A Driver’s License from Any Country is Valid in Michigan

If you are visiting the United States and the police stop you for a traffic violation, you can rest assured that your foreign driver’s license is valid in Michigan.

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Foreign Driver’s Licenses and Traffic Infractions and Misdemeanors

On March 29, 2017, a new law took effect in Michigan that deals with using foreign driver’s licenses. Under the new law, all foreign licenses are potentially valid instead of the prior law, which only allowed the use of licenses from “treaty countries.” Before the new law, driver’s licenses were not recognized from countries like Chile, China (Republic of China), Costa Rica, Ecuador, the Holy See, Indonesia, Ireland, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, and Venezuela. Under the new law, the driver’s license from any non-treaty country will allow for vehicle operation in Michigan if the license contains the person’s name, address, and other identifying characteristics. The driver must have a document containing a photograph and a valid translation if the license is not in English.

A Michigan resident must have a Michigan driver’s license. This means that someone residing in Michigan must get a Michigan driver’s license or be in violation of the law. A foreign driver’s license will not be valid for a Michigan resident. An undocumented alien will not be able to get a Michigan driver’s license regardless of the length of time they live in Michigan. Many police officers struggle to understand that an undocumented immigrant living in Michigan can use a foreign license because they cannot lawfully establish residency.

Driving While License Never Acquired in Michigan

The same law that criminalizes driving while license suspended (DWLS) also includes a person who has never applied for a driver’s license. A first offense for a person caught driving who has never applied for a license is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail and up to 2 years of probation. A second offense has a maximum jail time of 1 year. Suppose a person who has never applied for a license is driving and causes an accident that results in death or serious bodily injury. The offense is a felony punishable by either 15 or 5 years, depending on whether there was a death or serious injury.

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Allowing an Unlicensed Person to Drive

What happens if you allow a friend or relative visiting from another country to drive your car even though that person does not have a valid driver’s license? You would be just as guilty as the person driving. The Motor Vehicle Code states that allowing a person to drive without a valid license is a misdemeanor. If an injury or death results from the accident, the offense will be a felony. Because foreign driver’s licenses are valid in Michigan, allowing someone to drive with a valid foreign driver’s license is not a crime.

Defense to Driving While License Suspended or Never Applied

There is one defense provided for in the Motor Vehicle Code. The law states that driving without a valid license is not a crime if the vehicle is being operated solely to protect human life or property, if the life or property is endangered, and if getting prompt aid is essential. A person licensed in another country does not need this defense because foreign driver’s licenses are valid in Michigan.

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys

If you or someone you care about is charged in Michigan with a misdemeanor or felony offense, please call LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. We will take the time to talk with you, answer your questions, and address your concerns. It is hard to know who to trust with your representation. This is especially true if you are not from the United States or comfortable working with lawyers. Call us for a free consultation, and we will help you find the information you need to make an informed decision.

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
we are not afraid to win!

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