April 2012 Archives

April 30, 2012

There is a lot more to a Michigan Driver's License Restotation Appeal than just Being Sober

As a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer who has published over 120 articles on just about every imaginable aspect of the License Appeal process, I have certainly done my part to emphasize that Sobriety is a first and necessary requirement in order to win Reinstatement of a Michigan Driver's License, or the Clearance of a Michigan "Hold" on someone's Driving Record for those whose License has been Revoked for multiple DUI's.

However, while Sobriety is a "first requirement" in a License Appeal case, it is, by itself, far from enough to win. There is much more to it than that.

Nighter copy2.1.jpgWithin the body of the Driver's License Restoration section of this blog, I have covered the steps in a License Restoration case. Many of those articles involve multiple installments. This article will be far more summary in nature, and will address the misconception that all you need to win a License Appeal is to prove Sobriety.

In fact, a fairly common question I'm asked is "how do you prove Sobriety?" That very question demonstrates that the way one wins a License Appeal is far from obvious, and certainly not as simple as losing the privilege to drive in the first place.

Being Sober is a first requirement in a License Appeal in the same way that having a racket is a first requirement to play tennis. Having a racket doesn't mean you know anything about playing the game, other than you have to hit the ball. As it turns out, I don't know the first thing about tennis, never took lessons, and could not play the game for the life of me. I do have a racket, though, which I used to paddle the ball back and forth off of a brick wall when I was younger. I am about as ready to play tennis with a good, veteran player as someone who is "Sober" is ready to undertake a Driver's License Reinstatement case before a Hearing Officer who knows the many rules and requirements of these Appeals like the back of his or her hand.

In order to Restore a Michigan Driver's License, or to win a "Clearance," a person must be able to make all the proofs necessary under DAAD Rule 13, which is the Law that controls and governs these Appeals. Reduced to its most basic elements, Rule 13 requires that a Hearing Officer Deny a License Appeal unless the person seeking Restoration proves, by what's called "Clear and Convincing Evidence," two main things:

1. That their alcohol problem is under control, and,
2. That their alcohol problem is likely to remain under control.
Proving the second issue is the more difficult task, as it essentially requires the Hearing Officer to be convinced that a person is a safe bet to never drink again.

Continue reading "There is a lot more to a Michigan Driver's License Restotation Appeal than just Being Sober" »

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April 27, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration and the Issue of Prescription Medication - Part 4

This will be the fourth and final installment in our examination of the issue of prescription medication a Michigan Driver's License Restoration case. We began Part 3 of this article by turning our attention to the urine test that is a required part of a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal, and we noted how that test is more than just a "dirty" or "clean" proposition. A urine test that is positive for potentially addictive or mind and/or mood altering medication in a License Appeal is almost always bad news. As a Lawyer who specializes in Michigan License Restoration cases, I can plan around the necessary use of such medicines, but if they are first detected in a urine test, or, worse yet, are revealed at the License Hearing itself, things pretty much crash and burn.

In the course of the actual License Hearing, a person will be asked about their use of any prescription medications, past or present. I can only theorize, but I think when asked about this, some people feel they can demonstrate the strength of their Sobriety by admitting to having used something like the painkiller Vicodin in the past without having suffered any adverse consequences, like a relapse.

prescription bottle3.1.jpgUnfortunately, the Hearing Officer won't see it that way.

Instead, he or she will see a person supposedly in Recovery who failed to tell their treatment provider about their alcohol problem. The Hearing Officer will not view this as a success, but rather a big potential problem that, fortunately, didn't come to pass.

Beyond a problem that didn't occur, the Hearing Officer will become concerned about the person's lack of understanding of the need to abstain from any and all potentially addictive, or mind and/or mood altering drugs. They'll perceive the person as a risk. Remember, the most important issue before any Hearing Officer in a multiple DUI License Appeal is that the person's alcohol or substance abuse problem is likely to remain under control. Even if a person has been Sober for years, a few spoonfuls of Codeine or a few Vicodin pills can trigger a relapse. It doesn't necessarily have to be a relapse with alcohol, either. A person Recovering from an alcohol problem can easily be lulled into a relapse with a different substance.

Up to this point, we have not examined the role that medications for mental health issues play in a Michigan License Restoration case.

