Articles Posted in Driver’s License Restoration

In my role as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I handle a lot of cases (over 120 per year)– way more than any other lawyer I know.  I guarantee to win every case that I take (and do that by only taking cases for people who have honestly quit drinking), yet even among my client base, probably about half have previously tried a “do-it-yourself” license appeal and lost.  Although the term “do-it-yourself,” in the context of a license restoration case, technically means without a lawyer, I intend the term, at least in this article, to include using some lawyer who does not really concentrate in this field (because that qualification alone narrows the field down to a very small number of lawyers).  The sad truth is that in many cases, the only difference between someone trying their own license appeal or hiring a lawyer is the money saved (or wasted).  The Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) is the agency that decides all Michigan restoration and clearance appeals, and it does so under a very specific set of rules and requirements.  If you’ve had your license revoked for multiple DUI’s you must know and follow them thoroughly in order to win it back, or obtain the clearance of a Michigan hold on your driving record.

188252-do-it-right-the-first-time-unknown-picture-quotes-quoteswaveIn order to make sure we adequately cover everything, my first meeting with a new client takes about 3 hours.  He or she will be asked to bring in whatever paperwork they have from any prior appeal(s) so that I can see why they lost.  This includes the denial order wherein the hearing officer identifies the evidence presented and the reason(s) the appeal was not successful.  Denials are always based upon problems with the evidence.  Undoubtedly, the hearing officer will point to problems with the timing of the case, the facts of the case itself, the letters of support, the substance abuse evaluation, or the testimony from the hearing, because almost every losing case fails due to problems with one or more of those things.  All of these are amateur mistakes, and for me, completely avoidable.  Whether these things wind up being missed by a lawyer or a true do-it-yourselfer, the results are the same: you lose.  As the old saying goes, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

There is a very real cost to losing a license appeal; you have to wait another full year before you can try again.  Sure, you can consider appealing the denial to circuit court, but I don’t take those cases for any money because they are expensive, takes months and months, and, most important, are almost always sure losers.  The hearing officers seldom make the kind of legal mistakes that will cause a Judge to overrule and reverse their decisions.  It is very important here to separate the difference between being genuinely sober, and proving that you’re sober, under the rules set out by the state.  Think about it this way:  Assume that you’re an American citizen who has travelled to Canada, and while there, you wind up being a witness to a crime, do the police question you about it.  When you’re asked about your citizenship, you reply that you’re American.  The officer asks you to prove it.  You produce your driver’s license.  She replies that a driver’s license proves nothing.  What about a birth certificate, she asks?  You respond that you left it at home.  At that moment, you are really unable to prove your citizenship, even though you are 100% American.  The point is that genuinely being something or having a particular status (a high school graduate, an American, or sober, etc.) is one thing, but proving it is another.  It comes down to evidence.  You can have all the sobriety in the world, but you must prove it according to the rules, procedures, and standard of evidence required the state.

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For most people who win back their Michigan driver’s license (or a clearance of Michigan’s hold on their driving record), getting back on the road represents putting the last piece of the puzzle back into a fully rebuilt life.  In that sense, restoration of your driver’s license goes hand in hand with the restoration of your life.  Given that the real meat and potatoes of a driver’s license appeal is demonstrating that you are a safe bet to never drink again, this whole “last piece of the puzzle” stuff has some real evidentiary importance to it, as well.  It requires a deep commitment and profound life changes to first decide to quit drinking, and then to stay quit.  There is no one who will report that life today, as a non-drinker, looks much like it did back when you were drinking.  A lot of times, those people who focus too much on the whole “I need a license” thing are those who did not spend enough time caught up in getting sober, and this usually marks a clear distinction between those who just want to win and those who have what it takes to actually win.

SobrietyMissing-Puzzle-Piece 1.2, of course, is the key.  The journey to sobriety is a truly humbling and difficult ride.  There is no way to fake it, meaning both the experiences of claiming one’s sobriety and the joy of living it thereafter, although as the hearing officers in the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) know all-to-well, there is also no shortage of people who will try.  Amongst the lot of pretenders and scammers are also those who really think, at least at the moment, that they are sober; the sworn-to-quit and those afraid to pick up again.  These people may have quit drinking, but they have not begun to really get sober.  Conspicuously lacking in all of their stories, yet uniquely present in the “last piece of the puzzle” reports, is how obtaining and maintaining sobriety became, to the exclusion of all other pursuits, job number one in such a profound way as to eclipse even the inconvenience of not being able to drive.  As poetically as this can be described, you either get it, or not.  The same, by extension, will hold true for the outcome of your appeal to get your driver’s license back.

