February 2010 Archives

February 26, 2010

Another Big Scam Involving DUI Cases that is Always Untrue

In the previous article, we dismissed the scam-notion about someone who knows someone who knows some Lawyer who can get a DUI "dropped" to the Civil Infraction of Careless Driving. In this article, we'll tackle another "urban legend" that has some people literally shaking in their boots when they contact me about their DUI charge. Again, I need to make clear that I only handle DUI cases in the Courts of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, so although I suspect that what I'm about to say is true everywhere, I can only confirm that it's true in the Tri-County area.

Part of my job as a DUI Lawyer is to make sure my Clients are well-informed. In order to be able to fully explain what will and will not happen in any given case, I believe it's essential for me, at least, to limit my practice geographically so that I appear in the same Courts, in front of the same Judges, day-in and day-out. This allows me to learn how each Judge handles a DUI case, and in turn, I can prepare my Client for what to expect.

scam_alert.jpgThe "urban legend" that I hear often enough to warrant addressing is that the Judge who will be hearing my Client's case had a son or daughter killed by a Drunk Driver. In certain cases, it may be that the person has heard that one of the Judge's in a particular Court has suffered this loss, but the point is the same. So let's get rid of this rumor right now:

There is NO JUDGE in any of the Courts in the Tri-County area who has lost a child to a Drunk Driver. Not one.

If there was even a grain of truth to any of this, you would expect that either that Judge would recuse (disqualify) him or her self from hearing DUI cases, or at least have faced a rash of motions for recusal by Lawyers for those facing DUI charges.

But it never happened.

If you or someone you know is facing a DUI charge in the Tri-County area and have heard this rumor, you can take it to the bank that it's absolutely, 100% false.

DUI charges come loaded with enough problems, but this, at least, isn't one of them.

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February 24, 2010

One of the Biggest Scams Involving DUI Cases that is Always Untrue

I handle a lot of DUI cases, and I speak with a lot of people facing this charge. Over the years, I have repeatedly heard a few things that could politely be called "urban legends," but that I think are more accurately described as bulls**t. To be clear, I am about to dismiss these notions completely, but once again I must repeat that since I only handle DUI cases in the Courts of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, I cannot say for sure what happens in other places (although I strongly suspect that neither of these "fables" is true outside of the Tri-County area, either). In this article, we'll deal with the "deal of the century" scam involving the worlds greatest Plea Bargain. In the next article, we'll dismiss another often-mentioned, but never-true rumor.

The first "urban legend" I hear is that someone knows someone else who knows some lawyer who can have a DUI dropped to the civil infraction of Careless Driving. This "deal" is usually available for a hefty legal fee, all paid in advance. This deal does not happen. Ever. Alcohol-related Traffic Offenses are never, ever, ever "dropped" to civil infractions, or any other kind of non Alcohol-related Traffic Offense, except in the most unusual, exceptional and rare kind of case. This kind of case comes along once every few years, at most.

scam231.jpgWhen someone runs this kind of hair-brained idea by me, I first tell them that such "deals" don't happen, and then I suggest that if it's such a sure thing, they should work out some kind of arrangement with the lawyer which provides a refund of some of that hefty fee if the deal doesn't go down as they've been made to believe.

Not surprisingly, that kind of deal doesn't happen, either.

Think about this for a moment; the internet is filled with all kinds of Legal websites dealing with DUI. Some, like mine, detail how DUI cases are usually handled. Others focus on (very expensive) ways to challenge the case, but absolutely none of them even hints at the "dropped to a careless" deal. Could it be that, different as the approaches of the various Legal websites may be, they are all at least above-board, whereas the phantom "deal" which always comes secondhand is a scam?

Listen, if you think a deal like that can be had, let me help you get rich. See, I got an e-mail from this Princess in some far away country who has a few hundred million dollars stuck in her bank account, and in order to get it out, she needs your help....

Read on to the next article to find out which other completely untrue rumor often freaks out someone facing a DUI in any particular Court.

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February 22, 2010

Traffic Tickets in Michigan - The First Thing You Should Do With a Citation

Part of my Practice includes working out Traffic Tickets. In other Blog articles I have explained how I handle Tickets, and on my Website I also discuss the general philosophy I have regarding Tickets, and the Fees I charge to handle them (about $450 to $600 for Civil Infractions, and between $1200 to $2200 for those that are Misdemeanors, or Criminal Traffic Matters that carry a potential Jail Sentence).