Anxiety disorders, ADD and ADHD problems as well as bipolar issues, to name a few, are rather common across the population, and this is no less the case with people in Recovery. However, some estimate that as many as 60% of all people with bipolar disorder will suffer from some kind of addiction problem. This is often called a "dual diagnosis." Examination of this in any detail would require a separate article, and probably one like this, with multiple installments. For our purposes, it is only necessary to note that the DAAD looks beyond the use of medicines to treat mental health issues, focusing its concern on the underlying issue, as well, and the potential it presents as a risk for a person's "alcohol or substance abuse problems...to remain under control."

In my Practice, I believe it is critical to thoroughly examine and explore these issues with my Client BEFORE he or she ever undergoes the Substance Abuse Evaluation.

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration and the Issue of Prescription Medication - Part 4" »

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April 23, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration and the Issue of Prescription Medication - Part 3

We concluded Part 2 of this article with the general notion that anyone claiming or even trying to be "Sober" should not be using any potentially addictive or mind and/or mood altering medication. In this third installment about prescription medications in a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal, we'll look at how the presence of these medications is detected beyond a person simply admitting such use. In particular, we'll review the urine test that is a required part of any Michigan Driver's License Appeal. While the urine test is used to provide the state with an assay of the substances in a person's system, including prescription medications, there is more to it than just testing "clean" or not.

In the last installment, I noted that, as a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Attorney, I had better be the first person to learn that a person is on, or has (detectably) used the potentially addictive or mind and/or mood altering medications that is the focus of our inquiry. Here's where that "strategy" to which I alluded in Part 1 of this article comes into play, and I must take a "diplomatic pass" and trust the reader will understand that, outside of the confines of my Office, I can say little more about what happens once I learn about such use. Suffice it to say here that while the strategy varies from case to case, the key element of any such strategy is planning. Each plan, in turn, depends on the unique facts of any particular case.

Pill Bottle 1.2.jpgI am often asked about the logistics of the urine test; some people think it is collected separately from the Substance Abuse Evaluation. It is not, at least for my Clients. The Clinic to which I refer my Clients for the required Substance Abuse Evaluation is located a few blocks from my Office, and collects their urine for the lab test. This is particularly helpful for the roughly one-half of my Clients who come from out-of-state. For those who live either out of state, or across the state, we'll arrange for their first appointment with me (which takes about 3 hours) to be scheduled the same day as their Substance Abuse Evaluation. This way, they can go right from my Office to their Evaluation.

The urine test serves several purposes beyond just showing that a person has or has not been puffing on a joint in the last few weeks.

To begin, the urine test can't just be any old urine test. The $10 do-it-yourself home test, even administered by the Substance Abuse Evaluator, will not cut it. In order to pass muster in a Michigan License Reinstatement (Restoration) Appeal, a urine test must be a "10-panel" test with at least 2 "integrity variables." Integrity variables are very much what they sound like; things that are examined in the test to make sure he sample is unadulterated or diluted.

Dilution is a big problem. If a person drinks too much water, their test will come back "diluted." Dilution is usually determined because the level of creatinine in a person's urine is lower than what's considered clinically normal. Creatinine is present in everyone's urine, and there is a guideline range that dictates what is normal, and what is not. When the level of creatinine falls below a certain amount, the urine sample is considered dilute, and therefore considered invalid. Thus, the real implication of a diluted sample is "invalid," as in adulterated, or hiding something. This can completely derail an otherwise winning License Appeal.

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration and the Issue of Prescription Medication - Part 3" »

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April 20, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration and the Issue of Prescription Medication - Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, we began our inquiry into the potential dangers or prescription drug use in a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal. We clarified that we were not talking about things like blood thinners or heart medications, but the kind of prescriptions upon which people can become dependent. Let's continue our discussion...

Reduced to its most basic level, alcoholism and drug addiction are really an addiction to getting a buzz. Alcoholics and addicts are hooked, in large part, on changing the way they feel. After a while, being "sober" is not the norm, or at least not the desired norm. Changing one's consciousness can become a psychological and/or physiological habit in some people, but not in others.

