Articles Posted in Driver’s License Restoration

In part 1 of this article, I began my examination of the role of alcohol and substance abuse related issues in Michigan criminal, DUI and driver’s license restoration cases, and how my specialized background, which includes having completed a post-graduate program of addictions studies, makes my office different.  I pointed out that I balance my overriding mission to help people at all phases of their relationship to substances, but to never become “preachy” or seemingly fixated.  We looked at how alcohol and drug issues are interwoven into the vast majority of criminal cases, and of course, all DUI charges and possession cases.  I cautioned that, as much as I want to help people recognize and deal with substance abuse related issues, there are plenty of situations where I use my clinical knowledge to prevent a person from being perceived as having an alcohol or drug problem they don’t.  This is especially relevant in 1st offense DUI cases, where a drunk driving incident that just happens runs up against the court’s inherent “alcohol bias.”  In this second installment, we’ll turn our focus more to recovery, and how a deep knowledge of recovery and recovery processes is important to the win I guarantee in every driver’s license restoration case I take, and how all of these considerations kind of coalesce in criminal cases.

http://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2017/01/drug-addiction-spiritual-recovery-1.1-289x300.jpgIn the context of a Michigan driver’s license restoration case, understanding recovery is everything.  A person must prove his or her case by what is called “clear and convincing evidence” (this is a high standard of proof; think of it as requiring, in part, that after the evidence in a case is presented, the hearing officer deciding it will not be left with any lingering or unanswered questions).  There are 2 primary things a person must show:  First, the person must demonstrate that his or her alcohol (and/or substance abuse) problem is “under control,” meaning that he or she can fix a sobriety date (this doesn’t have to be an exact date; someone might say, for example, “early fall of 2009,” or something like that), and second, that his or her alcohol (and/or substance abuse) problem is “likely to remain under control.”  This means that the person can show that he or she is a safe bet to never drink (and/or use) again, and has cultivated the commitment and the tools to remain sober.  This is complicated stuff, as anyone who has tried a license appeal before and lost knows all too well, particularly if the person was genuinely sober.

That I really understand recover from the inside-out, the outside-in, and from all the clinical perspectives, as well, provides me with a huge advantage as a license restoration lawyer.  So much so, in fact, that I guarantee to win every case I take.  The catch?  I will only take a case for someone who is truly sober.  As far as I know, I’m the only lawyer who writes anything at all about sobriety, and I am completely certain that amongst every other lawyer out there, I have written more about sobriety than all of them combined – and HUNDREDS of times over, at that.  The job of the Michigan Secretary of State Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) hearing officers is more or less to “test” whether a person is sober or not, and they are very knowledgeable and do their best to examine the clinical information provided in a license appeal case through the lens of the legal requirements that must be met in order to win.  It is the lawyer’s job to make sure that the clinical evidence submitted meets those legal standards.  That task is a HELL of a lot easier when, as the lawyer, I fully grasp the clinical and practical realities involved in getting sober.  For everything that could be said here, the bottom line is this:  If you’re sober, then you know that sobriety is a journey, and not a destination.

The other day, my paralegal, Ashlee, told me of a conversation he had with a caller who had gotten into trouble because of a relapse after having been clean and sober for a number of years.  She smiled as she recalled telling the caller, “Well, you certainly called the right place with us because we kind of specialize in substance abuse matters.”  I nodded in agreement, but as I began to think about it later, realized how accurate Ashlee’s statement really was.  Every single day, for almost all of the day, my staff and I deal with issues related to drinking and drugs in criminal, DUI and driver’s license restoration cases.  These issues are so central to what I do (more on that in a bit) that a number of years ago, I returned to the University campus (no online classes for me) and completed a post-graduate program of addiction studies.  Between handling DUI cases and driver’s license restoration appeals, issues directly related to the development, diagnosis, treatment of and recovery from alcohol and/or drug use disorders are at the core of everything I do.  In this 2-part article, I want to look at the critical importance of understanding substance abuse issues in the context of DUI (OWI) and driver’s license restoration cases, and in certain other criminal cases, as well.

