January 4, 2013

The Michigan Driver's License Restoration (and Clearance) Process - Part 3 - The Letters of Support

In Part 1 of this series, we outlined what it takes to be eligible to file a License Appeal, and in Part 2, we examined the Substance Abuse Evaluation that must be filed as part of the documentary package that has to be submitted to the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) to begin a Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance Appeal. Here, in Part 3, we'll talk about the Letters of Support that must also be filed, along with the Substance Abuse Evaluation, as part of that documentary package to begin a formal License Appeal.

The Letters of Support are really the hardest component of a License Appeal to describe, much less summarize. To simplify things, it is one of my primary responsibilities, as the Lawyer, to read, edit, revise (and perhaps even re-edit) the letters until they're perfect. This means that I take what my Client gives me, and go from there. I am far less interested in someone handing me a letter that they think is "good to go" than I am that they just hand me something I can get to work on. I spend a lot of time working on the Letters of Support, so it's just better that I begin with something, however imperfect, rather than wait for some "better effort." I tell my Clients that their job is to get me some words on a sheet of paper, and I'll take it from there.

Boy Writing 2.1.pngThere's a reason for that. The Letters of Support play a vital role in a Michigan Driver's License Appeal. In fact, problems with the Letters of Support are about the second most common reason a License Appeal is Denied. Frequently, someone who provides a Letter of Support lapses into writing a "good guy" letter about how good and kind the person for whom they're writing it really is. Sometimes, the writer will point out how difficult it has been for the person to get around, or go to school, or keep a job, or whatever else they do, without the ability to drive.

None of this matters at all. To be blunt about it, no description of how nice you are, or how hard it's been on you without a License matters a bit to the Secretary of State in a License Appeal case. Being a nice person, or having a tough time because you can't drive could not matter less...

The Letters of Support have a very specific purpose, and that's to provide verification of the legal requirement that the person prove, "by clear and convincing evidence," that their "alcohol problem...is under control." In other words, the Letters of Support have to help prove that a person has quit drinking. That's it. Anything more is a waste of ink, and anything less is a waste of paper.

Another mistake I see rather often comes from the "helpful" letter writer. This kind of writer thinks they're helping by describing the person as NOT having been a big drinker. Often, they deny having seen the person out of control with their drinking. Sometimes, they express surprise that the person had multiple DUI's. In their minds, they think they're creating a positive impression. In reality, they're doing just the opposite.

Continue reading "The Michigan Driver's License Restoration (and Clearance) Process - Part 3 - The Letters of Support" »

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December 28, 2012

The Michigan Driver's License Restoration (and Clearance) Process - Part 2 - The Substance Abuse Evaluation

In Part 1 of this series, we learned that a person must be legally eligible, in terms of time, to begin the Michigan Driver's License Restoration process. Beyond just being eligible time-wise, however, if a person has any hope of actually winning back their License, they must also be able to prove that they have quit drinking. The most important piece of evidence bearing on this issue, and the real foundation of any License Appeal or Clearance case, is the "Substance Abuse Evaluation" that must be submitted as part of the initial documentation that must be submitted to the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) in order to start a License Appeal.

The Substance Abuse Evaluation is a state form that must be filled out by a licensed Substance Abuse Counselor. This form is critically important to a License Appeal. Doing it correctly, so that it is legally adequate, requires that certain, very specific information be listed with absolute accuracy. Anyone who has tried a License Appeal before knows all about this form. In fact, one of the most common reasons that License Appeals (especially "do-it-yourself" efforts) are Denied is due to a "questionable/insufficient substance abuse evaluation." In the real world, such errors or omissions in the Substance Abuse Evaluation are very costly.

yellow-submarine 1.3.jpgTo make matters even tougher, in order to win a License Appeal, a person has to essentially hit a home run and prove their case by what's called "clear and convincing evidence." This boils down to mean that the DAAD Hearing Officer is essentially required to look for a reason to Deny an Appeal.

Think of the Substance Abuse Evaluation as the submarine in which you will travel across the lake from the side with no License in order to get to the other side, where your License is waiting for you. If the submarine isn't watertight, meaning if it leaks, then you'll never make it to the other side. Now, if prior to setting off, the submarine needs to be inspected, if the Inspector (or, in a License Appeal, the Hearing Officer) finds any leaks in the sub (or, in a License Appeal, the Hearing Officer finds any problems with the Evaluation), then you'll never even get to begin the journey...

Because I intend to keep this series of articles brief, let me cut to the chase: Most Counselors who "do" Substance Abuse Evaluations in License Appeal cases don't do them properly. In fact, most screw them up. You read that correctly: Most "Evaluators" have no firm idea of how to do an Evaluation the right way. I completely avoid this problem by having my Evaluations done at a Clinic right by my Office where I know the Evaluators understand what the State wants (and, equally as important, does NOT want) on the form, and are up to date with how the DAAD analyzes things. In fact, I have frequent contact with these Evaluators and provide them with feedback so that they have a current and working knowledge of how the DAAD interprets the information they provide.

