As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I deal with people at all stages of losing their licenses for multiple DUI's. As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I am there from the moment someone first loses his or her license; thereafter, I switch roles, and, as a license appeal attorney, go to work on getting my client back on the road. I've published a lot of information about the Michigan license restoration process. Much of the information on my website is broken down step-by-step, while many of the articles on this blog are focused on very specific aspects of the license restoration process. This article will be more of a summary overview of how the Michigan Secretary of States' Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) sees the license restoration process. Rather than revisit the "process" part of things, we'll look more at the reasons things are the way they are. It is critically important to understand how the people who will decide your case see things.
First, you must remember that, under Michigan law, once you've been convicted of 2 DUI's within 7years, or 3 within 10 years, you're labeled a "habitual offender." That means in the case of a 2nd DUI within 7 years, your driver's license will be revoked for a minimum of 1 year; if you've picked up your 3rd DUI within 10 years, the Michigan Secretary of State will revoke your license for a minimum of 5 years. If that's not enough, being a "habitual offender" means that the law presumes you have an alcohol problem. In order to win your license back, you'll have to prove that your alcohol problem is under control, and also that it is likely to remain under control. As I often like to do, let's draw the curtain back a bit and get a look at things from the other side - in this case, the hearing officer's.
Here we encounter what amounts to the biggest obstacle for many people trying to win a Michigan driver's license restoration or clearance appeal, that you have an alcohol problem. I've written rather extensively about this in many of my other articles, but here, I'll just get straight to the point; if you have 2 DUI convictions within 7 years (or, wore yet, 3 or more within 10 years) and you think you can win your license back by saying you don't have a drinking problem, you're in a for a rude awakening. There is no room for negotiation here, because not only does the law give rise to a presumption that you have a drinking problem, but no one with the authority to give a license back will ever, as long as the sun rises, agree that you don't. Some people bang their heads into the wall for years by filing appeal after appeal and trying to assert that, despite their multiple DUI's, their drinking isn't a problem. Eventually, when they've lost enough times, at least some of these people come around to realize that as long as they keep trying the "I don't have a drinking problem" refrain, they'll never win their license back.
Knowing how the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) sees this is important, but there is more to the story than just understanding the DAAD's perspective, and position. If we take a step back and look a little deeper, we can see why the DAAD applies and interprets its rules as it does. While I think there are plenty of examples of how the DAAD is off the mark, I don't really have any quarrel with them on this main point about a drinking problem.
For example, even if Dan the driver really isn't much of a drinker, if he got caught driving drunk on one occasion, spent enough money in fines, costs, insurance increases and other related expenses to buy a first class home theater system, went through holy hell with the court, and, instead of not making the same mistake again, as the overwhelming majority of people manage to do, he goes out and gets another DUI, then from the state's point of view, and really, from the whole of society's point of view, he has a drinking problem. While the meaning is essentially the same, we can certainly say that he has a problem with his drinking. At a minimum, Dan is risky. While it always seems different when it's your case, or when in concerns someone you know well, who, really, would give a license back to a complete stranger with such a record? To put it another way, people like Dan are just seen as far too risky.
As noted earlier from the state's point of view, there are 2 primary issues that a person must prove, by what the law defines as "clear and convincing evidence," to win a license restoration appeal: First that your alcohol problem is under control, and second (and really far more important), that your alcohol problem is likely to remain under control. Remember, you come into this whole world of license restorations with a legal, and, as we've seen, practical, presumption that you have a drinking problem. Winning your license back (or winning a clearance of a Michigan hold on your driving record) will never happen until you agree that your drinking is a problem, and that you've fixed it.
This marks a pivotal point. While you'll never win your license back by asserting that you don't have a drinking problem, this doesn't mean that you have to admit to being a hardcore, inveterate alcoholic, either. Let's recall the state's concern; that a person with a history of getting caught driving drunk is too much of a risk to put back on the road as long as he or she thinks it's okay to drink. The state sees the only way to insure public safety is to require such a person to prove that alcohol is out of his or her life for good. Anyone can say that he or she has quit drinking, and lots of people can quit drinking, at least for a spell, but in the big picture, the only kind of "quit" that sticks comes from a person's own belief that his or her drinking behavior has become a problem. In other words, a person motivated to quit (and this can involve lot of things, like drinking, gambling, drugs, eating disorder, etc) by external forces, or for external reasons, is not truly quitting. Instead, such a person is abstaining, often to make someone else happy, or to achieve some reward.
By contrast, the person who quits drinking (or quits anything "addictive") because he or she believes that it has impaired his or her normal functioning (and simply being at risk, however infrequently, to not be able to limit one's drinking to be safely under the limit is clearly an impairment of normal functioning), will know that he or she has to quit for good. Such a person will ultimately be quitting for his or her own good, and not to please someone else, or to satisfy some external requirement.
This goes to the crux of a license appeal. The state knows that, at some point, just about everyone who has lost his or her license will come around to get it back. Experience shows that many of these people will first try to explain that their drinking isn't a problem, and that they shouldn't be considered a risk. Experience also show that eventually, most of them, meaning everyone who keeps trying to win a license appeal, will come back, after they figure out that doesn't work, and claim to have subsequently "quit" drinking. Unfortunately, experience also shows that far too few of those who claim to have "quit" drinking will really have had undergone an epiphany of the kind that means they've decided to quit drinking forever. In other words, only a select few people will ever truly come to believe that their drinking is a problem.
The state, then, knows that it has to set the bar high enough to prevent someone it considers a risky drinker from ever getting back on the road. In that sense, "risky drinker" means any kind of drinker, or even a "possible drinker." The only person who doesn't pose an unacceptable risk to drink and drive again, therefore, is someone who isn't at risk to drink again, ever. One consequence of the state's setting the bar so high, especially among those who try a license appeal without a lawyer, or who hire some lawyer that claims to "do" license restorations, as opposed to a lawyer, like me, who considers himself a Michigan "driver's license restoration lawyer," is that lots of really sober people who have honestly quit drinking wind up losing, anyway. The state figures that it's better to deny a few sober people, even several times, than ever let some risky drinker win his or her license back.
This isn't an obstacle for me, or for any client of mine. I won't take a case if someone hasn't really quit drinking. As I've just clarified, that means you have to have come to that point in your thinking where you realize that alcohol creates too many problem in your life to continue to use it. I guarantee that I'll win your license appeal, but in order to do that, you must first be sober. To be sober, you must have decided to forever leave alcohol behind because you fundamentally accept that alcohol cannot play any role in your life. In other words, you have to have come to the conclusion that your drinking was a problem.
This position is a bit unique, if not extreme, amongst lawyers, but it's also what sets me apart from all the rest, and explains why I have a first time win guarantee in the first place. I've pointed out before that I could certainly boost my income rather significantly if I just took all comers. I have more information about license appeals than pretty much every other site combined. I get lots of calls everyday, but there are always a certain number of callers that think I'll take their case just because they can pay. I don't work that way. And while this is my livelihood, by only taking cases for people that are really sober, I get to do something I truly believe in. I feel good about myself. My integrity is not for sale, and I have a rock solid reputation for only representing people that are genuinely sober. In the end, this translates to me winning practically every case that I take the first time around.
That, of course, is how it should be. As we've seen, though, much of that begins with fundamentally understanding how the state sees things. If you're stuck on the whole drinking problem thing, then I'm afraid you're just stuck. Even so, please feel free to contact me, because maybe I can help get you "unstuck," and ultimately pave the way for you to get on with a sober life, and get your license back.