I also point out that my Traffic Ticket Practice is limited to Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties. Given what I charge, there is no way it's worth my time to go farther, and it's also true that I don't think it's worth anyone spending much more than what I charge when they can find a local Lawyer in a distant County who can probably do the same thing that I can, and for what I charge locally.

police_ticket.jpgWhen a person gets a Ticket, the first thing they should do is decide whether or not they're going to simply "eat it" or if they want to avoid, or at least lessen the points and other consequences of it. Given that I call not doing something about a Ticket "eating it," you can probably already tell that I think just paying it is a dumb idea. It's not just my professional experience that results in that conclusion.

As a Law Student, over 20-some years ago, I remember getting a Ticket and telling one of my classmates about it. At the time, I was just going to pay the Ticket and be done with it. My classmate told me that I would be crazy to just pay the Ticket. He had an older brother who was a Lawyer, and told me I should hire him and have him take care of it for me. At the time, I think I had a few points on my Record, so my big concern was that my insurance would go up.

I decided that I was willing to see what my friend's brother could do. I plunked down his fee (reduced because I was his brother's friend, and as a quasi-professional courtesy). My buddy's brother went to Court with me, and wound up getting the Ticket worked out where no points would go on my Record. I paid a fine, and that was it. I had saved not only the points on my Record, but the inevitable increase in insurance rates that would have followed.

Sometimes, when people call me, they either cannot come see me within the time remaining before they have to either pay the ticket of set up a Court Date, or they may not have the money until that time has passed. So what should a person do?

Without fail, and in every Ticket Case, a person who if facing a Citation would be well-served to call the Court and at least have the matter set for an "Informal Hearing." This will stop the clock from running, as the Court will inform the Person that they'll be mailed a Court date some time in the future. In the meantime, they can make arrangements to hire a Lawyer.

For those who have the money and ability to jump right on it, then there's no need to call the Court. Just hiring the Lawyer will allow the Lawyer to file Papers with the Court which will likewise "stop the clock" and cause the matter to be set for a future Court Date. For those, however, who might need a little time, calling the Court and requesting and "Informal Hearing" will result in additional time to hire the Lawyer.

When a Lawyer is hired, even if it's the very day before the "Informal Hearing," the Papers he or she files with the Court then causes the Citation to be re-scheduled for what's called a "Formal Hearing," which is where the Lawyer meets with the Prosecutor at a "Pre-Trial," just like that in a Misdemeanor Case.

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February 19, 2010

Winning back your Michigan Driver's License - 2nd time is NOT the Charm

Being a Driver's License Restoration Lawyer means that, beyond calls from those who want to hire me to handle their case the first time, I get any number of calls from people who have already tried (either on their own, or with a Lawyer other than me), and lost. Usually, the first thing they want to know is about filing an Appeal. I explain to such a caller that Appeals to Circuit Court are generally a waste of time and money. Winning an Appeal to Circuit Court after losing at the DAAD essentially involves proving that the Hearing Officer didn't follow the law. I could go on all day about what that means, but most often, it boils down to throwing good money after bad in a futile attempt to overturn the DAAD's ruling. If the caller has taken the time to read the volumes of stuff I have written about this subject, they know that, whatever else, I know this area of the Law pretty well.

The conversation usually moves on to my representing them when their 1 year is up, and they can file again for a new Hearing. This is when I have even more bad news. I have to explain that all the mistakes were made in that first, unsuccessful Hearing, do not simply go away, but remain part of the Record of their case. In other words, whatever caused them to lose the first time must be addressed in the subsequent Hearing. And this has the potential to be a huge problem.

0810_14_z+2009_ford_flex+drivers_seat2.jpgThis isn't bragging, but I win over 90% of my License Appeals. In those rare instances where I'm not successful, it's usually no surprise to either me, or my Client. In fact, it better not be a surprise to the Client, because if the person hasn't been made aware of any weaknesses in their case, and hasn't made an informed decision to go ahead, anyway, then there has been a serious problem in the Attorney-Client communication. Crippling problems, such as having a not-good-enough Substance Abuse Evaluation, or not-good-enough Letters of Support, or the lack of a fundamental understanding of the principles of recovery, are the kinds of problems which can never be overcome at the Hearing, and, in those cases, I would never file for a Hearing until things were made right beforehand.

