The requirements for winning a Michigan driver's license restoration or clearance case changed on April 1, 2013. The Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, known as the "DAAD" (and formerly known as the "DLAD") has added a new form that must be filled out and filed as part of a Request for Hearing, Substance Abuse Evaluation and Letters of Support in order to begin a license appeal. As is always the case when the state changes something, the result is usually more red tape or increased costs. At least in this case, there is no cost increase. The same cannot be said about red tape, however.
This new form will undoubtedly cause problems for anyone trying a license appeal on his or her own. While only a few pages long, it would take several installments to cover the requirements and potential pitfalls of this new form, so I'll save a more in-depth analysis for a potential future series of blog articles. For now, we can at least look at a few key points.
Having already worked with this new form for nearly a month, I can safely say that it represents a stunning achievement in lack of intelligent thinking. While I can understand that there may be someone simple and uniformed enough to draft something rather dumb, I am, frankly, surprised that anyone reviewed it and approved a form this idiotic.
In one place, the form asks for beginning and ending dates for any term or probation or incarceration a person had as a result of a DUI conviction. A few sections down, it asks. "Have you ever abstained from alcohol or controlled substances while incarcerated, on probation or on parole?" We all know plenty of people drink while on probation, but I'm not aware of any Jail that serves alcohol. Are you kidding me? Who is the genius responsible for that question?
In another place, it asks about the date a person last used alcohol. It goes on to ask for the "Name of alcohol consumed." This might seem to mean "what kind" of alcohol, but only a few sections earlier, as it asks about a person's former drinking habits, it specifically requests the "kind" of alcohol a person used to drink, and how often. Already, I'm seeing people describe the night of their last drink as having been a combination of beers and shots and/or mixed drinks. For many people with a few years of sobriety to their credit, thinking back to their last drink doesn't produce a crystal clear memory of what they last consumed. "Kind" of alcohol is one thing, but how many people name their drinks? "This one is 'Charles,' and that one is 'Kathy.'"
These are just a few examples amongst many. Instead of providing clarity to the process of license restoration, a person filing an appeal is asked about things already covered by the substance abuse evaluation, as if the state is just waiting for someone to say something that doesn't exactly match up so they can deny the appeal. Remember, the whole point of a driver's license restoration is to prove, by what the state calls "clear and convincing evidence," that your alcohol problem "is under control and likely to remain under control." This means that you have to prove you haven't had a drink for the statutorily required minimum time (that can range; in my Office, I require at least 12 months of sobriety), and, more importantly, that you have the tools necessary to back up a commitment to never drink again. Winning a license appeal means proving that you're sober, and also proving that you're a safe bet to remain sober for life, meaning that you'll never drink again.
That's a tall order. Instead of helping focus the inquiry, these additional pages of new questions really only add more work to the process, and, if anything, serve to detract from the real point of a driver's license restoration appeal.
While I could rant about the new form all day long, I also have to just deal with it. It's here; it is what it is. Because this form affects the very essence of what I do for a living, my staff and I have already gone over it with a fine-toothed comb numerous times. We've had to sit down with my Clients and go over each question, one by one, and then later compare their answers to the information provided by the evaluator on the completed Substance Abuse Evaluation. As a result, we've had to "fix" things that could later prove problematic, and, in doing so, have wondered how anyone who doesn't do this stuff everyday would even know to catch it, much less correct it.
When all is said and done, this is what I get paid for. It's this attention to detail that enables me to provide a guarantee in every license restoration or clearance case I take, and eliminates any element of risk for my Client. You'll pay me once, and you'll get back on the road. Of course, I thrive by winning these cases the first time, and not having to come back to do "warranty work," and I do that by pouring my heart and soul and time into each and every case I take. That's why my first meeting with a new Client takes 3 hours. With this new form, it might start taking longer, but, as the old saying goes, "nothing good comes easy."
In the next article, I'll look at another huge change about to affect license appeals, and how the DAAD really blew it by wasting its time with this new form while entirely missing the most profound changes to the landscape of alcohol issues in nearly 20 years.