Recently in Driver's License Restoration Category

October 13, 2014

Driver's License Restoration Appeal Hearings - Skip the Witness

In a recent article about driver's license restoration appeal hearings, I mentioned that I never call witnesses. It has been a while since I've addressed that topic, and my experience at a hearing the day before writing this article has convinced me that it's time to revisit this subject. Let's start with the conclusion first, and then we'll get into the analysis: It is a mistake to call a witness at a DAAD (Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) license reinstatement hearing. And to be clearer still, when I say it "is" a mistake, I'm still waiting for an exception that I have never yet seen in my 24-plus years as a lawyer. In my mind, calling a witness is an amateur blunder of the highest order.

Witness Dude 1.2.jpgYesterday, I represented someone who had a different lawyer at a previous hearing. That lawyer had called a witness, things went bad, and the appeal was denied. My client not only agreed with my assessment that witnesses are nothing but a liability, but also got a bit angry with the previous lawyer for not knowing that. When someone who has lost a prior license restoration case with a different lawyer comes to hire me for his or her next time around and I begin to read the order denying the previous case, I cannot help but cringe when I see someone's name listed as a witness. I've never seen a witness listed on a winning decision, but I've seen plenty of them on denial letters.

In the most recent hearing article, I noted that while we all hope to learn from experience, there are some people who just do what they always do and don't really pay attention to the subtle nuances, and therefore don't learn anything. When I'm at the DAAD office and some lawyer steps out of a hearing and comes into the waiting room to fetch a witness, I just have to shake my head. The real point in the earlier article was that there are some things I do in my various cases that are almost a matter of instinct, and therefore somewhat difficult to explain, and there are others that involve my own proprietary (i.e. "secret") methods. The reason calling witnesses is a bad idea is neither; instead, it's so obvious that you've got to wonder about any lawyer who misses it.

Anything good that a witness can say in person, meaning anything that he or she can relate through testimony, can also be said just as clearly in a letter of support. Letters of support are worth exactly what they say. Unlike a live witness, the hearing officer cannot intimidate a letter of support. You cannot cross-examine or question a letter of support. A letter of support never gets nervous and says the "wrong" thing, nor does it get confused or forget details. This means that unlike witnesses, letters of support cannot screw things up, at least if the lawyer presenting it knows what he or she is doing, and I know well enough to guarantee I'll win your license appeal if you're really sober and I take your case.

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October 10, 2014

The Secrets to Success in a Michigan Criminal, DUI or Driver's License Restoration Case

On this blog, and on my website, I put up as much explanatory information as I can about criminal, DUI and driver's license restoration cases. I have tried, within the body of my writings, to pull back the curtain on and explain how Michigan driver's license restoration and DUI cases are (or should be) handled, as well as the various considerations important to handling a criminal charge in my capacity as a Michigan criminal lawyer. I can say with confidence that if you are looking around for a lawyer for to handle a criminal, driver's license restoration or DUI case, it is likely that some of those with whom you've had contact with have read and learned something from this blog. One lawyer I know admitted to me that when he needs something to write about, he comes here, to my blog, and "cannibalizes" something I've put up. I consoled myself with the old adage that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." I've even been asked why I am so "generous" with the information I put out.

secrets 1.2.jpgIn this article, I want to point out that for as much information I publish, there are certain essential strategies that, while not "secret," really defy clear explanation. In addition, there are just certain things I do that are "secret" enough for me to have to hold back and not write about. KFC became famous for its fried chicken with 21 secret ingredients. When curious minds tried to figure out the recipe, some claimed that they couldn't find 21 ingredients, no matter how hard they looked. KFC was amused by the attempt and essentially said, "Well, that's part of the secret." I may be generous with the information I publish, but I don't give away enough for anyone to copy my recipe, nor do I give away the secrets of the magic trick, either.

Certain legal abilities are simply instinctive. How do I explain this? When I walk into a conference room and find the prosecutor to already be agitated, usually by some other lawyer, I just "know" that it's probably not the best time to try and negotiate a really sweet deal for my client. Sensing that is instinctive, but I don't just blurt out something like, "Hey, you look all frazzled, so I think I might do better with you if I come back later." A graceful exit with a plan to return later requires a keen and rather spontaneous sense of diplomacy.

Other legal skills may spring from within, but they are honed by years of experience. A younger lawyer may make the mistake of defending a client to the point of arguing with the Judge. While the lawyer may not think he or she is arguing with the court, all that matters is that the Judge does. Instead of arguing, I have to persuade. In many cases, I have to educate the Judge, and be able to back up what I say. This is why, for example, as a seasoned lawyer with (at that time), over 20 years of experience, I began the formal study of addiction issues at the post-graduate, University level. Whatever else, a lawyer may succeed in persuading the court about something, but he or she is unlikely to ever win an argument with the Judge (as opposed to an argument with the lawyer on the other side).

Continue reading "The Secrets to Success in a Michigan Criminal, DUI or Driver's License Restoration Case" »

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October 6, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - The Hearing

I have written extensively about the process of restoring a Michigan driver's license. Because it is so important, I devote a lot of time and space to initial eligibility prerequisites, particularly the requirement that a person be genuinely sober in order to begin a license appeal, or at least have any hope of winning. Most recently, I examined the role substance abuse evaluation in a Michigan driver's license reinstatement appeal. In this article, I want to take a look at the final step in the license restoration process - the hearing.

Judge-Gavel 1.2.jpgBefore we get into anything else, I should point out that I fundamentally believe in live hearings. To be clear about it, I do mean live, and in-person. I don't do video hearings, even though I could, in many cases, and it be a lot more convenient for me. There is nothing, however, that can compare to sitting about 6 feet away from the hearing officer, where he or she can see your facial expressions, watch your body language and even notice if your eyes tear up when you talk about how your drinking damaged the things that matter most in your life. Because I only take cases for people who are really sober (and in exchange, provide a "win" guarantee), I thrive in the knowledge that, above and beyond everything else, we are going in the appeal hearing to tell the truth. Because my clients have genuinely quit drinking, we have nothing to fear from an up-close and personal license appeal hearing. By contrast, the risk that even one small nuance of my client's truthful testimony could get lost in a grainy, noisy webcam transmission is far too great.

Here's another important point: I never call witnesses. In fact, I think that calling a witness is an amateur mistake of the highest order. Considering that I GUARANTEE that I will win any license appeal case I take, I must know something. The key to success in a license appeal, like so many important things in life, is preparation. Careful and methodical preparation must be taken in putting the appeal together. We'll get a rock-solid substance abuse evaluation; that's why my first appointment with a new client lasts 3 hours and is done before the client has his or her evaluation completed. Next, we'll produce excellent support letters; I help extensively with that, reviewing and editing and revising everything to make it "just right." With me handling that, you can focus on just making sure that you're the person described in the evaluation and portrayed in the letters of support, and you won't need any witnesses to help with that. At best, a witness is a potential liability. We don't need or want that...

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September 29, 2014

The Substance Abuse Evaluation in a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal

Amongst the things that must be submitted to the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) to commence a Michigan driver's license restoration case, none is more important than the substance abuse evaluation. From my perspective as a driver's license restoration lawyer, this evaluation, formally titled the "Substance Use Evaluation," is really the foundation of a license appeal. I have examined different aspects of it, and even the role of the evaluator, in some of my other driver's license restoration articles. In this article, rather than focus on any particular part of the evaluation, we'll survey its overall role in a license reinstatement case.

Recovery 1.3.jpgIn order to begin license restoration case, certain documents must be filed: An administrative review form (misleadingly named because it must be filed in all cases, not just "administrative review" appeals), letters of support and the substance abuse evaluation. In a very general sense, this evidence can be characterized as what you say about yourself, what your supporters say about you, and what the evaluator says about you. Translated, these documents provide an overview of your drinking (and, if applicable, drug using) history, your supporters detailing their observations of your abstinence, and the evaluator offering a clinical assessment of your ability, commitment, and the tools you have cultivated to remain sober.

To put this in proper perspective, it is important to understand what a license appeal is all about. At the heart of it all is the legal requirement, under the governing law known as "Rule 13," that a person must prove, "by clear and convincing evidence," that his or her alcohol (and/or substance abuse) problem is "under control," and, more important, that it is "likely to remain under control." Here we can connect everything: What your letter writers say is primarily relevant to proving that your problem is under control, meaning that you are and have been abstinent from alcohol and/or drugs. What the evaluator says is most directly relevant to the most important issue; that your problem is likely to remain under control. What you say is relevant to both and ties everything in, although it is, understandably, considered biased and self-serving.

This means that the best evidence submitted for the most important issue - that you won't drink again - is the substance abuse evaluation. In a perfect world, it should amount to a reliable prediction by a knowledgeable and skilled clinician of the likelihood that you will remain alcohol-free. In that perfect world, it should almost be enough to win the case. The world, however, is not perfect; neither is the evaluator, the evaluation, the person being evaluated, the lawyer who supposedly reviews the evaluation and submits it, nor the hearing officer reviewing the evaluation and deciding the case. This reality, while far from ideal, at least serves to outline the challenge in winning a license restoration case.

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September 19, 2014

Winning a Michigan Driver's License Resoration case the First Time

In the previous article, we clarified that AA is NOT necessary to win a Michigan driver's license restoration case. In this article, we'll dispel another common myth about license appeals; the crazy (and yes, it is crazy) idea that you have to lose your first appeal before you can win your license back. I not only win almost every case I take the first time, but I also guarantee a win in every license clearance and restoration appeal case I take. About half of my clients are people who have never tried a license appeal before. The primary reason that people who are otherwise eligible lose the first time is that they don't do it right, or, worse yet, they pay some lawyer who doesn't do it right.

you-win 1.3.gifLet's clarify something important: Really being "eligible" means not only being legally able to file a license appeal, but also that you are genuinely sober. Sober, within the context of a license appeal, means that you don't drink anymore. Some people who have lost their license for multiple DUI's want to argue that they can still have a glass of wine or the occasional drink. Michigan's habitual offender drunk driving laws create a presumption that anyone who racks up 2 DUI's within 7 years, or 3 or more DUI's within 10 years has a drinking problem. One of the surest ways to lose a license appeal is to file one and say, "No, I don't." It goes beyond just saying yes or no, however; the whole process of winning a license appeal revolves around being able to prove how different your life has become because you've removed alcohol from it.

