Don’t Settle

BY ERIN K. DOERING

As I sit here, doing battle with my eternal enemy known as insomnia (and not being able to beat the final level in my latest video game foil) whilst my husband-to-be snoozes in the other room, I am struck with an idea for a post – a post about the Michigan Secretary of State’s little secret.

Over the weekend I met with a young person who had been pulled over and was facing a traffic misdemeanor. Unfortunately, she had already plead ‘guilty’ to the misdemeanor so there was not a whole lot I could do but it got me thinking (a very dangerous thing) once again about how there are a set of criminal laws and then we have the Secretary of State and their rules and regulations. Most people who pick up a ticket for driving while license suspended or with expired insurance do not realize that these infractions are misdemeanors – misdemeanors with lasting consequences because of how criminal law and the Secretary of State are seemingly at odds with each other in Michigan.

Unlike most any other misdemeanor in Michigan, traffic misdemeanors follow you forever. FOREVER. Michigan law prohibits the expungement of traffic misdemeanors. Similarly, none of the diversion or conviction suppression methods such as the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (for first time offenders within a certain age group) or 7411 (division and special probation for first time drug offenders) are available to a person with a traffic misdemeanor on their record.

In short – once you have been convicted or plead ‘guilty’ to a traffic misdemeanor in Michigan you have a ‘friend’ for life. Our current system does not permit these misdemeanors to be treated in the same way as other misdemeanors – you carry them through your life like a scarlet letter and anyone who runs a background check on you or looks at you driving record will see them.

Years ago, no one cared about misdemeanor convictions. Now, they can make all the difference – between getting that job you really want and getting a rejection letter. Employers in Michigan are increasingly using misdemeanor convictions as a means to cull applicant pools. While the best advice is to not break the law to begin with sometimes life happens and Mr. Policeman comes a-callin’.

If you are a first time offender you often have options and ways to avoid a traffic misdemeanor conviction. In my humble opinion you should never plead ‘guilty’ to a misdemeanor or felony which may be related to driving without first consulting with an attorney licensed by the state in which the offense occurred. Most attorneys offer free or low cost consults so there is no reason not to reach out to someone and explore your options.

Of course, all of my advice and comments are for information purposes only. This blog is not about legal advice and there is no attorney client relationship here. However, I believe the general public needs to know more about how traffic offenses can impact their lives for years to come and perhaps there is a need for change with regard to how we handle traffic offenses in Michigan.

My two cents worth. Take them as you will.

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