In terms of what's required, the Substance Abuse Evaluation form requires the following:

Continue reading "The Michigan Driver's License Restoration (and Clearance) Process - Part 2 - The Substance Abuse Evaluation" »

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December 21, 2012

The Michigan Driver's License Restoration (and Clearance) Process - Part 1 - Eligibility

It has been a while since I've done a step-by-step series examining the Michigan Driver's License Restoration and Clearance process. Having previously done some rather detailed installments, I thought that it might be time to put up a much shorter, more summary review of the steps involved in winning back your License, or getting a Clearance of the Michigan "hold" upon your Driving Record that prevents you from obtaining a License in another state.

The entire License Restoration or Clearance "process" begins with eligibility - meaning being legally eligible to file an Appeal with the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver's Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD). Generally speaking, a person will have their Michigan License Revoked for multiple DUI's as follows:

  • 2 DUI's within 7 years = 1 year Revocation
  • Calendar 1.2.jpg
  • 3 DUI's within 10 years = 5 year Revocation
The word "Revoked" means everything here. Unlike a "Suspended" License, which is automatically given back after a certain period, a "Revoked" License is taken away forever, and can only be returned once the minimum period of Revocation has passed (either 1 or 5 years) and only if a person files a formal License Appeal before the DAAD and wins. A person can wait 35 years, but until and unless they file a License Appeal and win, they won't get their License back. Sometimes, people feel that they have been without a License "long enough," as if the mere passage of time means anything; it doesn't. A Revoked License is only Restored (or a Clearance granted) after a successful License Appeal.

These simple dates get complicated in a number of ways. Most often, however, a person causes their own complications simply by getting caught driving while their License is Revoked, and then being slapped with what's called a "mandatory additional" Revocation. These additional periods of Revocation are mandatory under the law, and extend the time a person will remain Revoked. There is absolutely no way to get out of this, unless, and only if, the last "mandatory additional" was imposed for a driving offense that occurred BEFORE October 1, 1998.

In the real world, most people decide to pursue a Driver's License Restoration or Clearance well after their eligibility date. To put it another way, of the Driving Records I review from potential Clients each week, very few people have to wait for their eligibility date to arrive. Even then, the State allows a person to file their Appeal 6 weeks before their actual eligibility date. On top of that, the paperwork that must be filed with a License Appeal must be dated no more than 90 days prior to the filing date. This means that a person can make an appointment with me and get the License Restoration process started about 4 and ½ months before their actual eligibility date.

Continue reading "The Michigan Driver's License Restoration (and Clearance) Process - Part 1 - Eligibility" »

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December 17, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Success

Implicit in my use of the title "Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer" is that I am successful at Restoring Michigan Driver's Licenses. I have developed a winning system for getting people who have really quit drinking back on the road. As the end of 2012 approaches, I am happy to close it having won over 100 License Appeals in the last 12 months, and with some kind words of gratitude from a Client for whom I have recently won back the ability to drive again:

Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas to us all.

Kid in Car 1.2.jpgI want to thank you and your staff for all your hard work helping me achieve the last major hurdle towards my Freedom.

I do know that I could not have done it without your strategy, experience , and most of all, your reassurance.

I would have wrote sooner but I have been busier than normal this season. Understandably so. I have much to be Grateful for this year.

Please have a safe and wonderful Holiday season this year.

And Jeffrey, I'll see you in the late spring. Keep a pickin.

Regards,

Richard

Beyond perhaps being the last "Thank You" note I'll get this year, I chose to reprint this message because in its brevity, it manages to cover everything about why I win all my License Appeals the first time, and back that up with a Guarantee.

My Client begins with an earnest enough holiday greeting, followed immediately by an expression of how he feels like having won his License back is a true Christmas gift when he includes himself in the sentence "Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas to us all." From my perspective as a License Restoration (and Clearance Appeal) Lawyer, being able to help someone win back something so important and meaningful to them, and for which they are so grateful, is about the biggest bit of job satisfaction I can ever imagine, and certainly trumps anything pretty much any Lawyer in any other field will ever experience.

Think about it: If you were a Patent Lawyer, and you obtained a Patent for another Client's "thingamajig," how excited would you really be? If you were a Divorce Lawyer, and you got Mr. and Mrs. Jones "unhitched," how much gratitude do you think you'd get from them? If you were a Slip and Fall kind of Lawyer, and you settled a case for Bungling Bob after he slipped on a banana peel, what more would you get from that other than just another paycheck? All of this put together cannot compare to sharing in the joy a person experiences (and often expresses) when they win back the ability to drive again, legally.

