June 9, 2014

Winning Back your Michigan Driver's License Means no Alcohol

The single most important part of winning a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal case is that you must be genuinely sober. I have written rather extensively about this, but apparently, not quite enough, because my office always gets calls from people who want their licenses back, but still drink, and think that's okay. It's not. In this article, I want to make clear that if you have lost your license for multiple DUI convictions , the Michigan Secretary of State won't even consider giving it back until you prove that you no longer drink. This is a simple point that seems to be completely missed by loads of people, because all too many want to try and prove that they are "sober" by explaining that they no longer drink and drive, or that they have managed to cut down or limit their drinking. It doesn't work that way....

100-percent-sober 1.2.jpgLet's clarify the legalities first. To win a Michigan license reinstatement appeal, you have to prove, by what the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) rules establish as "clear and convincing evidence," that your alcohol problem is "under control," meaning that you can fix a sobriety date since you haven't had a drink, and that your alcohol problem is "likely to remain under control," which essentially means that you must prove that you are likely to never drink again. Ever.

From the state's point of view, if your license has been yanked because of drinking and driving issues, your relationship to alcohol is seen as dangerous, problematic and risky; too risky, in fact, to let you drive as long as alcohol has any place in your life. Accordingly, the Secretary of State's DAAD is NOT interested in taking the risk that someone who has lost his or her license as a habitual alcohol offender has, against all the odds, managed to somehow (and miraculously) become a normal social drinker. Instead, the DAAD requires, as a condition of giving a license back, that you prove you have quit drinking and established an alcohol-free, sober lifestyle.

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June 2, 2014

Michigan Ignition Interlock Violation - DAAD Revokes your License Again!

An important part of my practice as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer is handling ignition interlock violations. An interlock violation starts with a notice that your license has been taken away. Technically, the original action of revoking your license is reinstated, but however confusing the language, the upshot is the same - the Michigan DAAD (Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) has yanked your license. Worse yet, the "presumed guilty" nature of the process means that your license will stay revoked, unless you prove yourself innocent by requesting a hearing within 14 days from the date of the notice. If you miss the 14-day deadline, you have to wait a full year, and then you start the whole license restoration process all over again, with the implication that the violation charged against you had merit. After all, you just stood by without a fight, or even a word to the contrary.

A big problem is that many violations are caused by something other than the person actually drinking alcohol. This is what really makes it sting, because if you've done all the work to get sober, and have managed to stay sober, to be violated because the circumstances make it look like you might have been drinking feels like slap in the face. In virtually every violation I have handled, my client was not drinking. In some (but not all) cases, simply proving that you did not consume alcohol is good enough to win the hearing and get your license back. Saying and swearing up and down that you weren't drinking is one thing; proving it is another.

Wiley 1.2.jpgPart of proving your innocence - and abstinence from alcohol - may require a sophisticated kind of lab test with the requisite scientific certification to prove that you have not had a drink. When I meet with a client facing an interlock violation, I assess the circumstance and then determine if a lab test can be helpful, and, if so, which test to employ. Whatever else, we are not talking about a $20 or $30 urine test here. And this is the easy part.

In many cases, the violation is not for a positive alcohol reading. This makes sense if you are being violated for a "tamper/circumvent," but may seem less obvious if, for example, you skipped a rolling retest. Obviously, the implication of a skipped rolling retest is that you didn't take it because you know the result would be positive. It would seem that proving that there was absolutely no alcohol in your system at the time of the missed test should clear everything up, right?

Wrong.

It is important to look at the action, or failure to act, that gives rise to the violation. In the case of a skipped rolling retest, it is missing the rolling retest that is the violation. In other (and technical) words, simply proving that you didn't consume any alcohol doesn't address the actual violation - the skipped retest. This may sound crazy, but I've sat through violation hearings where, after proving that my client did not consume alcohol, the hearing officer has made clear that the real issue is why he or she did not blow into the handset when required.

Tamper/circumvent violations can be even more frustrating because very often, the person will have called the interlock company about a mechanical issue with his or her car, carefully explained everything to the facility and/or person doing whatever work is being done, and seemingly have covered every conceivable base, only to get violated anyway. Of course, most people immediately react with an exasperated "this is bull$**t," but that doesn't change the fact that you've been violated. Here, you can thank one particular SOB for all your problems. It turns out that one of the hearing officers in Livonia had a case involving a guy who disconnected his interlock for just a few minutes, and then reconnected it after rigging it up so that it would not detect alcohol, even after he'd been drinking. Accordingly, the DAAD now must be suspicious of any disconnection, however brief, because one "backyard mechanic" (this was the term the hearing officer used to describe the guy) had to ruin it for everyone.

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May 30, 2014

Losing a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal - The cost of Trying to save Money

If your Michigan driver's license has been revoked because of multiple DUI convictions, there will come a point where you will be eligible to file a driver's license restoration appeal. For years, I have warned of the dangers of plowing ahead with a "do-it-yourself" appeal (or a low budget deal involving a lawyer who "does," rather than concentrates in, license restoration cases) while trying not to sound too much like I'm trying to drum up business for myself.

A recent conversation with another license appeal lawyer has made me reconsider my "polite" approach. In that conversation, we were discussing the fact that so many first contacts by potential clients arise because the person loses his or hearing at the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) and then wants to appeal to circuit court. We both agreed that such appeals are, almost without exception, a complete waste of time, effort and money.