In a 1st offense DUI case, for example, I use my clinical http://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2017/01/SA1.1.jpgtraining to prevent a person who does not have a drinking problem from getting caught up in the court system’s inherent “alcohol bias” and wind up being treated like he or she does.  This means I work to prevent them from getting ordered into unnecessary substance abuse counseling, education and/or treatment.  By contrast, when a person with a 2nd offense DUI tries to explain, as many 2nd offenders do, that no matter how bad things look and how much the court system will “think so,” he or she doesn’t have a drinking problem, I have to make clear that, by law, that every 2nd offender is required to complete some kind of counseling.  I must also make clear that, clinically speaking, no matter how much the person does or does not drink, just by their record alone, there is obviously some kind of risky relationship to alcohol.  I have to help my client see that, at this point, labels don’t really matter anymore.  I deal with it all, from 1st time DUI offenders who quite obviously have a serious drinking problem to 2nd offenders who do not, and really are just unlucky, The same holds true for certain criminal charges, and particularly drug and even marijuana possession cases.

The court system is not (and does not have the resources to be) very nuanced or subtle about a person’s relationship to alcohol, operating instead from the position that, if you’re facing a DUI, you probably have some kind of drinking problem.  Lawyers typically line up to make their money by agreeing with and never challenging a client who say, “not me.”  From a business point of view, the customer is always right, so if a client with multiple prior DUI’s calls in and is looking for a lawyer who will echo that he or she doesn’t have problem, it’s a temptation that’s hard for many to resist.  After all, money talks and BS walks, right?  On the flip side, however, nobody really wants to hire some lawyer who thinks he or she is Ms. Sobriety or Mr. Rehab, either, and won’t fight to protect them.  Where, then, is the balance?  I think it’s fair to say that if we are going to be honest here, we need to acknowledge that a lot of the trouble people get into, especially those that result in DUI, criminal or drug possession charges, are the result of poor decisions made after drinking or using.  Imagine if you asked a law-abiding, non-drug using person, “Would you mind keeping these  Vicodin pills (or this cocaine, or whatever) in your pocket while as we drive around?”  They’d look at you like your nuts – but to a drug user, having them on in their pocket as they travel around in a car doesn’t seem like such a stupid idea.  The point I’m making is that the court system doesn’t have it completely wrong about alcohol and drug problems and how they “ride in” with various cases, but that same system doesn’t always get it right, either.  Not every DUI driver has a drinking problem.  The lawyer must find the right balance between these seemingly competing positions in order to produce the best outcome possible for the client.  Here’s what I mean…

For everything that has been and can be written about Michigan driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals (and there is a lot), all of it can be reduced to one word: Sobriety.  Sobriety is not only the key to winning your license back, it is the foundation (the real meat and potatoes) of the license appeal process; it is the first and a necessary requirement to beginning that process and, very often, the motivator for those who are truly inspired to improve their lives.  To put that another way, while it is understood that everybody “needs” a license, when people get sober, their lives get better; they do things like get married, have kids, and get better jobs.  As their responsibilities in the world rise (a direct result of not drinking anymore), they not only need a license, but want one to ride the wave of their life getting better.  In that sense, sobriety is the cause for life getting better, and that, in turn, becomes the cause for the need to get back on the road.

