December 2012 Archives

December 28, 2012

The Michigan Driver's License Restoration (and Clearance) Process - Part 2 - The Substance Abuse Evaluation

In Part 1 of this series, we learned that a person must be legally eligible, in terms of time, to begin the Michigan Driver's License Restoration process. Beyond just being eligible time-wise, however, if a person has any hope of actually winning back their License, they must also be able to prove that they have quit drinking. The most important piece of evidence bearing on this issue, and the real foundation of any License Appeal or Clearance case, is the "Substance Abuse Evaluation" that must be submitted as part of the initial documentation that must be submitted to the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) in order to start a License Appeal.

The Substance Abuse Evaluation is a state form that must be filled out by a licensed Substance Abuse Counselor. This form is critically important to a License Appeal. Doing it correctly, so that it is legally adequate, requires that certain, very specific information be listed with absolute accuracy. Anyone who has tried a License Appeal before knows all about this form. In fact, one of the most common reasons that License Appeals (especially "do-it-yourself" efforts) are Denied is due to a "questionable/insufficient substance abuse evaluation." In the real world, such errors or omissions in the Substance Abuse Evaluation are very costly.

yellow-submarine 1.3.jpgTo make matters even tougher, in order to win a License Appeal, a person has to essentially hit a home run and prove their case by what's called "clear and convincing evidence." This boils down to mean that the DAAD Hearing Officer is essentially required to look for a reason to Deny an Appeal.

Think of the Substance Abuse Evaluation as the submarine in which you will travel across the lake from the side with no License in order to get to the other side, where your License is waiting for you. If the submarine isn't watertight, meaning if it leaks, then you'll never make it to the other side. Now, if prior to setting off, the submarine needs to be inspected, if the Inspector (or, in a License Appeal, the Hearing Officer) finds any leaks in the sub (or, in a License Appeal, the Hearing Officer finds any problems with the Evaluation), then you'll never even get to begin the journey...

Because I intend to keep this series of articles brief, let me cut to the chase: Most Counselors who "do" Substance Abuse Evaluations in License Appeal cases don't do them properly. In fact, most screw them up. You read that correctly: Most "Evaluators" have no firm idea of how to do an Evaluation the right way. I completely avoid this problem by having my Evaluations done at a Clinic right by my Office where I know the Evaluators understand what the State wants (and, equally as important, does NOT want) on the form, and are up to date with how the DAAD analyzes things. In fact, I have frequent contact with these Evaluators and provide them with feedback so that they have a current and working knowledge of how the DAAD interprets the information they provide.

In terms of what's required, the Substance Abuse Evaluation form requires the following:

Continue reading "The Michigan Driver's License Restoration (and Clearance) Process - Part 2 - The Substance Abuse Evaluation" »

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December 21, 2012

The Michigan Driver's License Restoration (and Clearance) Process - Part 1 - Eligibility

It has been a while since I've done a step-by-step series examining the Michigan Driver's License Restoration and Clearance process. Having previously done some rather detailed installments, I thought that it might be time to put up a much shorter, more summary review of the steps involved in winning back your License, or getting a Clearance of the Michigan "hold" upon your Driving Record that prevents you from obtaining a License in another state.

The entire License Restoration or Clearance "process" begins with eligibility - meaning being legally eligible to file an Appeal with the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver's Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD). Generally speaking, a person will have their Michigan License Revoked for multiple DUI's as follows:

  • 2 DUI's within 7 years = 1 year Revocation
  • Calendar 1.2.jpg
  • 3 DUI's within 10 years = 5 year Revocation
The word "Revoked" means everything here. Unlike a "Suspended" License, which is automatically given back after a certain period, a "Revoked" License is taken away forever, and can only be returned once the minimum period of Revocation has passed (either 1 or 5 years) and only if a person files a formal License Appeal before the DAAD and wins. A person can wait 35 years, but until and unless they file a License Appeal and win, they won't get their License back. Sometimes, people feel that they have been without a License "long enough," as if the mere passage of time means anything; it doesn't. A Revoked License is only Restored (or a Clearance granted) after a successful License Appeal.

These simple dates get complicated in a number of ways. Most often, however, a person causes their own complications simply by getting caught driving while their License is Revoked, and then being slapped with what's called a "mandatory additional" Revocation. These additional periods of Revocation are mandatory under the law, and extend the time a person will remain Revoked. There is absolutely no way to get out of this, unless, and only if, the last "mandatory additional" was imposed for a driving offense that occurred BEFORE October 1, 1998.

