Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Substance Abuse Evaluation Preparation

June 3, 2013

It was recently pointed out to me by another lawyer that the way I begin a Michigan driver's license restoration case makes the way most other lawyers do it seem backwards. I begin every license appeal or clearance case with a 3-hour meeting, the primary focus of which is to prepare you to undergo the substance abuse evaluation. Apparently most, if not all, other lawyers meet with you after you've had it completed. While I can't even begin to understand doing things that way, it perhaps explains why I'm the only lawyer (that I know about, anyway) who provides a first-time win guarantee.

This is a very important point. The substance abuse evaluation that must be filed to begin a license restoration case is really the foundation of a license appeal. If you stumble at this stage, you've lost the case before it has even begun. The information contained in the substance abuse evaluation, as well as the "tone" of that information, shapes your whole case. This is about a lot more than just getting a "good" or a "bad evaluation." The evaluation will provide a glimpse, in a kind of longitudinal way, of your recovery. Yet there is really no way an evaluator can summarize your journey to sobriety if you can't describe it first. That's what I'm here for.

3-o-clock 1.2.jpgThus, for 3 hours, we'll go over the substance abuse evaluation form line by line. I have my own "substance abuse evaluation checklist" where I make notes to give the evaluator to make sure no important details are left out. Details are significant, but there's much more to the story than that. In fact, there's the whole story that needs to be told, and that's where I help.

I call this your "recovery story" because, in every sense of the word, how you made the transformation from drinker to non-drinker is a story. Those who have spent time in AA probably feel a lot more comfortable with the "story" part of this, having spoken of their journey to abstinence at the tables. For others, they'll undoubtedly appreciate the help in setting things out and seeing the chronological progression from their early (almost always teenage) drinking days to the end of their drinking career, right up to their embrace of sobriety.

Make no mistake, there is a story here, and when we start peeling back the onion, it's usually dramatic and profound. In more than 20 years, I've never had anyone sit back and describe, without emotion, how they sat back one day and did a balance sheet with continuing to drink on one side, and no longer drinking on the other, and then just decided to stop because it was the logical choice. When someone decides to quit drinking, there has usually been quite a bit of drama leading up to that point.

Here's where I bring a lot more to the table than any other lawyer, including anyone else who describes him or herself as a "license restoration lawyer." I study the whole process of alcohol problems, from their onset to their diagnosis, and right up through treatment. I am actively involved in the formal University, post-graduate studies of these issues. I know the language of the counselors who do these evaluations. I understand nuances in the evaluation process that some people don't even know exist. Because I speak the language of substance abuse counselors as well as the language of lawyers, I can make sure that the evaluation covers the appropriate and necessary clinical bases, and that it is legally clear, and sound, as well.

It is really in this process of preparing you to undergo the substance abuse evaluation that we sketch out the story of your recovery, and in the process, mark out the strategy of your whole case. It is, of course, necessary that you have really and truly quit drinking. There is no "recovery story" unless there is actually a recovery. If you're still drinking, call me when you've stopped, or even if you need some direction or help in stopping, but we can't begin the license restoration process until you've got some quality sober time under your belt.

This is all lost if you walk into some lawyer's office with a substance abuse evaluation that's already been done. In that case, the "story" has already been written. And to put it bluntly, I won't go near anything I haven't written and edited myself. Again, this is how and why I also stand alone in providing a guaranteed win in your license restoration case. When I control the facts, and how they're presented, then I can control the outcome, as well. This is why I provide a guarantee.

I am sometimes asked if my "3 hour" first meeting is really 3 hours. Yes, it is. On occasion, if I put the jet burners on, I can wrap up a first meeting in a little under 3 hours. More often, however, it lasts a little longer. Believe me, if there was some way to expedite things and do it quicker, I'd do it. Beyond the time, a lot goes into this meeting. It takes a lot out of me. I put my heart and soul into it. There is no way I could do 3 of these in a day, and do them well. Getting to know a new client and learning and shaping and putting the words to their story, then going over the actual substance abuse evaluation form line by line while completing my own checklist is a major ordeal, but there are no shortcuts to doing things right.

It is during these 3 hours that potential problems are discovered, as well. If a client is taking any kind of "risky" medicine, for example, this is where it will come up. At this stage, we can plan around it, and begin the process of putting together the necessary documentation, including letters from the doctor, which I'll put together. Or, as good planning sometimes has it, we'll make other arrangements. What we WON'T do is blunder forward if there's an issue that can derail our appeal until we've figured out how to resolve it.

On the other hand, if you've already gone and done your substance abuse evaluation and your urine screen has a positive result for a "risky" medication, it's way too late. That kind of stuff needs to be properly addressed before you ever step foot into a clinic and meet with an evaluator. As the old saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

So it seems that, at least compared to me, every other lawyer is doing things backwards. I have a guarantee; they don't. Even if it's me that's backwards, who cares? However you care to describe it, I'm doing it the right way.

A long time ago, all cars were rear-wheel drive. Then someone figured out that pulling took a lot less effort than pushing, and front-wheel drive cars were born. Engines got smaller, fuel economy increased, and everyone realized they had been doing it backwards. It makes me feel good to know that at least I'm leading the way and pulling the cart, while everyone else is behind me, pushing.