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December 14, 2012

Michigan DUI Driver's License Penalties

As a Michigan DUI Lawyer, just about everyday I am asked, "What will happen to my License?" This article will detail what happens in the most common DUI situations. There will always be someone whose circumstance is bizarrely complicated and involves unusual facts, but this article isn't for them. Those people will have to sort things out with their Lawyer. For the most part, however, most questions about what happens to a License in a DUI case will be answered in the following paragraphs.

Before we can even begin to know what will happen to your License, we must first establish if you're being charged as a 1st, 2nd or 3rd Offender. Obviously, if you've never had a prior Drunk Driving conviction before, then you're a first Offender. However, if you have had a DUI in the past, then when it (or they, if you've had more than 1) occurred matters a lot. What makes a case a First, Second or Third Offense is the number or prior convictions a person has within a certain number of years. Let's look at each:

SOS seal 1.2.pngFirst Offenses

"First Offense" means a person does not have a prior DUI conviction within 7 years of the Arrest for the new charge. To be clear, the time period for a "prior" starts running from the date a person was convicted of their last DUI (meaning the date from which they took a plea or were found guilty, and not the date of their last Arrest or anything like that) and covers the date of the Arrest for the new case.

There are 3 kinds of First Offense charges:

1. "OWI," or Operating While Intoxicated. This is the most common DUI charge. If you are ultimately convicted of First Offense OWI, your Driver's License will be Suspended for 180 days (6 months) and you will not be allowed to drive at all for the first 30 days, and will then have a Restricted License for the remaining 150 days (5 months). I will explain exactly what a "Restricted License" means later in this article.

2. "High BAC," sometimes called "Superdrunk" or "Enhanced" OWI. This is the "Big Daddy" of all First Offenses, and can be made when your BAC (Bodily Alcohol Content as measured from a breath or blood test is .17 or above). You cannot be charged with "High BAC" except in a First Offense case. If you are convicted of a "High BAC" charge, your License will be Suspended for 365 days (12 months) and you will not be allowed to drive at all for the first 45 days, an then may be allowed a Restricted License for the next 320 days (10 and ½ months) with, and only with an ignition interlock (a kind of breathalyzer unit) installed in your car.

3. "Impaired Driving," or OWVI. This is the "Lesser Offense" that's the least serious of all. If you are convicted of "Impaired Driving," you will be give a Restricted License for 90 days, after which you may then get your Full License back.

Continue reading "Michigan DUI Driver's License Penalties" »

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December 10, 2012

Finding the Right DUI Lawyer in Michigan

As a Michigan DUI Lawyer, I know the role I play, and the role I am supposed to play in helping a person get past a DUI charge. A DUI Lawyer is hired to make things "better." As you look for a DUI Lawyer, it is important to first define your needs and wants, and then try to find the Lawyer that best matches them. To do that, it would certainly be helpful to first establish a couple of parameters to help narrow your search. Of course, I am in the business of defending DUI cases, but after more than 2 decades of doing it, I have the good fortune of not needing the business so bad that I have to try and be all things to all people. Instead, I can clearly define my place in the world of DUI Lawyers so that I match up with the right Clients.

First, the term "DUI Lawyer" is rather significant. I define myself as a "DUI Lawyer." There is an appreciable difference between a Lawyer who "does" DUI cases and one, like me, who concentrates in them. A general Criminal Lawyer may handle a few DUI cases per month. A DUI Lawyer often handles several Drunk Driving cases in a single day, every day of the week.

Lawyer Guy 1.3.jpgSecond, where a Lawyer practices matters. If you're hiring a DUI Lawyer with the hope that he or she can make things better, your chances improve if the Lawyer you hire has experience in the particular Court where your case is pending. Every Court does things its own way, and very often, different Judges in the same Court do things differently, as well. Repeat experience in the same Courts allows the Lawyer to be able to explain how things are going to play out, as well as how they are likely to turn out in your case. In addition, having enough experience with the Judge deciding your case allows the Lawyer to know what kinds of things to do and, perhaps equally as important, what not to do. There is little point in going all out and signing up for Counseling, or starting to go to AA, only to find out you wasted your time, and that the Judge couldn't care less. You'll only know these things by hiring a Lawyer who knows your Judge from past experience with him or her. For my part, I limit my DUI Practice to the Courts in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties.

Therefore, as a general guide, a person facing a DUI should be looking to hire a DUI Lawyer (as opposed to a Lawyer who merely "does" DUI cases) who has had regular experience in the Court where the case is, or will be pending.

Even among DUI Lawyers, there are vast differences in personality and strategy. I think that the personality aspect is the more important of the two, because if you hire a Lawyer with an "I'm the boss, and this is how we'll do it," personality, you'll never even have a chance to discuss strategy, or get meaningful answers to your questions. There is no "right" personality for a Lawyer to have, although I'd argue that there is certainly no shortage of those that are "wrong." There is little need to describe that kind of person; they are usually abrasive or rude. Then again, and not to be funny about it, that kind of personality may work for some people. You'll know who's wrong for you right away.