This distinction often shows up most vividly in the differences between the story told by an honestly sober person going through the license appeal process and the information provided by the writers of his or her letters of support.  Well-intentioned friends or family will often skip over (and may not be intimately familiar with) the details of a person’s labors to get sober or efforts at remaining so, and then go on to explain how tough it has been for him or her to function without a driver’s license, and how he or she “deserves” it back.  Given that the SOLE discretion to make that decision rests with the hearing officer, I normally advise the letter writers (usually by revising their letters with my red pen) to cull some of these opinion statements and focus more on the facts of how the person has remained alcohol-free, and since when.  By contrast, the subject of these letters will often speak very little of his or her struggles to get around, focusing instead (and somewhat ironically, considering that they’ve had no ability to drive for the last however many years) on how much better life is now, without alcohol, than it was back in the day.  This is not a bad contrast in the evidence, but rather part of that greater imperfection that is always present in stores that are true.

It’s likely that if you’re reading this, you have received a notice of an ignition interlock violation, are about to lose your license all over again, and have already paid to have a camera-enabled interlock unit installed in your vehicle; that became mandatory in June of 2016.  One of the ideas behind this new requirement was to cut down on the number of ignition interlock violations that seem to be clogging up the schedule of the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS).  Whether the camera units do that or not remains to be seen, but it probably doesn’t make you feel any better at the moment.  Putting aside all the diplomatic nicety and legal finery for one moment, and before we dive into any meaningful discussion, let me just agree that this sucks.  Almost every one (I’d like to believe every last one) of my interlock violation clients, whatever the underlying basis for their violation, were not drinking; I have no interest in helping someone win a violation case who was.  For everything else I could say about this, none of it changes the basic fact that even if you’ve remained genuinely sober, if you’ve been violated, you need to win your license back, and getting all mad about things won’t help.  After all the work that you put into getting sober, changing your life and then winning your license back the first time, you probably don’t deserve this, but, as Clint Eastwood’s cowboy character said in “Unforgiven,” the western movie, “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.”

violation-300x300I’ve had interlock violation cases that have come as a complete surprise to my client, I’ve had plenty where the client first tried, unsuccessfully, to “head off” a violation by calling the interlock company and/or faxing documents to the Secretary of State in Lansing, and just about everything in-between.  Obviously, if I’m involved, those efforts didn’t work, although I do make my staff and all of our resources available to my existing clients to try and avoid a violation in the first place.  How and why ever it happened, when a person opens that envelope and learns that their license is going to be taken away, especially when they weren’t drinking and have remained sober, a flood of negative emotions rushes to the surface.  I understand that, but my job, as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, is to help you move past the emotional stress and win your license back.  As the saying goes, “It is what it is,” and there is no way to go back in time and undo things; instead, we need to take the appropriate corrective action under the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

In another ignition interlock violation article I put up about a year ago, I reprinted the “Notice of Proper Ignition Interlock Use” section that is part of every winning license appeal order (although some hearing officers title it a bit differently in their opinions).  Key to those instructions is what to do after a missed rolling retest or any positive alcohol reading:  Get a PBT (breath) or EtG (urine) test.  For anyone reading this article because of a violation, you either did get a test (if doing so was relevant to your kind of violation; it is usually not in “Tamper/Circumvent” cases, for example) or you did not.  If you should have gotten a test but didn’t, then it’s too late now, so there’s no point crying over spilled milk.  We’ll have to work with what we have.  In those of my cases where I don’t have a confirming negative test, I win interlock violation cases by using context, and how the alleged violation doesn’t fit within the context of my client’s behavior, case, life and/or recovery.  In a very real way, this requires learning all of the relevant facts, understanding the procedure, knowing about the hearing officer, and also just having a real “intuition” about how to put a successful appeal together.

