The End Of Michigan's Driver Responsibility Fee: What You Need To Know

by: Matt Newburg

03/12/2018 02:45 PM EST

Legislation ending Michigan’s much-despised Driver Responsibility Fee was recently signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The Driver Responsibility Fee was an additional expense tacked onto certain driving offenses. The extra fees ranged from $100-$500 per year for motorists with 7-15 points on their driving record, plus costs of $150-$1,000 annually for persons convicted of a category 2 driving offense, such as operating a vehicle with a suspended license or drunk driving. If the fee was not paid, the person’s license was suspended. And when it came time for the person to get their license reinstated, another $125 fee was imposed.

The Driver Responsibility Fee was put in place by Gov. Jennifer Granholm in 2003. The purpose was to help generate money to fill a budget gap. Over the years, the fee has generated about $100 million annually for the state’s general fund.

Unfortunately, the Driver Responsibility Fee proved to be devastating for many individuals, with some 300,000 Michigan residents owing around $600 million in fees. In addition, thousands of state residents had their driver’s licenses suspended because they could not pay the fee. This left many people in a catch-22: if you cannot legally drive to work because your license has been suspended for failing to pay the fee, then how can you earn the money that’s required to pay the fee?

As time passed, it became apparent the Driver Responsibility Fee was bad policy. Last year, state lawmakers took action to get rid of the fee. And although the Governor has now signed legislation to end the fee, the phase-out process is a bit complicated. Here is what you need to know.

1. The Driver’s Responsibility Fee officially ends October 1, 2018. 

If you owe a fee as of Oct. 1, 2018, you will not have to pay it. You are also eligible to have your Michigan driver’s licenses reinstated at this time.

2. Persons with a Driver’s Responsibility Fee payment plan.

If you entered into a fee payment plan on or before Feb. 1, 2018:

  • The rest of your payments will be waived and you will owe nothing more after March 30, 2018. You should continue to make payments until that time, to remain in good standing.
  • You are eligible to have your driver’s license reinstated and you do not have to pay a $125 reinstatement fee. If you were issued your driver’s license, you may continue to drive and do not need to visit a Secretary of State (SOS) office. If you have other outstanding suspensions or fees, they must be cleared before you can apply for your driver’s license.

If you entered into a fee payment plan after Feb. 1, 2018, you remain responsible for making payments through Sept. 30, 2018. Not making a payment may result in further action against your driver’s license

3. Persons without a Driver’s Responsibility Fee payment plan.

If you did not enter into a fee payment plan, the Michigan Department of Treasury will stop collecting the fee on Sept. 30, 2018. Until then, you are still responsible for any outstanding payments.

Beginning March 30, 2018, you may enter into a Work Force Training Program as an alternative to paying the fee. You may be eligible to have your driver’s license reinstated once you complete the program.

4. Other important facts about the Driver Responsibility Fee.

License reinstatement fees for not paying a fee are waived from Oct. 1, 2018 through Dec. 31, 2018. After Dec. 31, 2018, a reinstatement fee will be due before your license can be reinstated.

Any reinstatement fees resulting from suspensions for other violations, including failure to appear in court or driving on a suspended license, must be cleared before your driver’s license can be reinstated.

If your driver’s license has been suspended for four or more years because of a Driver Responsibility Fee, you must pass a written test and a road test before your license can be reinstated.

The Secretary of State (SOS) is still fine-tuning the driver’s license reinstatement process. Visit the SOS website for updates.

If you’ve been charged with drunk or drugged driving, or if you need help getting back your Michigan driver’s license, the experienced attorneys at Newburg Law, PLLC can help. Contact us at 517-505-2323 or at [email protected].