Michigan SOS offices closed causing confusion for drivers whose licenses will expire soon

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Posted at 4:12 PM, Mar 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-25 22:16:52-04

(WXYZ) — The coronavirus outbreak is also causing confusion for drivers in Michigan.

The Secretary of State has closed all branch offices to comply with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay at home order.

So what does that mean if your license is about to expire or you’re getting a license for the first time?

Grosse Pointe North High School sophomore Lauren Barthel can’t wait to turn sweet 16 next week.

“Right after I passed my road test, which was March 7, then we got an appointment for my birthday, but it got canceled,” Barthel told Heather Catallo via FaceTime Wednesday.

Instead of that rite of passage birthday trip to the Secretary of State to get her very first driver’s license, Barthel – like so many others – will have to wait. That’s because the doors to the branch offices are locked.

“It is a bummer, because I was obviously excited to get my license, but there’s obviously bigger issues going on right now. It seems small compared to other issues,” said Barthel.

To help fight the spread of the coronavirus and to comply with the Governor’s stay at home order, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has closed all offices across the state. They won’t re-open until April 22.

If you had an appointment to renew your driver’s license, you probably already got an email notice canceling that appointment.

While some drivers can renew still online, as many as 25,000 people a month must renew in person. That means many drivers will have expired licenses.

Secretary of State Director of Communications Jake Rollow told us today by phone their office does not have the authority to extend those expiration dates.

“We have notified Michigan State Police and asked them to notify local law enforcement and to exercise discretion when interacting with someone who has an expired license,” said Rollow. “We trust our law enforcement to understand that we’re at a time of crisis, and that we fully expect that they will utilize that discretion to determine whether or not someone is actually deserving of a ticket for having an expired license at a time when our society is only able to provide essential functions.”

A lot of drivers who need to renew likely planned to get the REAL ID so they can use the required identification with air travel. Those renewals must be done in person.

Because the branches are closed, you could try to renew your regular license for $18 online now and then pay an additional $9 to get the Real ID later when the branches re-open.

And the deadline for REAL ID could soon be extended.

“President Trump said yesterday he will be extending the REAL ID deadline. We are waiting to see DHS officially announce that, and what they’re new deadline would be,” said Rollow.

Senator Gary Peters has introduced legislation to move that REAL ID deadline until at least October 2021. That package of bills is expected to be voted on soon.

State officials also ask that you have patience with the state website if you are renewing online. The site has been very slow across the board, so you may want to try again later this week or next.

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