This is a distinction that really needs to be highlighted. If you haven't quit drinking, then your only hope to win a license appeal is to BS your way through it. Good luck with that, and I certainly won't put my efforts or integrity into anything like that, much less my guarantee. Even if you have quit drinking, however, you need to understand how the DAAD (Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) evaluates that claim. Not that many people are dumb enough to file a license appeal and admit to still drinking. Most people will at least say they don't drink anymore. The problem, from that point forward, is that you have to prove that your alcohol problem is "under control" and "likely to remain under control" by what the law defines as "clear and convincing evidence." So what does that really mean?

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September 15, 2014

You DO NOT have to go to AA to win your License back in Michigan

During a meeting with a new driver's license restoration client this week, I was reminded that there are a lot of misconceptions about the Michigan driver's license restoration/clearance process. In this and the next article, I will take up two of the more common misunderstandings about winning back your Michigan license: First, in this article, we'll examine why being in AA is NOT necessary to win. In the next installment, we'll dispel the notion that you first have to lose a license appeal before you can win.

Win badge 1.2.jpgLet's begin this article with the conclusion, and examine the details thereafter. You do not need to be involved in AA to win a driver's license restoration appeal. I guarantee that if I take your license restoration or clearance case, I will win it. It is from this position of authority that I can point out that less than half of my clients are actively involved in AA. Put another way, more than half of my clients for whom I win license appeals are not involved in the Alcoholics Anonymous program. Considering that I file and win more than 100 license appeals each year, I can back up what I say with more experience in any given year than almost any other lawyer will have in an entire lifetime.

Winning a license restoration case without AA was not always the case. Years ago, it seemed almost impossible to win your license back in Michigan without being in AA. In fact, there was a time when I'd screen potential license restoration clients by simply asking if they were currently attending AA; if their answer was yes, then we'd talk. If the answer was no, then I'd tell them go to AA, get a year of it under their belt, and call me back. As unfair as it was, that was how things worked.

Things have changed. There is a long story behind how and why things are better now, but I doubt the reader isn't interested in all of that; I certainly wouldn't be if I were just interested in getting my license back. The bottom line is that the DAAD (Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) has evolved, at least to a point, and understands that AA isn't for everyone. And it is on precisely this point where I bring an unrivaled advantage because I have a formal clinical education in the field of addiction studies at the post-graduate level that has afforded me a comprehensive, fundamental and modern understanding of the development, diagnosis and treatment of alcohol and drug problems. This helps me win license reinstatement cases, especially for people who are not in AA.

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September 13, 2014

Weekly Summaries: License Restoration/DUI similarities and Probation Violation Outcomes

1. Driver's License Restoration and DUI cases share the same "DNA"

In the first article from this week, I examined the overlapping roles of being a Michigan DUI lawyer and a Michigan driver's license restoration/clearance lawyer. I noted that day-to-day experience in the courts of the Greater-Detroit area handling DUI cases is helpful in my role as a license appeal lawyer, when I appear before the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) hearing officers. While it's pretty much true that everyone has a general understanding that a DUI carries certain license sanctions, particularly in a case beyond a person's 1st offense, or where there is a "troubled" driving record, knowing the finer points of the administrative sanction imposed by the Secretary of State, beyond those that are part of the criminal law, is very helpful, and can sometimes impact the strategy I employ to avoid certain consequences for my client. Likewise, in-depth knowledge of DUI cases is equally helpful in winning back driver's licenses. Here are some of the more important points from the license restoration/DUI article:

  • A Michigan DUI lawyer will understand at least basic driver's license consequences
  • A Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer knows a lot more about driver's licenses
  • Most driver's license restoration cases arise because a person has multiple DUI convictions
  • A thorough understanding of how DUI cases work is helpful in winning a license appeal
  • Comprehensive knowledge of the licensing rules is often critical in a DUI case
  • What will happen to a person's license can impact how a DUI case is handled, and ultimately resolved
  • Beyond just DUI cases, driver's license rules can impact how DWLS and revoked license cases are handled
  • I have saved many a license because my understanding of the licensing rules goes way beyond the criminal law and the consequences the Judge will impose
  • A better DUI lawyer knows the ins and outs of driver's license appeals
  • A better license restoration/clearance lawyer knows the ins and outs of DUI cases
  • It is better still to know both areas well from working with them daily
Now, on to "What will happen to me in a probation violation?"...

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September 8, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration and DUI cases have a lot in Common

I am a Michigan DUI and driver's license restoration lawyer. At their core, DUI and license restoration cases are interconnected, and really share the same family DNA. To be clear, you can be a DUI lawyer and not know anything about license restorations, but it is hard to imagine a being a license restoration lawyer without a thorough understanding of the Michigan drunk driving laws. The overlap of these 2 fields is rather broad, and accounts for why I spend almost all day, every day, dealing with DUI issues, although sometimes from very different perspectives.

two-sides-same-coin 1.2.pngAs a DUI lawyer, my job, whatever else, is to minimize the actual consequences you will experience when you face a drunk driving charge. You hire a dentist to make your teeth problems go away, a mechanic to make your car problems go away; in the same way, you hire a DUI lawyer to make your DUI problem go away. As a Michigan driver's license restoration and clearance lawyer, my job is to win back your driver's license, or, if you live out of state, to win a clearance of the hold placed on your record by the Michigan Secretary of State.

As a lawyer with a conscience, I believe my job is to really help my client, meaning really produce a benefit for him or her, but I cannot imagine doing that without understanding the full dimension and interaction of DUI and driver's license sanctions. To be clear, there are plenty of aspects to this that are easy, and obvious. Everybody knows, for example, that a DUI brings driver's license sanctions. Fewer people, however, understand the subtle but important interplay of and differences between criminal (or court) license sanctions and the administrative sanctions imposed by the Secretary of State, independent of anything done in the underlying DUI case.

Important in every DUI case is a person's bodily alcohol content, called a BAC, at the time of his or her arrest. There is a huge body of science behind how a BAC result is calculated; most of it, however, applies to the results obtained from a police station Datamaster breath test, or a blood sample tested by the Michigan State Police. It is a related, but slightly different science involved in the breath testing done by an ignition interlock device. The relatively new High BAC offense in Michigan requires that a person convicted of that offense drive with an interlock on his or her vehicle for about 10 months, as does a multiple DUI offense driver getting a license through a sobriety court. Similarly, anyone winning back a license through the Michigan Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) has to drive with an interlock for at least a year, as well. But there are differences...

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September 6, 2014

Weekly Summaries: Detroit-area DUI (self-help) - Michigan License Restoration (the Evaluation)

1. Your role in a Michigan (Detroit-area) DUI case

In this week's first article about DUI cases, I noted how the superb outcomes in the 4 DUI cases I handled in the Detroit area the preceding week, and referenced in the article before that, were partly the result of my client's direct interest and participation in their cases. In each of the 4 cases I discussed, my clients were motivated to take the necessary steps to make things better. I had 2 High BAC charges dropped all the way down a beyond simple OWI charge to the least severe "impaired driving" charge, saving each client's ability to drive. I was able to take a 2nd offense charge, get it reduced to a 1st offense, and then see that my client didn't get socked with expensive or difficult probation, winding up with only non-reporting probation, instead. In another 2nd offense case, I found a legal issue to challenge the evidence and expect to have the case dismissed. Here are the major bullet points from that article:

  • It takes your input to make a DUI case better
  • Your input in your DUI case can be as little as just paying attention
  • We're talking a few hours, not days
  • The payoff is absolutely huge
  • The most important part of a DUI is what happens to you, as well as what does not
  • The mandatory alcohol screening is the primary tool used to determine if your drinking is a problem, or you are at risk to develop a problem
  • Being thoroughly prepared to undergo that screening is key
  • I have more than just 24-plus years' legal experience - I am involved in the formal study of alcohol and addiction issues at the post-graduate, University level
  • This all comes together to make sure you aren't seen as having or being at risk to develop a drinking problem
  • It also means protecting you from burdensome and expensive counseling that you can avoid
  • The real measure of "success" in any DUI case is more about what does NOT happen to you
  • Avoiding consequences, including driver's license consequences, is really the end goal
Now, on to driver's license restoration and the role of the prognosis on the substance abuse evaluation form...

Continue reading "Weekly Summaries: Detroit-area DUI (self-help) - Michigan License Restoration (the Evaluation)" »

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September 5, 2014

Driver's License Restoration - Substance Abuse Evaluation Prognosis and Perspective

I have written extensively about the requirement that a person be truly sober in order to win a Michigan driver's license restoration or clearance appeal. If you've done your research, you get that. This article will really cut to the heart of the "meat and potatoes" issue in a driver's license appeal case and focus on what the Michigan Secretary of State's DAAD (Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) is really concerned about when it decides a license reinstatement case.

illusion image 1.2.jpgIn other articles, I've explained how the substance abuse evaluation is really the foundation of every license appeal. That's why my first meeting with a new client (which takes place before the person has his or her evaluation completed) takes about 3 hours, and is primarily dedicated to making sure he or she is prepared to meet with the evaluator and get a good evaluation. I explain that the evaluation has to be "water tight," meaning that it has to be perfect, or very close to it. There is no room for error here, and anyone who has tried and lost a prior appeal because of some problem with his or her evaluation knows that all too well. An evaluation has to be checked and re-checked before it is filed with the state. It is not up to the evaluator to understand the legal implications of what he or she writes; that's the lawyer's job.

In that sense, the evaluation serves a primary purpose - to provide the hearing officer with a competent clinical assessment of how likely a person is to remain abstinent from alcohol. In a way, it is a kind of "sobriety estimator." The real crux of the evaluation form itself is the "prognosis" section. The prognosis itself is just a checkbox where the evaluator picks on of the 5 choices: Poor, fair, guarded, good or excellent. Beneath the checkbox is a space where the evaluator explains the reasoning behind his or her prognosis. This is extremely important, and a good evaluator can do it in just a few sentences. The evaluators at the clinic I use normally summarize their reasoning in about 2 to 4 lines, within the space provided on the DAAD's substance abuse evaluation form.

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August 25, 2014

The keys to Clearing a Michigan hold on your Driving Record

The last 2 out-of-state driver's license restoration articles on this blog have been about obtaining the clearance of a Michigan hold upon a person's driving record in order to obtain or renew a non-Michigan license. In this article, I want to make a super-short summary of the major points from those 2 articles. If you've read either or both of them, then you might be interested in what I find most important. If you're coming to this installment first, then you might as well start here.

