In order to win back your Michigan driver's license, or, if you left the state but still have a Michigan "hold" on your driving record, you must win a driver's license restoration appeal before the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, known as the DAAD. There's a lot that goes into this, so much so that I often describe the appeal process as having to navigate "a million little rules." Underlying all of those procedural rules, however, are two really big requirements that essentially govern the license appeal process.
The requirements and standards to win a Michigan license appeal are set out in the DAAD's "rule 13." When we boil all of that down, we find that winning a license appeal requires first, proving that your alcohol problem "is under control," and second, proving that it is "likely to remain under control." It's this second (and decidedly more important) issue that will be relevant in this article.
If you've done any research into filing a license appeal, then you've learned that one of the requirements you have to meet in order to submit your paperwork is to include a current substance abuse evaluation. For all that we can say about the substance abuse evaluation (and I plan on saying quite a bit, actually), we can sum it up by noting that this document is really the primary piece of evidence submitted in a license appeal to prove that your alcohol problem is "likely to remain under control." The substance abuse evaluation is a clinical professional's analysis of the likelihood that you will be able to successfully remain abstinent from alcohol. In other words, the substance abuse evaluation provides the evaluator's professional opinion of how "likely" it is that your alcohol problem will remain under control.
That sounds easy enough. And looking at the substance abuse evaluation form gives no reason for an evaluator to question whether he or she will have any difficulty completing it. Yet within the lines of this standard state form lies a maze of traps and unseen dangers that can kill a license appeal as quickly as showing up for your hearing with an open can of beer.
To be completely honest about it, it was really the critical role of the substance abuse evaluation, more than anything else, that ultimately motivated me to not only become a kind of self-taught "expert" regarding it, but to go back to college (University of Detroit Mercy, a great school that I'm happy to "plug") and enroll in a graduate program for certification in addiction studies. In the course of more than 23 years in the legal field, I've gone from the position of most lawyers, who play a passive role in this part of the process, relying upon the expertise of a substance abuse counselor's understanding and ability to properly complete the form, to supervising the substance abuse evaluation process and, at times, taking charge and even controlling it. This means that I have had to give a crash course to many substance abuse counselors in what the Secretary of State wants by way of information.
Whether anyone likes it or not, the DAAD hearing officers are being asked, by virtue of having to consider and review the substance abuse evaluation in every license appeal case, to "play" substance abuse expert to a certain extent. While the hearing officers must be lawyers, they are not clinicians. It became apparent to me that in order to properly interface between the world of substance abuse counselors and lawyers, just being a lawyer isn't good enough. Thus, I moved from being "self-taught" in the field of alcohol and addiction problems and recovery all the way to the university classroom in order learn things from the counselor's side of things. Now, I not only understand the larger, more well-known concepts of recovery, but also understand the more subtle nuances involved in addictions counseling, and speak both the language of lawyers and the language of the clinicians upon whom we so heavily rely in these cases.