I'm rather the opposite of that; I'm a talker. I examine and explain things. I'm friendly and conversant. No one could ever describe me as a man of few words. I've written loads of articles about DUI cases, and I write just like I speak. This means, of course, that I won't particularly match up well with someone who wants a Lawyer who is the "strong, silent type." When a person hires me for a DUI, our first meeting usually lasts about 2 hours. I'm certainly not the Lawyer for someone looking to be in and out of the Attorney's Office in 30 minutes or less

Continue reading "Finding the Right DUI Lawyer in Michigan" »

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December 7, 2012

Why "Needing" a License Doesn't Matter in a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal

My Office receives calls every day from people who have had their Driver's License taken for multiple DUI's. Sometimes they call right after they receive word from the Secretary of State that their License has been Revoked. Other times, they call out of frustration for not being able to get it back - often after a failed "do-it-yourself" License Appeal. Whatever precedes these calls, the callers themselves all have one thing in common; they "need" a License. Desperate, they'll ask "How am I supposed to support my family if I can't even drive to work?" or "How am I supposed to get my kids to school?"

As a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, I understand. And I care. But make no mistake about it, the State doesn't. Once a person has their License taken away for multiple DUI's, the State, meaning the Michigan Secretary of State, doesn't like to give it back. There's a decent chance that, if you're reading this, you've already learned that the hard way. The process by which a person gets their License back, called a Driver's License Restoration, is complex, and involves what I call "a million little rules." Yet amongst those million little rules, there is nothing about a person "needing" a License. In other words, it couldn't matter less that a person will lose their job if they cannot drive, or that they have no way to get back and forth to necessary Doctor's appointments without one. "Need" is NOT a factor that the State considers when deciding a License Appeal.

Kid Car Pink 1.2.jpgIn a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal, the Michigan Secretary of State, through it's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (known as the DAAD), considers a number of legal issues before it decides to Restore a person's Driving privilege or not. We could examine these issues until the stars burn out, but for all practical purposes (and what else matters, really?), winning or losing a License Appeal requires that you prove 2 things, by what is called "clear and convincing evidence" in order to get back on the road:

1. That your alcohol problem is under control, and
2. That your alcohol problem is likely to remain under control.

To boil it down even further, this pretty much means proving you're Sober. "Sober" certainly means something different to someone in Recovery than it does to someone who's not. To the person in Recovery, "Sober" means a way of life, free of all mind and mood altering chemicals. It means you've decided to give up drinking and live an alcohol-free life. To everyone else, being "sober" just means you're not drunk at the moment. Thus, to someone in Recovery, being "Sober" means having given up drinking and choosing to live without alcohol, whereas to pretty much everyone else, being "sober" means little more than the opposite of being inebriated.

Proving those things to a Hearing Officer is really the whole point of what I do. In that sense, my being a Lawyer, or your being a Sober person isn't nearly good enough; we need to combine my skills as a genuine Driver's License Restoration Lawyer with your experiences as you transitioned from drinker to non-drinker. I've written rather extensively about this process in other articles, so we won't belabor it here, beyond my pointing out that, if you are truly Sober, and become my Client, I Guarantee to win your License back the first time we try. I navigate those "million little rules" every day.

Continue reading "Why "Needing" a License Doesn't Matter in a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal" »

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December 3, 2012

DUI 2nd and 3rd Offense and the Real Focus - Alcohol

In a recent article, I pointed out that the ultimate focus in any DUI case that doesn't get dismissed for some defect in or lack of evidence is about the Driver's relationship to alcohol. To anyone facing a 2nd or 3rd Offense DUI, this is obvious on several levels. This article will continue that discussion as it relates to anyone who has already had a DUI, and should prove equally informative to anyone who has never been through anything like this.

There is a good chance that if you have been Arrested for a 2nd or 3rd DUI, you are required to submit to some kind of alcohol (and often) drug testing as a condition of your Bond, or release. So much for the presumption of innocence, then...

Alcohol Rope 1.2.pngIn the real world, especially as it relates to DUI cases, the Court system struggles to even pay lip service to the presumption of innocence. Remember, the purpose of Bond, in the first place, is to make sure you show up in Court and don't just run away. Bond, in that sense, is like a kind of "deposit." How does any kind of alcohol testing help insure (or not) that a person will show up for Court? The fact is, this kind of testing has NOTHING to do with insuring a person shows up to Court, and has EVERYTHING to do with the undisputed, if unspoken, belief that a person charged with a DUI is guilty.