Thumbnail image for Key 1.2.jpgWhen you walk into the DMV of any state, only to be informed that a license cannot be issued or renewed because the Michigan Secretary of State has a hold on your driving record, you want to know what can be done. In many cases, people become frustrated and upset, and while those feelings are understandable, they do absolutely nothing to help you move forward. The main focus of my day-to-day work is obtaining clearances and restoring driver's licenses for people who have multiple DUI's, and I do (and win) these cases by the hundreds. As a result, my office gets lots of calls from people who are being "held up" by a Michigan hold.

If you've honestly quit drinking, I can get you back on the road. It helps to being with the understanding that the whole Michigan clearance/license restoration process is designed to make sure you have quit drinking. This means that if you still drink at all, the entire process is aimed at keeping you off the road. I cannot say this enough; the door to getting a clearance is only open for those who can prove that they are sober, and that live a sober lifestyle. This is not negotiable.

Anyone who needs to clear a Michigan hold does have choices. The best choice, assuming that you've quit drinking, is to call me and let me take care of this for you. If you haven't quit drinking, the brutal truth is that you're going to have to choose what's more important - drinking or driving. Because the whole point of a license clearance or restoration appeal is to make sure that a repeat offense drunk driver has made a clean break from alcohol before he or she can get a license, it is a waste of time to try and finagle your way through by thinking you are different. I don't make those rules (nor do I disagree with them), but those are the rules, and they are not bent to make accommodations. It doesn't matter how much you "need" a license, it only matters that you present as close to being a zero risk as possible to ever drink again.

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August 22, 2014

Clearing a Michigan hold on your Driving Record - Pick your Battle

This article was inspired and suggested by Ann, my senior assistant, after an exhausting day on the phone with several out-of-state callers upset about a Secretary of State hold that the state of Michigan has placed on their driving records. It follows from the previous driver's license restoration article; that article laid the groundwork for this one, and sets things up. This is really the article I wanted to write, because it addresses the emotions ("This isn't fair!") expressed by so many people who contact my office; a hold on your driving record from Michigan that is now preventing you from getting or renewing a license in a different state.

no-bullshit 1.2.jpgAnn suggested that this article be titled "Pick your Battles" because these frustrated callers are angry at the whole system that results in their not being able to get or renew their driver's licenses, and place all the blame for this predicament on the state of Michigan. The point of this article will be to direct the readers focus to what can be done to remedy this situation, and how just complaining about it without taking the appropriate steps to fix it won't help anything. The bottom line is that a person dealing with a Michigan hold on his or her driving record will ultimately have to pick a course of action that will produce either 1 of 2 results:

1. You can just complain that "this is bull$hit," keep losing appeals, and get nowhere, or,

2. You can take the appropriate steps to fix the situation and get your license back.

Here's the bottom line; if you have a hold on your record, it will never go away until you obtain a clearance from the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, and that will never happen if you choose to fight the system, rather than do what is required. What can be frustrating to me and my staff is that some people who call my office have been denied on multiple occasions, and, instead of wanting to do things differently (as in "right") the next time, they're still angry and trying to do things their way. This is particularly true when a person wants to argue that no matter what anybody says, they can still have a glass of wine every now and then. Curiously, it's always "a glass of wine" that seems to be the sticking point with these types.

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August 18, 2014

Clearing a Michigan hold on your Driving Record in Another State

A significant part of my driver's license restoration practice involves obtaining the clearance of a Michigan hold on a person's driving record, and this includes people who never even had a Michigan driver's license in the first place. While most clearance appeals involve former Michigan residents, it seems doubly frustrating that a person who never really had anything to do with the state of Michigan other than get a DUI here cannot obtain or renew a license in another state until they clear the Michigan hold. This article and the next will examine how to get rid of a hold from Michigan that prevents a person in another state from obtaining, or, in some cases, renewing a driver's license, even in cases where a person never held a driver's license from Michigan.

MiniMich 1.2.gifIf you have a hold from Michigan on your driving record, no state will issue (or renew) a license because now all of the 50 states participate in what's called the National Driving Register (known as the NDR, and not to be confused with the commercial website trying to profit by using the similar name "national driving registry"). However much you may dislike the NDR, the reality is that any action taken to suspend or revoke your license in one state will be enforced by every other state in which you try to obtain or renew a license. This means that a hold from Michigan will follow you anywhere in the United States. The "hold" itself is defined by Michigan law, which specifies a minimum 1-year revocation of a person's privilege to drive for a 2nd DUI offense within 7 years, and a minimum 5-year revocation of a person's driving privilege for a 3rd DUI offense within 10 years. The key to understanding how that affects you is explaining what we mean by "privilege" to drive.

Anyone who ever had a Michigan driver's license during a period when he or she accumulated multiple DUI's within 7 or 10 years, regardless of the state or states in which those DUI's occurred, will have to deal with the mandatory revocation of his or her Michigan driver's license. When that happens, the Michigan Secretary of State revokes a person's privilege to drive by revoking his or her actual Michigan driver's license. If that person moves out of state, no matter where, the DMV in any of the other 49 states will not issue him or her a license because the fact that a person had his or her Michigan driver's license revoked shows up a "hold" on the NDR when the person applies for a license. Let's look at 2 examples to help clarify the distinction between those who still have Michigan residency, and those who do not:

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August 15, 2014

Driver's License Restoration and Clearance Appeals in Michigan Require Sobriety

It seems that no matter how much I write about the importance of sobriety in a Michigan driver's license appeal, some people either miss it, or don't think I really mean it. I have tried, both on my website and in my numerous license restoration blog articles, to make it clear that having truly quit drinking is an absolute prerequisite to winning your license back. This is not talk, nor is it about wanting someone to just say he or she has quit drinking, but rather about someone having actually and honestly quit. If you have made the profound changes to eliminate alcohol from your life, then you know that there is a lot more to this than just saying "I quit drinking."

Sobriety 1.2.jpgHere's the deal: The state, meaning the Michigan Secretary of State, revokes the license of anyone who picks up 2 DUI's within 7 years, or 3 DUI's within 10 years. If you get 2 within 7, your license is revoked for at least 1 year, whereas picking up 3 within 10 years will result in a revocation for at least 5 years. These revocations are for the rest of your life, and cannot be appealed in any way for the minimum of (hence the meaning of "at least) of either 1 or 5 years. A formal driver's license restoration or clearance appeal requires filing a substance abuse evaluation and letters of support with the Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) and then attending a hearing where you have to prove to a DAAD hearing officer that you are a safe bet to never drink again.

If you take a few moments to think about this, it makes perfect sense. The state automatically concludes that anyone who racks up 2 DUI's within 7 years, or 3 within 10 years, has a drinking problem that makes them too risky to be allowed to drive. That's part of the whole "habitual offender" designation, and it's not really that far-fetched. Lots of people, of course, will try to explain why none of this should apply to them, but the bottom line is that there is a line, and it starts at 2 DUI's in a 7-year period. Michigan's habitual offender laws are designed to take the licenses of repeat DUI offenders and not allow them to drive again until they fix their drinking problem. The state is keenly aware that less than 10% of all people with a drinking problem actually get and stay sober over the long term. Accordingly, "fixing" a drinking problem means quitting drinking forever, and being able to prove you've done it.

The state also knows, through endless experience, that almost everyone who loses his or her license for multiple DUI's will come around, sooner or later, claiming that everything is alright and that his or her drinking isn't a problem. The last thing in the world the Secretary of State is going to do is waste its time on someone who argues that he or she is now safely able have a drink every now and then. Instead, the SOS figures that the risk can be completely avoided by not screwing around with a habitual offender who believes that he or she can somehow be trusted to drink "responsibly." To make things clean and clear and safe, the DAAD requires that in order to get a license back, a former habitual offender must prove, by "clear and convincing evidence," that he or she is a safe bet to never drink again and is committed to a lifetime of sobriety. This requirement takes all the risk out of deciding who gets a license back. Removing alcohol from the equation removes the risk from the equation...

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August 11, 2014

Appealing a Denial from the DAAD

If you've lost your driver's license restoration appeal before the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD), the first thing you want to know is if there is anything you can do about it. Is it worth an appeal to circuit court? Every week, my staff fields any number of calls from people with these very questions. In this article, I want to accomplish 2 things: I want to help someone avoid winding up in this losing situation in the first place, and I'd like to clarify for those who have already lost why there is unlikely anything to be done by appealing except to throw good money after bad.

denied-1.2.jpgTo be completely blunt about it, my clients don't have to deal with this situation. I guarantee that I'll win any case I take. To be able to make that guarantee, however, I only take case for people who have really quit drinking. I've addressed the sobriety aspect of license appeals at just about every level in other articles, but the bottom line is that the whole license restoration process is designed to reissue a license only to people who have made a permanent separation from drinking. If you harbor any belief that you can still drink, however occasionally, or safely, and your appeal has been denied, the cold reality is that the DAAD has done its job. I simply cannot say this enough: You need to be genuinely sober, meaning done with alcohol for good and forever, in order to win Michigan driver's license restoration or clearance appeal.

Beyond not having made a complete break from alcohol, another key reason people lose is that they try to represent themselves. That's just a bad idea. This is not to overlook the fact that lots of people lose even though they had a lawyer, but a license restoration appeal should really be handled by a genuine Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer. There aren't that many of us out there, but just settling for some attorney who says he or she "does" these cases is really nothing more than a waste of time and money. Nor does it matter how good a lawyer is in any other field; a license appeal is won by being good at license appeals, and this tiny area of the law is rather specialized. I sometimes refer to license appeals as being governed by "a million little rules." Beyond the written rules, and the court cases interpreting those rules, there are just lots of "things" you learn from doing license appeals all the time. The flip side is that there are lots of "things" you don't learn if you don't do license appeals all the time, and missing any one of them can stop your case dead in its tracks.

I charge a healthy, although reasonable fee for my expertise. If you're reading this after losing, I'm sure you're not congratulating yourself for any money you may have saved by winging it on your own or saving money on the bargain lawyer. I can't speak for anyone else, but if you're really sober and I take your case, you'll get what you pay for. You'll only pay me once, and you will get back on the road. None of this, however, is any comfort to a person who has just lost, and there is probably nothing I can say that will stop a person who loses from wanting to know what can be done...

