As a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, I file (and win) over 100 License Appeals each year. More than half of those Appeals are for people who now live outside of Michigan, but are still unable to get a License in another state because of a Michigan "hold" on their driving Record. Most of these cases involve a person having multiple DUI convictions. It is not necessary that all, or even any of those DUI's took place in Michigan. What matters (as anyone reading this has no doubt already discovered) is that the person had a Michigan Driver's License that was Revoked for 2 or more DUI's within 7 years, or 3 or more within 10 years, wherever they may have occurred.
While I have written rather extensively on this topic within the Driver's License Restoration section of my blog, it seems that unless I regularly keep writing about this particularly important topic, finding those articles about "out-of-state" Michigan Drivers' License Restoration issues requires some digging. As always, I will try to do more than just re-state what I've already said in previous articles. Accordingly, this will be a long, 2-part article that will not only explore the options for out-of-state residents who are being held back by a Michigan "hold" on their Driving Record, but will also examine how I handle these cases and get my out-of-state Clients back on the road.
When a person has left Michigan without having had their Driver's License Restored, meaning they have left with their License still Revoked, they often don't understand that this Revocation will prevent them from obtaining a License in another state. Sometimes, because they intend to live outside of Michigan and have no intention of ever returning (except, perhaps, for a visit), they have ideas of beginning afresh in a new place.
As they soon discover, however, the Michigan "hold" on their Driver's License follows them everywhere.
In fact, most people who find me do so as a consequence of learning that they must "clear" the hold on their Michigan Driving Record. Very few people research this issue before they go to the DMV of their new state. Instead, they come home from that DMV and start trying to figure out how to clear up this mess.
In that regard, it does not matter if a person now lives out of State, lives around the block from my Office in Mt. Clemens, or lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, because in each and every one of those cases, there are 2, and only 2, procedures available to clear up a Michigan Driver's License Revocation. We'll get to those shortly. What's different for those who live out of state is the relief sought by whichever procedure a person uses to try and move forward. Let me explain:
A person who lives in Michigan, and wants their License Restored will file for a "Restoration" of their Michigan Driver's License. In other words, they want their Michigan License back. A person who no longer lives in Michigan, and who wants a License in another state, will seek what is called a "Clearance" of their Michigan Driving Record, which means a release of Michigan's hold, or, to put it another way, a "voiding out" of the previous Revocation that prevents them from obtaining a License in their new state.
And when you think about it, this is quite logical. Even if a person never had any DUI's, and therefore never had any kind of License Revocation, if they move to another state, (meaning they move to and claim residency there) and then, on a return visit to Michigan some time later, stop off at a Michigan Secretary of State's Office, wanting a Michigan Drivers' License, they will be told that Michigan Licenses are only issued to Michigan residents.
Thus, a Michigan Resident whose License has been Revoked for multiple DUI's will file a License Appeal seeking Restoration of Driving Privileges. By contrast, a person who has moved out of state, but who has had their Michigan License Revoked for multiple DUI's, is not eligible for, and cannot seek Restoration of their Michigan License, as they have essentially given it up by moving to another state. Instead they must file a License Appeal seeking a "Clearance" of the Michigan hold on their Driving Record.
Both Appeals are identical in every respect, except that the end result in a winning case is different: The Michigan resident gets their Michigan License Restored, and the out-of-state person has the "hold" on their Driving Record lifted, or "cleared."
As we noted earlier, there are 2 ways to go about having a Michigan hold cleared (and this applies equally to people seeking to have their Michigan Drivers' License Restored):
- A person can file for what's called an "Administrative Appeal," which, as we will see, is essentially an Appeal by mail, or
- A person can go through the full License Appeal Hearing process.
I absolutely DO NOT believe in Administrative Appeals. Facts are facts, and in the year 2010, the State of Michigan received 875 Administrative Appeals, and DENIED 650 of them, meaning that 74% of all such Appeals LOST!
By contrast, in the year 2010, I handled over 70 in-person, live Appeals, and I won EACH AND EVERY ONE, giving me a win rate of 100%. Since about June of 2009, when I really began keeping track, I have won 188 out of 190 License Appeals, giving me a 98.94% success rate for that time frame. On top of that, I GUARANTEE I will win any License Appeal I accept the first time, or I will continue to Represent my Client before the Secretary of State, without additional Legal Fees, UNTIL I win back their License.
