In The News

Thursday, March 25, 2010

License Sanctions Can Extend Beyond Michigan Borders

By Michael Nichols
Categories: Drunk-Driving, OWI

Imagine this: you’re a Michigan State University Student, with finals fast approaching. As if school wasn’t stressful enough, you make the mistake of having “one too many”. You then get convicted and sentenced for “Drunk Driving”. You know that the Michigan Secretary of State is going to sanction your Michigan driving privileges. But, what does it really matter since you’re originally from some other State (Virginia, for example)? It matters a lot more than most people realize.

All too often, people from out of state, proceed forward with plea deals without understanding the full ramifications on their driving privileges. Thanks to something known as the “Privileges and Immunities Clause” of the US Constitution, each state will recognize the laws of another. (U.S. Const., 14th Amend., §1.2) What does this have to do with a Drunk Driving case? Here’s the punchline: what happens in Michigan does NOT stay in Michigan. Usually, the state the licensed you will take action against your license based on what happened in Michigan. So, if you lose your driving privileges in Michigan, you are very likely to lose your driving privileges in your home state as well. Every state will take different measures against a person’s license – some states make the distinction between “restricted” and “suspended”, while others do not.

For example, take someone who is originally from Virginia. In his last few days at MSU, he gets arrested for drunk driving, he then works out a plea deal that keeps him out of jail and allows him to move back to Virginia. In the meantime, his Michigan driving privileges have been suspended, but he doesn’t care since he’s back in Virginia. Sometime later, this same student goes to the Virginia DMV to renew his license, only to find out that he is not allowed to renew his license and can’t drive until his Michigan driving privileges have been restored.

How did this happen? When the Michigan Secretary of State suspends or revokes someone’s license, they also report those sanctions on the National Driver Register, maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (www.nhtsa.dot.gov/portal/site/nhtsa/menuitem.f27748441b1ad09d07b2e610cba046a0). Like most other States, Virginia checks a person’s driving record against the National Driver Register. Any suspensions that are current on the Register will result in the person being disqualified from obtaining a Virginia driver’s license.

Although it may add another dimension to plea negotiations, when dealing with out-of-state residents, any additional license sanctions from a person’s home state should be taken into account. Most states have created “hotlines”, specifically designed to answer questions like this. However, almost every state requires that the person himself or herself call. Many states’ motor vehicle departments or secretaries of state will not disclose any information, even to a person’s attorney because of privacy requirements.

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Peer Recognition

Mike Nichols is a national leader in drunk driving defense. He is a member of the Forensic Committee and Michigan delegate to the National College for DUI Defense. He is also a Sustaining Member of the College. Nichols is also a founding member of the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys; a member of the American Chemical Society; an associate member of he American Academy of Forensic Science, Adjunct Professor of Forensic Evidence in Criminal Law and OWI Law and Practice at Cooley Law School. He is also author of the West OWI Practice book and several chapters in other books on science and the law.

Mike Nichols is recognized by his peers in Michigan as a “SuperLawyer” in DUI/Criminal Defense. Nichols has also been asked to speak at conferences by groups such as the NCDD; Various Bar Associations in other states.