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August 1, 2014

Winning a Driver's License Restoration case - The Standard of Proof

For all of the evidence that must submitted and rules that must be followed when filing a Michigan driver's license appeal, there is also a legal requirement, called the "standard of proof" that controls how every case is decided. This can be a tricky subject, because while almost everyone knows that a criminal case, for example, must be proven "beyond a reasonable doubt," when you ask anyone what that really means, you'll soon discover that most people don't actually know. Similarly, many people know that if you sue someone, you have to prove your case by a "preponderance of the evidence," but again, when pressed about the matter, you'll discover that while most people think they know what it means, few really do.

Scalers 1.2.jpgThis article will examine the standard of proof required to win a Michigan driver's license clearance or restoration case: Clear and convincing evidence. To begin, I should point out that this is probably the least frequently used "standard of proof" in the law and that you'd likely find most lawyers don't even really understand what it means. We're going to simplify things here, because a complete treatment of this topic would take a book, not an article, and the reader would not likely learn anymore for all that added effort, anyway.

The standard of proof required to win a Michigan license appeal is set forth by the Michigan Secretary of State in the DAAD rules governing those appeals. The relevant part of the applicable rule (rule 13) begins, "The 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..." Note how the instruction to the hearing officer is to NOT issue a license unless certain things are proven by "clear and convincing evidence." This is really a sneak peak at the negative directive to the hearing officer. The wording of the rule would mean much the same thing if we cleaned it up a bit to read something like, "The hearing officer shall issue a license if the petitioner proves the following by clear and convincing evidence," except it would lose the strong negative ("shall not") implication. That negative mandate, however, is very important.

In fact, the "shall not" negative mandate effectively sets the bar at the level the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) requires in order to grant a license restoration or clearance appeal. You can fairly translate this to mean that the hearing officer is instructed to look for a reason or reasons to deny your appeal (if you've already tried an appeal and lost, you won't have much trouble understanding this). So what does all this really mean?

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July 28, 2014

Michigan DAAD Interlock Violations and the risk of Losing

Ignition interlock violations seem to surge in cycles, and I have recently seen more than I can ever recall. Unfortunately, a lot of the calls I get are from people who have opened their mail to find out that they lost a violation hearing after having tried to handle it themselves, or with some lawyer who does not concentrate in driver's license appeals. As a bona-fide Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I'm putting this article up to warn the reader of the dangers of trying the low-budget approach to handling an interlock violation because the stakes boil down to saving your license, or losing it completely.

Zero's 1.2.jpgIn other articles, I have examined some of the reasons underlying an ignition interlock violation. There is no reason to repeat all that here. The simple fact is that if you receive an ignition interlock violation, you also discover that your license is being revoked all over again, and you have to request a hearing to get it back. If you fail to win your hearing, you not only lose your license, but will also place an obstacle - potentially huge - in the path of ever getting it back again. If there was ever a time to do something the right way, it's when you're the Secretary of State notifies you of an interlock violation.

Probably the first and biggest mistake people make is thinking that the point of a violation hearing is to go in and explain things. That will not work. On this point, I have to be clear: In a violation situation, you have essentially been accused of doing something wrong. The state, meaning the DAAD (the Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) takes this so seriously that it doesn't just threaten to take your license away; instead, the DAAD promptly revokes it again, and then informs you that the only way you can get it back is to request and win a violation hearing. This is a legal proceeding; you don't just "explain" things. You either win, or the state will keep your license.

First, you have to timely request a hearing. Even if you do, you absolutely cannot prevent your license from being revoked all over again. In other words, you won't even be able to drive to your own violation hearing. On top of that, once your license has been re-revoked, you stop accumulating credit for the mandatory minimum one-year on the interlock. This means that if you have already spent the first six months on the interlock, and then you get violated, you'll have to wait the usual 10 to 12 weeks from the request date to get your violation hearing date. If you win, you will have to wait at least another 2 weeks thereafter to get your decision in the mail, you will lose those 12 to 14 weeks of time on the interlock and restricted license that you will have to make up. Accordingly, the date when you can get off the interlock and go for a full license will be pushed forward by at least another 3 more months. And that's assuming you win; if you lose, you're pretty much done...

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July 25, 2014

Driver's License Restoration Lawyer: My way or NOT the Highway

I write a lot about driver's license restoration. The truth is that as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, it's good business for me to be at the head of the class in terms of writing articles that explain things and help people understand the license appeal process. While my steadfast requirement that a person must truly be sober before I will take his or her case certainly limits the number of potential clients I actually get, my guarantee that I'll win your case if I take it tends to balance that out. By limiting my clientele to people who have really quit drinking, I reduce my aggravation factor by a ton. Sober people are generally much easier to deal with than those who are still drinking, but there are exceptions. Sober or not, the point here is that difficult people tend to make everything...difficult.

highway 1.2.jpgWhile it is absolutely true that anyone who is still in the throes of a drinking problem is difficult to deal with, particularly in a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal where proving that sobriety is really the main issue, it is also true that just being sober doesn't necessarily make interacting with a person easy. Some people are just difficult people, period. In this article, I am going to "vent" about this very issue. Beyond blowing off some steam, perhaps the reader may recognize something about dealing with the difficult people in your life, or even how not to be that difficult person yourself. The bottom line is that in order to win a license appeal, I have to be in control.

Look, we all have bad days. Some people make a living by not letting the day-to-day problems affect their performance. Some of us find that work can often be a way to forget about the outside pressures of life. It can be cathartic. No matter what you do for a living, however, if you deal with people, you are going to run across a few special cases that make you shake your head and wonder why they cannot see that their own attitude causes them so much grief. In my role as a driver's license reinstatement attorney, I occasionally run into people who want to do everything their way. There is no softer way to put it than to say that if I'm hired as the expert who guarantees his work, then I have to run things.

This can almost be funny, in as much as I've handled and won more license appeals than I could ever count, and that my representation comes with a guarantee. Still, some people just seem born to argue. While I understand that the Michigan Secretary of State seems to make the whole license reinstatement process hard, rules are the rules. I don't make them; I simply know how to navigate them so that, if you're really sober, I can get your license back. Getting all frustrated and then blurting out, "this is bull$#it" doesn't change things.

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July 21, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Basics: The 3 most Important Things you need to Win

The 3 most important things necessary to win a Michigan driver's license restoration (or clearance) case are, first, that you are honestly and truly sober; second, a good, thorough and favorable substance abuse evaluation, and third, relevant and helpful letters of support. The license restoration process is complicated, and I often describe it as being governed by "a million little rules," but rather than get lost in endless details of varying importance, this article, longer by necessity, will focus on the 3 primary things you must have to stand any chance at winning your license back before the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD).

123-1.2.jpgIn life, just as with license reinstatement cases, the more experience you get, the more you realize that simpler is better. There are so many facets to a license appeal that even a lawyer with moderate experience handling these cases would freak out at all the thinks he or she doesn't know. I don't fly airplanes, but I think that it's reasonably likely that 3 of the most important aspects of flying are a successful takeoff, keeping the plane in the air, and a successful landing. I'm sure there are a million things a pilot must do before he or she even starts the plane, but you have to begin somewhere. The flying analogy really holds up well, because if you're not sober, you're case won't even get off the ground. If your substance abuse evaluation isn't rock-solid, your appeal won't stay in the air, and if your letters of support aren't just right, the whole case will crash.

To begin, being sober is a non-negotiable requirement to begin a license appeal. There are 2 key issues in a driver's license restoration: First, you must prove that your alcohol problem is "under control," and second, that it is "likely to remain under control." The first issue requires proving your sobriety date. The primary evidence on this score comes from your letters of support; more on those later. The second issue, which really is the more important of the 2 and is the meat and potatoes of a license reinstatement or clearance appeal requires proving that you are likely to never drink again. The primary evidence submitted on this point is the substance abuse evaluation.

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July 11, 2014

Michigan License Restoration at a Whole DIfferent Level

This article will be a detour from my usual examination of some legal or technical aspect of the Michigan driver's license restoration appeal process. In many of my articles, I examine some facet or other of the license appeals, or the process by which a person who now lives outside of Michigan can obtain a clearance of the Secretary of State's "hold" on his or her driving record so that he or she can get or renew an out-of-state license. In other articles, I shift the focus to the person him or herself. I've written extensively about recovery and sobriety, and how those things are non-negotiable requirements to win a license restoration or clearance appeal.

elevator-up 1.2.jpgIn this article, I'm going to talk about things from my side of the desk. I believe that I am unique as a Michigan license restoration lawyer. I provide a guaranteed win. If I take your case, I'll win it. Whatever else, you'll only pay me once to get back on the road. I do, however, require that a person has really and truly quit drinking before I will undertake representation. I stand alone in that regard. This cuts my pool of potential clients down considerably, but I am not just some lawyer with my hand out, ready to take a fee and go to work. I need to make sure my work will succeed, and then, as a backup, I provide a warranty. I won't take someone's money if I can't deliver.

I have these exceptional standards because I have exceptional qualifications. I am actively and formally involved in the post-graduate level study of addiction and alcohol issues at the University level. With nearly a quarter century of experience, and beyond all of the "book stuff," I also understand recovery from a full, inside-out, 360-degree perspective. In short, I take driver's license restoration to a whole different level.

To do license restorations the way I do them requires an enormous amount of work. My first meeting with a new client takes at least 3 hours. Almost all of this time is spent preparing my client to undergo his or her substance abuse evaluation. I shudder when I hear of some lawyer charging some kind of bargain flat-fee price. There is no endeavor in which one becomes proficient, and then remains at the top of his or her game. without a significant commitment of time and effort to refine and sustain those skills. A skilled musician practices regularly to become good, and remains good only through continued practice. Top-level athletes practice and train and work out endlessly to remain in top form.

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June 20, 2014

What Happens when you win a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Case

There are 3 possible outcomes to a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal: You win your license back, you lose your case, or, if you live out of state, you win what's called a "clearance." Because I guarantee a win in all the cases I take, there's no point for me to talk about losing, beyond pointing out that, if you do lose, you have to wait a year to try again. Similarly, there isn't a lot to tell about an appeal for anyone who lives out of state, either, because when you win an out-of-state appeal, you are granted what's called a "clearance," meaning that the hold on your driving record is lifted so that you can obtain or renew a license in your new state.

choicer 1.2.jpgIf you live in Michigan, and you win reinstatement of your license, all you can win is a restricted license for the first year, and you must drive with an ignition interlock installed in your vehicle for that year, as well. This article will focus on what happens when a current Michigan resident wins a driver's license appeal. Beyond a general lack of understanding about the kind of license a person "wins back," there have been some changes in the rules regarding license restorations within the last several years. The practical upshot of this is a person will very often hear outdated information about regaining the privilege to drive, even from someone who has actually gone through the process, albeit a while ago.

