Articles Posted in Driver’s License Restoration

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 for me to start this article:  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:

There are lots of reasons why a person can lose a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case, but there are 4 very common reasons that I’d like to explore in this article.  These things most often happen when someone hires the wrong lawyer, or, worse yet, tried a “do-it-yourself” license appeal.  Precisely because these are the most common reasons license appeals wind up getting denied, they are also the very things I avoid doing when I handle a license case, and I say this with some authority, because when I represent someone in a license reinstatement appeal, I guarantee to win it.  In other words, my clients don’t have to worry about getting denied for any reason, much less the four we’ll explore below.  This can provide some much needed reassurance to someone hiring me after a prior, unsuccessful case handled either by some other lawyer, or by the person him or herself.

cafc2b3a2773647fbb5f1c4a2ed7d958(1).  I’ll start with what is always an amateur mistake of the highest order – calling a witness at the hearing.  Witnesses are not only unnecessary, they are dangerous.  The ONLY good thing I can say about live witnesses is that I don’t call them.  Ever.  It is almost impossible for me to even begin to, much less fully convey, just how colossal a blunder it is to present a witness at a license appeal hearing.  Everything good and worthwhile a witness can say in person can be said in a letter of support.  Witnesses make mistakes.  They get nervous, forget stuff, and sometimes freak out when the hearing officer starts grilling the hell out of them.  Letters don’t.  Hearing officers want to see if they can trip up a witness, not because they enjoy being difficult, but because it’s part of the job to double-and triple check things, and witnesses can (and sometimes do) change their stories.  Letters don’t.  Simply put, letters don’t make mistakes.

(2).  Letters that are properly drafted, that is.  Many losses are occasioned by letters that aren’t good enough, and we’re not talking about writing skills, either.  It couldn’t matter less if your letter writers are college English professors or people who are barely literate.  As a colleague of mine has observed, most writers start out with good intentions, but end up producing nothing more than what he calls “good guy letters.”  Honestly, you can be the most generous, kind-hearted and wonderful person on the planet, but if your letter doesn’t detail (emphasis on the word detail) your abstinence from alcohol, it isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.  The Secretary of State knows you need a license; everybody needs a license, but needing one isn’t enough.  It does not matter to the state a bit what opportunities you have missed or will miss because you cannot drive, and it could not matter less how kind and nice you are.  The ONLY thing that matters in the letters of support is proof of your abstinence from alcohol.  Of course, it’s great when the letter writer can talk about other aspects of your sobriety, but that only matters when it intersects with direct observations about you not drinking.  And for what that’s worth, a person’s observations of you not drinking is a very different thing from him or her not observing you drink.  If you’re getting the idea that this gets complex, then you’re right on track.  I pour over each and every letter of support, and wind up editing about 99% of them before they’re submitted.  To put this another way, out of every 1000 letters I review, probably only about 10 are good enough without editing.

In part 1 of this article, we began to examine the process of getting sober, and how real sobriety is not only a requirement, but the key component of a winning Michigan driver’s license restoration case.  I pointed out that people ultimately decide to quit drinking when they’ve had enough and realize that there is no way to control, manage or limit it.  I also pointed out that the perceived need to control one’s drinking is actually a clinical marker of the existence of drinking problem.  We saw that to win a license appeal,  a person must prove to the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) that his or her alcohol problem is “under control” (meaning that he or she has not had a drink for a certain minimum period of time) and is “likely to remain under control” (meaning that he or she is a safe bet to never drink again).  The idea of hitting bottom is key to the decision to quit drinking, but, as we noted, it’s “staying quit” that really matters.  The state won’t give a license back to anyone who is seen as a risk to ever drink again, period.  The most reliable indicator that a person is genuinely “sober” and will not go back to drinking is the extent to which his or her focus shifts to how much better life is without alcohol rather than merely on the negative consequences that would accompany the resumption of drinking.