Piggy 1.2.jpgMy lawyer friend rather offhandedly, but correctly, observed that, "that's the cost of saving money." His reference wasn't just to the lost appeal itself, but the fact that the person who loses it will not be driving for at least the next year, and will be incurring the headache, if not the additional expense, of having to depend on everyone else to get around. For some, not having a license affects their job prospects; for others it limits what they can do, or employment positions they could otherwise take. Realistically, not having a license is a major impediment to getting on with life in more ways than you could count.

It sure does have a self-serving ring to it if I start listing all the reasons why trying it alone, or with a lawyer that isn't any kind of license restoration specialist, is a bad idea. Moreover, I have written rather extensively about how I find it distasteful that some lawyers handling DUI cases will use what amounts to scare tactics (listing potential jail sentences when they know that none of that will ever happen) to get people to call. This, however, is different. My warnings about losing a "do-it-yourself" or "bargain" appeal aren't just about things that can possibly happen, they are things that are likely to happen. If you're already on the losing end of a license appeal, then you already know all about that.

The plain truth is that the majority of cases I take are for people who have tried an appeal before and lost. In fact, this is so common that the very first question on my "substance abuse evaluation checklist" (a custom 4-page form I that I have designed and complete as part of the 3 hour first meeting with a client, and then send along with him or her to give to the evaluator to make sure the evaluation is done completely, accurately, and properly) is whether or not the client has filed a prior restoration appeal. The reason that question is important enough to be the very first one that I ask is instructive.

To be blunt about it, it sucks to lose a chance to get your license back. Even so, it's probably not the end of the world, unless you had a pending job offer that was contingent upon your winning your appeal, in which case you can blame yourself for trying the "do-it-yourself" or "bargain" route in the first place. Most people develop a network of family and friends to cart them around, and while this lack of independence may be inconvenient, it's not like you're going to starve to death. You've survived this long, so another year isn't going to kill you.

The real kicker is that you lost your appeal because something wasn't done properly, and whatever issues caused you to lose will haunt all your subsequent appeals in the year (or years, if you keep trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result), as well. To be clear, and so that I don't sound like the "scare tactic guy," there are plenty of reasons an appeal can be denied that can be fixed without much difficulty the next time around. However, if you find yourself ready to argue about, rather than acknowledge, what went wrong in your last appeal, you're probably not seeing the bigger picture. How then, can you even begin to fix what you don't see?

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May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

Every Memorial Day, I skip writing about all the legal stuff and try to take a moment to thank all of the brave men and women who have served our country in the armed forces. We certainly pay a lot of lip service to this idea, but as I was thinking about what to write, it struck me that the very name of the holiday, Memorial Day, means to memorialize, or remember, those who died in service, and to thank those who survived for their service. Memory and memorial are parts of the same thing: remembering. However you do it, take a few minutes to think about our veterans, and those who are protecting us right now. We owe these people a lot.

It is a sacrifice - and a profound risk - to be in the military. From the most experienced combat veteran to the person whose supportive role is off, or even away from the battlefield, being in the military is the ultimate generous gift to your country. What these people get in return is a million times less than the sacrifice and risk they undertake. We can never thank them enough, and our efforts to do so will inevitably fall pitifully short of the mark. At least there seems to be bi-partisan political agreement on that score, although it is shameful that, whatever needs to be done hasn't been done yet, because we are now learning more about problems with the VA and the failures of the care provided to our veterans.

TY 1.2.jpgI love our country. I love the fact that I can argue politics, and disagree with what our elected officials do and say. Yet none of that would be possible without the security provided by our armed forces. When all the talk turns to action, those of use who do nothing more than talk are humbled by the brave actions of those who actually wear the uniforms. And all the talk and thanks in the world can't make up for a lost limb, or, worse yet, a lost life. Have you ever stopped to think about the numbers of military lives lost in our various conflicts? While each one is precious, and represents someone's son or daughter, or husband or wife, and maybe even mother or father, the sheer number of people who die in the cause of our country each year should reinforce the courage it takes to be in the service.

I hope anyone reading this takes the time to say 3 prayers today: One in memory of all those who have been killed or wounded while in service, another in thanks to all those who have served, and a third for the protection of and in thanks to all those currently serving. If you have a problem with prayer, then take a few moments and give this some thought. Take 3 minutes of your life and think about what all these people have given of theirs.

In my own small way, I do what I can for our veterans. I offer a standing (although unpublished) 10% discount on all my fees for anyone who is active or reserve duty military in all driver's license restoration, DUI or criminal matters. Beyond that, I offer my deepest gratitude for your service. God bless all of you, and your families. Although we can never thank you enough, know that we are forever in your debt.

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May 23, 2014

Michigan DUI Defense - Either make Things Happen, or Watch them Happen

In my role as a Michigan DUI lawyer, I handle a lot of 3rd offense (felony) drunk driving cases. Within some of the DUI sections of my website, I examine the importance of examining and challenging the evidence as well as reviewing the video, if any, of the traffic stop and the field sobriety tests. The hope is to get a DUI charge "knocked out" if at all possible. In some of my DUI articles, I explain how, in some cases, a 3rd offense felony DUI charge can be reduced to a 2nd offense misdemeanor by way of a plea bargain. Those are all relevant and valid considerations in any drunk driving case, but there's more to it than just that.