In part 1 of this article, I began explaining how I do Michigan driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals within the framework of the Michigan Secretary of State’s established process.  I pointed out that genuine sobriety is a non-negotiable requirement for me to take on a license case because it is also a non-negotiable requirement to win one.  I next explained that my first meeting with a new client takes about 3 hours, and that most of that time is spent preparing the client to undergo the required substance abuse evaluation (it is correctly entitled a “substance use evaluation,” but everyone substitutes the word “abuse” for “use”) which is more less the foundation of a license restoration or clearance case.  I also mentioned that about half of my clients come from out-of-town, and for them, we arrange it so that they’ll come see me first and then go from my office to have their substance abuse evaluation completed, making the trip a kind of “one and done” deal.  Unless she’s unavailable, I generally use one primary evaluator whose office is just a few blocks from mine, although I do also have a small circle of other honest, top-notch clinicians to whom I send my clients, as well.  For those local to the Detroit area, scheduling an evaluation the same day they see me isn’t really necessary, but seeing me before being evaluated certainly is.  We concluded part 1 by noting that there are 5 possible prognoses in the actual substance abuse evaluation form, and that “good” is really the best.  Here, in part 2, we’ll resume our discussion by looking at the letters of support.

tumblr_lojitzZdp81qzwokwo1_r1_1280In addition to a substance abuse evaluation, a person must also submit letters of support when filing a license reinstatement case.  The state mandates at least 3 letters (and asks for no more than 6, but that’s not a hard and fast rule), while I want at least 4 (this way, if one is “screwed up” for some reason or other, than at least we still have the required 3 in the race).  The letters of support are the primary evidence submitted to prove that your alcohol problem is under control, which really amounts to testimonial evidence that proves your abstinence from alcohol.  I do not mean this disrespectfully, but 99% of the letters I initially review before editing are nowhere near good enough for submission as the come.  This has nothing to do grammar, either.  If all the support letters in my next 100 license restoration cases were drafted by lawyers and writers, I’d still have to fix 99% of them.  Letters of support serve a very specific evidentiary purpose (specifically, to prove that your alcohol problem is under control), but most people who write them try a bit too hard, and those efforts put the letters into the larger (but useless) category of what a colleague of mine calls “good guy letters.”  In the context of a license appeal, it doesn’t matter a bit if you’re a good person or not.  You could be the biggest rat on the planet, but to the Secretary of State (SOS), if your letters of support verify your sobriety, then they’re helpful.  On the other hand, you could be the nicest and most helpful person in the world, but without corroboration of your abstinence, the letters of support are worthless.

I personally work on each and every letter to make sure it is (honestly) revised to remove irrelevant language.  The SOS knows that it’s been hard for you without a license, so anyone telling them how difficult it’s been for you to get by, or get to work is just wasting ink and time. Instead the point is to make sure that your abstinence, and the letter writer’s observations of it are clearly explained, and that all relevant time frames are referenced, as well.  If Recovery Ron quit drinking back in 2006 and later met Helpful Hannah in 2009, she can’t really attest to any of his abstinence back in 2006, 2007 or 2008, can she?  Likewise, if Ron lived with Talking Tom from 2004 through 2009, but then after he me Hannah, the two of them moved to Florida, Tom can’t really say much about Ron’s abstinence after he moved out in 2009, can he?  Add to that that each letter must be consistent with every other letter and that they must all, as a group, be consistent with the evaluation, and you find yourself at a point where it’s easy to overlook something.  In fact, I get plenty of cases where people have tried and lost a previous license appeal, either on their own, without a lawyer, or with some lawyer whose claims of “doing” license appeals exceeded his or her abilities and/or experience where the letters were a main reason for the loss.  If there’s one thing you can take to the bank, it’s that a loss (for a genuinely sober person) because of a bad evaluation or letters that weren’t good enough is 100% the fault of the person who submitted them.  For those who tried on their own, that’s the price of trying to “play lawyer,” while for those who hired a lawyer, the blame for failing rests squarely on that lawyer’s shoulders.

There are specific steps you must take to win back your Michigan driver’s license.  As a driver’s license restoration lawyer, I have developed a system guaranteed to succeed in every case I take.  A person must, however, be genuinely sober as a prerequisite to me accepting his or her case.  Because the whole point of the license appeal process is to prove that a person has quit drinking for good, it’s not like I am not imposing any conditions beyond those mandated by the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (the AHS – formerly known as the DAAD, and the DLAD before that), yet sometimes I wonder why this topic isn’t front and center with every lawyer who will accept money to file a license case.  At any rate, this 2-part article will provide a summary overview of how I do license appeals in my office.  It will, of course, take into account the formal state process, but my goal is to give the reader an idea of the way things work in my office.