When someone loses, however, then calls me, I don't have the luxury of having prepared their case. Thus, if the Substance Abuse Evaluation that they, or their previous Lawyer submitted wasn't good enough for the Secretary of State, then whatever problems it had must be addressed in the next year's Hearing. This means that if a person's Prognosis for Continued Abstinence wasn't good enough in their first Hearing, it won't do to just come in next year with an improved Substance Abuse Evaluation. Now, the person is going to have to explain and show what changed in the last year to account for the improvement in their Prognosis.

Continue reading "Winning back your Michigan Driver's License - 2nd time is NOT the Charm" »

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February 17, 2010

Michigan Drunk Driving - What Happens in a DUI Case

Most Lawyers who write anything at all about DUI cases tend to focus on the Evidence and ways to beat the case. However optimistic those sales pitches may be, the plain truth is that the overwhelming majority of DUI charges result in some kind of conviction. In most cases, after the Arrest, and after a person has been Arraigned, their Lawyer will work out some kind of "Plea Deal" that either reduces the severity of the offense or results in a Sentencing agreement or bargain.

This article will focus on what I consider to be, by far, the most important (and least talked-about) aspect of a DUI case. If the case is not dismissed on some technicality, or unless a person has gone to Trial and been found "Not Guilty," some kind of Plea deal will have been worked out by the Lawyer. By law, after a Plea (or conviction, if a person has gone to Trial and lost), but before the Sentencing can be imposed by the Judge, a person must undergo a mandatory alcohol evaluation.

Judge_C_bench.jpgThis consists of a written alcohol-use questionnaire, along with an interview by a Probation Officer. This whole process is called the PSI, or Pre-Sentence Investigation. The end product of this process is a PSI Report, or Sentencing Recommendation. Michigan law requires that this Report be provided to the Judge at or before the time of Sentencing to help him or her decide what to do. On the date of Sentencing, both the person being sentenced and their Lawyer are required to read this Report before going in front of the Judge.

It is accurate to say that, almost without exception, whatever is recommended by that Report is exactly what the Judge is going to order. In other words, it is less accurate to call that Report a Recommendation than it is to call it a "blueprint" for what's going to happen.

I know that anyone reading this who has ever been through the DUI process before, (whether for themselves of with someone else) knows this to be true. In fact, I can safely say to anyone who has been through the DUI process before that whatever was recommended in that Report was, likewise, ordered by the Judge.

This means that unless a person is charged with a DUI where the Evidence is weak enough to be dismissed by the Judge, or otherwise has a Defense to the charge strong enough to "beat" it at Trial, they will be undergoing this PSI. And it also means that when the test has been taken and the interview with the Probation Officer completed, the final outcome of their case will have pretty much been determined. The Probation Officer "scores" the person's alcohol test. All of these test are "graded" with a numerical score; generally, the higher a person's score, the more likely they are to have or to develop and alcohol problem. Conversely, the lower a person scores, the less likely it is that they have an alcohol problem, or have the potential to develop one.

Continue reading "Michigan Drunk Driving - What Happens in a DUI Case " »

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February 15, 2010

Criminal Charges in Michigan - I Have a Warrant for not Showing Up

This article is a companion to a previous article about having an outstanding Probation Violation Warrant for not Reporting. In this article, we'll look at those cases where someone has, for lack of a more proper term, essentially "skipped out" or "bailed" on a Criminal case at some point in the process (even if it's because they never took the first step). This situation comes up often enough in my Criminal Practice to require some discussion. We'll be talking about those individuals who either did not show up to turn themselves in on a Warrant (either to a Police Station or to a Court) and were never formally Arraigned, or those individuals who have been Arraigned, and at some point in the Criminal Process, just failed to come back. Since I limit my Practice to Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, we'll be talking about how things are handled within the Tri-County area.

Chains2.jpgIn some cases, a person will receive a Notice (and this can take the form of a written Court Notice or a call from a Police Detective) that there is a Warrant for their arrest, and they need to turn themselves in. These "turn-in" instructions can require that the person either report directly to a Court, or to a Police Department. For whatever reason or reasons (usually because they're scared) the person will simply just fail to follow-up as directed.

