In Part 1 of this article, we began examining the process by which someone who has moved out of Michigan, but has a Michigan "hold" on their Driving Record goes about obtaining a "Clearance," which releases that hold. We observed that in the year 2010, the Secretary of State received 875 Administrative Appeals, and DENIED 650 of them, meaning that 3 out of 4 such Appeals Lost. By contrast, I pointed out that in that same year, I conducted over 70 live License Hearings, and won each and every one, meaning that 100% of my Clients got back on the road.
In this second part, we will examine my Office protocol for accepting and handling out-of-state Driver's License Appeals. We left off at the end of the first part of this article by noting that in an Administrative Appeals, (and 3 out of 4 cases being Denied proves this), it is quite likely that the Hearing Officer reviewing the case will have a question, or questions, but with no way to ask them, will be left with no choice but to Deny it. We noted that the State, will say, in essence, "See you next year..."
The benefit to me, as a License Restoration Lawyer, is that once someone tries an Administrative Appeal and loses, they are almost always "all ears" when the chance for next year's Appeal rolls around. About the only question they have of me is how soon they can come in and start the process.
And it is a process. It is a labor-intensive, important process for which there are no shortcuts. My first meeting with a new Client is scheduled for 3 hours, and is pretty much solely dedicated to preparing them to undergo the mandatory Substance Abuse Evaluation. And that's just the first step.
Having handled hundreds of cases for people who live out of state, and for hundreds who still live here, in Michigan, but rather far away from my Office, I have developed a pretty efficient system for having them come in the day of their Substance Abuse Evaluation, meeting with them for about 3 hours, then sending them around the block to have the Evaluation completed.
Normally, I like my Clients to have their Substance Abuse Evaluation completed at a local Clinic a few blocks from my Office. I prefer this Clinic because they do a top-notch job of completing the Evaluation. By "top-notch job," I DO NOT mean that they simply take someone's money and crank out a favorable report. The State can smell that kind of quackery a mile away. The Clinic I like does not rent or sell its integrity, and instead conducts a thorough Evaluation which results in a Clinically accurate diagnosis and prognosis of and for a person's alcohol problem and Recovery. This means that a person must, in fact, be both Sober, and committed to remaining Sober, in order to pass muster. Fakers and scammers need not apply.
Normally, a person will have their Evaluation scheduled about 4 hours after our meeting time, so that we can spend 3 hours together preparing for that first step, then they can go and spend another hour getting it done. After that, they can go home, wherever that may be. We can do the rest of our work via phone and fax and email.
Perhaps the most important part of this "other" work is editing the Letters of Support. This involves the Client getting to me (by email, or fax, or however) draft copies of their Letters so that I can edit them. This is a whole subject onto itself, but the upshot is that more than 90% of all Letters I receive are substantially edited.
Once the Letters have been edited, I get them back to the Client. Then, the Client will send me the revised copies for another review. Usually, they are good to go at that point, but when someone is paying my Fee to get them back on the road, I have no hesitation is editing those Letters further, rather than being content with a less than perfect product. Remember, there are no shortcuts...
Once the Evaluation has been conducted, my Senior Assistant, Ann, and I will separately review it. If we both agree it is good, and the Letters of Support have also passed inspection, then the whole package is filed with Lansing, and a live Hearing is requested in the Livonia Hearing Office of the DAAD.
About 4 weeks after the Request for Hearing is filed (give or take a week), both the Client and my Office are notified of the upcoming Hearing date, and, more importantly, the identity of the Hearing Officer to whom the case has been assigned. Typically, the Hearing date itself is set about 2 weeks from the date of the Notice, meaning that it takes about 6 weeks from the time the Hearing is requested until the Client and I are actually sitting in the Hearing Room.
As that Hearing date approaches, I will either meet with, or contact the Client for a "prep session" to get ready for our big day. For most people who live out of state, or who live in Michigan, but far away from my Office, this means we'll do our "prep session" by phone a day or two before the Hearing.