As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer who has answered endless questions about the type of license a person actually wins back, it may help for me to begin by clarifying a few points. First, the Secretary of State (and, by extension its Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, or DAAD) doesn't care what kind of license you need, or will work best for you, because "caring" has nothing to do with the rules that control what kind of license can be initially restored. Second, and this is probably the most important thing to understand, there is absolutely NO WAY around getting a restricted license with an ignition interlock for at least the first year after you win.

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June 9, 2014

Winning Back your Michigan Driver's License Means no Alcohol

The single most important part of winning a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal case is that you must be genuinely sober. I have written rather extensively about this, but apparently, not quite enough, because my office always gets calls from people who want their licenses back, but still drink, and think that's okay. It's not. In this article, I want to make clear that if you have lost your license for multiple DUI convictions , the Michigan Secretary of State won't even consider giving it back until you prove that you no longer drink. This is a simple point that seems to be completely missed by loads of people, because all too many want to try and prove that they are "sober" by explaining that they no longer drink and drive, or that they have managed to cut down or limit their drinking. It doesn't work that way....

100-percent-sober 1.2.jpgLet's clarify the legalities first. To win a Michigan license reinstatement appeal, you have to prove, by what the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) rules establish as "clear and convincing evidence," that your alcohol problem is "under control," meaning that you can fix a sobriety date since you haven't had a drink, and that your alcohol problem is "likely to remain under control," which essentially means that you must prove that you are likely to never drink again. Ever.

From the state's point of view, if your license has been yanked because of drinking and driving issues, your relationship to alcohol is seen as dangerous, problematic and risky; too risky, in fact, to let you drive as long as alcohol has any place in your life. Accordingly, the Secretary of State's DAAD is NOT interested in taking the risk that someone who has lost his or her license as a habitual alcohol offender has, against all the odds, managed to somehow (and miraculously) become a normal social drinker. Instead, the DAAD requires, as a condition of giving a license back, that you prove you have quit drinking and established an alcohol-free, sober lifestyle.

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June 2, 2014

Michigan Ignition Interlock Violation - DAAD Revokes your License Again!

An important part of my practice as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer is handling ignition interlock violations. An interlock violation starts with a notice that your license has been taken away. Technically, the original action of revoking your license is reinstated, but however confusing the language, the upshot is the same - the Michigan DAAD (Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) has yanked your license. Worse yet, the "presumed guilty" nature of the process means that your license will stay revoked, unless you prove yourself innocent by requesting a hearing within 14 days from the date of the notice. If you miss the 14-day deadline, you have to wait a full year, and then you start the whole license restoration process all over again, with the implication that the violation charged against you had merit. After all, you just stood by without a fight, or even a word to the contrary.

A big problem is that many violations are caused by something other than the person actually drinking alcohol. This is what really makes it sting, because if you've done all the work to get sober, and have managed to stay sober, to be violated because the circumstances make it look like you might have been drinking feels like slap in the face. In virtually every violation I have handled, my client was not drinking. In some (but not all) cases, simply proving that you did not consume alcohol is good enough to win the hearing and get your license back. Saying and swearing up and down that you weren't drinking is one thing; proving it is another.

Wiley 1.2.jpgPart of proving your innocence - and abstinence from alcohol - may require a sophisticated kind of lab test with the requisite scientific certification to prove that you have not had a drink. When I meet with a client facing an interlock violation, I assess the circumstance and then determine if a lab test can be helpful, and, if so, which test to employ. Whatever else, we are not talking about a $20 or $30 urine test here. And this is the easy part.

In many cases, the violation is not for a positive alcohol reading. This makes sense if you are being violated for a "tamper/circumvent," but may seem less obvious if, for example, you skipped a rolling retest. Obviously, the implication of a skipped rolling retest is that you didn't take it because you know the result would be positive. It would seem that proving that there was absolutely no alcohol in your system at the time of the missed test should clear everything up, right?

Wrong.

It is important to look at the action, or failure to act, that gives rise to the violation. In the case of a skipped rolling retest, it is missing the rolling retest that is the violation. In other (and technical) words, simply proving that you didn't consume any alcohol doesn't address the actual violation - the skipped retest. This may sound crazy, but I've sat through violation hearings where, after proving that my client did not consume alcohol, the hearing officer has made clear that the real issue is why he or she did not blow into the handset when required.

Tamper/circumvent violations can be even more frustrating because very often, the person will have called the interlock company about a mechanical issue with his or her car, carefully explained everything to the facility and/or person doing whatever work is being done, and seemingly have covered every conceivable base, only to get violated anyway. Of course, most people immediately react with an exasperated "this is bull$**t," but that doesn't change the fact that you've been violated. Here, you can thank one particular SOB for all your problems. It turns out that one of the hearing officers in Livonia had a case involving a guy who disconnected his interlock for just a few minutes, and then reconnected it after rigging it up so that it would not detect alcohol, even after he'd been drinking. Accordingly, the DAAD now must be suspicious of any disconnection, however brief, because one "backyard mechanic" (this was the term the hearing officer used to describe the guy) had to ruin it for everyone.

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May 30, 2014

Losing a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal - The cost of Trying to save Money

If your Michigan driver's license has been revoked because of multiple DUI convictions, there will come a point where you will be eligible to file a driver's license restoration appeal. For years, I have warned of the dangers of plowing ahead with a "do-it-yourself" appeal (or a low budget deal involving a lawyer who "does," rather than concentrates in, license restoration cases) while trying not to sound too much like I'm trying to drum up business for myself.

A recent conversation with another license appeal lawyer has made me reconsider my "polite" approach. In that conversation, we were discussing the fact that so many first contacts by potential clients arise because the person loses his or hearing at the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) and then wants to appeal to circuit court. We both agreed that such appeals are, almost without exception, a complete waste of time, effort and money.

Piggy 1.2.jpgMy lawyer friend rather offhandedly, but correctly, observed that, "that's the cost of saving money." His reference wasn't just to the lost appeal itself, but the fact that the person who loses it will not be driving for at least the next year, and will be incurring the headache, if not the additional expense, of having to depend on everyone else to get around. For some, not having a license affects their job prospects; for others it limits what they can do, or employment positions they could otherwise take. Realistically, not having a license is a major impediment to getting on with life in more ways than you could count.

It sure does have a self-serving ring to it if I start listing all the reasons why trying it alone, or with a lawyer that isn't any kind of license restoration specialist, is a bad idea. Moreover, I have written rather extensively about how I find it distasteful that some lawyers handling DUI cases will use what amounts to scare tactics (listing potential jail sentences when they know that none of that will ever happen) to get people to call. This, however, is different. My warnings about losing a "do-it-yourself" or "bargain" appeal aren't just about things that can possibly happen, they are things that are likely to happen. If you're already on the losing end of a license appeal, then you already know all about that.

The plain truth is that the majority of cases I take are for people who have tried an appeal before and lost. In fact, this is so common that the very first question on my "substance abuse evaluation checklist" (a custom 4-page form I that I have designed and complete as part of the 3 hour first meeting with a client, and then send along with him or her to give to the evaluator to make sure the evaluation is done completely, accurately, and properly) is whether or not the client has filed a prior restoration appeal. The reason that question is important enough to be the very first one that I ask is instructive.

To be blunt about it, it sucks to lose a chance to get your license back. Even so, it's probably not the end of the world, unless you had a pending job offer that was contingent upon your winning your appeal, in which case you can blame yourself for trying the "do-it-yourself" or "bargain" route in the first place. Most people develop a network of family and friends to cart them around, and while this lack of independence may be inconvenient, it's not like you're going to starve to death. You've survived this long, so another year isn't going to kill you.

The real kicker is that you lost your appeal because something wasn't done properly, and whatever issues caused you to lose will haunt all your subsequent appeals in the year (or years, if you keep trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result), as well. To be clear, and so that I don't sound like the "scare tactic guy," there are plenty of reasons an appeal can be denied that can be fixed without much difficulty the next time around. However, if you find yourself ready to argue about, rather than acknowledge, what went wrong in your last appeal, you're probably not seeing the bigger picture. How then, can you even begin to fix what you don't see?

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May 5, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - The big (and necessary) "R"

As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I have written extensively about every facet of the license clearance and restoration process. As I've noted in other articles, I have been called numerous times by various lawyers seeking clarification on some aspect of a license appeal, and on several recent occasions I have been thanked, in person, by attorneys for the help they've gotten from this blog. That's a high compliment, but there is a clear danger in that, as well, perhaps best expressed in the old adage that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing."

In order to win a Michigan DAAD (Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) license appeal, you need to be in recovery. Recovery is the big "R" in a license appeal. It is a first and necessary requirement to win, and if you don't fundamentally understand it, either as the person trying to win back his or her license or the lawyer handling the case, then you're just flying blind. Sure, "the law", and a "million little rules" govern a Michigan Secretary of State driver's license restoration/clearance appeals, but underlying all of that legal and technical stuff is the requirement that you prove that you currently are, and will forever remain, sober. This isn't much different than suing someone for an unpaid debt; you have to observe all the legalities and procedural requirements to sue him or her, but you also have to prove that the person owes you money.

The big R 1.2.pngTo win a Michigan license appeal, you have to be sober. "Sober," in this sense, means a lot more than just "not drunk." Anyone who is truly sober knows that "sobriety" means recovery, and if you've experienced recovery, then you know it's a hell of lot more than just not drinking. This distinction is huge, and separates those who get it from those who don't. As a driver's license restoration lawyer, I like to think I'm unique in my understanding of these issues. Beyond just "knowing" them, I actually, formally study addiction at the post-graduate, University level. That's a commitment of extraordinary effort, money (over $12,000 per year) and time on my part, but one that is incredibly rewarding and gives me a huge advantage in successfully handling license reinstatement cases. Being a great lawyer is all well and fine, but when I sit in the hearing room with my client and the hearing officer, I also have to be the foremost expert on alcohol, addiction and recovery issues, and I am.

In order to win your license back, either through a Michigan restoration or clearance appeal, you must prove, by what the state calls "clear and convincing evidence," two things: First, that your alcohol problem is under control (this is the easier task), and second, that your alcohol problem is likely to remain under control. This means that you have to convince a hearing officer that you have the commitment and the tools to remain sober for life, even in the face of endless offers of drinks and other temptations. To effectively do this, day after day, and to do it well enough to provide a guarantee, like I do, you have to begin with a genuinely sober client, and then possess the experience and skills of a good litigator, the understanding of a clinician, with a superior ability to communicate clearly, charismatically, and persuasively. Here, we can add another "r" to the mix; the ability to relate, both to the client, and then relate the client's recovery story to the hearing officer.