In the real world, most people decide to pursue a Driver's License Restoration or Clearance well after their eligibility date. To put it another way, of the Driving Records I review from potential Clients each week, very few people have to wait for their eligibility date to arrive. Even then, the State allows a person to file their Appeal 6 weeks before their actual eligibility date. On top of that, the paperwork that must be filed with a License Appeal must be dated no more than 90 days prior to the filing date. This means that a person can make an appointment with me and get the License Restoration process started about 4 and ½ months before their actual eligibility date.

Continue reading "The Michigan Driver's License Restoration (and Clearance) Process - Part 1 - Eligibility" »

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December 17, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Success

Implicit in my use of the title "Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer" is that I am successful at Restoring Michigan Driver's Licenses. I have developed a winning system for getting people who have really quit drinking back on the road. As the end of 2012 approaches, I am happy to close it having won over 100 License Appeals in the last 12 months, and with some kind words of gratitude from a Client for whom I have recently won back the ability to drive again:

Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas to us all.

Kid in Car 1.2.jpgI want to thank you and your staff for all your hard work helping me achieve the last major hurdle towards my Freedom.

I do know that I could not have done it without your strategy, experience , and most of all, your reassurance.

I would have wrote sooner but I have been busier than normal this season. Understandably so. I have much to be Grateful for this year.

Please have a safe and wonderful Holiday season this year.

And Jeffrey, I'll see you in the late spring. Keep a pickin.

Regards,

Richard

Beyond perhaps being the last "Thank You" note I'll get this year, I chose to reprint this message because in its brevity, it manages to cover everything about why I win all my License Appeals the first time, and back that up with a Guarantee.

My Client begins with an earnest enough holiday greeting, followed immediately by an expression of how he feels like having won his License back is a true Christmas gift when he includes himself in the sentence "Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas to us all." From my perspective as a License Restoration (and Clearance Appeal) Lawyer, being able to help someone win back something so important and meaningful to them, and for which they are so grateful, is about the biggest bit of job satisfaction I can ever imagine, and certainly trumps anything pretty much any Lawyer in any other field will ever experience.

Think about it: If you were a Patent Lawyer, and you obtained a Patent for another Client's "thingamajig," how excited would you really be? If you were a Divorce Lawyer, and you got Mr. and Mrs. Jones "unhitched," how much gratitude do you think you'd get from them? If you were a Slip and Fall kind of Lawyer, and you settled a case for Bungling Bob after he slipped on a banana peel, what more would you get from that other than just another paycheck? All of this put together cannot compare to sharing in the joy a person experiences (and often expresses) when they win back the ability to drive again, legally.

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration Success" »

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December 14, 2012

Michigan DUI Driver's License Penalties

As a Michigan DUI Lawyer, just about everyday I am asked, "What will happen to my License?" This article will detail what happens in the most common DUI situations. There will always be someone whose circumstance is bizarrely complicated and involves unusual facts, but this article isn't for them. Those people will have to sort things out with their Lawyer. For the most part, however, most questions about what happens to a License in a DUI case will be answered in the following paragraphs.

Before we can even begin to know what will happen to your License, we must first establish if you're being charged as a 1st, 2nd or 3rd Offender. Obviously, if you've never had a prior Drunk Driving conviction before, then you're a first Offender. However, if you have had a DUI in the past, then when it (or they, if you've had more than 1) occurred matters a lot. What makes a case a First, Second or Third Offense is the number or prior convictions a person has within a certain number of years. Let's look at each:

SOS seal 1.2.pngFirst Offenses

"First Offense" means a person does not have a prior DUI conviction within 7 years of the Arrest for the new charge. To be clear, the time period for a "prior" starts running from the date a person was convicted of their last DUI (meaning the date from which they took a plea or were found guilty, and not the date of their last Arrest or anything like that) and covers the date of the Arrest for the new case.

There are 3 kinds of First Offense charges:

1. "OWI," or Operating While Intoxicated. This is the most common DUI charge. If you are ultimately convicted of First Offense OWI, your Driver's License will be Suspended for 180 days (6 months) and you will not be allowed to drive at all for the first 30 days, and will then have a Restricted License for the remaining 150 days (5 months). I will explain exactly what a "Restricted License" means later in this article.

2. "High BAC," sometimes called "Superdrunk" or "Enhanced" OWI. This is the "Big Daddy" of all First Offenses, and can be made when your BAC (Bodily Alcohol Content as measured from a breath or blood test is .17 or above). You cannot be charged with "High BAC" except in a First Offense case. If you are convicted of a "High BAC" charge, your License will be Suspended for 365 days (12 months) and you will not be allowed to drive at all for the first 45 days, an then may be allowed a Restricted License for the next 320 days (10 and ½ months) with, and only with an ignition interlock (a kind of breathalyzer unit) installed in your car.

