While many believe that getting caught with marijuana results in a slap on the wrist, i.e. fines, probation, minor misdemeanor on your record, nothing could be further from the truth. There is one punishment that is overlooked or unknown-- the mandatory driver's license suspension. That's right-- you get busted with pot, or any other controlled substance, you lose your driver's license and there's no getting around it. For how long depends on the offense. First time offenders: your license is suspended for six months Second offenses: the suspension is for one year. With this harshest of penalties the legislators did decide to give a ray of light to those convicted, albeit a small one. The judge may grant you a restricted license (only drive to school, work, medical appointments, court-mandated activities) after 30 days for a first offense and after 60 days for a second offense. Notice the word may is used and not shall. That's right, the judge's doesn't have to grant you a restricted license, although they often do.
When sentenced, some judge's will even entertain your petition to have it placed into the sentencing order that you will automatically receive a restricted license after the appropriate waiting period. However, there are many judge's who will make you come back and file a motion or petition for a restricted license. When it comes to drug convictions Michigan doesn't mess around. Apparently the legislators thought that it wasn't enough to be placed on probation and all the requirements that goes along with it, so to add a heightened inventive they decided to take your license away. The problem is that not very many people realize this until it's too late.
Many clients ask if there is away to avoid losing their driving privileges over such a conviction as it is extremely difficult or near impossible for many people to lose their license, even if it's only for a month or two. The problem is that it is a mandatory part of the statute that neither the judge or prosecutor can do anything about in terms of pleas or bartering. However, there is one option where this blow can be avoided but the catch is it can only be used once.
Michigan has a delayed sentence option for drug use and possession crimes under MCL 333.7411 or 7411 for short. It allows those who have never been convicted of either use or possession of a controlled substance, such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or second time offenders of an imitation controlled substance to plead guilty under 7411. It is only for use and possession charges and not for serious drug charges such as drug dealing, manufacturing, or maintaining a drug house. You enter a plea of guilty and the judge sentences you to probation which could include random drug and alcohol testing and completing drug classes. If you successfully complete all the requirements the judge sentences you to, then no judgment of guilt will appear on your public record. More importantly, since the judgment of guilt is never entered, the Secretary of State doesn't impose any driver's license sanctions either. It's important that you meet the requirements in a timely fashion or else you run the risk of having the judge revoke your 7411 status which means it will not only appear on your public record, but you will lose your driver's license. Remember: 7411 is a one time deal whether you succeed or not. There are no second opportunities so make sure you don't lose it.
Even if you believe the case against you is weak, 7411 is just to good of a deal to pass up. It's just not worth the risk of having a criminal record and losing your driver's license when you don't have to. If you are facing a drug possession or use charge, ask your lawyer about 7411 and he will be able to tell you if you're eligible and can petition the judge if you are eligible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have to plead guilty to get 7411 or can you still ask the judge for 7411 after you've been found guilty at trial? The statute says that you are eligible if you plead guilty or are found guilty which means after you lose at trial. So technically, yes you can petition the judge after trial for 7411 but it is likely the prosecutor will object and the judge is probably less inclined to give it to you especially since they are not required to in the first place. It's always best to get 7411 as part of a sentence agreement.
Can I still get 7411 if the prosecutor objects? Yes, you can although it may be more difficult. Some judges can be persuaded and have been persuaded to give 7411 over the prosecutor's objection, but it's always best to get the prosecutor to agree not to object or to take no position.
Will I lose 7411 for a first time probation violation? It depends on the judge and the nature of the violation. Certain violations are more serious then others and certain judges are more tolerant than others. It has been my experience that 7411 is rarely revoked for a first time violation but why take the chance? Your best bet is to not have any so it won't ever be an issue.
Who is Eligible:
First time offenders of use or possession of a controlled substance
Second time offenders of use or possession of an imitation controlled substance
Who is Not Eligible:
Multiple offenders of use or possession of a controlled substance
If you have already been given 7411 for a previous conviction
Serious drug charges beyond use or possession-- dealing drugs, manufacturing drugs, maintaining a drug house