There are plenty of lawyers with great litigation skills, and/or who can write and speak very well. What separates me from that pack, and what separates a client with real potential to win a license appeal from those who just "need" a license, is a thorough and "lived in" understanding of the big "R," meaning "recovery." It is precisely this knowledge that enables me to screen out potential clients who are not genuinely sober, and provide a guaranteed win to those who are. Understanding recovery seems easy for someone who is actually in recovery, particularly in terms of the path that person has followed to get sober.

Winning license appeal cases, however, requires understanding the whole spectrum of ways that people recover, from the tried and true 12-step programs like AA, things like CBT and REBT (cognitive behavioral therapy and rational emotive behavioral therapy), all the way to the somewhat uncharted waters of spontaneous recovery. Whether you believe it or not, or like it or not, some people can just decide that enough is enough and make the panorama of life changes necessary to get and stay sober all by themselves. Many folks in "traditional" recovery find this hard to accept, and, not surprisingly, so does the state, meaning the DAAD. This is where my specialized training and experience becomes invaluable, because I have the clinical knowledge to be able to prove this to the hearing officer, and have to make sure he or she understands that these lesser known paths to sobriety have been empirically validated through extensive research.

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May 2, 2014

Come back to win Clearance of a Michigan hold on your Driving Record - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began our discussion of why you should come back to Michigan if you want to clear a Michigan Secretary of State hold on your driving record. The process that will enable you to obtain, or, in some cases, renew a license in another state is called a clearance. The Michigan Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, or DAAD, will accept an appeal by mail that does not require a person to come back for a hearing, but only 1 out of 4 of those appeals ever wins. That's a 75% chance of losing, and being stuck without a license for another year. By contrast, if you're really sober, and have honestly quit drinking, I guarantee that I will win a clearance for you.

In this second installment, we'll pick up with our inquiry by looking at the letters of support that must be filed as part of the initial paperwork in order to begin a formal license appeal. This applies equally in cases of out-of-state, administrative appeals, or in-state, in-person appeals. The Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, or DAAD, requires that a minimum of at least 3 support letters accompany the substance abuse evaluation. Based upon my experience, I generally require at least 4 letters of support.

Try it Again Sam 2.1.jpgFor all of the information I provide on my website, and in the Driver's License Restoration section of this blog, I have to be careful about giving away too much here. I have to guard exactly how I edit the letters of support, and what I do in the editing and revising process as something of a proprietary secret. Almost as confirmation of this, and in a surprising way that felt like both a compliment and an a bit of a warning, within the several weeks before writing this article, I have spoken with at least 3 lawyers who have thanked me for the help they get from this blog in doing research about how to handle certain cases. I'm glad to help, to a point. One must never lose sight of the axiom that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing." A thorough understanding of the context of proper letter editing can be more important than the words themselves.

Typically, letters of support come up short because the writer does something like trying to explain to the state how much a person needs a license. Rest assured, the DAAD already knows that everybody needs a license. To win a license appeal, you must prove by clear and convincing evidence that your alcohol problem is under control, and likely to remain under control; needing a license has nothing to do with it. The state does not care how hard it has been without a license, nor does it care what opportunities await if you win it back. It may sound cold, but the reality, from the DAAD's perspective, is that you should have thought about that before a second (or third, or fourth, etc.) DUI.

Another faux pas of many letters is trying to convince the DAAD that the person "deserves" a license. While the underlying sentiment there is understandable, that determination is exclusively for the hearing officer to make, and like anyone else with a job, they aren't especially anxious to have someone tell them how to do it. The only things that matter, in the determination that you "deserve" restoration of your license (or the issuance of a clearance), is that your alcohol problem is under control, and likely to remain under control. Accordingly, I often have to redirect the focus of support letters to that subject.

Letters written by friends who were part of the subject's drinking days don't fare particularly well, either. This might take a few seconds to "get," but when someone talks about having hung out with the person filing the license appeal back when his or her drinking was a problem, and then points out how he or she has changed, the person writing the letter can be perceived by the DAAD as part of that old, "bad" lifestyle, and certainly part of something that should be left in the past. Does that mean that we can't use a letter from such a person? Of course not, but it does mean that we really have to shift the letter writer's perspective quite a bit. For me, it means a pretty big editing job.

The truth is that I have to perform substantial editing on more 90% of the letters that cross my desk. When I meet with a client who has tried a "do-it-yourself" administrative appeal before (and obviously lost), and review the documents filed in that previous case, I always find the letters to be anywhere from inadequate to outright harmful. To be clear, this is not a clinic in letter writing or proper grammar, but rather about what the letters need to say, and what they shouldn't get into. I'd love to make it out like I'm just incredibly gifted and supremely intelligent, but the truth is that I've learned most of what I know the hard way. With more than 2 decades of experience dealing with both what does and does not work in the letters of support, my clients are paying for experience and skill honed by more than 23 years of hard-earned lessons.

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April 28, 2014

Come back to win Clearance of a Michigan hold on your Driving Record - Part 1

For anyone who now lives outside of the state with a Michigan hold for multiple DUI's on his or her driving record, it quickly becomes clear that your new DMV will not issue (or, in some cases, renew) a driver's license until the Michigan Secretary of State clears it. Almost without fail, the next thing a person does is to find out what it takes the clear that hold. As anyone reading this has probably already learned, a Michigan hold for multiple DUI's can only be cleared (thus, we use the term "clearance" when describing this kind of relief) after a formal driver's license restoration/clearance appeal has been filed with and decided by the Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, or DAAD.

There are only 2 ways to do this: A person can file what's called an "administrative appeal," which is essentially an appeal by mail, or, he or she can come back to Michigan and do a formal, in-person appeal. There really isn't much of a choice, given that the 3 out of 4 administrative appeals are denied every year. If you really want to win a clearance, then you have to come back to Michigan. If you are really and truly sober, I will not only win your case, but will guarantee it. The question then becomes how serious you are about getting back on the road. This 2-part article will examine the reasons why you have to come back if you really want to win a clearance of the Michigan hold on your license.

Gator driver 1.2.pngBeyond the dire statistics, the reality of winning a clearance is that, as with just about everything, the cheap and easy way doesn't work very well. In writing this, I'm reminded of the contraption advertised on TV that is a little wheel with handles, designed to give a person great abs. The ad is filled with fit and trim models showing off their well-defined "six packs" using the roller. "Just 20 minutes a day, 3 times a week," promises the announcer, and you can look like this. Obviously, enough people fall for this to keep the ad running...

The fact, however, is that the first rule of abs is that you must lose the bodyfat covering them up. You can roll on that wheel for 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, and if you don't start dropping pounds, the only six pack you'll be seeing is in the soda isle. As an aside, anyone who belongs to a gym will note that you absolutely never see on of these contraptions there. Beyond being a waste of time, the 10 or 20 bucks you spend doesn't buy you a marvel of German engineering; it gets you another cheap, disposable piece of Chinese plastic junk, instead. The simple truth is that there just are no shortcuts to doing things properly. As the old saying goes, anything worth doing is worth doing right.

A few years ago, I tried to find a way to incorporate administrative appeals into my Michigan driver's license restoration practice. It just didn't work. I wound up filing one case, and I won it, but as I had suspected, every step of the way was difficult, and, more importantly, not entirely within my control. That's a huge component of my license restoration practice - my ability to control every facet of the process. That element of control is an important part of how I win all my cases, and why I provide a guarantee in the first place.

In order to begin a Michigan license reinstatement or clearance appeal, a person must file, amongst other things, a substance abuse evaluation and at least 3 letters of support (n my office, I require at least 4). These documents are reviewed by a DAAD (sometimes mistakenly referred to by the former title of "DLAD") hearing officer, who must be satisfied that the person filing the appeal has proven, by "clear and convincing evidence," that his or her alcohol problem is "under control," and "likely to remain under control."

Right off the top, there are 3 variables here: The substance abuse evaluation, the letters of support, and the hearing officer. And that's not even scratching the surface. What this means, however, is that a person winging this on his or her own has essentially no clue about the relative quality of the evaluation, beyond having it completed, is left to his or her own devices for editing and revising the letters of support, and then sends this "pot-o-luck" package to some unknown hearing officer, essentially hoping for a win. No wonder that 74% of all administrative appeals lose. And of those that win, we can only wonder how many are third or even fourth tries...

Continue reading "Come back to win Clearance of a Michigan hold on your Driving Record - Part 1" »

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March 28, 2014

The cost of a Michigan Driver's License Restoration/Clearance Guaranteed win

In one of my recent driver's license restoration articles, I described the mixed blessing of my office receiving so many calls inquiring about hiring me for a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal. I noted that, to my dismay, lots of people simply look at the large number of articles I've written (without taking the time to read any of them) and see that I provide a guarantee that if I take your case, I'll win your license back and just figure, "he's the guy!" This frustrates me because in just about every article I've written, and on just about every corner of my site, I make it clear that I will only undertake a license restoration appeal for a person who has really and truly quit drinking.

Even so, my office gets calls almost every day from someone who will act surprised, and even offended, that I really mean that. A few weeks ago, a caller said it best when he expressed his impatience by asking, "You mean to tell me that I'm supposed to pay you $3200 for this and you're going to tell me that I can't even have a drink once in a while?"

ROI2.1.jpgYep. That $3200, however, buys you a lawyer of integrity, and a level of service (backed up with a guarantee) miles above any operation that simply sets a fee and will undertake a license appeal for anyone who pays it. And while I won't tell someone that he or she can or cannot drink, I will tell everyone that I won't take your case if you are still drinking. It is because of the high standards I have that I win almost all of my cases the first time around, and why I provide a guarantee.