ad42367d5c022a9c3e2ccfa3bf9879e2-300x300In my numerous writings about the license appeal process, I am very clear that I will only take cases for people who are genuinely sober.  That’s not just some standard that I set.  The whole license restoration system is really focused on that single point; people who have honestly quit drinking for good are no risk to drink and drive again.  Anyone who is seen as a risk to pick up a drink again is also seen as an unacceptable risk to drink and drive again.  The Michigan Secretary of State has drawn a line in the sand, and it separates non-drinkers from everyone else.  I could have just as easily said “drinkers from non-drinkers,” but that’s the kind of wordplay some people try to use as they argue that they don’t really “drink” very much, and, as such, aren’t really “drinkers” anymore.  They’ll insist that they can manage to enjoy the occasional glass of wine with dinner or such, once in a while, without risk.  The Michigan license reinstatement rules and the court cases interpreting them (and, most importantly, the hearing officers who apply all that to real life cases and make the real-world decisions about who wins and who loses) don’t allow for any of that.  No one in the state system buys the “once in a while” thing about drinking, and the rules specifically forbid anyone who still drinks, however infrequently, from winning their license back. The only people who will even be considered for re-licensure are those who can prove that they have completely given up drinking, and who really mean to stay sober for life.

That last part is important, because plenty of people will figure out enough about the license restoration process to know that the only chance to win back the ability to drive is to convince the state that they won’t drink again.  If it was just as easy as saying so, I’d almost be out of a job, and all anyone would have to do is keep a straight face and tell the hearing officer that they’ve quit drinking for good.  The whole point of the appeal process is to make people prove that they are genuinely sober, and for the AHS hearing officers to sniff out those who are just saying it from those who really mean it. What’s more, since the overriding concern is to make sure that no one who is seen as a risk to ever drink again wins his or her case, it is understood that plenty of genuinely sober people will get denied.  This is just the price for setting the bar so high.  The idea here is that even if a person who has honestly quit drinking gets denied a time or two, they’ll eventually get the right help to be able to prove their sobriety.  And that’s where I come in…

In the previous license restoration article on this blog, I tackled 2 myths about winning a Michigan driver’s license appeal case; the notion that you can’t win your license back the first time you try (I do, and I guarantee it!) and the idea that how much you “need” a license matters.  In this article, I want to dispel 2 more common misconceptions about Michigan license reinstatement cases: 1.) That you need to be in AA to win your license back (you don’t; less than half of my clients are in AA, and I guarantee to win every case I take), and 2.), that, if you’re a Michigan resident, you can avoid getting a restricted license and/or an ignition interlock for the first year (you can’t).  The inspiration for these articles really comes from my experience in answering questions about these topics so many times over the years.  To make sure we start off accurately, let me be clear: First, you don’t need to be in AA to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case, and second, if you live in Michigan, the ONLY kind of license you’ll win back is a restricted license, for one year, that also requires you to drive using an ignition interlock device.

MYTH-FACT-300x240Years ago, it was hard to win a license appeal without being in AA.  This is no longer the case, and, as I noted, the majority of clients for whom I win license reinstatements are not in it.  I’ve written rather extensively about this in the past, so I won’t repeat the analysis here beyond pointing out that having been in AA, even briefly, is helpful, but not necessary to win your license back.  Many of my license appeal clients have been to at least a few meetings, but even if you’ve never gone, it won’t hurt your chances to win a license restoration or clearance appeal.  Treatment protocols have changed (I’d like to think evolved) over the years, and now, even a lot of IOP (Intensive Outpatient) programs don’t require AA attendance anymore.

There are 2 kinds of relief you can win if you file a license appeal with the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS), the body that decides these cases: If you have moved out of Michigan and are a resident of another state, you get what’s called a clearance, which is a removal of the Michigan hold (revocation) on your driving record.  This allows you to get a license in another state.  If you not claimed residency in another state (meaning you still remain a Michigan resident), then you can only win a restricted license and must drive, for at least the first year, with an ignition interlock installed on whatever vehicle you’re using.  You do not need to own a vehicle, but whatever you drive must have an interlock unit.  We’ll get to this later, as well.  Let’s turn first to misconceptions about AA and license restoration appeals…

