unpaid parking tickets will also be lifted

The Department of State warns that these infractions will still appear on one's driving record, despite it not contributing to the suspension of one.

"When the Task Force looked at data across the state, we expected to see people in jail for assault or robbery," said Chief Justice Bridget McCormack who co-chaired the task force, "But what we found was tens of thousands of people getting locked up for driving on a suspended license. That’s not what jail is for, nor is it what taxpayers expect from an efficient justice system. These reforms are helping the justice system be more effective and helping people to stay in the workforce."

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A release from the state said about 350,000 Michigan residents had their driver's license suspended for minor court or fine infractions. Those that continue to drive with a suspended license face jail time and worse punishment. 

The task force found that driving without a valid license was the third most common reason for jail admission in the state.

Learn more www.Michigan.gov/SOSCleanSlate