I have a reason for doing this "prep session" so close to the Hearing. It does no one any good to speak with me a week or two before the Hearing, and then begin to forget what we've gone over. Instead, I want our discussion to be fresh in the person's mind as the actual Hearing goes forward.
When I do a "prep session" by phone, I almost always do it in the evening, after business hours. I cannot be, and do not like to be distracted by anything when we undertake this all-important work. When I am on the phone with a Client preparing for a Hearing the next day, they are the only person in the world to me, and their case is the only thing in the world that matters.
I have heard of some Lawyer's doing a mini, or "mock" Hearing in order to "prepare" their Client for the actual Hearing, and while some preparation is better than none, I believe that focusing too much on just the questions that are likely to be asked is not a broad enough method of preparing for the Hearing. There is far more to this process than that. Of course, I will go over not only those questions that will be asked by any Hearing Officer, as well as those likely to be asked by any specific Hearing Officer. However, it is also, if not more important to make sure the Client is ready to tell the story of their Recovery. Even if made out in bits and pieces, the process by which a person goes from being a drinker to a non-drinker is a story in its own right, and really is the most central and important part of winning a License Appeal.
After all, when all is said and done, the most important aspect of any License Appeal is convincing the Hearing Officer that the person Appealing is a safe bet to never drink again. And to prove that, a person needs to be able to put the words to the realizations that they had regarding their drinking, and the internal, as well as external changes they made to establish a Sober lifestyle. Simply coming in and saying "I decided to quit drinking" is a guaranteed way to lose a License Appeal.
For my part, I have made a nearly 20-year study of the etiology of and Recovery from an alcohol (and/or drug) problem. There is a unique language in the world of Recovery. This is true even for those who do not go to, or who have never gone to AA. As I have observed in the past, it is not my success as a Driver's License Restoration Lawyer that has made me so knowledgeable about alcohol (and drug) problems, but rather the depth of my knowledge and understanding of alcohol (or drug) problems and Recovery from them that has made me so successful as a Driver's License Restoration Lawyer.
My out of state Clients will make 2 trips to Michigan: The first to meet with me and have the Substance Abuse Evaluation conducted, and a second to attend the actual Driver's License Restoration Appeal Hearing. The same thing actually applies to those who live in another part of Michigan: A trip to my Office, followed by the Substance Abuse Evaluation, and then another trip back to Livonia on the Hearing day.
I think I have gotten this down to a science. Make no mistake about it, I am in business to make money, and any Lawyer who would say differently should immediately volunteer his or her services for free. However, I am equally in this to win, and no amount of money will induce me to compromise my standards or my winning Record, or do things "half-cocked" and not assure the results I guarantee that I will produce. This is why I do not undertake Administrative Appeals. Beyond that, I have developed a reputation with those Hearing Officers before whom I regularly appear of only taking on Sober Client who have a solid basis to Appeal, and not just anyone who will step up and pay my Fee. My integrity and reputation are not for sale, no mater what the price.
As far as that goes, my Office gets a few calls every week from people who are not yet really and truly Sober. Obviously, these callers have not read much of anything I have written on this subject, because I try and make it crystal clear that I AM NOT interested in handling a case for someone who thinks they can call me up, and tell me that they are, or think they are capable of saying "whatever you think I should say," but also believe they can indulge in a drink every now and then. If you're not yet Sober, meaning that you have been completely alcohol-free for AT LEAST a year, and if you are not committed to remaining that way for life, then call me when you are.
And if you've taken the time to read this, and you are still considering trying an Administrative Appeal, then, as I said before, "go for it." On the bright side, about ¼ of all people who try will win, and if those odds seem acceptable to you, then you have nothing to lose but another year of bumming rides from friends and family.
And if you do try, and, quite predictably, lose, then call me for next year's Appeal. Of course, we will have to fix the errors that cause your prior Appeal to lose the first time around, but that's part and parcel of what I do.
For those who have already tried and lost, and who are really and truly Sober, and committed to remaining Sober for life, then I can help. License Appeals are not situations where a person can simply throw money at a problem and make it go away. If, however, you're willing to put in the time, and do the necessary work, then getting back on the road is only a few steps away.