Michigan prohibits driving without a valid license, whether revoked, suspended, or never issued. This article explains what constitutes these violations, the possible penalties, and the exemptions to the license requirement.
Generally, every person who operates a motor vehicle on a Michigan highway must carry a valid license while doing so.
Driving without a valid license. Drivers who have never been issued a driver’s license and a caught driving will face up to 90 days in jail and a fine of $50 to $100. A second offense will result in a minimum of two days in jail (the maximum is still 90 days) and/or a fine of $100.
License not in possession. A driver who was issued a license but was not carrying it while driving can be convicted of a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a fine of up to $100, or both. However, the charge can be dismissed if the driver shows a then-valid driver’s license to the law enforcement agency prior to the court appearance date.
Exceptions. Non-resident drivers and deployed military personnel with valid driver’s licenses from their home state or country can drive in Michigan without an in-state license, subject to Michigan age restrictions. However, a new resident must obtain a Michigan license within 30 days of domicile.
A person who operates a vehicle while on a suspended or revoked license is subject to fines, jail time, and additional license penalties.
Driving while suspended. A person who drives with a suspended or revoked license will face a fine of up to $500 and a maximum 93 days in jail. A second offense will result in a fine of up to $1,000 and a maximum one year in jail. In either case, the driver’s license suspension or revocation will be doubled from its original duration, the vehicle’s registration will be revoked, and the driver must pay a $500 annual driver responsibility fee for two years. The court can also impound the vehicle for up to 120 days.
A second offense within a seven-year period will result in vehicle immobilization for 180 days. This entails seizure of the vehicle’s license plates and destruction of the vehicle’s registration. However, drivers who were suspended for failure to pay child support payments or fines are not subject to immobilization.
Vehicle accident. Anyone who causes an injury accident while suspended will face up to five years in prison, a fine of $1,000 to $5,000, or both. Suspended drivers who cause a fatality accident will face up to 15 years in prison and a $2,500 to $10,000 fine. (Also learn about Michigan’s vehicular homicide and manslaughter laws.) The court may also forfeit or immobilize the driver’s vehicle.