$3200 is a lot of money. I couldn't imagine charging anywhere that much without providing a guarantee, but I can't imagine not providing a guarantee, either. The deal is straightforward; if you are genuinely sober, you'll pay me once, and you will get your license back. Simple as this is, there is a recurrent theme here, however - sobriety. "Sobriety" is absolutely critical to a Michigan driver's license restoration case because the 2 main issues that you must prove to the state, by what is specified as "clear and convincing evidence," are directly related to your NOT drinking. These 2 key issues are that:

  1. Your alcohol problem is "under control," and

  2. Your alcohol problem is "likely to remain under control," meaning that you have the commitment and the tools to remain alcohol-free, meaning sober, for life.
You can't fake these things, or at least not very well. The state wants to make sure that you hit the point in your drinking where you'd just had enough, and quit. Most people call this "hitting bottom." From there, of course, everything is "up." You can tell when someone is still struggling with this, because anyone who has really embraced recovery and sobriety finds a certain, if not overwhelming, contentment with it. Sober people stand out in stark contrast to people who are hanging on to abstinence by the skin of their fingernails. If staying sober is any kind of "white knuckle" experience, then it's not any kind of real sobriety, and certainly not any kind that will help win a license appeal.

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March 24, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration for Women

As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer with over 23 years' experience, it has long been the case that women are a significant part of my client base. In a recent conversation, however, I was reminded of some of the special concerns that can and often do affect women across the continuum of an alcohol problem, from its development through an eventual recovery from it. There are issues than impact the drinking patterns and recoveries of people from different cultures, races, and genders. In other words, the path to sobriety can be different for a woman, just because she is a woman

This topic comes up rather frequently in classroom lectures and textbooks, but no one really lives in a classroom or in a textbook. In my current post-graduate curriculum in addiction studies, faculty members take special care to illustrate that, as an example, behavior considered normal, and even "cool" for a man is often viewed in the opposite manner for a woman. Thus, after a divorce, a male who spends several evenings a week at various nightclubs and who boast of 7 or 8 sexual conquests in the preceding several months may be considered "lucky," or even "worldly." Ascribe that same behavior to a woman, however, and the prevailing societal assessment is invariably and overwhelmingly negative.

Green Chic 1.2.jpgThe point I'm making is that the very same behavior undertaken by one gender can be seen as somehow "wrong," or "worse" when done by the other. Perception, then, in every sense of the word, has implications. In the context of troubled drinking, a woman may feel self-conscious, or fear being perceived as "un-ladylike" if she reaches out for help, or otherwise admits her problem. To be sure, men can also be ashamed of their drinking, and have this "private shame," but the mere presence of the gender consideration can posit an additional obstacle in a woman's path to recovery. This is something that, whatever else, should not be ignored in the context of a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal.

Alcohol is no respecter of age, race, income status, education or gender. While it is true that majority of people who drink don't develop a drinking problem, there is nothing special or unique (beyond having the problem) about those who do. Rich and poor, tall and short, male and female, the reach of alcoholism knows no boundaries. Even so, there can sometimes be special considerations that women face when dealing with an alcohol problem.

It is entirely possible that a woman may fear a certain "stigma" for admitting and/or getting help for an alcohol problem. In an ideal world, this would be nothing more than a left-over misconception, but even if the "stigma" is a matter of her own perception rather that a reality, it does nothing to help her feel at east about reaching out for help. This can result in a woman trying longer, on her own (without appropriate help), to control, or moderate or stop her drinking. Of course, that doesn't work, so the inevitable result is that it just takes longer for her to get the help she needs.

Of course, help is there, in numerous forms, from counseling to support groups. Practically everyone in the world knows about AA, for example. AA is a great program, but it still hasn't completely shaken off its roots as having been founded by and for primarily white, Christian males. Indeed, when famed researcher E.M. Jellinek began categorizing alcoholics by type (alpha, beta, gamma, delta and epsilon) for his 1960 book about the disease theory of alcoholism, he chose his subjects from AA meetings, and didn't even count or use women amongst them. In the intervening decades, "specialty" meetings for women, young people, and gay and lesbian people, just to name a few, have grown to be common. Even so, to a female newcomer walking into her first AA meeting, a room full of middle aged white guys may not seem like the most inviting setting in which to pour out one's heart, and look for acceptance, help and understanding. That's not to say it couldn't be found there, but that first impression can be rather intimidating and powerful. By contrast, a white guy walking to a room full of other white guys at least won't have those feelings...

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March 21, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Time and Effort Guarantees Win

In order to win a Michigan driver's license restoration case, you have to invest a lot of time. As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I guarantee that I'll win each case I take, by only accepting cases for people who have really and truly quit drinking. A critical reason I can make that guarantee, however, is that I will be investing a lot of time (as well as my heart and soul) into your case. This time commitment begins at our very first meeting, which takes 3 hours. And that's just to get started...

This article will be shorter than most of my other license reinstatement pieces because here, I want to focus on one simple, single point about a Michigan license appeal: It takes time to do it right. Every day of the week, my office gets calls from people who want to win back their driver's licenses. This part of things is simple; everybody "needs" a license. If you've even read this far, then you're ahead of many of those callers. Lots of people look at the sheer volume of what I have written, see that I guarantee a win in every license appeal case I take, and figure I'm the guy to call. It doesn't quite work that way. I guarantee a win in every case I take, but I don't take every case.

Effort 1.3.jpgThis really turns out to be a mixed blessing. Getting as many inquiries as I do certainly represents a level of success that took years and years to develop, and it is rather flattering to have people call wanting to hire me, sight unseen. However, it can also be rather frustrating because some of these callers haven't bothered to read anything I've written, and just think that all it takes to hire me is to pay my fee. I'm not that kind of lawyer. I don't EVER take a case for someone who has not, really and truly, stopped drinking. That requirement of sobriety is a big part of why I guarantee that I'll win your license restoration case.

You cannot just throw money around to get a license back. If it was that easy, there would be nothing special about what I do, and I wouldn't be anything more than just another lawyer accepting retainers. As we noted before, everybody "needs" a license. Just needing a license, however, won't get you any closer to actually getting one. Winning a Michigan driver's license restoration case requires an investment of time and effort on multiple levels.

First, you have to be legally eligible to file a license appeal. If you lose your license for 2 DUI convictions within 7 years, the Michigan Secretary of State revokes your license for at least 1 year. In the real world, because you must be off of probation (or, where applicable, parole) in order to prove the necessary (but undefined) period of "voluntary abstinence" from alcohol in order to win a license appeal, most people will have to wait at least 2 years, (or even longer longer) to start the restoration process. Anyone who accumulates 3 DUI's within 10 years will have to wait at least 5 years before he or she can file a license appeal. Whatever else, the state sets an eligibility date that is non-negotiable. Worse yet, if you get caught driving while your license is revoked, your eligibility date gets pushed back farther, by an additional 1 or 5 years.

Next, and most important, you must have quit drinking - for real. Your legal burden in a driver's license restoration appeal is to prove to the Michigan Secretary of State's DAAD (Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) hearing officer, by what is called "clear and convincing evidence," that, first, your alcohol problem is "under control" (meaning that you can establish a sobriety date, or an approximate date when you quit drinking), and, second, that your alcohol problem is "likely to remain under control." This means that you must prove that you are not likely to drink again - that you have the commitment and tools to live an alcohol-free lifestyle forever. This is why I point out that sobriety is a first and necessary requirement to win a Michigan driver's license reinstatement case.

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February 28, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Reinstatement Requires Sobriety - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began our examination of how and why sobriety is a necessary and non-negotiable requirement to win a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal. We clarified that the 2 main issues you must prove to Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, by "clear and convincing evidence" are first, that your alcohol problem is under control, and second, that it is likely to remain under control.

From that starting point, we analyzed how this all boils down to having to prove that you have been completely abstinent from alcohol for at least a year, and that you have the commitment and tools to remain abstinent for the rest of your life. We reduced this further to the paradoxically simple yet complex reality that you must be sober, and be able to prove it within the evidentiary framework of the "million little rules" that govern Michigan license appeals.

PSobriety 1.2.jpgAs a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I guarantee that I will win any license appeal case that I accept, but I only accept clients who are really and truly sober. This is a point that I need to be very clear about: I am not interested in taking a case for someone who has not really and truly quit drinking. Whatever else, I'm glad to speak with anyone, even if he or she is still drinking, and perhaps provide some information that can help him or her tip the scales in favor of quitting. But until a person has truly "put the plug in the jug," I won't undertake a license appeal. I am certainly in business to make money, but neither my integrity nor my reputation is for sale, nor am I interested in taking on a case that will wind up requiring "warranty work."

Sobriety, as we're describing it, involves not losing sight of the simple, yet evasive fact that once your drinking becomes a problem, you can't go back. Ever. There is no managing or controlling it. Either you quit, and quit for good, or you struggle with alcohol and always wind up on the losing side of things. And while it's true that most of my clients are not in AA, there are still some powerful truths that the AA program has gifted to the recovery world, and one particularly relevant to this discussion is the characterization of alcohol as "cunning, baffling, and powerful." You don't need to be in AA to appreciate its meaning, but you can't lose sight of it, either. If you've gotten really sick from eating a particular brand or kind of food, you will probably never eat it again. Yet people will endure loss of family, friends, jobs, get sent to jail and spend fortunes cleaning up the mess caused by their drinking, only to go right back to it. This baffling and powerful reality is part of the complexity and irrationality of addiction.

A client of mine once rather astutely pointed out that the whole idea of needing to think about drinking in any context of "controlling," "limiting" or "managing" it essentially proves that you already have a problem. Normal drinkers don't have to think about controlling their drinking. This is, of course, is decidedly different than a normal person walking into a pastry shop an exercising some self-control. Whatever else, such a person is thinking about limiting his or her calories to under a million on a given occasion, or not buying so much that it goes stale before it gets eaten. That kind of "control" isn't a concern about sliding into the abyss of self-destruction, and losing friends and family and getting into legal trouble and dealing with things like job loss because of a return to "old ways."

A normal drinker will automatically stop drinking before he or she gets into trouble. That's not to say a person who is a "normal" drinker may not have overindulged at various times in his or her life. However, when a person's use of alcohol, or any substance, for that matter, begins to do real damage and create negative consequences for which he or she must compensate, then things are getting out of hand. Whatever else, a normal drinker doesn't have a pattern of troubled behavior with alcohol that he or she has to avoid. A person in recovery comes to learn that once he or she has established a troubled drinking pattern, the only kind of "moderation" that works for him or her is complete and total abstinence. This is always a lesson learned the hard way, and usually only after a person has racked up countless failed attempts to control, limit or manage his or her drinking.