9adff455bd3091ff7dba5be7278653acWhat we wind up with is a kind of gulf, or valley, that separates those who have become sober from those who are still drinking.  The sober people will easily and happily relate how much better their lives have become since they put drinking – and all the trouble it brings – behind them, while those who have not yet put the bottle down understandably fear a change that will take pretty much everything familiar out of their lives.  No matter how great things have become for those who are now sober, there is no way to make that into a great sales pitch to someone to quit drinking when they cannot first even imagine life without alcohol.  What takes place when a drinker finally resolves to stop, and as he or she grows into sobriety, is really the process of getting sober, and is also very much a process of self-discovery.  Lots of my sober clients look back on what life was like when they drank and describe getting sober as kind of like lifting a fog, or taking off a blanket.  This necessarily involves a kind of retrospective analysis from an obviously better place.

Think back to my client who said that drunks don’t “do” anything.  They coast through life with a drink in their hand, not really feeling the moment, not really “feeling” the investment in relationships (this includes every kind of relationship, from family, friends and work) and not really feeling anything because pretty much the entire range of emotions they experience goes from wanting to drink to being outright drunk.  They may change the places and situations where they drink (from a bar to a boat to a golf course), but it’s just the same thing against a different backdrop.  This is why, after that fog lifts, the drinking friends are so easy to dump.  It’s not that they were bad people, it’s just that when a person clears his or her head, it’s plain to see that all there ever was in common with them centered on drinking.  It may take a little while, but once a person gets sober, he or she begins to earn back the trust and respect of the people who really matter, and begins to actually do things, even if it’s nothing profound.  You don’t have to climb Mt. Everest or pick up some new hobby to “do” something.  Even if all you do is begin to binge-watch TV shows on Netflix or something like that, the idea is that you’re actually “doing” something – anything – other than just getting drunk.

As a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I have written a lot about what it means to be sober, and how sobriety is a first requirement in order to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration appeal.  I have also noted that the process of getting sober involved profound life changes, but we’ve never really taken the time to look closely at that process.  For example, everyone knows that when someone gets sober, he or she ditches the drinking friends.  A sober person will always have gone through a boatload of changes from the time he or she stopped drinking, including in his or her friendships.  The contrast between then and  now is always rather stark, but what about the actual process of getting sober, and the things involved in that, like ditching the drinking friends and establishing new friendships, or reestablishing those that have been damaged through one’s drinking?  In this 2-part article, I want to examine the processes involved when a person goes from being a drinker to non-drinker, especially in light of how it fits squarely into the framework of a successful license appeal.

facebook-share-livingsoberOne big misconception is that a person has to be in AA to win his or her license back.  Alcoholics Anonymous is one of many ways to recover, and perhaps the most well-known of all the recovery processes, but it is not the only way people get sober, and it is absolutely NOT necessary for a person to be in AA to win a driver’s license restoration or clearance case.  On that point, I put my money where my mouth is:  I guarantee to win every license appeal case I take, and the majority of my clients are not in AA (although many have gone, even if just briefly, early in their recovery) at the time we begin the license appeal process.  The notion that AA is necessary to win a license reinstatement case is really a leftover from the past, when Alcoholics Anonymous was pretty much the only way people knew about to get sober.  Today, we understand that there isn’t any one specific method by which people get sober, but rather that there are as many ways to get sober as there are colors in a paint store.  Yet for as different as those ways may be, there are also certain universal experiences that everyone has in making the transition to an alcohol-free lifestyle.  It’s to those that we’ll direct our attention.

It is important to understand that, in a very real sense, no one just up and completely “quits” drinking as easily as turning off a light switch.  To put it another way, quitting is easy, but staying quit is a lot harder.  A genuine decision to not drink anymore is almost always made after a person has hit the wall, or “hit bottom.”  Especially early on, that commitment will really be put to the test.  If you’re like most people, by the time your drinking has become problematic, it has long since taken over much of your life; where you’d go, who you hung with and what you did all revolved around it.  Even those who “drank alone” developed a routine that became an established pattern in their lives; stop at the same stores, buy the same booze, and go home and drink the same way, until you got drunk and then passed out.  It’s what you know, and often, all you know.  In either case, no one decides to stop drinking because they’re having too much fun with it, yet everyone who has gone through the process of getting sober remembers that the early going was somewhat difficult, meaning the time immediately after quitting.

