The State of Michigan has put a hold on your driving record, and now you cannot obtain or renew a driver's license in another state. At first, you wonder if there is some administrative mistake, or if there is some number you can call, or fee you can pay to get it "taken care of," because you think that Michigan Secretary of State doesn't understand that you've moved away and don't want to come back. You do your research, and you come to learn that because you had 2 or more DUI convictions when you held a Michigan license, or, because your 2nd or subsequent DUI conviction occurred in Michigan (and even if you never held a Michigan license), the hold on your license cannot go away until you obtain what's called a "clearance."
By the time you get to my website, or this blog, you have most likely already discovered that removing the hold requires filing a formal appeal with the Michigan DAAD, or Driver Assessment and Appeal Division. You may have already tried (unsuccessfully), perhaps even more than once, and have finally accepted that you're going to need a driver's license restoration lawyer to get a driver's license. Now, your questions focus on how quickly this can be done, and how much it will cost. This article will answer those questions. Before we get to them, however, there are a few other inquiries we need to make and issues to clarify.
The first thing to clarify is that no matter how badly you need a license, or how much you want it, you have to be able to prove to the Michigan DAAD that you're sober. In order to prove you're sober, you really need to be sober. This is not a point upon which a person can "scam" or skimp. The crux of a DAAD license restoration or clearance appeal is that you have really quit drinking. And "quit" means truly have quit, as in for good, and forever.
This is a huge point. Almost every day, my office receives a call from someone who wants to redefine the meaning of "sober" to fit his or her life circumstances. Thus, when Ann, my senior assistant, asks if a person is "sober," she'll often get an answer like, "Oh yeah. I don't go the bars anymore; I'll only have a beer once in a while if I'm watching a football game with my friends." I can reel off examples like this all day long: "I've been sober for almost 4 years, and the only thing I had was a champagne toast at a wedding," or "I don't hardly drink at all except maybe a glass of wine with dinner here and there." That's not "sober," as far as the Secretary of State (and just about every clinician in the world) is concerned.
Sober, in the context of winning a Michigan license appeal, means alcohol-free, and committed to reaming that way.
There's an old saying that you sometimes can't see the forest through the trees. This issue about sobriety is critically important to the state, and is even more important to me because I provide a guarantee that if I take your license appeal, I'll win it. I charge $3600 (payable in 3 installments: $1200 down and 2 subsequent payments of $1200) to get your license back or obtain a clearance. You will only pay me one time to get your clearance. My guarantee, however, requires honest-to-goodness sobriety. Once I join forces with a client, I'm in it for the long haul. And while I am in business to make money, I make that money winning all my cases the first time, and not having to come back a second time to do "warranty work."
Given that the 2 most important legal issues in a DAAD license restoration or clearance case is that a person's alcohol problem is both "under control" and "likely to remain under control," the entire focus of the appeal is going to be on the transformation of that person's relationship to alcohol, from drinker to problem drinker to non-drinker. This means that if you have a real story about having made the decision to completely give up alcohol, then your story will necessarily contain certain elements, like hard-learned lessons. If, however, a person simply thinks that he or she can BS their way through the process by making it sound like they've made the change from drinker to non-drinker, those elements will be missing.
Here's where we can separate the wheat from the chaff. If you're reading this and you've honestly gotten sober, then you very likely experienced a kind of "light bulb" moment when you just knew, beyond anymore doubt, that you had to quit drinking. Some people, to be sure, don't have as much of an epiphany "moment" as much as they mature out of their drinking, or, as the AA people sometime say, become "sick and tired of being sick and tired." Most often, these transformations don't come easy. In many cases, a person stands at the end of a trail of countless broken promises to cut down or limit or control his or her drinking, and finally throws in the towel when he or she realizes that it just doesn't work. Other times, it's an arrest, or an emotional encounter with someone important. Whatever takes place, it always involves a person realizing that his or her relationship to alcohol is troubled beyond repair. There is an AA saying that makes sense even to those who don't like AA: "I didn't get in trouble every time I drank, but every time I got in trouble, I had been drinking."
If you're still thinking you can have that glass of wine or the occasional beer, then you won't be winning a license appeal. The overwhelming majority opinion amongst clinicians and researchers is that once a person crosses the line that separates a normal drinker from a problem drinker, the only way to eliminate the "problem" from the mix is to eliminate the drinking. My point here is that I want to avoid the argument about whether a person who once had a drinking problem can safely drink again, or not. For my part, I don't believe he or she can. The larger point, however, is that you'll never convince the state of that, so it's a losing fight before it begins.
For all that we could say on this topic, you either "get it," or not. If you've honestly quit drinking and have made the commitment and changes necessary to keep alcohol out of your life for good, then you get it. If you are still trying to do things "your way," and want to argue about being able to drink, then you don't get it, at least not yet (remember, everyone who now "gets it" is someone who didn't get it before) and you won't get your license back. Nor would I take your case anyway. To me, that's an important distinction that separates me as a lawyer; I don't take cases for people who aren't sober. It takes more than cash or a check to hire me. Sure, that costs me a lot of potential clients, but that also explains why I provide a guarantee in every case I handle.
We'll leave off here, and pick up, in the part 2, with how actually being sober means that your license appeal is based on truth, and how that helps win the case. We'll also examine the logistics of coming back to Michigan and time frame required for a winning license clearance appeal.