In this article, I want to clarify 2 common misconceptions about winning a Michigan driver’s license restoration case:  1.) The idea that you can’t (or that it is nearly impossible) to win the first time you try, and 2.) That “needing” a license has anything to do actually winning it back.  As a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I’ve heard just about every wrong idea about license appeals that’s out there.  One of the more ironic things I’ve heard from those of my clients who attend AA (less than 1/2 of them do; it’s not necessary) is that they’ve heard other people say, at meetings, that you really can’t win your license back the first time from the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS), the body that decides these cases.  That’s dead wrong.  I not only do it all the time, but I guarantee it.  The likely reason for this misinformation is that the people spreading it have either tried to do their own license appeal (the doomed “do-it-yourself” appeal) or they hired a lawyer who does not concentrate in license restoration cases.  No matter how you cut it, they lost because the case was not properly handled.

myths_cropped-300x262The second issue we’ll take up is that how much you really need a license has nothing to do your ability to actually win it back.  “Needing” a license isn’t enough; in fact, it doesn’t really matter at all.  To win your license back, or, if you now live out-of-state, to win the clearance of a Michigan hold on your driving record, you must be both legally and practically eligible, as well as genuinely sober (more on this later).  While you cannot win without these things, they are all you actually need to win, and I say this without reservation because I put my money where my mouth is with my first time win guarantee.  The real key to winning back the ability to drive is sobriety.  From the state’s point of view, the person who is a safe bet to never drink again is the safest bet to never drink and drive again.

The license restoration process certainly suffers from the “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” phenomenon, and in the real world, it spells defeat for “do-it yourselfers” and less experienced lawyers alike.  License appeal cases have the deceptive quality of looking easy, or at least “do-able,” but the truth is that they are complex, and hard, but not hard in the way that one designs space rockets, but rather hard like rolling a heavy boulder up a steep hill.  As a lawyer, you’ve got to get a few hundred of these cases under your belt to really get a “feel” for them.  Most lawyers will probably never do anywhere near a hundred of these cases in their entire career, so that kind of experience is simply out of reach for them.  When correctly handled, however, there is no reason a license appeal cannot or should not be won the first time around, and however much (or not) a person needs a license to drive is completely irrelevant.  Let’s sort this out a bit…

Some people seem to be hell-bent on making things more difficult than they have to be.  This can assume several forms in the context of a Michigan driver’s license restoration case.  In my previous driver’s license restoration articles, I have explained that, however much you one may not like the legal process established by the Michigan Secretary of State that must be followed to win a license back, no amount of complaining about it is going to do a bit of good.  Either you follow the process or not, and unless and until you do, you won’t ever get your license back.  In the course of decades winning license cases, I’ve heard every gripe you can imagine, from the (very much mistaken) idea that the license appeal process is all about money (it is certainly not – the state charges no money and therefore makes none for license appeals) to the notion that there is a conspiracy to “keep you in the system.”  There is not a grain of truth to any “theory” about license restoration appeals other than the correct observation that they are hard because they’re designed to be hard.

complainerThe simple point I want to make in this piece is that some people waste a lot of time just looking for things to complain about, and/or that don’t exist; this applies in both life in general and when it comes to license reinstatement cases.  Believe me, no matter how oppressive the “system” feels, there is no one within the entirety of it trying to sabotage your chances of winning your license back.  Instead, there are very specific procedures and rules that must be followed to win a license restoration or clearance cases, and amongst the hearing officers that decide them, some are more flexible than others.  In the real world, some of the people trying to get their license back follow directions and/or rules better than others, and those that don’t are the ones who have the most difficulty; self-created difficulty, as it turns out.  The license appeal rules are strict, and the requirements demanding, but the only alternative to following them is to keep talking – and thereby keep walking.  One of the most common things I hear comes from someone who cannot accept that license appeals require a person to have genuinely quit drinking, and for good.  It is this person, despite multiple DUI convictions, who insists the rules are not fair, that the state is out to ruin his or her life, and that he or she can still have the occasional drink without being any kind risk.  This person is the textbook example of who the rules are designed to keep from ever driving again, and won’t ever get back on the road until he or she “puts the plug in the jug” and gets sober.  Another difficult-to-deal-with type who tends to make everything harder than it has to be is the one who, upon learning that residents of Michigan must drive for the first year using an ignition interlock, get all frustrated and starts complaining about how and why these machines aren’t reliable, how it’s all about money (you hear that a lot), or why this will never work for them.