3. "Impaired Driving," or OWVI. This is the "Lesser Offense" that's the least serious of all. If you are convicted of "Impaired Driving," you will be give a Restricted License for 90 days, after which you may then get your Full License back.

Continue reading "Michigan DUI Driver's License Penalties" »

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December 10, 2012

Finding the Right DUI Lawyer in Michigan

As a Michigan DUI Lawyer, I know the role I play, and the role I am supposed to play in helping a person get past a DUI charge. A DUI Lawyer is hired to make things "better." As you look for a DUI Lawyer, it is important to first define your needs and wants, and then try to find the Lawyer that best matches them. To do that, it would certainly be helpful to first establish a couple of parameters to help narrow your search. Of course, I am in the business of defending DUI cases, but after more than 2 decades of doing it, I have the good fortune of not needing the business so bad that I have to try and be all things to all people. Instead, I can clearly define my place in the world of DUI Lawyers so that I match up with the right Clients.

First, the term "DUI Lawyer" is rather significant. I define myself as a "DUI Lawyer." There is an appreciable difference between a Lawyer who "does" DUI cases and one, like me, who concentrates in them. A general Criminal Lawyer may handle a few DUI cases per month. A DUI Lawyer often handles several Drunk Driving cases in a single day, every day of the week.

Lawyer Guy 1.3.jpgSecond, where a Lawyer practices matters. If you're hiring a DUI Lawyer with the hope that he or she can make things better, your chances improve if the Lawyer you hire has experience in the particular Court where your case is pending. Every Court does things its own way, and very often, different Judges in the same Court do things differently, as well. Repeat experience in the same Courts allows the Lawyer to be able to explain how things are going to play out, as well as how they are likely to turn out in your case. In addition, having enough experience with the Judge deciding your case allows the Lawyer to know what kinds of things to do and, perhaps equally as important, what not to do. There is little point in going all out and signing up for Counseling, or starting to go to AA, only to find out you wasted your time, and that the Judge couldn't care less. You'll only know these things by hiring a Lawyer who knows your Judge from past experience with him or her. For my part, I limit my DUI Practice to the Courts in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties.

Therefore, as a general guide, a person facing a DUI should be looking to hire a DUI Lawyer (as opposed to a Lawyer who merely "does" DUI cases) who has had regular experience in the Court where the case is, or will be pending.

Even among DUI Lawyers, there are vast differences in personality and strategy. I think that the personality aspect is the more important of the two, because if you hire a Lawyer with an "I'm the boss, and this is how we'll do it," personality, you'll never even have a chance to discuss strategy, or get meaningful answers to your questions. There is no "right" personality for a Lawyer to have, although I'd argue that there is certainly no shortage of those that are "wrong." There is little need to describe that kind of person; they are usually abrasive or rude. Then again, and not to be funny about it, that kind of personality may work for some people. You'll know who's wrong for you right away.

I'm rather the opposite of that; I'm a talker. I examine and explain things. I'm friendly and conversant. No one could ever describe me as a man of few words. I've written loads of articles about DUI cases, and I write just like I speak. This means, of course, that I won't particularly match up well with someone who wants a Lawyer who is the "strong, silent type." When a person hires me for a DUI, our first meeting usually lasts about 2 hours. I'm certainly not the Lawyer for someone looking to be in and out of the Attorney's Office in 30 minutes or less

Continue reading "Finding the Right DUI Lawyer in Michigan" »

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December 7, 2012

Why "Needing" a License Doesn't Matter in a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal

My Office receives calls every day from people who have had their Driver's License taken for multiple DUI's. Sometimes they call right after they receive word from the Secretary of State that their License has been Revoked. Other times, they call out of frustration for not being able to get it back - often after a failed "do-it-yourself" License Appeal. Whatever precedes these calls, the callers themselves all have one thing in common; they "need" a License. Desperate, they'll ask "How am I supposed to support my family if I can't even drive to work?" or "How am I supposed to get my kids to school?"

As a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, I understand. And I care. But make no mistake about it, the State doesn't. Once a person has their License taken away for multiple DUI's, the State, meaning the Michigan Secretary of State, doesn't like to give it back. There's a decent chance that, if you're reading this, you've already learned that the hard way. The process by which a person gets their License back, called a Driver's License Restoration, is complex, and involves what I call "a million little rules." Yet amongst those million little rules, there is nothing about a person "needing" a License. In other words, it couldn't matter less that a person will lose their job if they cannot drive, or that they have no way to get back and forth to necessary Doctor's appointments without one. "Need" is NOT a factor that the State considers when deciding a License Appeal.