In cases where a person has already gone through that first step of "booking" and/or Arraignment, a subsequent Court date is set, and the person is either personally informed of that upcoming date, or Notice is sent by mail.

In still other cases, a person may have shown up to a subsequent Court date. Perhaps they went to Court for their Pre-Trial, and they might even have worked out a Plea deal. At some point along the line however (often prior to their Sentencing date) the person just drops out of the picture.

Just as with Probation Violation Warrants, the outstanding Warrants in these cases are taken care of in 1 of 2 ways:

1. A person voluntarily turns him or herself in to clear things up, or

2. They get picked up by the Police.

I think it goes without saying that those in the first group will find themselves treated far more leniently than those in the second group.

Continue reading "Criminal Charges in Michigan - I Have a Warrant for not Showing Up" »

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February 12, 2010

Probation Violations in Michigan - I Stopped Reporting

In previous Blog articles, I have discussed various aspects of Probation Violations, from the simple desire to stay out of Jail, or the imposition of too many conditions, to picking up a new charge while on Probation for another, to dropping a dirty urine. Since Probation Violations are a significant part of my Practice (at least my Criminal Practice), I very recently encountered another scenario that comes up quite frequently. This involves someone who simply quit Reporting to Probation, for one reason or another.

Let's define who we're talking about: a person on Probation who fails to report for some time, and is considered an "absconder" (kind of like a runaway). There are many reasons why this can happen. Sometimes, a person just plain misses, and then becomes afraid. Sometimes, a person has had Police contact, and doesn't want to either report it, or lie about it and not report it. Other times, a person may know they're going to test positive for drugs (or alcohol) and rather than face that music, just decides to bail out and deal with it later. The list could go on forever, but the point is that for some reason or reasons, the person has stopped Reporting to Probation. It doesn't take long, of course, for a Warrant to be issued charging the person with a Probation Violation.

Girl Arrested.jpgFor all of the reasons this can happen, and for all of the stories behind those reasons, there are really only 2 ways people resolve this situation:

1. Voluntarily turning yourself in to take care of things, or

2. Getting picked up by the Police on the Warrant.

Most often (but not always) I am called by people in that first group. They know they have some serious unfinished business to take care of, and they want the burden of this outstanding Warrant and all that goes with it to be lifted from their shoulders.

I think it's important to understand something about those people in the second group, who get picked up on the Warrant and brought before the Judge. Having sat in Courtrooms day after day after day for about 20 years, I know how these things work, and I know how Judges view them. And if there ever was a time to use the term "Bulls**t," it probably could never be more accurately applied to anything like it can to the excuses given by those Probation Absconders when the Judge asks them where they've been.

Continue reading "Probation Violations in Michigan - I Stopped Reporting" »

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February 10, 2010

Driving While License Suspended - Multiple DWLS Charges in Michigan

My Criminal Practice is made up, in significant part, of driving-related cases, from DUI, to License Restorations, to Traffic Tickets. Perhaps one of the most common Offenses I see is DWLS (Driving While License Suspended). In other Blog articles about DWLS and DWLR, I have discussed various aspects of these cases, from explaining the different terms used to describe this category of Offenses, explaining what happens in Court, to pointing out what the first thing anyone charged with such an offense should do.

In this article, we'll look at those cases where a person is facing two or more DWLS charges almost simultaneously. This happens a lot more frequently than you might imagine. Often, when I receive a call from a person facing multiple DWLS charges, they want to know if I can cut them some kind of "package deal" on the Legal Fees (and yes, I can and do).

Warren PD3.jpgLegal Fee "package deals" aside, the real problem is that there are generally no "package deals" available in Court, at least at the outset of these cases.

Perhaps the most common scenario for multiple DWLS charges involves a person who, for whatever reason, has their License Suspended and gets caught driving. Instead of following up on that charge, they let it slip their mind, and all but forget about it.

Until they are pulled over again, and find out that there is an outstanding Bench Warrant for their arrest because they failed to show up in Court for that first DWLS case.

Eventually, the person is released from custody, usually after being required to post a Bond for the first case, and a Bond for the new case, as well. They leave the Police Station with a notice to contact the Court in which their first, unresolved DWLS case is pending, as well as instructions for Appearing in Court on the new charge.