qualitymanagementsystemsSobriety is everything to a Michigan clearance or restoration case.  Proving sobriety is really the “meat and potatoes” of a license restoration or clearance case.  Proving that you’re sober means showing not only that you have quit drinking, but that you also have the commitment and tools to stay quit and remain sober for life.  In the previous article about license restorations, I pointed out that license appeals are hard because they are supposed to be hard; the main rule governing the process instructs the AHS hearing officer to NOT grant an appeal unless you prove, by what is defined as “clear and convincing evidence,” that your alcohol problem is under control (you’ve quit drinking) and that it is likely to remain under control (you are likely to never drink again).  Anyone who is really sober knows that sobriety requires abstinence, but mere abstinence, by itself, is not sobriety.  Real sobriety is a state of being and is a radical and better change from one’s drinking days.  Sober people are content, grateful, and have a sense of genuine serenity about their lives and recovery.

It starts with a phone call to my office.  We need to ask a few questions, first, to make sure a person is both eligible to file an appeal and that he or she meets the criteria to actually win.  All of my consultations are done over the phone, right when you call.  I have an incredibly great staff, but when someone hires me, they get me, and no one else, as their lawyer.  I personally prepare and review every single one of my cases; I prepare each and every client for his or her hearing, and it’s me, and me alone, who shows up to conduct it.  About half of my clients live in the local, Detroit area, while the other half come from out-of-state (or from another part of the state).   For those that don’t live close by, we arrange for them to have their substance abuse evaluation completed immediately after they leave my office for our first meeting, so we can make the visit a “one and done.”  That first meeting with a new client takes about 3 hours, with most of that time being spent preparing to have the evaluation completed.  To do that, I make a copy of all the relevant documents and put together a “package” to give the evaluator, including a form of my own creation, called a “Substance Abuse Evaluation Checklist” that I fill out during our meeting.  Local clients can simply call the evaluator after our meeting and set up an appointment for another day.  Whether local or not, after spending over 3 hours in my office, my clients walk out knowing exactly what we’re doing, what’s going to happen, and when.  They also leave with the comfort of a guarantee to win their license case and an understanding of why, given how the license appeal process works and how I do things, that should be expected.

Everyone knows that it’s difficult to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration case (or obtain the clearance of a Michigan hold on a driving record) after multiple DUI convictions.  There is, however, a LOT of misunderstanding out there about how the license appeal process works and why winning is so hard.  In this article, I want to clear up a few things about that.  In many of my other driver’s license restoration articles on this blog, as well as in the license restoration section of my website, I undertake a close-up examination of the issues and steps involved in the license appeal process.  Here, I want to take a step back from that and look at the bigger picture.  Winning licenses back is so routine to me that I guarantee to win every license restoration case I take, but that’s because I completely understand the process and know precisely who it’s designed to keep out of the driver’s seat.  And make no mistake, the license restoration process was intentionally designed to deny most appeals.

metricdriven-product-management-producthuntto-17-638We must begin with the simple but important truth that the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) is supposed to refuse to return a license to anyone who still drinks alcohol.  The SOS knows that everyone “needs” a license; everyone understands that it’s hard to get by without one, but none of that matters in terms of who can win a license back.  The state sees anyone with multiple DUI convictions as a high risk (too high a risk), and is not willing to consider putting that person back on the road again until he or she can prove they’ve become genuinely sober, as in completely alcohol-free.  I get loads of calls from people who want to explain that they can safely enjoy the occasional drink and are no longer any kind of risk on the road and blah blah blahThe state does not buy any of that.  A person can argue all he or she wants about how the system is unfair, but unless you play by the rules already in place, you’re simply wasting your breath.  In fact, the primary reason I guarantee to win every license appeal I file is that I will ONLY accept cases for people who are honestly, genuinely and really sober and have given up any of the “I can still have a glass of wine (or a beer) every once in a while” stuff.  And that brings us right to the heart of the matter; license appeals are hard because they are designed to be hard.