I am somewhat unique as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, because I guarantee that if I take your case, I will win it.  There are really no hidden exclusions beyond the understandable caveats that if a person withholds vital information or lies, I’m off the hook.  Fortunately, I seldom lose any cases, rarely have to do any kind of warranty work, and, to date, have never had a situation where I have refused to honor my guarantee.  I was recently speaking with someone about my driver’s license restoration practice and how and why I require that a person must have truly quit drinking before I’ll take his or her case.  I pointed out that I have to resist a very real monetary temptation when I turn people away who call the office and are willing to pay my fee, but that having my guarantee means I am tied to the case until the person wins, and therefore prevents me from just taking someone’s money and “giving it a shot.”  In other words, my guarantee keeps me honest.

honesty-is-the-best-policy1.1In most areas of the law, a lawyer cannot guarantee a particular outcome.  In a DUI, for example, a lawyer could make everything sound really favorable, get paid handsomely, and then stand there watching as the client gets hammered by the Judge.  License appeals filed with the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Office (AHS) are different.  Because I know I’m stuck with a case until I get the person back on the road, there is no way that I’m going to obligate myself to a case that isn’t winnable.  In fact, just the other day I received a call from another lawyer about someone whose appeal I had previously declined to pursue.  This lawyer, who knows me and knows my practice, obviously got a different side of things from the caller, and when he found out that I had already turned the case down, suspected that there was more to it than he was being told.  After a few minutes on the phone, he thanked me for my time.  Several days later, I ran into him in court, and he again thanked me and breathed a sigh of relief that he didn’t get sucked into that losing situation.  In his case, and to his moral credit, he didn’t want to take the guy’s money and not be able to do anything for him, which is kind of where I come from, except that my sense of morality also has a guarantee attached to it.  In other words, my guarantee keeps me honest.

Everyone needs a license.  I get tons of emails from people, many of them describing the hardship that goes along with not being able to drive, or the opportunities they have missed or will miss because they can’t.  The stories are compelling, but as I noted in a somewhat recent article about everyone “needing” a license, that couldn’t matter less.  A person becomes legally eligible to file a license appeal only after his or her revocation period ends.  An urgent need to drive, or a complete lack thereof, doesn’t affect this.  The problem is that sometimes, people contact me after having communicated with some lawyer, and either the person completely misunderstood what they were told, or the lawyer has no clue about license restoration.  Either way, most of these ideas involve trying some appeal to court, which is entirely impossible to begin with.  There is an understandable desperation these people feel, and they’d be willing to shell out just about any sum of money to get back on the road, or even to just “take a shot at it.”  I know better, and therefore won’t take the bait (or the person’s money), but in addition, I know that if I do take a case, I’m stuck with it until the person wins back his or her license.  In other words, my guarantee keeps me honest.

As of the writing of this article, a new law is sitting on the Governor’s desk that will expand what a circuit court can do when someone appeals to circuit court after losing a driver’s license restoration case. Procedurally, you first try to win back your license by going through the license reinstatement hearing process wherein the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Office (AHS) assigns a hearing officer who ultimately decides your case. In this article, We’ll briefly look at the change in the law, but then shift back to why, in the vast majority of cases, “appealing” to court after losing at the AHS is a waste of time and money. In my practice, I guarantee to win every case I take, so this new law has almost no potential impact on me or my clients, but there will no doubt be some curiosity, and, inevitably, quite a bit of confusion about it, so perhaps we can head off some of that misunderstanding.