There is a reason for this belief, however. It's not that Judges just pick this stuff out of the sky. In the course of their various careers, most Judges will handle thousands, if not tens of thousands, of DUI cases. By contrast, those same Judges will ever only wind up dismissing a mere handful of DUI cases, if they ever dismiss any, in all those years on the Bench. When a case is "knocked out," it's almost always because of some technical defect or shortcoming in the evidence. Very often, the problem lies with how the evidence was collected or tested, meaning there is some question as to the scientific, and therefore legal reliability of the evidence. Very seldom does anyone go to Trial in a DUI case and prove they were Sober.

The bottom line, at least to a Judge who sees thousands upon thousands of DUI cases, is that practically no one comes into Court charged with a DUI who hadn't been drinking, and had a few too many. Once in a while I'll get a DUI case where the Police failed to obtain breath or blood evidence, but that's a lot different than arguing that someone with a .12 (one and a half times the legal limit) or even higher breath test wasn't really over the limit.

If we're going to be really blunt about it, then, that means that when Dan the Driver goes to Court after having been Arrested for DUI, and having blown a .12 (or higher), the Judge isn't really thinking "Well, Dan is presumed innocent, so his breath test of .12 means nothing at this point. I wonder if the prosecutor will be able to prove Dan really was driving while intoxicated?" Instead, the Judge might figure that maybe, if Dan gets a really good Lawyer, and catches a lucky break, there might be some technical hiccup with the evidence and with a slick legal maneuver, Dan might be able to wiggle out of the charge.

In other words, Judges don't really question that people charged with DUI have been drinking. Or driving. If you're reading this, and you are required to test, there isn't much more to say. If you have been through a DUI before, then you know what comes next...

Continue reading "DUI 2nd and 3rd Offense and the Real Focus - Alcohol" »

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November 30, 2012

DUI in Oakland County

If you're facing a DUI charge in any of the District Courts of Oakland County (Berkley, Bloomfield Hills, Clarkston, Farmington Hills, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Madison Heights, Novi, Oak Park, Plymouth (covering Northville), Rochester, Royal Oak, Southfield, Troy or Pontiac), or are facing a 3rd Offense Felony DUI charge in Oakland County, you need a DUI Lawyer who can make things better for you. That begins with hiring a Lawyer who is thoroughly familiar with the Court where your case is pending. "Thoroughly," in that sense, means being a "regular" there. It means knowing how things work in that Court based on accumulated experience.

I've been handling DUI cases for over 22 years. In the last decade or so, I've really concentrated my DUI Practice, meaning I have restricted the Courts in which I practice, to Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties. This kind of "specialization" allows me to explain to my Client what will happen and what won't happen in their case. I know how each Court differs from another, and how the various Judges are alike, as well as how they are different. That translates to knowing exactly how to do things, and, by the same token, knowing what not to do. Whatever else, pitching an argument to a Judge who has a standing position against what you're your requesting is not only a losing proposition, it has the potential to make things worse. On the other hand, NOT asking a Judge for a break that he or she would actually consider is a total waste - and a painful amateur mistake.

Oakland 1.2.pngDUI cases
are, more than anything else, accidents of geography. A person can be pulled over in front of their own house, or hundreds of miles from home. I've always had a few cases going where my Client has gotten lost, and winds up being pulled over in a jurisdiction totally out of the way from where they were drinking, and from where they live. One wrong turn on I-696 and a person can spend 20 minutes driving the wrong way.

However it happens, each and every week, a whole lot of people get busted for a DUI in some city in Oakland County. Beyond just looking for a "DUI Lawyer," it's a good idea to look for a Lawyer from the Tri-County area, and one who consistently and regularly practices in the Court in which your case will be heard. To put it another way, it's probably not a good idea for your Lawyer to be meeting the Judge for the first time as he or she walks in on your case.

The Courts of Oakland County are very different from those in Macomb and Wayne Counties, especially when it comes to charges of OWI (Operation While Intoxicated) and High BAC, the actual names for what we commonly call "DUI." In fact, if you're facing a DUI and you haven't already heard or read that Oakland County is "tougher," then you haven't checked around very much. What really, then, does "tougher" mean?

Beyond just being noticeably less forgiving and lenient in DUI cases, Oakland County has long led the way in the implementation of technological advances, and has long been more "progressive" in its approach to DUI cases. "Progressive," in that sense means "rehabilitative." Oakland County Courts were regularly requiring breath or urine testing as a condition of Bond (or release from Jail) in DUI cases long before many of the Courts in Macomb and Wayne Counties had even tried it.

Continue reading "DUI in Oakland County" »

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November 26, 2012

Michigan Clearance for Former Resident with Revoked License

Those who have moved out of state, but who had their Michigan Driver's License Revoked due to multiple DUI's discover soon enough that they cannot obtain a Driver's License in their new state until they "clear up" the outstanding Michigan Revocation. In the past, some people were able to get a License in another state at first, but then learned, at the time they tried to renew it, that the Michigan "hold" prevents them from doing so. I can fix that, Guaranteed.