Statistically speaking, more than 95% of all alcoholics are unable to accumulate any kind of long-term abstinence.  Of course, a lot of people with 2 DUI’s will say, “But I’m NOT an alcoholic!”  Perhaps not, but then again, maybe so; it doesn’t really matter what you or I think, because if you want to win back your license, you have to play by the state’s rules (not that the state says everyone with 2 DUI’s is an alcoholic).  However, anyone who has had his or her license revoked for 2 or more DUI’s is legally categorized by the state as a “habitual alcohol offender.”  Skipping all the go-nowhere discussion about definitions here, you can just take that to mean that the state sees you as having a problem with alcohol, even if that “problem” is that you have a demonstrably increased risk to make bad decisions (like getting behind the wheel) some of the times you drink, as evidenced by your driving record.  The state is not willing to bet that someone has somehow improved his or her decision making skills enough, after drinking, to ever give him or her a license back.  Instead, under the rules, after a person’s license has been revoked for multiple DUI’s, the only way for him or her to ever legally drive again is to prove that he or she has quit drinking for good, because people who do not drink do not drink and drive.  And that’s the easy part of why things are so hard…

Many, if not most, of my out-of-state clients who hire me for a Michigan driver’s license clearance case have previously tried and lost an administrative review filed with the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS).  Virtually all of these “do-it-yourself” attempts are made without a lawyer.  For as many years as I have been a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I have pretty much learned that most people who hire me for a clearance will do so after having first taken a shot at it on their own.  Accordingly, I don’t waste any time trying to convince someone that he or she shouldn’t try it, but rather just reassure him or her that I’m here if and when things don’t work out.  In this article, I want to remind the reader just how much these “appeals by mail” are statistically doomed and why, if you really want to win a clearance of Michigan’s hold on your driving record, you need to come back to Michigan for a live hearing.  Of course, it is a necessary first requirement to winning a license or clearance appeal that you have honestly quit drinking and are genuinely sober.  If you at least have that, then read on.

Julio_Signals_EMBL-e1441896917423For everything there is to back up these numbers, the plain and simple fact is that about 3 out of 4 administrative reviews are denied.  That means that anyone who thinks about going this route needs to also think seriously about how a 1 out of 4 chance of winning sounds.  Worse yet, you cannot file another new appeal for an entire year, although this is often a source of confusion because a person who is denied can request a hearing to review that denial, although no new evidence can be presented, and that hearing is not “another chance” to plead your case, but rather an opportunity to prove that the first decision was unlawful, which explains why I’ve NEVER seen one of those appeals succeed.  Think of it this way, if you have a 3 out of 4 chance of losing by mail the first time, then you have about a 99.9 out of 100 chance of losing at an appeal which essentially considers whether that initial denial was legal or not.  If luck has anything to do with it, a person should realize that he or she is not on any kind of roll coming off that first loss to begin with.

In some of my other driver’s license restoration blog articles, I explain why I will never do video hearings in any of my license appeal cases.  Even though the local SOS branch office with a video terminal closest to my office is LESS than 5 minutes away, I will gladly drive nearly an hour to conduct my hearings live, and in-person, at the Livonia (Metro-Detroit area) hearings office.  It should be obvious that if I won’t avail myself of the incredible convenience of a nearby video hearing because I think it is so inferior to a live proceeding, I certainly don’t believe in any kind of case being decided with no hearing at all.  To fully understand why an administrative review is about as bad an idea as seeking financial advice at a homeless shelter, you need to know a few important facts about the whole license appeal process, beginning with the very rule under which every single clearance and restoration case is decided, known as “Rule 13.”

In almost all of my 340-plus driver’s license restoration articles (whew, that’s a lot!), I explore, often in great detail, the processes involved in winning a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case.  Perhaps because I have written so much, I am a very busy license reinstatement lawyer.  And for all the cases I do take on (well over 100 per year) before the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS), my office is contacted by lots of people whose cases I cannot accept.  Most of these are people who are not yet genuinely sober.  Given that I guarantee to win every driver’s license appeal that I file, I only take cases for people who have honestly quit drinking because that’s the real crux of a license restoration case, anyway.  In this article, however, I want to talk money.  While I am the only lawyer that I know who posts his fees on his website and on his blog, enough people miss that and eventually ask, “How much do you charge?”  Personally, I despise the whole “secret” thing that surrounds fees and pricing (that’s why I post mine), so let me list mine again, right here:  I charge, as of this writing, $3750 for a license appeal, broken into 3 equal payments of $1250.  In exchange for that, if I do take your case (and your money), I guarantee to win your license back, period.  You will only pay me once to get back on the road, and, as we’ll see, I am every bit as interested in winning your license appeal the first time as you are.  The last thing I want to do is warranty work.  In fact, precisely because of that guarantee, you can say that I am fully invested in your case.

