Losing a Michigan Driver's License Restoration case for Being too Honest - Part 1

November 18, 2013

Part of my passion for being a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer is that these cases are won by telling the truth. Even so, there are occasions in the context of a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal where just being honest will result in an almost automatic loss. This article, divided into 2 installments, will examine that situation where being honest will prevent you from getting back on the road, at least for a year.

For my part, I absolutely and steadfastly require that a person have quit drinking before I will take his or her case. In exchange for that, however, I do guarantee that I will win any license case I file. Apparently, I am rather unique amongst lawyers for my unwavering insistence upon sobriety, but that also explains why I am unique in guaranteeing I'll win. Whatever else, I want no part of "pretending" anything. I don't have any "secret" side, nor can anyone "buddy up" to me and confide that he or she is still drinking, or even thinks he or she can still drink. I win my cases fair and square, by telling the truth and playing by the rules.

Pinnochio 1.2.jpgThe license restoration process in Michigan is all about being sober. Unfortunately, in certain license appeal situations where a person has filed a previous appeal, there can sometimes be a price exacted for being too honest, and I call this the "truth tax." This article will examine the situation where a person has filed (and lost) a prior appeal with the Michigan Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) and in that prior appeal provided a date or gave testimony about the last time he or she used alcohol that wasn't true. In other words, we'll be looking at those circumstances where the date given for a persons last drink in a new license appeal means the date given in a prior appeal must have been untrue.

I firmly believe that when someone has rebuilt his or her life and made the extraordinary change from drinker to non-drinker, and ditched the drinking friends, and done all the other things that make the sober lifestyle so much different than the old, drinking lifestyle, there is an essence, or quality to their story that you can almost feel. In a very real way, when someone has gotten sober and begins to tell his or her story, they practically radiate truthfulness. There are certain experiences a person undergoes as he or she makes, and then sticks with the decision to change, that cannot be faked. Very often, these aren't intellectual things, but rather visceral experiences that are experienced every bit as much, if not more in the "gut" rather than the mind.

This isn't really unusual, because a necessary prerequisite to getting sober involves finally getting honest with one's self, and that can be a emotionally difficult process. It is conventional recovery wisdom that a person cannot be honest with anyone else until he first becomes honest with himself. Typically, once a person finally admits that his or her drinking is a problem, and finally decides to do something about it, there is a feeling like the floodgates have opened. Very often, in the recovery process, things are admitted, amends are made (sound familiar?) and the truly important relationships with family and real friends are patched up and strengthened. Part of getting better is starting with a clean slate, and there is a rather cathartic feeling that goes with "getting it all out."

Part of staying clean is not getting caught up in denial and lies. When a person moves past drinking, he or she learns to deal with life on life's terms. This means stepping up and taking care of business. It means no more BS'ing about everything. And when a person who is really in recovery is asked about his or her sobriety, he or she will almost always tell the unvarnished truth about it. That can be an obstacle to winning a Michigan License reinstatement in the situation we're discussing...

A big problem arises, however, when a person has filed an appeal or been to the DAAD before, and has provided a sobriety or "last drink" date that was clearly not correct. To be clear, we are not talking about a situation where, for example, a then-sober person had filed an appeal 6 years ago, lost, and thereafter started drinking again, only to now come forward and provide a new and later sobriety date. That happens all the time, and is really no big deal.

Let's use an example: Assume that in 2008, Sober Sam filed a license appeal with the DAAD claiming that he hadn't had a drink since 2005, and that his case is denied. Now, in 2014, he files a new appeal, and in this one, admits that he never really quit drinking until 2010. As required on the DAAD's substance abuse evaluation form, Sam notes only a few brief periods of lifetime abstinence from alcohol. Sam wants to explain that until 2010, he was really in denial, and it was only after his real "epiphany" moment in 2010 that he ever seriously decided to quit drinking. Like it is for most people, part of Sober Sam's recovery journey is cleaning up the mess he made while drinking, and that means straightening everything out and telling the truth. Mark Twain, perhaps America's greatest writer, once said, "If you tell the truth and you don't have to remember anything." You'd think that the state would applaud Sam for coming forward and being honest, wouldn't you?

Wrong.

Instead, Sam will soon discover that while the DAAD is very happy he's made amends to everyone important that matters in his life, it isn't nearly as forgiving as those folks. Sam is going to be made to pay for suddenly being truthful now, because it essentially means that he lied before, when he gave the state a sobriety date that was not true. I call this the truth tax, and it strikes me as an excessive cost to be paid in order earn back the things a truly sober person has lost as a result of his or her drinking. To anyone in this position, it feels like the state is punishing him or her for stepping up and being honest. It almost feels like the state is kind of asking someone to lie. Whatever else, it amounts to being stuck bumming rides for another year just for being truthful.

This situation is not that uncommon, either. I wouldn't waste my time writing about something that only happens rarely. In fact, one of the reasons people hire me in particular is because they identify with my truthful approach. As a side note, if my emphasis on being truthful and really being sober has the effect of discouraging someone from hiring me who wants to lie about being sober, that's okay. By the same token, if there is something that I can do or say that will help nudge a person toward the decision to get sober, let me know. I've actually met with clients who have told me that they called my office years before and that it was my unwavering position about no longer drinking that was a factor in helping them realize that their relationship to alcohol was holding them back, and helped them to finally decide to quit drinking.

Before a person actually has that "a-ha" moment, however, he or she has undoubtedly dropped any number of untruths. In fact, most people shudder to think of the things they've said during their drinking years. It's really no different for someone who has tried a license appeal before he or she truly quit drinking. In the case of someone who lives out of state, he or she will have given a date they last used alcohol as part of the documentation filed in an administrative appeal. These forms are signed under penalty of perjury, and are considered sworn statements. In the case of a Michigan resident, the person will have personally appeared and given testimony, an inevitable part of which is answering the question "when is the last time you consumed any alcohol?"

Of course, at that moment, and not seeing the world through clear, sober eyes, an answer will have been provided that wasn't true. In the larger picture of the life of someone hasn't gotten hold of his or her drinking, that's just a drop in the bucket. But here, it becomes a matter of record, and that record never goes away.

We'll leave off here, and continue this discussion in part 2 of this article.