A local state representative is receiving bipartisan support for efforts to decrease penalties for driving with a suspended license.
The Michigan House of
Representatives approved Rep. Mike Mueller’s bill, HB 5802, to reexamine the penalties for driving with a suspended, revoked or denied license in Michigan.
The bill passed 105-2 on July 21.
In a press release, Mueller (R-Fenton Township) said reclassifying penalties for first and second-time offenses as civil infractions would establish better, more proportional penalties that make sense based on the offense in question.
“When someone can’t afford to pay a parking or speeding ticket, their license gets suspended, and from there it just takes one run-in with the law for them to get arrested,” Mueller said. “I’ve seen it happen countless times. Good citizens end up wrapped up in the criminal justice system, go to jail, or even lose their jobs, simply because they couldn’t afford to pay a ticket. There’s no need to waste taxpayer dollars and jam up law enforcement and the courts on minor offenses like these. They have much bigger issues to worry about.”
Mueller worked in law enforcement as a sheriff’s deputy for 19 years. He worked for Washtenaw and Livingston counties.
A first-time offense for driving with a suspended license is currently a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment up to 93 days and/or up to $500 in fines. A second or subsequent such offense is currently a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to one year and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
If the bill becomes a law, a first offense would become a state civil infraction punishable by a fine of up to $150, a second offense would become a state civil infraction punishable by a fine of up to $250, and a third or subsequent such offense would become a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to 93 days and/or a fine of up to $500, according to the press release.
It includes harsher penalties if someone’s license was suspended for dangerous behavior.
Additionally, the plan would carry a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment up to 93 days and/or a fine of up to $500 if the individual’s license was suspended due to dangerous driving activity such as operating while intoxicated, reckless driving, or a violation that causes the injury, death, or serious impairment of another individual.
The legislation was sent to the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.
The topic of harsh penalties for driving with a suspended license was in the news in March after Michigan state leaders agreed to a settlement with individuals who argued in court that the law for suspensions for unpaid traffic fines discriminated against poor residents.
Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement that, “It is time to re-evaluate laws that effectively criminalize being poor.”
Mueller is on the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration, which aims to evaluate Michigan’s justice system and identify best practices for reform.
Chief Justice Bridge McCormack and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, also on the task force, said in March that driver’s license suspensions are one of the leading factors in Michigan’s “sky high” incarceration rates.