In the last several years, I have observed a substantial growth in the number of out-of-state cases that I handle. About 1/2 of the License Appeals I handle are for out-of-state Clients seeking a Clearance of the Michigan "hold" or Revocation on their Driving Record. This is no doubt attributable to the fall of Michigan's economy, as people have left for better employment opportunities. Just this week, I received this following email from a former Michigander now living and working out-of-state:

Subject: Thank you thank you thank you

MI Seal 2.1.pngJeff and Ann ,

I will always remember you for helping me on this journey. If you didn't get the notification letter , we won back my driving privileges. I know you were confident but I wasn't gonna believe until I saw it. I will always be grateful.

So what's the next step? Hopefully I can do this from Arkansas.

Again, thank you so much , you are my heroes.

Mike G

For as much as I write, I probably couldn't say it better no matter how hard I tried. Being a Lawyer and a writer, however, I'll try anyway...

When they are turned away from the DMV (the equivalent of Michigan's Secretary of State) in their new state, many of these unhappy campers return home to their computers and immediately begin trying to find out what to do. Some of the people that call me want to do it right the first time, and get back on the road, while others have tried it on their own, lost and have found me either through the Driver's License Restoration articles on this blog, or on my website.

Whether they cannot get a License at all, or simply cannot renew a previous License, a the same procedure needs to followed: The person must obtain a "Clearance" from the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) in order to be able to obtain, or renew a License in another state. The "Clearance" process is the same procedure that a Michigan resident undertakes to Restore Michigan License that has been Revoked, except that for those who still live here, it is called a "License Restoration."

Continue reading "Michigan Clearance for Former Resident with Revoked License" »

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November 23, 2012

The Real Focus of a Michigan DUI Case - Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, we observed that, in reality, most DUI cases don't get thrown out of Court by a Judge. We then saw how important a role "alcohol," meaning a person's relationship with it, plays in the course of any DUI case that's not summarily tossed out of Court by the Judge. We concluded and underscored this by pointing out the fundamental role of "testing" for alcohol while a person's Drunk Driving case is pending in Court, and the key role "testing" plays in any Probationary Sentence.

In this second installment, we'll continue our examination of the role of "alcohol" in a DUI case, and look at how my specialized knowledge of the onset, diagnosis, and treatment of an alcohol problem gives me unique advantage to help make things materially better for my DUI Clients.

Breathtester 1.2.jpgMany Judges in the Tri-County area will handle hundreds, if not more than a thousand DUI cases in a given year, yet most of those same Judges will only dismiss a few, if any during the course of their entire careers on the Bench. As we noted in the first part of this article, if a DUI case is solid enough to not get dismissed, then in a very real way, we can say that as it winds its way through the Court system it's all about the alcohol. If you're reading this, and you are on Bond, and required to "test" for alcohol, there's your proof.

This should not come a surprise. The Law requires anyone convicted of a DUI to undergo a mandatory alcohol assessment test before the Judge can Sentence him or her. A person must be screened to determine if they either have an alcohol problem, or the potential (or predisposition) for an alcohol problem. This "screening" is done in the form of a written test. The person's answers are scored, and the final score is compared to a scoring key, and a written Recommendation is made to the Judge as to what level of classes, counseling, education or rehabilitation they need.

There is a lot more to this, of course. In fact there's so much to it that not only is the development, diagnosis and treatment of an alcohol problem a keen field of interest of mine, I am actually involved in the formal University, graduate-level study of this very subject. If you are going to make a living in an area of the Law where the diagnosis and treatment of an alcohol problem is front and center stage, it makes sense to have credentials, education and experience in this field, as well.

Understanding how an alcohol problem is diagnosed, and the specific criteria used to make such a diagnosis, however, will remain centrally relevant throughout the rest of the case. As we'll see shortly, "over-diagnosis" of an alcohol problem, or the possibility that a person can or will develop one, is a huge problem with far-reaching, expensive consequences to someone dealing with a DUI charge. Being able to point out to the Judge when that happens, and being able to protect my Client from getting stuck in classes he or she doesn't need is critical to producing better results in DUI cases.

Continue reading "The Real Focus of a Michigan DUI Case - Part 2" »

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November 19, 2012

The Real Focus of a Michigan DUI Case - Part 1

Many of my blog articles in any given week are the result of something that happened in the preceding few weeks. Recently, I had an experience while handling a DUI case in a local, Detroit-area Court that reminded me to always keep my eye on the "bigger picture." This article will focus on that "bigger picture" in a DUI case pending in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County. Sometimes, we can lose sight of that bigger picture as we get caught up in all the details of something. Sometimes, in a DUI case, we can lose sight of the fact that the "bigger picture" is about alcohol.