Wall 1.2.jpgIn this article, I want to step away from all the "what if" kinds of questions, and direct the focus to what should be done in those cases that aren't likely to be thrown out of court for defective evidence and the like. Although this article is directed to someone facing a 3rd offense, it also applies pretty much equally to 2nd offense DUI charges, and even some first offense drinking and driving charges (particularly High BAC cases), as well. Here, we're going to survey the role of treatment and counseling in a DUI case, and how it can be used to make your legal predicament better.

This is important, because if you've already racked up 2 prior DUI's, then you know something about the realities of DUI cases being easy to beat. Look, I'm in business to make money, but the cold, hard truth is that most DUI charges don't get tossed out of court. If you are facing a 3rd offense DUI charge, or any DUI charge for that matter, your plan better include more than just hoping it gets dismissed.

The point I am making is simple, but also important for anyone dealing with a Michigan drunk driving charge: Every possible angle should be explored, and every possible thing done, to try and beat the charge, but even on the chance that won't happen, you better take the right steps to minimize the consequences (particularly jail) that you potentially face. In terms of the lawyer you hire, there are 2 kinds:1. Those who make things happen, and, 2. Those who watch them happen.

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May 19, 2014

Michigan DUI and what Happens to your Driver's License - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began an examination of the consequences to your driver's license in a Michigan DUI case. We established that there are 2 preliminary things to keep in mind before we can answer the question "what will happen to my driver's license?" First, and particularly in 1st offense DUI cases, we noted that the original charge for which you were arrested (often "OWI" or "High BAC") may very well be dropped down, so that what you wind up "getting" on your record may be far less severe, and may not have anywhere near the impact to your ability to drive as would otherwise be the case with the offense written on your ticket, or otherwise appearing on your court notice. That's the good news

Second (and this is the bad news), we established that for anything after a 1st offense DUI, the Michigan Secretary of State simply counts the number of total "alcohol related traffic offenses" (meaning DUI's) and automatically imposes license consequences, regardless of how the case is resolved in court. This means that, as far as driver's license sanctions are concerned, the only thing that matters is the number of DUI (or DUI-related) convictions a person accumulates in either a 7 or 10-year period.

Littleguydriver 1.3.jpgIn this 2nd part, we will look at he actual driver's license consequences that the state, meaning the Secretary of State, will impose for the most common DUI convictions. To be clear, license sanctions are only imposed by the Secretary of State, and not the court. A court cannot, under any circumstances whatsoever, take any action against a driver's license in a DUI case. No matter what the facts, the judge cannot modify anything done by the Secretary of State regarding DUI license sanctions, because the penalties described below are absolute.

It makes sense to examine the driver's license sanctions, or penalties, from worst to least severe. To keep this article of manageable length, I'm not going to get into the penalties for death or injury DUI cases. It should suffice to point out that if you find yourself facing one of these charges, you're at risk of losing a lot more than just your driver's license and have bigger concerns and risks to worry about. In order of severity, this is what happens:

For a 3rd offense DUI, meaning any combination of 3 alcohol-related traffic offenses - OWVI, OWI, High BAC convictions, and including 1 prior "zero tolerance" conviction within 10 years from the date of the conviction of the oldest offense to the date of the arrest for the most recent offense, the driver's license will be revoked for a minimum of 5 years. There is NO appeal to any court, and a person can only win back his or her license by filing (and winning) a driver's license restoration appeal with the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, also known as the DAAD.

This can be confusing, because criminally, a person can be charged with and convicted of a 3rd offense for any combination of 3 DUI's within his or her lifetime. The 3rd offense charge has nothing to do with any time frame, whereas the 3rd offense license sanctions are completely dependent upon those 3 DUI's all taking place within 10 years.

This is so important, it bears repeating: All driver's license penalties are set in stone, and there is absolutely no way around them. There are no exceptions, no hardship appeals, and nothing that can be done other than to suffer through them. The state does not have any mechanism to "care" what effects loss of a license will have in your life, meaning it does not "care" if the license sanction will cost you your job. Nothing can be done, even if you are a single mom and you have to drive your kids to school or need to take a dependent, elderly person to the hospital for life-saving medical treatments. The state simply counts alcohol related driving convictions, and if they fall within the clear and simple framework (3 within 10 years or 2 within 7 years), then the corresponding penalty is automatically imposed.

Continue reading "Michigan DUI and what Happens to your Driver's License - Part 2" »

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May 16, 2014

Michigan DUI and what Happens to your Driver's License - Part 1

In Michigan, there is always some kind of action taken against your driver's license for a DUI conviction. If you're facing a DUI, you probably want to know what will happen to your license. If your DUI case is over, particularly if it was a 2nd or 3rd offense, you may be wondering what can be done to get your license reinstated. As a Michigan DUI and driver's license restoration lawyer, I deal with these issues all day long. It sometimes surprises me how many lawyers trying to handle a DUI case really don't understand the full nuances of both the criminal (DUI) law and the law under which the Michigan Secretary of State must impose license consequences.

This goal of this article will be to clarify some of the more common issues regarding what will happen (or has happened) to your driver's license after a Michigan DUI conviction, as well as an attempt to straighten out some misconceptions. I'll divide it into 2 parts. In this first installment, I will outline a few general points about how DUI license consequences are meted out. We will also examine the 2 critical perquisites to understanding how and why Michigan DUI driver's license sanctions work as they do. In the 2nd part, we will jump to an examination of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd DUI offenses and see what happens in each case. Beyond presenting a kind of matrix of what happens, the reader should be able, after this 1st part, to understand why.