PillMan1.2.jpgIt is interesting that every Substance Abuse Counselor in the world considers this basic stuff, yet many Physicians aren't particularly well versed in it. Doctors are trained to cure diseases, treat illness and fix injuries. It is actually a somewhat rare medical specialty (not surprisingly called addiction medicine) that treats alcoholism and addiction. Other than that, about the only professional contact most Doctors have with alcoholism and addiction is when someone shows up in the ER suffering any of the many consequences of such abuse, from accidents to liver failure to overdose. And the best (and really only) advice they can give is for the person to stop and get some help. That help comes from someone who treats alcohol and substance abuse issues. With the exception of those few Doctors specializing in addiction medicine, this will almost always be a Substance Abuse Counselor.

Because they spend their time fixing injured people, and helping sick people get well, many, if not most, Physicians don't have any detailed knowledge of the proper treatment protocol for the diseases of alcoholism and addiction, and how cross-addiction and substitution are inherent risks in the addiction AND Recovery process. Besides, Doctors are usually very busy; they have limited time with each patient. Come in with a broken leg, and you'll have it set and get discharged with instructions and a prescription for painkillers.

This is a complication. This is actually a complication within other complications...

It seems that the more we analyze or talk about this, the farther reality moves away from theory...

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration and the Issue of Prescription Medication - Part 2" »

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April 16, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration and the Issue of Prescription Medication - Part 1

One aspect of the Michigan Driver's License Restoration (or, as some people say, Michigan Driver's License Reinstatement) process that has been turning up more frequently in my Office involves the use of prescription medication. Depending on the medication, and/or the reason for its use, this can be a huge issue, and has the potential to derail what would otherwise appear to be a winning Michigan License Appeal. This article will examine the issue of the potentially addictive, or mind and/or mood altering prescription medication use in a Michigan Driver's License Appeal. Our focus will be limited to legitimately prescribed medications, and will not encompass any other substances, like recreational drugs, or medication used without a valid prescription.

I need to be clear about something right up front; there's a significant part of this topic that is intimately wrapped up with the strategies I use to win Restoration Appeals. As much as I'm going to pull the curtain back on this topic, like a magician talking about his show, I'm not going to reveal my "trade secrets." The fact of the matter is, much of what I know about properly handling License Restorations accounts for why I win as much as I do, and why I offer a first-time win Guarantee. This separates me from the pack of Lawyers who claim to "do" License Appeals, or who buy web site domain names with the words "license restoration" in the title. None of these operations, as far as I know, (whatever Fee they may charge), offers a Guarantee like I do.

RX1.2.jpg Anyone who is truly in "Recovery" fundamentally understands that they cannot use any kind of potentially addictive, mind and/or mood-altering substance unless there is no medically suitable alternative. We're not talking blood pressure medication, or thyroid medication, or anything like that; we're talking about things like tranquilizers, painkillers, and psychotropic medications upon which people can become hooked.

I realize that there are some people who've been able to quit drinking (often without the help of AA or any kind of long-term treatment) that don't know this. Within the context of winning a License Appeal, however, they need to know it, even if I'm the one to teach them. Unfortunately, some approaches to Recovery and Sobriety fail to recognize that certain people are capable of overcoming a drinking problem without lifetime AA involvement or anything more than a commitment to never drink again, and a fundamental understanding that they cannot.

Beyond that, in the real world, there are people who have successfully quit drinking and that safely manage to use medication that would otherwise be considered potentially addictive or mind and/or mood altering without any problems.

That doesn't change the fact, however, that the Michigan Secretary of State, through its Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD), will absolutely DENY an Appeal if someone tests positive for, or otherwise admits to using any such medication without proper explanation. As we continue our analysis, we'll more fully explore the meaning and significance of testing positive for any of these medications, and what a "proper explanation" for their use really means.

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration and the Issue of Prescription Medication - Part 1" »

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April 13, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeals - FInding That Winning Voice

Within the body of the Driver's License Restoration section of this blog, I have tried to examine the License Appeal process from every possible angle. This article will present a different perspective, as it won't focus so much on the process, or an aspect of the process, but rather something that underlies the whole process; the "voice" of the Lawyer. In a few recent additions to the DUI section and the Criminal cases section of my website, I have focused on the importance of the "voice" of the Lawyer and how, really, it all comes down to this.

In a License Appeal, the Lawyer's "voice" is a bit more understated, but no less important. In a Criminal case, the Lawyer's first job is to help shape his or her Client's side of the story, or at least their explanation for it. In a License Restoration Appeal, that "voice" helps shape the case as a whole. In an earlier article, I noted how the story of a person's Recovery is, in fact, a "story," and that a big part of my job is to help the Client put the words to it.