After having met all too many of these people over the years, I can only wonder how much easier their lives would be if they lost the bad attitude and just stopped getting in their own way.  The system is what it is, and if a person can just settle down and follow the process, then winning back a driver’s license is a lot easier.  This is not to say that I think the system is perfect; far from it, in fact, but it is what it is.  The Michigan Secretary of State’s procedures for ignition interlock violations is textbook example of frustrating inefficiency.  We all have to do lots of things we don’t want to do, but that’s life.  Even if you have a driver’s license, you might wind up waiting at a Secretary of State branch office for hours to renew it; who “wants” to do that?  If you’ve ever had to call technical support, then you’ve also done something you didn’t want to do.  Certain, people, however, seem to always have a chip on their shoulder.  They’re always pissed off about something, and that makes everything they do harder.  It also makes them unpleasant to everyone else.  They are, to put it simply, difficult people.

In my practice as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, nearly half of my clients are people who need a clearance of a Michigan hold on their driving records because they now live out of state.  In the old days (whenever that was), a person could have a suspended or revoked driver’s license in one state and move to another and still get a new license.  That’s not the case anymore.  Over the last several years, I’ve cleaned up most of the remaining “dinosaurs” that were able to do that despite having had their license revoked by the Michigan Secretary of State – only to find out later that they couldn’t renew that out-of-state license because the Michigan hold had finally caught up with them, courtesy of the National Driving Register (NOT to be confused with the sound-alike, but commercial and unofficial “national driving registry” site).

shopping 1.2The National Driving Register (NDR) is a national database maintained by NHTSA (The National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration) where, amongst other things, license revocations and suspensions are centrally recorded to prevent someone from skirting the laws of one state by obtaining a driver’s license in another.  It took a long time to become operational but it’s here to stay now.  This is undoubtedly bad news for anyone with a license hold, but the public certainly does not want a system that allows a repeat offense drunk driver whose license has been taken away in one state to just go to another and be “legal” again.  We could analyze this to death, but the simple fact is that it’s rather likely that you’re reading this because you (or someone you care about) is dealing with a Michigan hold and needs it cleared.  I can help you clear it, but if, and only if, you have honestly quit drinking.  Sobriety is the key to resolving Michigan driver’s license revocations.

The technical term for getting rid of a Michigan hold on your driving record is to obtain a “clearance.”  There is no difference, procedurally, between a regular driver’s license restoration case and one filed to clear a hold on your driving record, except in terms of the relief you’re seeking.  In a restoration case, you are asking for the return of your Michigan license (meaning a restoration).  In a clearance appeal, you are asking for a removal of the Michigan hold (meaning, not surprisingly, a clearance) so you can get a license in another state.  To be eligible for a clearance, you first have to prove that you have relocated to another state, but this is not much of a problem, even for people who have only very recently moved out.  Of course, in order to win either a restoration of your license or a clearance of Michigan’s hold, you must prove that you are sober, as well.  Many of my out-of-state clients have previously tried (and lost) what is called an “administrative review,” which is an appeal by mail (there is no hearing) and as close to a guaranteed loser as you can get.  Statistically, only 1 out of 4 of them ever win, and no one can say how many times those who do eventually win have tried before they succeed.  If you’re serious about driving again and don’t want to keep losing, then you’ll have to come back to Michigan to take care of this business the right way.  At least with my win guarantee, if I’m your lawyer, you’ll only have to do this once…