CyberDriver 1.2.jpgWithin a few days before writing this article, I was speaking with a fellow facing a 3rd offense DUI who repeated what he had heard from his previous lawyer about the license sanction (penalty) for this case. That lawyer was dead wrong about what would happen to his driver's license; I was able to assure the caller that despite being a "3rd offense," because this was neither his 3rd DUI within 10 years, nor his 2nd within 7 years, he would only face the license sanctions for a 1st offense DUI. If this sounds strange, then you can understand why so many misunderstandings abound.

Some people don't have the interest or patience to put in the time to figure all of this out. I'm not going to turn this into something complicated, but DUI license sanctions are kind of like a DVR or a new cellphone; you have to spend at least a few minutes to get a grip on things work. In order to get that "grip," there are 2 simple concepts that we need to get straight:

First, in a 1st offense DUI case, despite whatever charge you are facing now, there is a pretty good chance that, if you have a quality DUI lawyer, you will be able to get the original charge knocked down to something less serious. If you have been arrested for "OWI," which stands for "operating while intoxicated," your lawyer will likely be able to negotiate the charge down to something not nearly as bad, like OWVI, which stands for "operating while visible impaired." The same holds true if you have been charged with "High BAC." Even in that situation, a reduction to "OWI," or even "OWVI" is anywhere from reasonably possible to rather likely, depending on the circumstances of your case.

This is significant because if you come home and start looking stuff up on the internet, and you punch in the charge on your ticket or bond receipt, you will find about the license sanctions that apply only if you are convicted of the original charge. Of course, you probably cannot predict what kind of "deal" can be worked out in your case, but many people begin freaking out over all the scary sounding potential consequences they face without slowing down enough to realize those things are unlikely. This is a lot like prescription medications where the disclaimer for side effects sound so ominous - risk of stroke, heart attack or even death, just to name a few. Fortunately, in the real world that stuff rarely happens. Most DUI cases work out much better than you probably fear, at first.

Continue reading "Michigan DUI and what Happens to your Driver's License - Part 1" »

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May 12, 2014

The Reality of DUI Charges in Metro-Detroit

Every Michigan DUI case begins with an arrest. When you look back, it becomes fairly obvious that the arrest itself was just about a foregone conclusion the moment you were asked to step out of your car. No matter what line of work you're in, you just come to "know" certain things from experience, and most police officers become very good at "knowing" when a person is over the limit for alcohol. In the real world, almost every traffic stop that progresses to include field sobriety tests ends up with a drunk driving arrest. How many times do you think the police pull someone over, see behavior that makes them suspect the person is drunk (particularly at 1 or 2 in the morning), only to discover the person really is sober enough to drive? How many times have you won the lottery 3 days in a row?

Reality 1.3.jpgI want this article to be an honest discussion about DUI cases in the Metro-Detroit, meaning Tri-County (Macomb, Oakland and Wayne) area. My intention here is to be straightforward and informative, and help someone facing a DUI learn something. Accordingly, I'm going to try and avoid all the meaningless marketing lawyer talk about being "tough" and "aggressive" and all that.

In the real world, when you're put in the back of the police car, you are probably still wondering if there is some miracle chance that you can avoid a formal DUI. For most people, it's being led into the police station that really drives home the idea that this whole nightmare is "official," and not likely to end with just a warning. Between the breath test at the police station and the booking process, most people start wondering about outcomes. You worry about your job, your driver's license, and, of course your family. At this point, it is not uncommon to have a kind of see-saw mental process going on that fluctuates between "I'm screwed," and "I will hire the best lawyer in the state and get out of this." Minutes pass like hours as the mental see-saw goes from side to side, until you are finally released, often after posting some kind of bond.

Being released turns out to be kind of a cleanup job in its own right. You've got to get the car. In some cases, if you've been arraigned before release, you may have to go sign up for alcohol testing. When you finally get home, get showered, and settle down enough to really think about things, you start to wonder about the whole system. From the moment of the traffic stop to the moment you get home, it seems like everyone has made you feel guilty. Even if a person knows he or she was over the limit, it is frustrating to be treated like you've already been found guilty. It can feel like the whole "presumption of innocence" thing has been turned on its head.

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May 9, 2014

Finding the Right Criminal or DUI Lawyer in the Detroit area of Michigan

Talk about turning the tables; I recently had switch roles from being a Michigan criminal defense lawyer to searching for a criminal lawyer in another state for a relative who lives there. One of the "perks" of being the lawyer in a family is that I get the call, day or night - weekday or weekend, if someone gets into trouble. In the case at hand, all I could do was explain how the charge would be handled if was pending here, in Michigan. Eventually, I was asked to help find a lawyer for the relative. There I sat, a lawyer pretty good at marketing himself, now having to wade through a sea of websites to find a good lawyer - the right lawyer - for someone else, clear across the country.

My wife began the search, asking me what, in general, she should be looking for. Here, I am proud to say that we were looking for someone who would essentially be my out-of-state equivalent. I explained to my wife that while I have some expertise in being found as a lawyer, I have no experience in finding one. I suggested that she search the name of the charge and the city, sort of like someone in Michigan may search both "Clinton Township" and "indecent exposure," or "Sterling Heights" and "embezzlement," or "Rochester" and "DUI."

seo-searching 1.2.jpgWe certainly got results, just way too many of them. Now we had to narrow things down, so we started slogging our way through some websites. It was strange being on the "other side," because I wasn't just looking to look; I needed to find a lawyer. Whatever critical eye I had developed in evaluating another lawyer's website shifted from my interest in his or her marketing, or potential to compete with me, to the need to find someone for my family member. I was exactly the target market to whom these sites were catering, and I had to quickly pick my way through them to find a real lawyer or I'd be buried alive in lawyer websites.