Despite my refusal to get involved in an Administrative Appeal (and it seems that almost every week, someone who has not read very many of the more than 80 articles in the Drivers' License Restoration section of my blog calls my Office and offers to pay my full Fee if I'll just do their Appeal Administratively), I don't bother trying to talk anyone out of doing it. Instead, I say, "go for it." Then call me next year, when you get serious about actually winning. I know that might sound harsh, but it's a heck of a lot easier for me to deal with someone who previously tried an Administrative Appeal, whether by themselves of with some Lawyer who doesn't know better, and lost, and now is willing to come in and see me and do it the right way, than it is to spend hours explaining all this to someone who might still wonder if they can simply win an Appeal by mail.
Based upon the state's own statistics, the chances are 3 out of 4 that anyone who reads this, but then sends in an Administrative Appeal anyway, will be calling me (or at least, hopefully, a bona-fide, Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, like me, and not just some Lawyer who claims to "do" License Restorations, along with Wills and Personal Injury cases and all kinds of other, "general practice" stuff) next year.
Beyond that, there is a compelling reason those statistics are what they are. In an Administrative Appeal, the paperwork is sent to the DAAD Hearing Office in Lansing. There are only 3 Hearing Offices in the state: Lansing, Grand Rapids, and the one in which I have all my cases Heard, Livonia. Livonia is, in my opinion, the best of all 3. I go before those same 5 Hearing Officers day in and day out, and I know what they are looking for in terms of evidence. Every Hearing Officer will have a core group of the same questions they need answered, but each one also has a number of concerns, or areas of inquiry that are unique to them.
Sending in an Appeal by mail completely ignores this reality, and beyond perhaps not having addressed an area of concern important to whichever Hearing Officer is reading it, there is absolutely NO ABILITY to answer any questions, or clarify anything beyond what has been provided in the paperwork sent for review.
In a Live Hearing, people spend up to an hour answering questions about their former drinking habits and their Recovery. By "Live Hearing," I mean live, and in-person. To emphasize how important I think it is to actually be physically in front of the Hearing Officer deciding a case, I should point out that recently, the Michigan Secretary of State has opened a video terminal, which is used for a "Video Hearing," about 4 or 5 minutes from my Office. I don't even give that a passing thought, electing, instead, to drive from Mt. Clemens to Livonia (about an hour, if not a little more) because I believe so strongly in a "Live Hearing."
And my results speak for themselves. I have incredibly little experience in losing.
Part of my strategy to win means that I usually spend twice as much time preparing the Client or the Hearing as we will spend in the actual Hearing itself. I do this because, once I know the particular Hearing Officer to whom their case has been assigned, I not only want to prepare the Client for the general, or core group of questions that pretty much every Hearing Officer will ask, but I also want to prepare them for the particular, specific questions that their Hearing Officer will likely ask, as well as those particular areas of inquiry that are important to each. Not surprisingly, the unique facts of each case impact what those questions will be, and what area or areas of inquiry will be important to the Hearing Officer deciding the case.
For example, if a person is involved in AA, one Hearing Officer might ask "what's the 4th step?" while another might ask "what step did you discuss at the last meeting you attended, and what was the discussion related to it?" while another might say "tell me about a step or steps that are particularly important to your personal Recovery plan, and why that's the case." Each Hearing Officer will come at a person's chosen Recovery strategy from a different angle.
There is a different set of questions and area of inquiry each Hearing Officer will have for someone who used to go to AA, but no longer attends.
And there is yet another set of questions and area of inquiry for those who have never set foot in an AA meeting, or who have only gone to a few meetings. Often, people in this group either attended a handful of meetings by Court order, or tried a few on their own and found that the program simply wasn't for them.
Now, anyone who has simply licked an envelope and sent in an Appeal by mail cannot answer any of those questions. If a particular Hearing Officer wants to delve into any aspect of the person's recovery strategy, and that person is not there to answer any questions, what do you think is going to happen? 650 Denied Appeals by mail out of a total of 875 pretty well sums that up. Imagine trying to answer those questions when they are important, but there is no way for them to be asked. It cannot be done. If a Hearing Officer deciding an Administrative Review has questions but cannot ask them (and 3 out of 4 Appeals by mail being Denied tends to indicate that there are a lot of unanswered questions), then it's no surprise that the Appeal will be Denied. In essence, the Hearing Officer is saying "See you next year..."
In Part 2 of this article, we will examine my process for handling out-of-state Clients, or those who do not live nearby.