Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance Eligibility

July 8, 2013

If your Michigan driver's license has been revoked because of 2 or more DUI convictions, there comes a point when you are or will be considered legally "eligible" to try and get it back. As a Michigan license restoration lawyer, I find myself explaining this rather often. It's about time to bring this issue back for another examination and look at it again. First, though, we need to identify exactly what we're talking about. As it turns out, being "eligible" to file a license appeal doesn't exactly mean one simple thing. The terms "eligible" and "license appeal" are often used in several different contexts, so we'll try and clarify things a bit.

To start, we'll begin by defining "eligible." The DAAD, meaning the Driver Assessment and Appeal Division of the Michigan Secretary of State, has to follow Michigan law regarding a person with "multiple" drunk driving convictions. "Multiple," in that sense, means 2 convictions for alcohol-related traffic offenses within 7 years, or 3 such convictions within 10 years. Anyone in this boat is legally classified as a "habitual offender," and will have his or her license revoked. Revoked means that, until a person files and wins a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal, his or her license cannot and will not be reinstated, no matter how long they wait, and the person must wait at least until he or she is legally "eligible" just to start the restoration appeal process. "Eligible," then, means legally allowed to take the first step in the license restoration process by filing an appeal. It means being eligible to request a hearing to ask for your license back. The decision to give it back or not rests solely with the Michigan Secretary of State, and is entirely in the hands of the DAAD as it considers the evidence presented in your license restoration appeal.

Eligibility 1.2.jpgUnder Michigan law, here's how long a person has to wait to become legally eligible to file a driver's license restoration after multiple DUI's:

1. For 2 DUI convictions within 7 years, at least 1 year from the date of revocation,
2. For 3 or more DUI convictions within 10 years, at least 5 years from the date of revocation.
Often, I get called by someone who has recently has been notified of his or her license revocation following a 2nd or 3rd DUI conviction. "Can't I get some kind of restricted license just for work," they'll ask. The answer is an absolute no. Yet the simplicity and clarity of that answer often results in a person trying to reframe the question, or see if there is some way around this whole revocation thing. If the reader takes one thing away from this article, it should be that it doesn't matter if you're the most important person in the world; after your second DUI within 7 years, you can't do anything to get your license back until at least 1 year has passed, and, if you're coming off of a third DUI in 10 years, you'll have to wait at least 5 years.

This means there is no going to court to get some kind of license. Not only is going to court impossible, the law specifically forbids it. The only thing you can do to become "eligible" is to simply live long enough for your eligibility date to come around. That's it. There is nothing else you can do, period.

Every now and then, someone will hint that they know someone who knows someone who knows this or that person (often it's supposedly a judge, or prosecutor) and that the mystery friend was able to go to court and get their license back. To be clear, such a thing is absolutely, 100% impossible. The law specifically limits the jurisdiction of a circuit court by specifically forbidding hardship appeals. Given that the "knowing someone" angle is a dead end, let's look at how things really work...

It is important to first point out that being "eligible" to file a license appeal does not mean that you are necessarily "able" to win your license back. Being ready, in a word, means being sober. Only when you're in a position to prove you sobriety are you really ready to undertake the license restoration process. To win a Michigan license restoration case, you'll have to prove that your alcohol problem (as a "habitual offender," you are presumed to have an alcohol problem) is under control, and, even more important, that it's likely to remain under control. This is a separate issue, and one I explore in depth in both the Michigan License Restoration section of my website, and in many of the articles in the Driver's License Restoration section of this blog. The only point to be made here is that merely being eligible to file an appeal doesn't mean you're ready to win it. By the same token, I'm legally eligible to run for president of the United States, but that doesn't mean I stand a chance of actually getting elected.

To recap up to now, we've set out that if you're convicted of a 2nd DUI within 7 years, you cannot do anything by way of getting any kind of license, restricted or otherwise, until at least 1 year has passed since your revocation. If you've been convicted of a 3rd DUI (or 4th, or 5th, or whatever) within 10 years, you will be unable to even being the process of attempting to regain any driving privileges for at least 5 years from the date of your license revocation.

We have further clarified that once you are subject to one of these multiple DUI revocations, there is absolutely no way to go to court to get any kind of restricted license, because the law specifically forbids hardship appeals of this nature.

But there are other kinds of license appeals, as well. The first key difference is that in the case of a person having lost his or her license after multiple DUI's, his or her license will have been revoked, and not merely suspended. As we noted above, once a license is revoked, you never get it back until you file and win a license restoration appeal. You cannot "wait it out," nor can you go to court.

In every other situation where a person loses the privilege to drive, it will be because his or her license has been suspended. Suspended is very different than revoked. Some suspensions are simply "from" one date, and "to" another. Thus, a person convicted in Michigan of a 1st offense drug crime, such as possession of marijuana, will have his or her license automatically suspended for 6 months. Under the law, the person may not drive at all for the first 30 days, but can thereafter be given a restricted license for the remaining 5 months of that 6-month period. Some Judges will grant those privileges up front, while others will make the person come back after a month and request them. A Judge can simply decide not to grant any restricted privileges. In the case of a Judge who either requires a person to come back, or simply refuses to grant any restricted privileges after the first 30 days, at the end of the 6 month period, the person's license will automatically be reinstated (of course, there is a $125 "reinstatement fee" the state charges that must be paid to the Secretary of State). Thus, if Pete the pot smoker winds up convicted of a 1st offense possession of marijuana charge, he'll be notified by the Secretary of State that his license will be suspended, for example, "from January 5, 2014, to June 5, 2014."

The situation is the same if someone owes money to a court, or to the state. In such cases, he or she will remain suspended until they pay what's owed, or, in the case of money owed to the state, works out an acceptable payment plan.

This also applies when a person has been cited for refusing to take a chemical breath test after a DUI arrest. In such cases, the driver's license will be suspended for 1 full year, but the person can take the matter to a circuit court and, based upon hardship, request a restricted license for that time period.

Revoked licenses are not restored until a person:

1. Becomes legally eligible (as specified on his or her driving record) to file a license restoration appeal before the DAAD,
2. Files a driver's license restoration (or clearance) appeal with the state, and
3. Actually wins the appeal.
In those cases where a person's driver's license has been suspended, the person will either have to wait until the "to" part of the "from-to" time period arrives, or, in many cases, can have the suspension overridden by an appeal to either a district or circuit court Judge, depending on the nature of the suspension.

If your license has been revoked after multiple DUI's, you can find out when you're legally eligible to file an appeal by looking at your driving record. If you don't have one, you can get one for about $7 at any Michigan Secretary of State branch office. As I pointed out, merely being legally eligible to file a Michigan license clearance or restoration appeal, however, is a far cry from being able or ready to win an appeal. At a minimum, you must be able to prove to the haring officer that you are sober, that you live an alcohol-free lifestyle, and that you have the commitment and tools to live that way for the rest of your life. I have tons of information about how the license restoration process works on both the Michigan Driver's License Restoration section of my website, and within the numerous Driver's License Restoration articles on this blog. Of course, when you're legally eligible and sober, and otherwise ready to get back on the road, I can help.