The Voice2.gifImagine, for a moment, if you were sitting out on a suburban backyard patio, and suddenly, you looked up and rather surprisingly saw a deer standing about 20 feet away, just looking back at you. Now, think about how you would tell this story to different groups of people in your life:

To your small children, you'd talk about the deer like you might describe a "bunny rabbit."

To the women in your life, you'd describe the graceful beauty of the creature, with its big eyes.

To the guys you know who are big hunters, depending on your own disposition, you might not say a word, you might ask how they could shoot such a beautiful animal, or you might talk about the venison dish that "got away."

The point is that, depending on the audience, the "voice" of the story, if not the storyteller, changes. Knowing how to tell a story is every bit as important as the story itself, if not more so.

In a License Appeal, it falls to the Lawyer to help put the right voice to the story, and then, once the identity of the particular Hearing Officer who will ultimately decide the case becomes known, to fine-tune it accordingly.

I think I have the right "voice" to win a License Appeal, and, given my overwhelming success, this allows me to offer a win Guarantee. Nevertheless, I know that the voice I use in a License Appeal is neither the only one possible, nor the only one that can win. Still, my voice is strong enough to offer my first-time win Guarantee, and I don't hear any more of those amongst the chorus of Lawyers...

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeals - FInding That Winning Voice" »

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April 9, 2012

Rescued From the Stress and Fear of a Detroit-Area DUI Case

I handle DUI cases in all the District Courts of Macomb and Oakland Counties, as well as parts of Wayne County. Almost every day, I meet with someone facing their first DUI, which in the majority of cases means someone facing their first-ever Criminal charge. In addition, many of my DUI Clients are people facing a 2nd Offense, or even a 3rd (Felony) Offense Drunk Driving charge. Their apprehension over what will happen may be a bit more informed, if not different, but no one is ever happy about being charged with a Drunk Driving Offense and wondering what's going to happen to them.

One thing that all people facing any kind of DWI charge have in common is the emotional strain they feel from the first moment of Police contact. In an earlier article on this very subject, I began examining the emotional impact of a DUI, and numerous times since its publication, a new Client has told me how they identified with it. In this article, I will reexamine that subject from a slightly different perspective. It seems that there is more to this topic than I was able to explore in the previous article, and I think a big part of that emotional stress is related to fear. While fear itself can be a healthy warning mechanism that keeps us safe, excessive or unreasonable fear can wreak havoc on a person's well being.

Superman2.jpgIn the world of alcohol-related Driving Offenses, fear tends to lose any real value once a person has been pulled over. If fear can provide any benefit in this setting, it would be to prevent a person who's had a few too many from getting behind the wheel in the first place. Once the keys are in the ignition (it may surprise the reader to learn that, in Michigan, sitting behind the wheel in a car with the keys in the ignition, even thought the car hasn't been started, has been found by the Courts to be enough exercise of "control" over the car for that person to be charged with DUI), it's too late. All the fear in the world won't stop what's about to happen.

There is probably no unpleasant feeling a person can experience that rivals that "sinking feeling" they get when they see the Police car lights in their rear view mirror after they've been out drinking. And if we could just hit the "pause" button at that very instant for just a moment, we'd discover something very important. There is usually a very good reason for that sense of foreboding a person feels. In most cases, the Driver knows he or she is over the limit. It's not like they get that sinking feeling because they think they're about to get a speeding Ticket. Even if they rather naively hope they may get through the Police contact without the issue of drinking coming up (like that ever happens...), they know that they're in a tight spot. Ask anyone at that precise instant if they'd like to volunteer to perform some Field Sobriety Tests or take a Breath Test, and you won't see any hands raised.

In some people, alcohol impairs judgment in such a way that they think they may be able to sound sober, or talk their around, if not out of, the situation. Some may even think they can do "okay" on any kind of Field Sobriety Test. In an ironic, if not humorous twist of fate, many of these same people, when reviewing the Police car dash cam video, will see themselves after a few too many, and rather humbly say "turn it off. I've seen enough."