I quickly began to develop a kind of dislike for lawyers. I felt like I was being attacked by a mob of car salespeople and real estate agents. Every site promised that its lawyer was tougher and more aggressive than anyone else. The real kicker came when I tried to find some information about the charge. I had told my wife that I wanted to find a lawyer, like me, who put up some explanatory information and perhaps had a blog that afforded him or her the opportunity to go into more detail. I learned real quickly that I more or less stand alone by way of the writing I do. Nobody here, meaning in Michigan, and nobody in the state in which I was looking, writes anywhere near the amount of stuff that I do. I have always assumed that most people would look for a lawyer the way I would. I want information and the ability to get a good feel for the person whose name is on the site. Accordingly, that's how I've structured both my site and this blog.

As I continued my search, it became apparent that I was wrong about that. Most sites, it turns out, are long on marketing and short on information. This troubled me, because writing my twice-weekly blog articles allows me to share my approach to cases and my personality with the reader. I'm an explainer, which, in person, translates to being a talker. I'm not quiet. By communicating the way I do, I have probably saved myself countless hours since prospective clients can read my stuff and decide that I'm either on the short list, because they like the way I present things, or that I'm off that list completely, because they don't. I try to explain things in a way that answers some of the more common questions people have. This has the added benefit of saving me from having to explain the same, basic things over and over, day after day, week after week. This also helps narrow my prospective client base down, for the most part, to people who are looking for an explainer. If someone wants to hire a lawyer who's the "strong, silent type," it won't take long to figure out that I'm not that guy.

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May 5, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - The big (and necessary) "R"

As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I have written extensively about every facet of the license clearance and restoration process. As I've noted in other articles, I have been called numerous times by various lawyers seeking clarification on some aspect of a license appeal, and on several recent occasions I have been thanked, in person, by attorneys for the help they've gotten from this blog. That's a high compliment, but there is a clear danger in that, as well, perhaps best expressed in the old adage that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing."

In order to win a Michigan DAAD (Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) license appeal, you need to be in recovery. Recovery is the big "R" in a license appeal. It is a first and necessary requirement to win, and if you don't fundamentally understand it, either as the person trying to win back his or her license or the lawyer handling the case, then you're just flying blind. Sure, "the law", and a "million little rules" govern a Michigan Secretary of State driver's license restoration/clearance appeals, but underlying all of that legal and technical stuff is the requirement that you prove that you currently are, and will forever remain, sober. This isn't much different than suing someone for an unpaid debt; you have to observe all the legalities and procedural requirements to sue him or her, but you also have to prove that the person owes you money.

The big R 1.2.pngTo win a Michigan license appeal, you have to be sober. "Sober," in this sense, means a lot more than just "not drunk." Anyone who is truly sober knows that "sobriety" means recovery, and if you've experienced recovery, then you know it's a hell of lot more than just not drinking. This distinction is huge, and separates those who get it from those who don't. As a driver's license restoration lawyer, I like to think I'm unique in my understanding of these issues. Beyond just "knowing" them, I actually, formally study addiction at the post-graduate, University level. That's a commitment of extraordinary effort, money (over $12,000 per year) and time on my part, but one that is incredibly rewarding and gives me a huge advantage in successfully handling license reinstatement cases. Being a great lawyer is all well and fine, but when I sit in the hearing room with my client and the hearing officer, I also have to be the foremost expert on alcohol, addiction and recovery issues, and I am.

In order to win your license back, either through a Michigan restoration or clearance appeal, you must prove, by what the state calls "clear and convincing evidence," two things: First, that your alcohol problem is under control (this is the easier task), and second, that your alcohol problem is likely to remain under control. This means that you have to convince a hearing officer that you have the commitment and the tools to remain sober for life, even in the face of endless offers of drinks and other temptations. To effectively do this, day after day, and to do it well enough to provide a guarantee, like I do, you have to begin with a genuinely sober client, and then possess the experience and skills of a good litigator, the understanding of a clinician, with a superior ability to communicate clearly, charismatically, and persuasively. Here, we can add another "r" to the mix; the ability to relate, both to the client, and then relate the client's recovery story to the hearing officer.

There are plenty of lawyers with great litigation skills, and/or who can write and speak very well. What separates me from that pack, and what separates a client with real potential to win a license appeal from those who just "need" a license, is a thorough and "lived in" understanding of the big "R," meaning "recovery." It is precisely this knowledge that enables me to screen out potential clients who are not genuinely sober, and provide a guaranteed win to those who are. Understanding recovery seems easy for someone who is actually in recovery, particularly in terms of the path that person has followed to get sober.

Winning license appeal cases, however, requires understanding the whole spectrum of ways that people recover, from the tried and true 12-step programs like AA, things like CBT and REBT (cognitive behavioral therapy and rational emotive behavioral therapy), all the way to the somewhat uncharted waters of spontaneous recovery. Whether you believe it or not, or like it or not, some people can just decide that enough is enough and make the panorama of life changes necessary to get and stay sober all by themselves. Many folks in "traditional" recovery find this hard to accept, and, not surprisingly, so does the state, meaning the DAAD. This is where my specialized training and experience becomes invaluable, because I have the clinical knowledge to be able to prove this to the hearing officer, and have to make sure he or she understands that these lesser known paths to sobriety have been empirically validated through extensive research.