As a Michigan DUI Lawyer, I spend a lot of my time examining evidence in Drunk Driving cases. This can range from visiting the scene of a DUI Arrest to watching the video of a DUI Traffic Stop, the Field Sobriety Tests and the "booking" video of a person being brought into the Police Station to be processed and take a Chemical Breath Test. No matter how "solid" a case may look, or feel, I have to examine it from every angle, and leave no stone unturned in my quest to find a problem with the evidence, or some other factor that will allow me to have the case dismissed, or knocked out somehow. Even when I don't find some "fatal" flaw with the evidence, I usually find something that I can use to drive a much better deal for my Client.

BlowTest 1.2.jpgIt goes without saying that you won't find something unless you look for it. Examining the evidence in a DUI case is a lot like digging for gold, in the sense that it takes a LOT of digging to find any gold. Statistically, it's not a very high percentage of DUI cases that wind up getting dismissed outright. Everyone has heard horror stories about how tough this or that Judge in the Detroit area is on DUI Drivers. By contrast, how many stories have you heard about a particular Judge known for throwing DUI charges out of Court? Can you imagine the political fallout for being the Judge who dismisses ANY appreciable number of DUI cases? Remember the recent election, and the ads accusing various Judges and candidates of being "easy" on some rapist, or other criminal?

Realistically, there is almost NO political downside to being the Judge who is too tough on Drunk Drivers. The opposite, however, is not true.

The point I'm driving at is that while I work hard to find a way to beat a DUI charge, it certainly does not happen in the majority of cases. And for all the wonderful sales pitches a person facing a DUI charge will hear as a potential customer of legal services, the simple fact is that most DUI charges are not thrown out, period. In fact, according the Michigan Secretary of State:

In 2010, 41,883 alcohol and drug-related driving arrests were made. Male drivers were three times as likely as female drivers to be arrested for impaired driving, with 31,021 men arrested compared to 10,862 women. There were 41,887 persons convicted of operating under the influence of liquor or other impaired driving offenses. Some of these convictions include arrests made in prior years.
Beyond all of the technical and legal considerations we toss around as we look for a defect in the evidence of a DUI charge, we sometimes overlook that those very rules and technicalities are in place to prevent an innocent person from being convicted of a crime they did not commit. At least in theory, the whole point of critically examining and challenging the evidence is to make sure a person who did not have too much to drink doesn't get convicted of a Drinking and Driving Offense.

Continue reading "The Real Focus of a Michigan DUI Case - Part 1" »

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November 16, 2012

The Costs of a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal

This article will address the "costs" of a Michigan License Restoration or Clearance Appeal from 2 different points of view: Yours and mine. Not a day goes by without my Office being called by someone interested in hiring me for a License Appeal and asking how much I charge. My Fee is $3000 for a License Restoration, beginning with $1000 down, and I Guarantee to win any case I file. It used to frustrate me to no end when this question was asked because I am the ONLY Lawyer I know of who lists his prices all over his website AND offers a Guaranteed win.

I often wondered how anyone could miss this. I have my "Fees" conspicuously linked all over the place. Then I came to understand that, precisely because I am the ONLY Lawyer who discloses his Fees, no one expects to see them on a website, or discussed in an article. For my part, I am turned off by anyone offering a product or service that is afraid to list the cost up front. I could list a million reasons why I feel that way, but the point is, I don't waste my time with anyone who can't provide me with at least some general cost or price information right out of the gate.

Cashola 2.1.jpgBecause I win about 97% of my License Restoration cases the first time around, and back that up with a Guarantee, I don't have to, nor do I "compete" with anyone for business. While my whole approach to License Appeals is different, here are 3 ways where I really stand apart from the pack:

  1. I require you to have quit drinking before I'll take your case.

  2. I strategically control every bit of the evidence that's submitted in your case

  3. Once I take your case, I Guarantee I'll win it.
I'm not out here selling some kind of "attempt" or "best efforts" to get a License back. Instead, I offer a very unique service that comes with a Guarantee. No one else does that. If you hire me, you'll only pay me one time, and you'll win your License back, Guaranteed. Accordingly, I have no interest in charging less, more, or "price matching" with anyone, or otherwise adjusting my Fee. I charge what I charge, and that's that.

We'll meet for 3 hours in my Office before you ever take the first step in your case, and I will guide you by the hand EVERY step of the way. It takes a lot of time and effort to win a License back. Anyone who has tried before already knows this. Nothing good comes easy, and, as with all things, success is nailed in the preparation. I know exactly what it takes to win your License back, and I will do just that.

Continue reading "The Costs of a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal" »

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November 12, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Clearance for an Expired out of State License

About one-half of the License Appeals I file as a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer are for people who no longer live in Michigan. I have established a rather efficient system for scheduling my out of state Clients to come and see me first, for about 3 hours, in order to begin the License Appeal process by preparing to undergo their Substance Abuse Evaluation completed, and then to go directly from my Office to a local Clinic a few blocks away in order to have it completed.