CHEA-convention-costsMy fee, obviously, isn’t cheap.  If it was me looking for a lawyer to win my license back, I’d want to know why I should consider paying it, and the last thing I’d be interested in is any kind of meaningless lawyer double-talk about commitment and service and, well, blah blah blah….  Anyone asking for blue-chip fees better offer something beyond a fancy lobby and a slick website, and that puts me at a great place to begin this article in earnest:  This blog and my website.  I put up more useful, descriptive information about the license appeal process that every other lawyer out there combined.  In fact, many of the lawyers who, in the last few years, have taken up the mantle of “license restoration” attorney have used my articles and site as their primary resource for information.  That’s fine by me; imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  If you take the time to look, though, you will find that there is no subject relative to license appeals that I haven’t written about first.  Above and beyond all that, however, is the distinguishing fact that my services come with a guarantee.  In the final analysis, I make my money doing these cases right and winning them the first time around, not by taking my “best shot,’ and, if I don’t win, doing it all over again next year.  The real cost for anyone who loses a license appeal, beyond being stuck bumming rides, is being unable to file another appeal for a whole year; the cost for me is that my income gets cut in half while my workload doubles.  I provide my guarantee because I am so sure that I’m going to win almost every one of my cases the first time around that I want to be clear that I’m putting my money where my mouth is.

I handle and win more license appeals than anyone because I don’t just “do” license appeals; my law practice concentrates in them.  I begin each case with a first meeting that lasts about 3 hours.  I finish things with a thorough prep session for each and every client before the day of his or her hearing.  When I walk into the hearing room with my client, I have his or her case memorized, and I’m not exaggerating.  Prior to my preparing a client for his or her hearing, I will study the file so that I have all of the important information committed to memory.  A license hearing is not like a trial, and if the hearing officer asks a questions, or re-states something that isn’t correct, there is NO time to go flipping through a file to find information.  Having the file memorized also shapes the questions I ask of my client.  When I meet my client in the lobby of the hearing office the day of the hearing, we’ll be relaxed, having already done our preparation beforehand.  We’ll talk about the weather, or the drive in, or whatever, but we won’t need to go over any last-minute details about the case.  I honestly cringe when I see some lawyers walk in, greet the client, and then pull out a file to “go over a few things” before their case is called.  That should never happen, and it never does with me.  Preparation is the key to success, and careful preparation must be observed at every stage, from the first meeting right up to the hearing itself.

In my role as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, about the very first thing I need to consider when someone contacts me to win his or her license back is whether or not the person is eligible.  Both in the eligibility section of my website and in the license restoration articles on this blog, I have examined what it means to be legally, as in technically, eligible to file for a license reinstatement.  In this article, I want to direct the focus to what it takes to have a real chance to win a license appeal before the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS).  This is an important subject because people often mistake being legally eligible to file a license appeal with actually being able to win their license back, and the two things are definitely not the same.  Think about it this way; as a U.S. born citizen, I am legally eligible to run for President of the United States, but in reality, I have zero chance of actually winning any election.  The point I want to explore is how long you really need to wait, after you become legally (technically) eligible before you have a chance to succeed in a license restoration case.  My perspective on this is, of course, framed by the fact that I guarantee to win every license appeal case I take.  It makes a good starting point for our discussion to observe that it is almost impossible for anyone to win his or her license back by filing right after the mandatory 1-year revocation period after 2 DUI convictions within 7 years has ended.

Me-when-waiting-for-a-reply-from-my-crushOne of the many, but important requirements to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case is that a person must prove a period of what is called “voluntary abstinence,” meaning a chunk of time when he or she did not drink by choice, and without the threat of getting in trouble for doing so.  With the exception of time spent on probation in a sobriety court program, any time not drinking while on regular DUI probation does not count, nor does time spent on parole or living in a halfway or three-quarter house while on probation or parole.  To make this simple, let’s assume that Two Time Tina is somewhat lucky in her 2nd offense DUI and only gets 1-year of probation (typically, 2nd offenders in the Detroit area can expect to be put on probation for either 18 months or 2 years).  By law, Tina is “eligible” to file a license reinstatement appeal after her 1-year revocation has passed, but by the time that actually occurs, she will likely still be on, or have just gotten released from, her 1 year of probation.  This means that she will not have any significant period of “voluntary abstinence” where she can prove that she abstained from the use of alcohol without any threat of legal trouble if she did drink.  This doesn’t even begin to take into account that rules governing license restorations also give the hearing officer wide discretion to require an even longer period of abstinence than just a single year.  Above and beyond everything else, the real “meat and potatoes” of a license appeal is that a person has quit drinking for good and is a safe bet to remain sober.  In order to even begin making those proofs, a person will need to have first accumulated some time off of probation or parole without drinking.