When you lose a Michigan driver’s license restoration case, it’s not because you did everything right.  A fairly decent-sized chunk of my license appeal client base is made up of people who have previously tried and lost a license appeal, either on their own, or with some lawyer who does not concentrate in this field.  While I’m certainly the guy to come to when you’re serious about getting back on the road (I guarantee to win every case I take), a very important part of what I have to do in these cases is fix what went wrong in the last case.  Sometimes, this can be a real challenge, like when a person doesn’t list something like a previous drug crime, admits to using drugs that weren’t disclosed in the papers they filed, or admits, during their hearing, to a different “last use” date of alcohol or drugs than was listed on his or her substance abuse evaluation.  These are just 3 of an almost infinite number of things that can go wrong, and one could spend forever trying to list them all.  The purpose of this article is to examine what I have to do to fix things when a client comes to me after something has gone wrong and caused him or her to lose a prior license appeal filed with the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS).

fix-clipart-c1bef8c340a327b613419406ba78013bIn the previous article on this blog, I extolled the value of silence in criminal and DUI cases, and I went on to mention that in any legal proceeding, including driver’s license restoration hearings, one should never say anything beyond simply answering the question that has been asked.  In so many of the lost cases people bring to my office, it is clear that the person volunteered information that went beyond what was asked in the hearing.  Answering more than what was asked never helps.  Ever.  But that’s hardly the inventory of things that typically go wrong in a license appeal case, and the larger point is that many of the things that are wrong enough to derail appeal the first time around will need to be fixed the next time around.  Sure, if a person who is genuinely sober merely files his or her case too soon, then there’s nothing to fix except to wait until the proper time to try again.  Those kinds of mistakes, however, are less common than those involving problems with the substance abuse evaluation, letters of support, or things said at the hearing.  And of course, 2 the biggest mistakes of all are to either to call a witness at a hearing and/or hold a video hearing instead of doing it live.

It may sound obvious, but the first thing I need to do when I meet with someone who has previously tried and lost a license appeal is to find out precisely (emphasis here on precisely) why they lost.  Most people only have a general understanding, at best, of the reasons for the denial of their license reinstatement appeal.  Once in a while I’ll meet with a client who has gone over everything with a fine-toothed comb and written all over the margins of their order, but even then, the old adage “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” applies.  Even if a person knows that the prognosis of his or her evaluation wasn’t favorable enough, it is unlikely that he or she knows (or knew, until now) that a prognosis of poor, guarded or fair legally requires that an appeal be denied, or that a prognosis of “excellent” can do more harm than good.  I need to see specifically what the hearing officer cited as the reason or reasons for his or her decision.  Sometimes a person won’t even have his or her prior denials, so I will have to formally request microfilm copies of the documentary evidence a person submitted for any prior appeals and the accompanying order(s) of denial.

Perhaps the single best and most valuable piece of legal advice that can be given to anyone being questioned by the police is to “shut up.”  Seriously, don’t say anything.  In my role as a criminal, DUI and even driver’s license restoration lawyer, if I could wave a magic wand and get my clients to do just one thing, it would be to keep quiet.  In this article, I want to take a quick and simple look at the value of silence, and how the natural urge to speak complicates just about everything.  Chances are, if you’re reading this because you’ve been charged with a crime , a drinking and driving offense, or need to get your driver’s license back, and you’ve probably said things along the way that you’d like to take back.  Although less frequently a problem in DUI cases, a situation just crossed my desk yesterday (the inspiration for this article, in fact) where someone who should not have said anything probably talked themselves right into a drunk driving charge.

raf,750x1000,075,t,5e504c_7bf03840f4.u2In that case, the person (I will use  “he/she” or “they” to avoid even a gender identification) had been in an automobile accident caused by the other driver.  This person left the scene, but the other driver got the plate and the police showed up at his/her home.  The person was rather drunk when the police came, and when asked about whether he/she had been drinking before driving and at the time of the accident, the person admitted to having done so, and having been drunk at the time.  Subsequently, the person tested out with a rather high BAC.  Although I cannot say much more, charges will be coming.  The problem here is that had this person simply NOT said anything, the police would have been faced with an almost certain inability to prove that he/she was over the limit at the time of the accident, effectively killing the likelihood of a drunk driving conviction.