Kid Car Pink 1.2.jpgIn a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal, the Michigan Secretary of State, through it's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (known as the DAAD), considers a number of legal issues before it decides to Restore a person's Driving privilege or not. We could examine these issues until the stars burn out, but for all practical purposes (and what else matters, really?), winning or losing a License Appeal requires that you prove 2 things, by what is called "clear and convincing evidence" in order to get back on the road:

1. That your alcohol problem is under control, and
2. That your alcohol problem is likely to remain under control.

To boil it down even further, this pretty much means proving you're Sober. "Sober" certainly means something different to someone in Recovery than it does to someone who's not. To the person in Recovery, "Sober" means a way of life, free of all mind and mood altering chemicals. It means you've decided to give up drinking and live an alcohol-free life. To everyone else, being "sober" just means you're not drunk at the moment. Thus, to someone in Recovery, being "Sober" means having given up drinking and choosing to live without alcohol, whereas to pretty much everyone else, being "sober" means little more than the opposite of being inebriated.

Proving those things to a Hearing Officer is really the whole point of what I do. In that sense, my being a Lawyer, or your being a Sober person isn't nearly good enough; we need to combine my skills as a genuine Driver's License Restoration Lawyer with your experiences as you transitioned from drinker to non-drinker. I've written rather extensively about this process in other articles, so we won't belabor it here, beyond my pointing out that, if you are truly Sober, and become my Client, I Guarantee to win your License back the first time we try. I navigate those "million little rules" every day.

Continue reading "Why "Needing" a License Doesn't Matter in a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal" »

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December 3, 2012

DUI 2nd and 3rd Offense and the Real Focus - Alcohol

In a recent article, I pointed out that the ultimate focus in any DUI case that doesn't get dismissed for some defect in or lack of evidence is about the Driver's relationship to alcohol. To anyone facing a 2nd or 3rd Offense DUI, this is obvious on several levels. This article will continue that discussion as it relates to anyone who has already had a DUI, and should prove equally informative to anyone who has never been through anything like this.

There is a good chance that if you have been Arrested for a 2nd or 3rd DUI, you are required to submit to some kind of alcohol (and often) drug testing as a condition of your Bond, or release. So much for the presumption of innocence, then...

Alcohol Rope 1.2.pngIn the real world, especially as it relates to DUI cases, the Court system struggles to even pay lip service to the presumption of innocence. Remember, the purpose of Bond, in the first place, is to make sure you show up in Court and don't just run away. Bond, in that sense, is like a kind of "deposit." How does any kind of alcohol testing help insure (or not) that a person will show up for Court? The fact is, this kind of testing has NOTHING to do with insuring a person shows up to Court, and has EVERYTHING to do with the undisputed, if unspoken, belief that a person charged with a DUI is guilty.

There is a reason for this belief, however. It's not that Judges just pick this stuff out of the sky. In the course of their various careers, most Judges will handle thousands, if not tens of thousands, of DUI cases. By contrast, those same Judges will ever only wind up dismissing a mere handful of DUI cases, if they ever dismiss any, in all those years on the Bench. When a case is "knocked out," it's almost always because of some technical defect or shortcoming in the evidence. Very often, the problem lies with how the evidence was collected or tested, meaning there is some question as to the scientific, and therefore legal reliability of the evidence. Very seldom does anyone go to Trial in a DUI case and prove they were Sober.

The bottom line, at least to a Judge who sees thousands upon thousands of DUI cases, is that practically no one comes into Court charged with a DUI who hadn't been drinking, and had a few too many. Once in a while I'll get a DUI case where the Police failed to obtain breath or blood evidence, but that's a lot different than arguing that someone with a .12 (one and a half times the legal limit) or even higher breath test wasn't really over the limit.

If we're going to be really blunt about it, then, that means that when Dan the Driver goes to Court after having been Arrested for DUI, and having blown a .12 (or higher), the Judge isn't really thinking "Well, Dan is presumed innocent, so his breath test of .12 means nothing at this point. I wonder if the prosecutor will be able to prove Dan really was driving while intoxicated?" Instead, the Judge might figure that maybe, if Dan gets a really good Lawyer, and catches a lucky break, there might be some technical hiccup with the evidence and with a slick legal maneuver, Dan might be able to wiggle out of the charge.

In other words, Judges don't really question that people charged with DUI have been drinking. Or driving. If you're reading this, and you are required to test, there isn't much more to say. If you have been through a DUI before, then you know what comes next...

Continue reading "DUI 2nd and 3rd Offense and the Real Focus - Alcohol" »

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