At this point, most people will look for a way to get these cases handled. Some people, however, will repeat this cycle of events any number of times before they get serious about fixing things up. I have been hired to represent people who have done this so many times that the last place they were arrested finally got so fed up with this pattern that they set a Bond too high for the person to post.

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February 8, 2010

Probation Violations in Michigan - I Missed a Urine Test

In other Blog articles about Probation Violations, I have pointed out that the person facing the Violation faces an uphill fight. By and large, a person gets Violated for doing something they shouldn't have (like pick up a new charge or test positive for drugs), or for NOT doing something they were supposed to (like fail to show up for a urine test, or "drop").

This article will focus specifically on those cases where a person has missed a urine test. If this applies to you, hopefully you're reading this before you ever receive notice from the Probation Department of a Violation or Show Cause (another fancy name for Probation Violation).

chemist1-2.jpgI say that because there are some things to do to minimize the damage caused by a missed "drop." If a person has waited until they hear from the either the Court or the Probation Department, the ability to take protective action diminishes considerably.

To begin with, it really doesn't matter where the urine test was to be provided. Many Probation Departments have a person go take their tests at a "facility" such as JAMS, Drug Testing Services, Inc., or Michigan Court Services, Inc. JAMS is by far the most popular facility in the Tri-County area. Other Probation Departments will administer their own breath or urine tests, and send the urine out to a laboratory for analysis. Some Courts even order people to report to their local Police Department to have a breath test done on a daily basis, but that's not the subject of this article.

Whatever the scheme, a miss is a miss.

In my practice, I hear all kinds of stories about how a person called their Probation Officer to explain why they missed, or called beforehand to tell them they couldn't make it. Sometimes, a person will tell me that they left a message for their Probation Officer explaining the situation, and because the Probation Officer didn't call back, they assumed that everything was okay. Other times, the person tries to contact the facility to "make up" the missed test, only to be told that there's nothing that can be done, and the Probation Officer has been notified of the miss. While many of these stories are true, we come back to the same point made above: a miss is a miss.

And that point really hits home when that miss is the reason for a Probation Violation.

So what should a person do when they miss a test?

Continue reading "Probation Violations in Michigan - I Missed a Urine Test" »

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February 5, 2010

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Gambling on an Administrative Review

Filing for an Adminstrative Review may be the ultimate shortcut to losing a License Appeal in Michigan. As a Driver's License Restoration Attorney, my reasons for urging caution with this process might not be what you'd think. Sure, you might figure that there's no way some guy who gets paid to represent people in License Restorations would ever encourage them to try it themselves, because that's essentially taking money out of his pocket.

The truth is, I am and always have been a big believer in self-help. I have never made a living doing for others what they can effectively do for themselves. The principal reasons I am not a fan of the Administrative Review process have to do with the high number of unsuccessful Appeals, and the fact that whatever causes a person to lose is yet another obstacle that needs to be overcome in the next Appeal. In a recent Blog article, I discussed the general idea that after a loss, winning an Appeal becomes even more difficult. While not focusing so much on the Administrative Review process, I did point out in that any License Appeal, whatever is filed with the State, or is brought out at the Hearing (win or lose), becomes part of the Record of the case and follows the person through all subsequent proceedings.

craps.jpgThis means that the reasons for a Denial in an Administrative Review don't go away when a person files his or her next Appeal. Let's look at an example: Say a person loses their Administrative Review because their Substance Abuse Evaluation wasn't adequately favorable, or was otherwise inconsistent in some regard (a problem which is far more common than you might think, especially for those Substance Abuse Evaluations done by Counselors who do not regularly do them for the Michigan Secretary of State Driver's Assessment and Appeal Division Hearings).

When a person files for their next Appeal, the first thing the DAAD is going to look at is the order denying that first Appeal, and see if whatever was cited as a reason for that denial has been properly addressed and corrected.

Thus, if within that previously-submitted Substance Abuse Evaluation a person's "Prognosis" for continued abstinence from alcohol was not good enough, the DAAD is going to want a very clear explanation at the next Appeal about why it has become better. In other words, just submitting a better Evaluation with a more favorable "Prognosis" the next time won't cut it. One or the other Evaluation is wrong, and one or the other is accurate; a person filing a second Appeal after a loss is going to have to clearly explain this apparent contradiction.