This is a convenient and Guaranteed way for someone whose License has been Revoked for multiple DUI's and who is Sober, but no longer lives in Michigan, to obtain a Clearance of the Michigan "hold" upon their Driving Record that prevents them from obtaining or renewing a License in another state. While the Michigan Secretary of State allows people who have moved out of state to file an "Appeal by mail," called an Administrative Review, the hard facts are discouraging: only 1 out of 4 succeed. In 2010, the last year for which statistics are available, 74% of all Administrative Reviews mailed into the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) were Denied.

Expired 2.1.jpgOn the other hand, if a person really has quit drinking, I Guarantee that I will win their case the first time around. Even if the odds for winning an "Appeal by Mail" jumped up to 50-50, once you start doing the math about the real costs of losing and having to wait another year (or longer, in cases where an Appeal is really botched) to try again, a Guaranteed win the first time around is a lot less expensive, in terms of inconvenience, real money and stress.

That said, a growing segment of my Clientele are people who have, or did have, at least for while, a Driver's License issued by another state that cannot be renewed upon expiration. I have found that these Clients are least likely to take the 1 out of 4 odds of an "Appeal by mail." They want the ability to continue driving, or, if their License has already expired, they need to be able to renew it as soon as possible. I am often told that, beyond my obvious passion for License Restorations (as evidenced by the sheer number of articles I have written on the subject), it is my first-time win Guarantee that prompts people to hire me. Whatever else, the bottom line is that if a person has put their alcohol use behind them, I can get them back on the road.

Many people who ultimately do hire me have previously tried the "do-it-yourself" License Appeal route, whether they live in Michigan or not. For the most part, most of those who have tried, or will consider trying an Administrative Review, are people who have not had a valid License of any kind since Michigan issued its Revocation. In many cases, they have been without a License and have not driven for quite a while. Except for those who take their chances and drive without a License, most of these people have managed to put together some kind of "transportation network" or system so that they can get around. Sure, it's probably not their first choice, but the point I'm making is that once anyone gets their License back, they get used to the independence a Driver's License brings real fast.

It's only natural that once a person regains the ability to drive again, even for a while, it hurts even more to lose it a second time, when their License expires, and cannot be renewed because of a Michigan "hold." I'm sure that in many cases, the support network of rides they once had has long faded into a memory, and the thought of becoming a professional passenger all over again is thoroughly distasteful. Yet this is exactly the fate that awaits anyone who doesn't act quickly.

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November 9, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Letters of Support

In order to win a Michigan Driver's License Restoration or out-of-state Clearance case, a person must submit both a current Substance Abuse Evaluation and 3 to 6 Letters of Support. This article will examine the importance of these Letters, and how and why they play such a critical role in the whole License Appeal process.

On my website and in an earlier article on this blog, I noted that in order to actually get all the essential information that's supposed to go into the Letters of Support in them, I take a very active role in editing and revising each and every one. The Letters of Support play a "structural" role in the sense that, if they don't hold up, the whole License Appeal collapses with them. Whereas the Substance Abuse Evaluation is like the foundation upon which a successful Michigan License Restoration Appeal is built, the Letters of Support are the equivalent of its walls.

Red Letter 1.2.jpgA colleague of mine once put it best when he said that the problem with most Letters of Support, even if you provide the Client with binder full of samples to have their writers follow, is that they all turn out to be "good guy" letters. In practice, a "good guy" letter isn't worth the paper it's printed on. Being a good person brings no evidentiary value to a Michigan Driver's License Appeal.

And for what it's really worth, "sample Letters" aren't of much use, anyway. While they can help guide a writer with some general ideas, such generalities invariably omit the specifics of a person's Recovery story that is unique to them, and useful to their case. To complicate things further, while the Support Letters should overview a person's "Recovery Story," that synopsis should be kept short, and be concise. The letters should be just the right length. The question then becomes "what's the right length?" The answer is simple; it depends.

This is where my role becomes important. The relationship of the writer to the person who is the subject of the letter is generally key to the length of the letter. A Support Letter that begins by saying something like "My name is Jane Doe, and I am John Doe's mother. I have known John all of his life..." can surely go into more detail, and therefore be longer, than one that begins by indicating "I am Joe Blow, and I have know John Doe as a co-worker and friend for about the last year...." With that in mind, I will review the letter in both the context of the relationship of the Letter writer to my Client, and what useful information the Letter contains in order to decide its appropriate length.

It goes without saying that's it's easier to shorten a letter than it is to add length to it, so I'd rather review a draft letter that's longer, and has stuff for me to edit out, than one which is too short, and needs some more "meat." Yet the "editing out" of information involves a lot more than just cutting out irrelevant or redundant material. Often, in an attempt to be helpful, a letter writer will editorialize well beyond the scope of objective observation. While their intentions in doing so are good, the writers invariably cause more harm than anything else.

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