This all means that even though a person may be technically “eligible” to file a license appeal after his or her revocation period has ended, he or she may have absolutely NO chance of ever winning it.  It also means that the whole “1-year” thing is completely misleading.  I have never, in all my 26 years as a lawyer, seen any case where a person could file and win his or her license back as soon as their 1-year revocation period had passed, with the exception of a few sobriety court graduates.  In my office, I generally won’t even consider taking a case if a person will not have at least 2 years of sobriety and closing in on 1 year off of probation or parole (again, there is a possible exception for those who have completed a sobriety court program).  This is not a hard and fast rule, however.  The Secretary of State must, as it turns out, count the time on probation during a sobriety court program where a person has been driving with an ignition interlock as “voluntary abstinence.”  This has specifically been written into the law.  Also, given how long it takes to prepare a case for filing, and then from the time a license appeal is filed until a person winds up actually sitting for a hearing before a hearing officer, I will often consider taking a case for someone who has been sober for about 18 months and been off of probation for around 8 months.

In my role as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I have a staff that knows more about driver’s license appeals than most lawyers ever will.  I’m not kidding about this, either.  My senior assistant and my paralegal catch things that many attorneys don’t even know exist.  The day before this article was written, I sat with a new client who had lost two previous “do-it-yourself” license appeals, and was now hiring me to handle a charge of driving while license revoked (DWLS/DWLR).  When I asked him about his 2 prior losing appeals, and he told me that, to his dismay, he had just learned from Ann, my Senior Assistant that there was no way he could have won either of those “do-it-yourself” cases because he was on parole at the time he filed them.  A person must almost always be off probation or parole to win a license restoration case.  He then said he wished that the evaluators he had hired to do the required substance abuse evaluation had known that, so he wouldn’t have wasted all that time and money on 2 separate appeals that had no legal chance of winning.

1half-assI could go on and on and cite example after example like this.  I could also point out that Ann has taken calls from many lawyers (including some pretty well-known and important figures in the legal community) and explained to them how things work before the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS).  I have been approached and thanked by lawyers I see in court for the help they got calling my office from my staff; I just smile and say, “You’re welcome.”  For this installment, I’m going to share a very important and relevant article Ann wrote a few days ago.  As is often the case with the driver’s license restoration articles on this blog, Ann was inspired to write her piece about something that has been a kind of recurring theme; the half-baked license appeal.  This is what doomed the prior appeals of the young man who hired me for his revoked license charge, and some notion of “halfway” (or, you could say “half-assed”) is almost always lurking as the reason people lose when they hire some lawyer who doesn’t concentrate in license appeals, or otherwise try to do it themselves.

The simple truth is that I am in business to make money.  Turning cases away is not good for the bottom line, but I will NOT take a case that I cannot guarantee to win, and if I take your case, I do just that.  Perhaps the biggest “halfway” stumbling block to winning back a license occurs when a person hasn’t completely removed alcohol from their lives.  The absolute and non-negotiable key to winning your license back is that you must be genuinely sober.  You have to prove that you quit drinking and that you are “likely” to never drink again.  While it’s true that the Secretary of State wants to make sure that anyone who has lost his or her license for multiple DUI’s can prove he or she is not a risk to drink and drive again, it does so by only giving licenses back to people who can show they are a safe bet to never drink again.  People who do not drink are not any kind of risk to drink and drive.  I try to make clear, all over my website and throughout the more than 300 driver’s license restoration articles on this blog, that the sobriety requirement is real, and that I won’t get involved with anyone who is still drinking.  Even so, we still get calls from people who need a license and think all that sobriety stuff is just talk, and will admit that they still drink once in a while.  I am not interested in any of that; my integrity is not for sale.  Sure, I’m human, and while it’s possible that I can be deceived, I cannot be bought.  Okay, that’s enough from me.  Let’s get to Ann’s take on all this: