Driver's License-Related Offenses Policy
Policy 2021-10: Driver's License-Related Offenses
For many Michiganders, cars are a functional necessity of life. Lack of access to an automobile can make it exceedingly difficult for Michiganders to go to work, take their children to school, or access medical care.
Yet despite automobiles’ centrality to life in Michigan, the State of Michigan makes it difficult for many Michiganders to lawfully drive. For one, Michigan currently forbids undocumented persons from obtaining driver’s licenses. In addition, Michigan has historically suspended driver’s licenses for a number of non-safety-related reasons—including inability to pay traffic tickets, or forgetting to appear for a court appearance.
Change, however, is on the horizon. The Michigan Legislature has recently amended the law, such that driver’s licenses will no longer be suspended for failure to pay traffic tickets, for failure to appear for court appearances, and for moving violations that do not demonstrate a danger to the public. These laws, however, do not take effect until October 2021. And even then, there may be people whose licenses were previously suspended for actions that would not warrant suspension under the new law.
The Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office prioritizes safe driving in our community. At the same time, it makes little sense to subject a person to criminal sanctions because of poverty, immigration status, or simple human forgetfulness. It would be particularly arbitrary to continue prosecuting people for activity that, under current law, will not bear criminal consequences.
Accordingly, it is the policy of the Prosecutor’s Office not to pursue driver’s license-related criminal charges (such as driving with a suspended license) if the underlying reason a person lacked a license was unrelated to safe driving concerns. The Prosecutor’s Office may choose to seek to have such charges reduced to a civil infraction, or may opt to simply help a person get their license restored. The Prosecutor’s Office will continue to pursue charges against those who drive without a license intentionally. It will also continue to pursue charges against those whose licenses were suspended as the result of safety concerns (including, but not limited to, licenses suspended as a result of drunk driving).