Restoring Your Driver’s License

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If your driver’s license was suspended or revoked, there are certain things you must do to restore it (get it back). The first thing you will need to do is get a copy of your driving record to see what is on it. If you could have a ticket or something else on your driving record from another state, you should look at your record from that state. Outstanding tickets and fines from other states could affect your ability to get or restore a Michigan license.

Getting and Understanding Your Driving Record

You can get your certified complete driving record from your local Secretary of State (SOS) office, or order it online or by mail. It will cost $16 to get it. Be sure to ask for your certified complete record. There are edited versions of records that won’t be helpful to you. A complete record will have the number “42” in the second line of the upper left corner.

After you get your record, look at everything below “End of Record History.” The information in that section shows all current barriers that you need to take care of before your license can be restored. The information will include dates, locations, and specific offenses. It may also include suspension dates. Suspensions can either be definite or indefinite. You could have multiple definite and indefinite suspensions on your record at once. You will need to look at each of them to know what you need to do in order to restore your license.

Definite Suspensions

Definite suspensions will list a specific period, including a “from” and “through” date on the driving record. Once the through date has passed, you can go to your local SOS office and pay the $125 reinstatement fee to restore your license. 

Indefinite Suspensions

Indefinite suspensions have no through date. This means these suspensions don’t have a pre-decided end date. On October 1, 2021, new laws went into effect that change when your driver’s license can be indefinitely suspended. The new laws may affect your current driving record. In some cases, you may be able to have your license reinstated. To learn more about which charges qualify, read the article New Clean Slate Driver’s License Suspension Laws. Some common reasons why a driver could have an indefinite license suspension are:

  • No proof of car insurance

  • Alcohol and drug related driving offenses

  • Failure to appear in court for a misdemeanor hearing for a traffic violation

  • Failure to comply with a judgment

Failure to appear in court for a misdemeanor hearing for a traffic violation will result in a bench warrant. These types of cases show up on driving records as “FAC Suspension.” If you see one of these on your driving record, it means there is likely a warrant out for your arrest.

Ignoring or not paying a traffic ticket that is a civil infraction within the specified time frame will result in a default judgment. Not complying with that judgment will lead to a judge ordering a failure to comply with judgment suspension. These types of cases show up on driving records as “FCJ Suspension.” If you see this on your driving record, it means you owe the court additional fees or fines.

To learn more about reading other parts of your record, read the SOS manual How to Read a Driving Record.

Drug and Alcohol Related Offenses

If your license was revoked for Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), the penalties are more severe than many other traffic violations and getting your license back can be more difficult. OWI involves driving while under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or both. Some examples of OWI are:

  • Driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher

  • Driving a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04 or higher

  • For drivers under the age of 21, driving with a BAC of 0.02 or higher

If you had an OWI, look at your driving record to see if it says “Administrative Denied and Revoked.” If it does, look to see if there is an “eligible for review” date. You must wait for the review date before you can do anything to restore your license. Once the review date comes, the SOS should send you a packet which will include a Request for Hearing and Substance Use Evaluation form (SOS-257/258).

You must have the substance use evaluation completed before you request your hearing. Send both forms and any other evidence you would like to the SOS. The mailing address is listed on the Request for Hearing. If you would prefer to submit your packet online, there are instructions on the Request for Hearing.

A state-approved licensed evaluator does the substance use evaluation. It will cost about $300 to complete the evaluation. To learn more, visit the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services webpage Substance Use Assessments and Classes.

To request a hearing, you will need to have all of these things:

  • A laboratory report from a 10-panel urinalysis drug screen, which you can get from most local drug screening facilities

  • Evidence that supports your sobriety

  • Three to six support letters from family, friends, coworkers, or others who see you regularly and can talk about your sobriety

Evidence that supports your sobriety is anything that shows you are going to a structured program, such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Each letter of support must be notarized, dated, and have the address and phone number of the person who wrote it. The letters should have the following information:

  • How the person knows you and for how long

  • The last time they say you used or have knowledge of you using alcohol or drugs

  • How long you have been alcohol/drug free

  • How your attitude has changed as a result of sobriety

The evaluation, the 10-panel urine screen, and the support letters must be signed and dated within 90 days of sending in the Request for a Hearing. Time stops running when the SOS receives the request.

The Hearing

For the hearing, a lawyer for the SOS will be the hearing officer and will decide your case. Go to the hearing location on the date of your hearing. The hearing will take place at an SOS office. Look for a small office room in the lobby of the SOS office that is marked “hearings.” You don’t need to check in with anyone. Do not take a number and wait to be called. The room will likely have a TV in it.