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May 2, 2014

Come back to win Clearance of a Michigan hold on your Driving Record - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began our discussion of why you should come back to Michigan if you want to clear a Michigan Secretary of State hold on your driving record. The process that will enable you to obtain, or, in some cases, renew a license in another state is called a clearance. The Michigan Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, or DAAD, will accept an appeal by mail that does not require a person to come back for a hearing, but only 1 out of 4 of those appeals ever wins. That's a 75% chance of losing, and being stuck without a license for another year. By contrast, if you're really sober, and have honestly quit drinking, I guarantee that I will win a clearance for you.

In this second installment, we'll pick up with our inquiry by looking at the letters of support that must be filed as part of the initial paperwork in order to begin a formal license appeal. This applies equally in cases of out-of-state, administrative appeals, or in-state, in-person appeals. The Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, or DAAD, requires that a minimum of at least 3 support letters accompany the substance abuse evaluation. Based upon my experience, I generally require at least 4 letters of support.

Try it Again Sam 2.1.jpgFor all of the information I provide on my website, and in the Driver's License Restoration section of this blog, I have to be careful about giving away too much here. I have to guard exactly how I edit the letters of support, and what I do in the editing and revising process as something of a proprietary secret. Almost as confirmation of this, and in a surprising way that felt like both a compliment and an a bit of a warning, within the several weeks before writing this article, I have spoken with at least 3 lawyers who have thanked me for the help they get from this blog in doing research about how to handle certain cases. I'm glad to help, to a point. One must never lose sight of the axiom that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing." A thorough understanding of the context of proper letter editing can be more important than the words themselves.

Typically, letters of support come up short because the writer does something like trying to explain to the state how much a person needs a license. Rest assured, the DAAD already knows that everybody needs a license. To win a license appeal, you must prove by clear and convincing evidence that your alcohol problem is under control, and likely to remain under control; needing a license has nothing to do with it. The state does not care how hard it has been without a license, nor does it care what opportunities await if you win it back. It may sound cold, but the reality, from the DAAD's perspective, is that you should have thought about that before a second (or third, or fourth, etc.) DUI.

Another faux pas of many letters is trying to convince the DAAD that the person "deserves" a license. While the underlying sentiment there is understandable, that determination is exclusively for the hearing officer to make, and like anyone else with a job, they aren't especially anxious to have someone tell them how to do it. The only things that matter, in the determination that you "deserve" restoration of your license (or the issuance of a clearance), is that your alcohol problem is under control, and likely to remain under control. Accordingly, I often have to redirect the focus of support letters to that subject.

Letters written by friends who were part of the subject's drinking days don't fare particularly well, either. This might take a few seconds to "get," but when someone talks about having hung out with the person filing the license appeal back when his or her drinking was a problem, and then points out how he or she has changed, the person writing the letter can be perceived by the DAAD as part of that old, "bad" lifestyle, and certainly part of something that should be left in the past. Does that mean that we can't use a letter from such a person? Of course not, but it does mean that we really have to shift the letter writer's perspective quite a bit. For me, it means a pretty big editing job.

The truth is that I have to perform substantial editing on more 90% of the letters that cross my desk. When I meet with a client who has tried a "do-it-yourself" administrative appeal before (and obviously lost), and review the documents filed in that previous case, I always find the letters to be anywhere from inadequate to outright harmful. To be clear, this is not a clinic in letter writing or proper grammar, but rather about what the letters need to say, and what they shouldn't get into. I'd love to make it out like I'm just incredibly gifted and supremely intelligent, but the truth is that I've learned most of what I know the hard way. With more than 2 decades of experience dealing with both what does and does not work in the letters of support, my clients are paying for experience and skill honed by more than 23 years of hard-earned lessons.

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April 28, 2014

Come back to win Clearance of a Michigan hold on your Driving Record - Part 1

For anyone who now lives outside of the state with a Michigan hold for multiple DUI's on his or her driving record, it quickly becomes clear that your new DMV will not issue (or, in some cases, renew) a driver's license until the Michigan Secretary of State clears it. Almost without fail, the next thing a person does is to find out what it takes the clear that hold. As anyone reading this has probably already learned, a Michigan hold for multiple DUI's can only be cleared (thus, we use the term "clearance" when describing this kind of relief) after a formal driver's license restoration/clearance appeal has been filed with and decided by the Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, or DAAD.

There are only 2 ways to do this: A person can file what's called an "administrative appeal," which is essentially an appeal by mail, or, he or she can come back to Michigan and do a formal, in-person appeal. There really isn't much of a choice, given that the 3 out of 4 administrative appeals are denied every year. If you really want to win a clearance, then you have to come back to Michigan. If you are really and truly sober, I will not only win your case, but will guarantee it. The question then becomes how serious you are about getting back on the road. This 2-part article will examine the reasons why you have to come back if you really want to win a clearance of the Michigan hold on your license.