I see this all the time in criminal cases, as well.  Let’s use an indecent exposure case for an example.  Imagine the police get a call about a guy exposing himself while driving on Main Street.  The caller can’t give a great description of the driver, but does give a license plate number.  Running that information, they identify the car as belonging to Fred, and the police contact him.  They ask Fred if he was anywhere on or near Main Street at the relevant time, and he answers “yes.”  With that answer, Fred has just seriously helped the case against him.  Now the police know that Fred was in the area at or around the time the caller said she was flashed.  Had Fred just said nothing, the police would probably not be able to prove he was even in the area, much less that he flashed anyone.  Fred, like so many people, probably had pangs of guilt and the inner turmoil of just knowing that the police “know” (knew) that he did it, so he thought it would be better to be honest.  To be clear, in most cases, the police do “know.”  Cops are smart, and most police officers develop a better sense of human nature than anyone in any other profession.  A street cop learns to read facial expressions and body language in ways you and I will never comprehend.  Still, “knowing” something is one thing, but being able to prove it is quite another.

The substance use evaluation is probably the single most important piece of evidence submitted in a Michigan driver’s license restoration appeal.  Most often called a “substance abuse evaluation” (although that term is technically incorrect, even the Michigan Secretary of State, on its website, uses the term “abuse” rather than “use”), this official state form is really the foundation of a license reinstatement or clearance appeal.  In theory, it represents a qualified clinician’s best professional estimation of whether or not a person is likely to remain sober.  In this article, I want to briefly examine the evaluation and its critical role in the driver’s license restoration process.

self-evaluation-clipart-self-evaluation-aVBINO-clipartEven someone trying to blunder through a “do-it-yourself” license appeal will quickly learn about the evaluation form on the Secretary of State’s website.  The SOS, through its Administrative Hearing Section (the “AHS,” formerly known as the “DAAD,” and not long before that, the “DLAD”), makes this form available for download and merely instructs that it must be completed by a substance abuse counselor.  Here’s a quick, insider’s tip: most substance abuse counselors who do these evaluations with enough regularity to really know their stuff either have this form on their computer so that it will automatically space out correctly for the information that needs to be included (the “blank” form on the SOS website has 4 lines for “driving convictions,”) while many people have more than that.  A few years ago, I had a client with 13 prior DUI’s (and I won his license appeal the first time around).  Some counselors will create their own form that corresponds substantially to the state’s version; that’s okay.  The problem is that just about every substance abuse counselor in the country will look at the evaluation form and immediately think, “I can do that,” without really understanding that the information sought by the state can be a lot different than one would likely surmise at first glance.

To properly complete the substance abuse evaluation form, an evaluator must know, and I mean really know, what the AHS hearing officers are looking for by way of information.  If we skip over all the detailed analysis (I’ve done that in plenty of other articles on this very subject), it’s safe to say that the overwhelming majority of lawyers who try and “do” a license appeal don’t know this very well, so anyone trying it on their own is almost doubly lost.  It really is up to a lawyer, like me, who spends almost all of his or her time doing license restoration and clearance appeals to teach the evaluator how the information on form is interpreted.  I know of one evaluator so determined to learn this stuff that, years ago, he would attend hearings with his clients just to observe how the hearing officers used the evaluation.  Today, he is one of the very small circle of professionals that I used in my license restoration practice because he gets it.  This is really only the tip of the iceberg, however, because it is up to the lawyer to carefully review each evaluation before filing it with the state to make sure it meets the “clear and convincing evidence” standard of proof required to win a license restoration case, no matter what evaluator has completed it.  Here’s what I mean…