Continue reading "Rescued From the Stress and Fear of a Detroit-Area DUI Case" »

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April 6, 2012

Free "Expert" Amatuer Legal Advice for Detroit-Area Criminal, DUI and LIcense Restoration Cases

In a recent blog article, I warned against using some family member or friend that happens to be a Lawyer, to handle a Detroit-area Criminal, DUI or Driver's License Restoration case. The point of that admonition was to avoid getting involved with a Lawyer who offers or otherwise thinks they can "do" one of these cases, even though their area(s) of Practice is something different. Since I'm on a roll about the things a person should NOT do, this article will address another fairly common "no-no" that never does anything good; the "legal advice" from well meaning friends or family-members who are NOT Lawyers.

Some Lawyers call this "bar stool legal advice," because it is, at best, the kind of b.s. a person hears from the "expert" sitting on the next bar stool. As a Lawyer who concentrates in Drunk Driving, Driver's License Appeal and certain kinds of Criminal cases, I have had to deal with this countless times in the past. Honestly, I hate it; I have little patience and less time, really, to hear, second-hand, the amateur legal analysis of some non-Lawyer. Having endured it from my side of the desk, it has changed me as a Patient or Client or customer when I'm sitting on the other side. Ask any Lawyer or Doctor about the helpful, know-it-all relative, and you'll get a knowing smirk accompanied by a roll of the eyes.

Cheapo Lawyer2.1.jpgWithout fail, every time I am confronted with the expert legal opinion of some inter-meddling non-Lawyer, I have to explain how and why they are wrong. Never, in 22 years of being a Lawyer, have I learned anything I didn't already know. No one has ever made me aware of a Law or rule of which I wasn't already familiar, and I have never been presented with a strategy better than that which I already had.

Instead, when someone says "A friend of mine told me...." or, "I have a friend who is a Police Officer," or, "My brother had the exact same kind of case," I know that I'm about to have to waste some time explaining things.

No doubt the advice given by these well-meaning souls was tendered with only the best of intentions. Yet that doesn't make the advice itself any better.

To put this in perspective, I regularly represent Lawyers and their friends and families in DUI and Criminal matters. Invariably, the Lawyer, unless he or she is the Client, serves as the contact person, and explains that such a case is outside their field of experience. They understand the meaning of the saying "you don't know what you don't know." Accordingly, they defer to the person who handles such cases day in and day out - me.

Sometimes, a Lawyer will simply need information about something that is beyond their area of Practice. This happens to me, and to just about every Lawyer who has real life Clients. The more cerebral amongst us will call another Lawyer who handles the kind of matter about which we want to inquire. Why talk to someone who makes his or her living doing something else? Why would anyone with a brain listen to the advice of some "Jailhouse Lawyer?"

Continue reading "Free "Expert" Amatuer Legal Advice for Detroit-Area Criminal, DUI and LIcense Restoration Cases" »

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April 2, 2012

Getting A Driving Record to begin a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal.

Reading Driving Records is part of what I do everyday as a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer. On any given day, my Office answers inquiries from any number of callers either telling us that they're eligible to file a License Appeal, and want to begin the process, or asking us if they are, in fact, eligible. Often, the caller will know how many years have passed since their last DUI. From there, they either presume that they are ready to go, or believe that, having been provided with that information, I can make that determination.

This uncharacteristically short article will examine "eligibility" to file a License Appeal, but not so much as an analysis of the rules affecting when a person can proceed, but rather how and why they should get a copy of their Michigan Driving Record in order for me to determine and verify that they are, in fact, eligible.

driving in fire 1.2.jpgTo be clear, there are just some cases so cut and dried that I don't need to review a person's Driving Record to know they're good to go. Here's where a review of the rules and consequences of multiple DUI's is helpful. The previous link will take the reader to the more detailed subsection of my website. Here, we can summarize as follows:

Two (2) DUI convictions within seven (7) years = 1-year Revocation

Three (3) DUI convictions within ten (10) years = 5-year Revocation
Accordingly, if someone calls my Office and says, for example, that their entire Record consists of just 2 DUI'S, the last having been over 2 years ago, that they've been off of Probation for at least several months, and that they've never had any Tickets since then, I can tell, without referring to any Driving Record, that they are at least legally and really eligible to seek Restoration of their Driver's License.

When someone calls, however, and has more tha 2 DUI's, and isn't clear on the dates, or they've been caught Driving after they've had their License Revoked, or has a combination of DUI's from more than 1 state, then it's best if I verify their eligibility by reviewing their Driving Record. And getting that Record is easier than ever...

Continue reading "Getting A Driving Record to begin a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal." »

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