Gator driver 1.2.pngBeyond the dire statistics, the reality of winning a clearance is that, as with just about everything, the cheap and easy way doesn't work very well. In writing this, I'm reminded of the contraption advertised on TV that is a little wheel with handles, designed to give a person great abs. The ad is filled with fit and trim models showing off their well-defined "six packs" using the roller. "Just 20 minutes a day, 3 times a week," promises the announcer, and you can look like this. Obviously, enough people fall for this to keep the ad running...

The fact, however, is that the first rule of abs is that you must lose the bodyfat covering them up. You can roll on that wheel for 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, and if you don't start dropping pounds, the only six pack you'll be seeing is in the soda isle. As an aside, anyone who belongs to a gym will note that you absolutely never see on of these contraptions there. Beyond being a waste of time, the 10 or 20 bucks you spend doesn't buy you a marvel of German engineering; it gets you another cheap, disposable piece of Chinese plastic junk, instead. The simple truth is that there just are no shortcuts to doing things properly. As the old saying goes, anything worth doing is worth doing right.

A few years ago, I tried to find a way to incorporate administrative appeals into my Michigan driver's license restoration practice. It just didn't work. I wound up filing one case, and I won it, but as I had suspected, every step of the way was difficult, and, more importantly, not entirely within my control. That's a huge component of my license restoration practice - my ability to control every facet of the process. That element of control is an important part of how I win all my cases, and why I provide a guarantee in the first place.

In order to begin a Michigan license reinstatement or clearance appeal, a person must file, amongst other things, a substance abuse evaluation and at least 3 letters of support (n my office, I require at least 4). These documents are reviewed by a DAAD (sometimes mistakenly referred to by the former title of "DLAD") hearing officer, who must be satisfied that the person filing the appeal has proven, by "clear and convincing evidence," that his or her alcohol problem is "under control," and "likely to remain under control."

Right off the top, there are 3 variables here: The substance abuse evaluation, the letters of support, and the hearing officer. And that's not even scratching the surface. What this means, however, is that a person winging this on his or her own has essentially no clue about the relative quality of the evaluation, beyond having it completed, is left to his or her own devices for editing and revising the letters of support, and then sends this "pot-o-luck" package to some unknown hearing officer, essentially hoping for a win. No wonder that 74% of all administrative appeals lose. And of those that win, we can only wonder how many are third or even fourth tries...

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April 25, 2014

Michigan Indecent Exposure and Aggravated Indecent Exposure not "Sex Crimes"

Sometimes, when a person learns that a significant portion of my practice concentrates in Michigan indecent exposure cases and aggravated indecent exposure cases, he or she will say something condescending, or ask how I can deal with "sex offenders." In this article, I want to make clear how strongly I believe indecent exposure and aggravated indecent exposure (hereafter describes as "IE" to make things easier) are not really true "sex crimes." Perhaps the strongest way for me to do this is to be clear that I don't handle sex crimes, but I do handle IE cases.

The term "IE cases" is broad: It can cover a whole range of behavior, from a person just being seen exposing him or herself (sometimes, negligently, or at least not intentionally), to actually intentionally exposing one's self, as well as being caught getting "frisky," whether alone or with another person, and a whole lot of stuff in between. At worst, IE charges result from a person wanting to "shock" another with an unsolicited visual. Almost always, there is at least some distance, and usually a physical barrier, between the performer and the audience. At best, the person making the complaint observes something not necessarily done for him or her to see.

Seem 1.2.jpgI've been involved with IE cases where the man charged has offered to perform for a willing female audience through an internet listing. I've read exchanges of emails between the parties with the man going to great lengths to verify that the woman on the other end is an adult. The only problem in this situation is that the woman on the other end of the computer was a police detective and the agreed upon rendezvous spot was in a parking lot, with the man "performing" in his car.

However you cut it, IE cases do not involve predatory physical contact, or even the imminent threat of physical contact. IE is at the opposite end of the world from a case of groping, or rape. The whole mindset involved is very different. That's why I don't handle rape cases, or child molestation cases. I could never imagine trying to help a rapist get away with his crime, nor could I ever imagine defending a child molester.

Typically, a man accused of an IE crime is "acting out" as the result of some kind of pressure in his life. Sometimes, this has to do with sexual frustration at home. Other times, it does not. Whatever else, at least with my clients, an incident of IE is not done with an intent to physically harm someone else. Here, however, is where the rubber meets the road. It's great that I know this, and that my client knows this, but the real issue is making sure the Judge understands this. And to be clear, he or she most likely will not, at least not without a lot of help from me.

I pride myself on being an honest lawyer. You can snicker about that all you want, but if the size of this blog says anything, it's that I have a passion for what I do. It's easy to tell people what they want to hear, but, if you have a real conscience, then you have to live with the damage caused by that. A lawyer friend of mine once joked that being honest cost him a lot of money. It might be funny, but it's also true. And here is another thing that's true, although it's a somewhat cold and kind of ugly truth that most people facing an IE charge already know, or at least feel: There is a pervasive kind of "yuck" or "pervert" factor inherent in these cases, at least as far as the public is concerned. You can bring this point home real fast when you think about your boss or neighbors finding out about the charge, must less learning the underlying facts that gave rise to it. My job is to get rid of that "factor" to the extent humanly (and legally) possible.

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March 28, 2014

The cost of a Michigan Driver's License Restoration/Clearance Guaranteed win

In one of my recent driver's license restoration articles, I described the mixed blessing of my office receiving so many calls inquiring about hiring me for a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal. I noted that, to my dismay, lots of people simply look at the large number of articles I've written (without taking the time to read any of them) and see that I provide a guarantee that if I take your case, I'll win your license back and just figure, "he's the guy!" This frustrates me because in just about every article I've written, and on just about every corner of my site, I make it clear that I will only undertake a license restoration appeal for a person who has really and truly quit drinking.