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February 3, 2010

Michigan License Restoration Appeals - Revoked Until the Distant Future

This article will focus on License Revocations that occurred after January 1, 1992, but prior to October 1, 1999, when Michigan's Habitual Offender Drunk Driving Laws went into effect. This Blog article follows one about Licenses that were Revoked, prior to 1992, for multiple Drunk Driving convictions. As a Lawyer who concentrates a significant part of his Practice in License Restorations, my experience with Suspended and Revoked Licenses pretty much runs the gamut of possible circumstances and situations.

Prior to the Habitual Offender Laws of October 1, 1999, a person who was caught Driving on a Suspended or Revoked License was punished by having their License Revoked for an additional number of years similar to whatever their then-current suspension or revocation period was. In other words, if a person had been revoked for 5 years for 3 DUI's within 10 years, then a Driving While License Suspended/Revoked/Denied (DWLS/DWLR) conviction would automatically get another 5 years tacked onto that Revocation. And this kept adding up for every DWLS/DWLR case they got. The end result was that some people were Revoked for 20, 30, or even more years!

nyc-2045-by-franz-steiner2.jpgIn 1999, the Habitual Offender Laws, which made pretty much everything connected with Drunk Driving even tougher, did, however, lighten up the penalties for what are known as "Mandatory Additionals." Instead of compounding Revocations until the end of time, that same person who was Revoked for 5 years (due to multiple DUI's within 10 years) and who got another DUI would simply be Revoked for 5 years from the date of his or her last conviction.

This was great news for anyone arrested after October 1, 1999, but kind of shut out in the cold anyone whose arrest occurred before then. In particular, it tended to treat more harshly (or at least it appeared to) those whose Revocations occurred from January 1, 1992, up to September 30, 1999. Those whose DUI's occurred before the 1992 laws went into effect were still eligible to file and Appeal in the Circuit Court in the County in which they lived, and to have a License Restored based simply upon their need for one. This was known as a "Hardship Appeal."

The "Hardship Appeal" was completely and totally eliminated by the 1992 laws. When the Repeat Offender Law became effective on October 1, 1999, one of the big changes was that anyone who got another DUI, even if it was their 5th, or 15th, or 20th, would still be eligible to file a License Appeal 5 years from their last one.

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February 1, 2010

Driver's License Restoration in Michigan - Can I go to Circuit Court for a License?

As a License Restoration Lawyer, I help people understand the License Restoration process and answer lots of questions about it. It has been my hope that the numerous articles on the Blog in the Driver's License Restoration category can help explain the process and answer many of those questions.

One question that comes up quite frequently from people who've had their License revoked because of multiple DUI's is something like "Can't we just go to Court and get some kind of Restricted License?"

courtroom2HR.jpgGenerally speaking, the answer is "no," but there is an exception, although it applies to a small, and shrinking group of people. The reason I point it out is that in the last year alone, 2 of the License Restorations I handled fell into this category.

For anyone whose last DUI occurred in 1991, or earlier, then the possibility of going to Court and getting a License Restored does legally exist. If a person's last DUI occurred in 1992, or any time thereafter, then there is NO possibility of having a Revoked License Restored in Court.

Here's why: In 1992, new DUI laws went into effect that completely eliminated what were known as "Hardship Appeals" in License cases. A Hardship Appeal simply meant that a person whose License had been Revoked for multiple DUI's could go to Court, and demonstrate how not having a Driver's License was a hardship upon them, and ask the Court to grant some kind of License. That whole process was eliminated by the 1992 law, and from that point forward, any new License Revocation could not be undone except by a License Appeal to the Michigan Secretary of State's DAAD (Driver's Assessment and Appeal Division, which was then known as the DLAD, or Driver's License Appeal Division). Beyond where the Appeal was to be filed, the whole hardship thing went out the window. In other words, it couldn't matter less how difficult life became without a License. Hardship was no longer a basis, or even part of one, for a multiple DUI Revoked License Appeal. New rules governing License Appeals went int effect.

Continue reading "Driver's License Restoration in Michigan - Can I go to Circuit Court for a License?" »

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