index.jpgTo begin, there are a few things we need to get straight: First, to win a license restoration case, you need to prove things by what’s called “clear and convincing evidence.” The one-line short version of what that means is that after you submit your evidence and/or hold your hearing, you cannot leave the hearing officer with any unanswered questions (your evidence must be “clear”) and that evidence must show you have been alcohol free for a while, and that you are a safe bet (meaning “convincing”) to never drink again. The hearing officer is the person who decides if you’ve done that satisfactorily or not (that decision is the exercise of his or her discretion). Here’s the really important part: If a hearing officer denies a license restoration case and the person files an appeal in the circuit court, this does not make for any kind of new hearing, and no new evidence can be submitted. Instead, the Judge reviews the record (meaning he or she looks at all the evidence the hearing officer examined) and has to conclude whether or not the hearing officer’s decision was what is called “an abuse of discretion.” To put it another way, the Judge does NOT decide if he or she agrees with the hearing officer’s decision, but rather whether or not that decision is within the law. The legal standard for this kind of appeal is whether or not the decision is supported by material and competent evidence.

This means that a Judge can completely disagree with the hearing officer’s findings, but also not find any abuse of discretion or anything illegal about them, and therefore be unable to reverse them. Imagine Arnold Schwarzenneger and Hillary Clinton both run for President. In the first scenario, suppose Arnold wins, and the Judge loves him and even voted for him. However, when the Judge confirms that Arnold was born in Austria and NOT the United States, and that his election is therefore illegal, he must overturn the decision, even though he or she doesn’t want to do so. In the second scenario, assume Hillary wins, and a lot of people are upset about it, so they appeal the result in court. Even if the Judge doesn’t like Hillary and feels that she is the last person on earth who should get the job, unless he or she finds something illegal about her election, nothing can be done to undo it. This is the same thing that applies if someone tries to appeal a lost license restoration case. So what does the change in the law really do for someone who has lost a license case?
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As complicated as Michigan driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals can be, I wanted to try and reduce all of it to a few sentences. Accordingly, this article will be my attempt to boil down the essence of my license restoration section of my website and the 300-plus articles from the driver’s license restoration section of this blog into a simple, meaningful concept. To keep this article brief and interesting, we’ll start with that final result. The essence of a driver’s license appeal requires proving that you are not a risk to drink and drive again because you are a safe bet to never drink again, and have both the commitment and the tools to remain alcohol-free for good. Of course, this simplistic definition overlooks a lot of what goes into a license appeal case, but it does manage to capture the real “meat and potatoes” of a license reinstatement case and the Michigan Secretary of State’s governing rule. That official rule – Rule 13 – reads as follows:

simple.jpgThe hearing officer shall not order that a license be issued to the petitioner unless the petitioner proves, by clear and convincing evidence, all of the following:
i. That the petitioner’s alcohol or substance abuse problems, if any, are under control and likely to remain under control.
ii. That the risk of the petitioner repeating his or her past abusive behavior is a low or minimal risk.
iii. That the risk of the petitioner repeating the act of operating a motor vehicle while impaired by, or under the influence of, alcohol or controlled substances or a combination of alcohol and a controlled substance or repeating any other offense listed in section 303(1)(d), (e), or (f) or (2)(c), (d), (e), or (f) of the act is a low or minimal risk.
iv. That the petitioner has the ability and motivation to drive safely and within the law.
v. Other showings that are relevant to the issues identified in paragraphs (i) to (iv) of this subdivision.

By legal definition, then, winning a license restoration or clearance appeal involves proving to a Michigan Secretary of State Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) hearing officer, by “clear and convincing evidence,” that your alcohol problem is under control (meaning that you can fix a sobriety date appropriately far enough in the past), and that it is likely to remain under control,” (meaning that you are likely to never drink again). Yet for as simple as we can make this sound, the truth is that there are what I call “a million little rules” (many of them unwritten) that come into play in each and every license reinstatement case and that must be observed in order to assemble a winning appeal. As a starting point, however, the idea that you’re no risk to drink and drive again because you’re committed to never drinking again is perfect. As much as there is to this, if you can honestly say that have quit drinking for good, then you have the necessary “stuff” needed for me to guarantee that I’ll win your license back.
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