Even so, my office gets calls almost every day from someone who will act surprised, and even offended, that I really mean that. A few weeks ago, a caller said it best when he expressed his impatience by asking, "You mean to tell me that I'm supposed to pay you $3200 for this and you're going to tell me that I can't even have a drink once in a while?"

ROI2.1.jpgYep. That $3600, however, buys you a lawyer of integrity, and a level of service (backed up with a guarantee) miles above any operation that simply sets a fee and will undertake a license appeal for anyone who pays it. And while I won't tell someone that he or she can or cannot drink, I will tell everyone that I won't take your case if you are still drinking. It is because of the high standards I have that I win almost all of my cases the first time around, and why I provide a guarantee.

$3600 is a lot of money. I couldn't imagine charging anywhere that much without providing a guarantee, but I can't imagine not providing a guarantee, either. The deal is straightforward; if you are genuinely sober, you'll pay me once, and you will get your license back. Simple as this is, there is a recurrent theme here, however - sobriety. "Sobriety" is absolutely critical to a Michigan driver's license restoration case because the 2 main issues that you must prove to the state, by what is specified as "clear and convincing evidence," are directly related to your NOT drinking. These 2 key issues are that:

  1. Your alcohol problem is "under control," and

  2. Your alcohol problem is "likely to remain under control," meaning that you have the commitment and the tools to remain alcohol-free, meaning sober, for life.
You can't fake these things, or at least not very well. The state wants to make sure that you hit the point in your drinking where you'd just had enough, and quit. Most people call this "hitting bottom." From there, of course, everything is "up." You can tell when someone is still struggling with this, because anyone who has really embraced recovery and sobriety finds a certain, if not overwhelming, contentment with it. Sober people stand out in stark contrast to people who are hanging on to abstinence by the skin of their fingernails. If staying sober is any kind of "white knuckle" experience, then it's not any kind of real sobriety, and certainly not any kind that will help win a license appeal.

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March 24, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration for Women

As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer with over 23 years' experience, it has long been the case that women are a significant part of my client base. In a recent conversation, however, I was reminded of some of the special concerns that can and often do affect women across the continuum of an alcohol problem, from its development through an eventual recovery from it. There are issues than impact the drinking patterns and recoveries of people from different cultures, races, and genders. In other words, the path to sobriety can be different for a woman, just because she is a woman

This topic comes up rather frequently in classroom lectures and textbooks, but no one really lives in a classroom or in a textbook. In my current post-graduate curriculum in addiction studies, faculty members take special care to illustrate that, as an example, behavior considered normal, and even "cool" for a man is often viewed in the opposite manner for a woman. Thus, after a divorce, a male who spends several evenings a week at various nightclubs and who boast of 7 or 8 sexual conquests in the preceding several months may be considered "lucky," or even "worldly." Ascribe that same behavior to a woman, however, and the prevailing societal assessment is invariably and overwhelmingly negative.

Green Chic 1.2.jpgThe point I'm making is that the very same behavior undertaken by one gender can be seen as somehow "wrong," or "worse" when done by the other. Perception, then, in every sense of the word, has implications. In the context of troubled drinking, a woman may feel self-conscious, or fear being perceived as "un-ladylike" if she reaches out for help, or otherwise admits her problem. To be sure, men can also be ashamed of their drinking, and have this "private shame," but the mere presence of the gender consideration can posit an additional obstacle in a woman's path to recovery. This is something that, whatever else, should not be ignored in the context of a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal.

Alcohol is no respecter of age, race, income status, education or gender. While it is true that majority of people who drink don't develop a drinking problem, there is nothing special or unique (beyond having the problem) about those who do. Rich and poor, tall and short, male and female, the reach of alcoholism knows no boundaries. Even so, there can sometimes be special considerations that women face when dealing with an alcohol problem.

It is entirely possible that a woman may fear a certain "stigma" for admitting and/or getting help for an alcohol problem. In an ideal world, this would be nothing more than a left-over misconception, but even if the "stigma" is a matter of her own perception rather that a reality, it does nothing to help her feel at east about reaching out for help. This can result in a woman trying longer, on her own (without appropriate help), to control, or moderate or stop her drinking. Of course, that doesn't work, so the inevitable result is that it just takes longer for her to get the help she needs.

Of course, help is there, in numerous forms, from counseling to support groups. Practically everyone in the world knows about AA, for example. AA is a great program, but it still hasn't completely shaken off its roots as having been founded by and for primarily white, Christian males. Indeed, when famed researcher E.M. Jellinek began categorizing alcoholics by type (alpha, beta, gamma, delta and epsilon) for his 1960 book about the disease theory of alcoholism, he chose his subjects from AA meetings, and didn't even count or use women amongst them. In the intervening decades, "specialty" meetings for women, young people, and gay and lesbian people, just to name a few, have grown to be common. Even so, to a female newcomer walking into her first AA meeting, a room full of middle aged white guys may not seem like the most inviting setting in which to pour out one's heart, and look for acceptance, help and understanding. That's not to say it couldn't be found there, but that first impression can be rather intimidating and powerful. By contrast, a white guy walking to a room full of other white guys at least won't have those feelings...

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