It is a good idea to arrive 15 minutes early. If there is someone else in the room for their hearing, wait for them to be done before you go in. These hearings usually start on time, and they usually last less than one hour.

The hearing officer may be at the hearing location in person, but they will more likely attend through video conferencing. If your hearing is through video conferencing, the TV will turn on when your hearing is scheduled to start, and the hearing officer will start the hearing at that time.

The hearing officer will listen to your testimony and review all the evidence before deciding whether to restore your license. Take copies of all the evidence you submitted. The hearing officer may refer to letters or other documents you submitted, so it will be helpful for you to have copies to follow along. You can bring witnesses if you would like, but the hearing officer may say they have all the information they need from them in the letters you submitted written by them.

There will not be a lawyer arguing against you. You are not required to have a lawyer, but it may be a good idea to speak with one. Use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers in your area.

You will get a written decision either by mail or e-mail, depending on what you prefer. You could get the decision the same day as the hearing, or you may have to wait several weeks. If you don’t agree with the decision, you can only appeal if any of these are true:

  • There is new evidence that supports your claim that could not have been discovered before the hearing;

  • There was an “error of law,” meaning that the hearing officer got the law wrong or did not apply it correctly in your case; or

  • The hearing officer made a “material mistake of fact,” meaning they got one or more facts wrong in your case, and they are facts that matter to the outcome.

Your appeal will go to the local circuit court. These appeals can be complex. You may want to speak with a lawyer if you are appealing. Use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers in your area.

Habitual Offender

You will be considered a “habitual offender” if you had two or more OWI convictions in seven years, or three or more within a 10 year period.

If you are in this situation, you will likely have at least two hearings. At the first hearing, the hearing officer will either deny your request to have your license restored, or issue a restricted license. A restricted license means you will need to install a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID) in any vehicle you want to drive. You are responsible for all costs of installing a BAIID. You cannot legally drive until the BAIID is properly installed and you send proof of this to your local SOS office. You cannot remove the BAIID without SOS approval. You cannot drive someone else’s car that does not have a BAIID. You have to wait at least one year after driving with the BAIID to have a review hearing that will completely restore your license. You will need to bring an official BAIID report to your review hearing (the second hearing).

Driver Responsibility Fees

Your driving record might also include information about Driver Responsibility Fees (DRF). The DRF law was passed in 2003. The law added $100-$500 annual fees on top of existing fees for certain driving offenses. Beginning October 1, 2018, the state eliminated all existing DRF and no longer collects them.

If your license is not expired and was suspended for DRF and you have no other tickets, fines, or other issues, your license was automatically restored on October 1, 2018.

If your license is expired, but it has been less than four years since you had a valid license, you must renew it online or at your local SOS office. If you have no other tickets, fines, or other issues, all you have to do is pay the standard $125 reinstatement fee. If you have anything else on your driving record, you need to take care of those things before your license can be restored.

If your license is expired, and it has been more than four years since you had a valid license, you will need to renew your license at your local SOS office. You will need to go through the standard driver’s license application process again because it has been so long since you last had a valid license. To learn about that process, read Getting a Standard Michigan Driver’s License.

Steps to Getting Your License Back

To get your license back, you must pay all the fines you owe. You must also pay the $125 reinstatement fee to get your license back. You may need to  ask for a hearing with the SOS before you can get your license back. You can use the Request for Hearing form from the Michigan Department of State. Review the form for instructions on how to complete and submit it.

If you missed a court date for a driving-related case, there is likely a warrant out for your arrest. You will need to pay all fines and fees before your license can be restored. You will likely have to go to court to do this. It is a good idea to bring money with you to court in case the judge allows you to pay the fines at that time. The judge could have you arrested if you can’t pay for all the fines at that time.

Finding a Lawyer

If you have low income and want to restore your driver’s license, you may qualify for free legal services. Whether you have a low income or not, you can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers in your area. If you are not able to get free legal services but can’t afford high legal fees, consider hiring a lawyer for part of your case instead of the whole thing. This is called limited scope representation. To learn more, read Limited Scope Representation (LSR): A More Affordable Way to Hire a Lawyer.

To find a limited scope lawyer, follow this link to the State Bar of Michigan lawyer directory. This link lists lawyers who offer limited scope representation. You can narrow the results to lawyers in your area by typing in your county, city, or zip code at the top of the page. You can also narrow the results by topic by entering the kind of lawyer you need (divorce, estate, etc.) at the top of the page.