Articles Posted in Driver’s License Restoration

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…

In a recent article, I explained that one of the most common kinds of emails I receive regarding Michigan driver’s license restoration issues either asks, “Can you help me?” or simply states, “Please help.”  In this article, I want to take that subject a little further and explain how and why the kind of help I offer is unsurpassed, because it comes with a guarantee to win.  In many of the  350-plus driver’s license restoration articles I have written, I explore, often in great detail, every aspect of the license appeal process.  Ultimately, the point of this process is to either win back your Michigan driver’s license, or, if you now live out of state, to win a clearance of the hold that the Michigan Secretary of State’s has on your driving record that prevents you from getting a license in another state.  For all the experience and skill that I, or any lawyer, for that matter, can claim to have in winning Michigan license reinstatement cases, nothing provides the reassurance of a guarantee that you will win.

GGA_WinnersI love being a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer.  As far as lawyering goes, I don’t think there is any practice that can come close in terms of dealing with clients on the upswing of their lives, looking to put the last piece of the puzzle back into place, and who really deserve to win their cases.  Yet for all of that, this is also how I make my living, and it does not serve me well to take on cases that are not ready to win, only to have to come back and do all the work a second time next year, in order to fulfill my guarantee.  In other words, I make my money winning these cases the first time, not by having to come back and do warranty work.  This means that I am as invested as my client in the outcome of each case I take.  As confident as I am in my own abilities, I must be even more confident of my client’s sobriety.  I offer my services for hire, but I do not sell my integrity and am serious when I say that I only take cases for people who have really quit drinking.

The real meat and potatoes of the license restoration process is about proving that you’re sober and that you are a safe bet to never drink again.  The very first question a lawyer should ask a potential client is if he or she is, in fact, sober.  It’s certainly the first thing I want to know when someone calls.  For me, this goes beyond just making sure the client is “eligible” and otherwise qualifies to win a license restoration or clearance appeal.  As your lawyer, when I know you’ve done the work to quit drinking and live a sober lifestyle, it becomes personal for me, as well; you deserve your license back, and I will put everything I have into making sure you do.  Like you, I want that to happen the first time around, so my win-guarantee, coupled with my up-front insistence on real sobriety, means that I will get you back on the road.  In the following paragraphs, I want to take a brief look at what you need in order to win your license appeal.

In my work as a Michigan Driver’s License Restoration Lawyer, I receive a lot of emails from people who need to win back their driver’s license.  Most of these emails provide a quick description of the person’s history, go on to explain that the writer “needs” a license, and then ask, “Can you help me?”  The answer is always “Yes,” as long a person is ready, willing and able to move forward with reinstatement of his or her license.  For the most part, those people who are really serious about getting back on the road will call my office rather than email; it is well known among lawyers (like me) who maintain a robust web presence that emailers are, as a group, less committed to action than those who pick up the phone and call.  I certainly understand (I do it myself) how a person may send an inquiry while in the exploratory and investigative phase of obtaining a clearance or having his or her driver’s license restored.  In the real world, however, callers are more likely to be ready to start the license restoration process than emailers, who are typically still in the information-gathering stage.  “Ready,” in this sense, is part of being “ready, willing and able,” which, in the context of trying to win your license back, is more accurately stated as “Able, ready and willing.”  In this article, we’ll see what that means and why it really summarizes the foundational requirements for anyone looking to have his or her license reinstated.

BearsBy law, a person can file for restoration of his or her license, in the case of 2 DUI convictions within 7 years, after 1 year of revocation, and, in the case of 3 DUI convictions within 10 years, after 5 years of revocation.  Doing the math here isn’t that critical, because this information is sent to a person after his or her license is revoked and is also plainly discoverable on the driving record.  The point is that there comes a time when a person becomes legally eligible to file a license appeal.  Under the rules governing license appeals, even though a person may be eligible to file, he or she must also meet certain criteria to win.  For example, those rules provide that under certain circumstances, a hearing officer can, in his or her discretion, order that a license be issued if a person who is otherwise legally eligible proves at least 6 months of continuous abstinence from alcohol.  The rules also specify that in most common kind of real-world case, the person must prove at least 12 months of abstinence, although those same rules also give the hearing officer absolute discretion to require even more time.  For my part, as a driver’s license reinstatement lawyer who guarantees to win every case I take, I require that a person have even more abstinence than just a year, because I know that, for the most part, it’s a waste of time to try and win a license appeal with just 12 months of abstinence.  Thus, we can see the importance of “able” and “ready.”

In the broader context of a Michigan license appeal, the term “able” really means “eligible.”  On both the corresponding section of my website and in various of my blog articles, I’ve examined what it means for someone to be legally eligible to file for restoration of a Michigan driver’s license or clearance of a Michigan hold on his or her driving record.  To take that one step further, and as I discuss on my site and in those articles, there is a key difference between being legally eligible to merely file a case and being ready (as in legally ready) to win it.  Let’s explore this further, because it makes all the difference between winning and losing…

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.