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February 24, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Reinstatement Requires Sobriety - Part 1

I earn most of my living winning Michigan driver's license restoration cases. I guarantee that I will win back your license, or, if you live out of state, win a clearance of the Michigan "hold" on your driving record so that you can renew or obtain a license in another state. The cost for admission, so to speak, is that you must really have quit drinking in order for me to take your case. This 2-part article will be about sobriety, and how and why it is a non-negotiable requirement to win a Michigan license appeal.

The term "sobriety" has 2 meanings: For those people who have really gotten sober, it encompasses all the changes you made in your life to eliminate alcohol from it. Sobriety, in this sense, is almost a state of being. It is a place you get to after an often-difficult journey. It means fundamentally understanding that there is no such thing as limiting or controlling your drinking. Sobriety is a state of being; a state of mind; a journey, and, a way of living.

Sober 1.3.jpgTo those who haven't really hit bottom, or those who don't understand (or may not have a reason to understand) a drinking problem, "sobriety" can mean something like "not drunk," or just not getting into trouble from your drinking. In the minds of those still struggling with a drinking problem, "sobriety, " whatever other meaning(s) it may have, does not equate to "quit," as in quit "for good."

Here's how all this relates to winning back your driver's license: The Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, known as the DAAD, requires that you prove, by "clear and convincing evidence," that your alcohol problem is under control, and that it is likely to remain under control. There is, of course, a lot more to a license appeal, but these are the two key legal issues, and if you fail to prove both that your alcohol problem is under control, and, more important, that your alcohol problem is likely to remain under control, by overwhelming, indisputable evidence, then the Secretary of State will deny your appeal.

The state considers your alcohol problem as "under control" when you can prove that you have been completely abstinent from alcohol for a period of time. In the real world, this translates to not having consumed any alcohol for more than a year. In my practice, I prefer that a person have closer to 2 years of abstinence by the time we go in for a license hearing. As it turns out, many of my clients have a lot more sober time than that by the time they call me, so that's usually not a problem. Most of the time, those individuals who "get it," and are really sober, intuitively understand these concepts of abstinence and sobriety. Unfortunately, plenty of people don't "get it," because my office still gets calls from lots of folks who want to argue that "under control" means that they can still drink, as long as that drinking doesn't cause problems.

It doesn't work that way. "Under control" means that you have stopped drinking completely, and for good. In the context of a DAAD license restoration appeal, "under control" means that you can provide a sobriety date. If you know what a "sobriety date" is, and, more importantly, if you actually have one, then at least you're in the ballpark. If, however, the concept of a sobriety date sounds like a bad night out with a non-drinker, you're not there yet...

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February 21, 2014

The 3 Main Reasons why Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeals lose - Part 3 - the Hearing

This final installment in my series about the 3 most common reasons a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal is denied will focus on what is also the final step in the reinstatement process; the appeal hearing. We first looked at problems with the substance abuse evaluation. In the section after that, we examined shortcomings in the letters of support. This section will, by necessity, be a very topical overview because there are just so many things that can go wrong at the hearing phase of a license reinstatement case that can ultimately be the reason you lose, that covering some of them, even briefly, could take forever.

One of the first and biggest mistakes people make is bringing in a witness to the hearing. This is the absolute poster-child of all amateur mistakes, and, at least to me, is a simple way to identify a lawyer who has no idea what he or she is doing. I have written whole articles about this, but the conclusion of all that analysis is the same; bringing a witness is a mistake. Anything helpful that a witness can say can and should be put in a letter. In other words, you can get all the benefit from a witness into a support letter, without any of the risky disadvantage of putting him or her up to the questioning of the hearing officer though live testimony.

SOS seal 1.2.pngAnother huge mistake that's made is the failure to adequately prepare for the hearing itself. I'm not talking about some generic kind of "what you can expect" review, either, but rather a prearranged, scheduled "prep session" that takes place the day before your actual hearing. I cannot help but cringe when I see some lawyer walk into the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) waiting room a few minutes before the hearing, find his or her client, and then go over a few things, or, worse yet, accept some new piece of evidence, like a letter of support, without having read it first.

In my practice, a "prep session" is pre-arranged for the night before a hearing. I usually do my preps in the evening, after-hours, when my office has long closed for the day and there are no distractions. I always have some advance instructions for my client prior to our session, which usually lasts about an hour. There are really 3 primary aspects to my preps:

First, there is the general, or generic "this is what you can expect" stuff that really applies to any hearing. It is important to provide a framework, or outline, for the specifics that will follow.

Second, it becomes important to focus on the unique aspects of each case. Everyone has his or her own recovery story. Everyone's "epiphany," or hitting bottom moment is different, and it is important to be able to talk about what led up to that moment, and what has taken place since then, and how profoundly different your life is now from back when you were still drinking. This is where we'll start getting into the facts of your case

Third, and most important, is preparing under the facts of your case for the specific hearing officer to whom your case has been assigned. This is huge. If you went into your last hearing without knowing about your hearing officer, what kind of disposition he or she has, and what he or she would be asking you, based on the facts of your case, then you were simply not well prepared. That's a failure and is unacceptable for something as important as this. As I point out elsewhere, if you went in to your hearing without a lawyer, then (and I know this sounds cold, but it's the hard truth), you got what you paid for in terms of experience and help, and at least know who to blame.

Continue reading "The 3 Main Reasons why Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeals lose - Part 3 - the Hearing" »

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February 17, 2014

The 3 Main Reasons why Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeals lose - Part 2 - the Letters of Support

In this series, we are examining the 3 most common reasons for losing a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal. In the previous article, we examined the critical role of the substance abuse evaluation, and how any shortcoming on that foundational document can effectively kill a license restoration case. In this installment, we'll focus on the letters of support, and how not having them in proper "shape" can derail any license appeal. From the cases I see, problems with support letters are about the second most common reason for resulting in an order from a Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) hearing officer denying a license reinstatement appeal.

While far from a scientific or statistical analysis, this overview is based upon my considerable experience handling (and winning) license reinstatement appeals. A large part of that experience involves taking on new clients who have tried (and lost) a prior license appeal before, either on their own, or with some lawyer whose experience and ability obviously came up short. Here, I should get one thing out of the way, even at the risk of sounding cocky: I guarantee that if I take your license appeal case, I will win it. The key (and completely non-negotiable) requirement here is that you must have really and truly stopped drinking. If you're sober, and I take your case, you can count on winning back your driver's license.

Lady writing 1.2.jpgMy experience winning Michigan license restoration appeals is essentially unmatched in terms of quantity or quality. I couldn't provide a guarantee if all I brought to the table was hope and enthusiasm; I guarantee my results because I have the experience, knowledge and skill to do just that, but it all must start with a client who has gotten sober. For anyone who has actually done all the work to become sober, it is frustrating to the point of feeling like an insult to have your license appeal denied. Yet if all that was required to win your license back was just being sober, I'd need to find another line of work. Sobriety is the first requirement to win a license back, but the license appeal process is essentially governed by what I call "a million little rules." Being "qualified" to win a license appeal is like being "qualified" for admission to medical school; there is still a lot of hard work to do to make it to the finish line.

Perhaps the most painful reality is that if your license appeal was denied because of problems with your letters of support, it is almost certainly the fault of your lawyer. If you didn't have a lawyer, then (and I'm sorry if it sounds cold, but it's the unvarnished truth) it's your fault for playing lawyer. Making sure the support letters are consistent with the rest of the case is a critical part of my job. In fact, I take it so seriously that I don't even begin to review any letters until I have I am in the proper frame of mind and have the time to sit down and look at a client's entire file. There can be no "rush" here, because one small oversight can result in a hearing officer denying your appeal because your letters were not consistent.

Consistency, then, is an important element of the letters. Each letter must not only be consistent with itself, but consistent with the other letters, as well as the substance abuse evaluation and the rest of the evidence in your case. The larger goal of the letters of support is to provide a comprehensive look at a person's abstinence from alcohol and sober lifestyle. Consistency is lost, however when the various letters don't describe what is essentially the same picture, even from different perspectives.

Anyone who has taken the time to read my blog, particularly my driver's license restoration articles, can see that I am rather generous with the information I provide. Indeed, I often provide a detailed, if not microscopic examination of the various facets of the driver's license restoration process. Yet for all of that, I have published comparatively little about the letters of support. There are several reasons why I play it close to the vest on this subject, most of them strategic. Even so, I would be less than candid if I did not also admit that I'm not particularly interested in giving away all of my secrets, either...

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February 14, 2014

The 3 Main Reasons why Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeals lose - Part 1 - the Substance Abuse Evaluation

It is my job, as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, to know how to win a case. To accomplish that, I require that a person has really and truly quit drinking as a condition to take his or her case, but I also guarantee that I will win every case I take. Many of my clients have previously tried, either on their own or with some lawyer who says that he or she "does" Michigan license appeals, to win back their driving privileges (or get a clearance), and have lost because of a problem with the substance abuse evaluation. There's a good chance that if you're reading this, you lost a prior license appeal. In this article, we'll look at 1 of the 3 primary reasons why people lose a Michigan driver's license restoration case - the substance abuse evaluation.

This article will be a topical overview of substance abuse evaluations. I have made a detailed examination of just about every aspect of the substance abuse evaluation in other articles on this blog. I could literally write a textbook and still not scratch the surface of the more important facets of substance abuse evaluations. Because the substance abuse evaluation plays such a critical role in a license appeal, my first appointment with a new client takes 3 hours, and almost every minute of that time is spent preparing the person to undergo (and obviously do well on) the substance abuse evaluation. In the big picture of Michigan license reinstatement appeals, the substance abuse evaluation is the foundation.

\Thumbnail image for number-12 1.2.jpgSometimes, even before examining a person's order denying his or her appeal, I will read the substance abuse evaluation filed in the case. Without exception, I can point out the things wrong with it and then explain how and why the hearing officer denied the appeal. Having sat across the desk from countless clients and having read these orders, I even know the specific language often used by particular hearing officers. If your previous substance abuse evaluation caused your case to lose, and it was decided by hearing officer Bandy in Livonia, for example, it is almost certain that within that order, your evaluation is described as "questionable/insufficient."

Hearing officer Modelski (also in Livonia) sometimes uses the language "woefully inadequate." Whatever else, when the hearing officer deciding your case points out where your substance abuse evaluation falls short, you've already lost your case by a wide margin. When you read the order denying your appeal, it can seem like a written inventory of every possible shortcoming regarding your evaluation. As you deal with having to accept being without a license for another year, it can very much feel like the hearing officer was looking for every possible reason to deny your appeal...

If it makes you feel any better, he or she was.

A license appeal is not about a "judgment call." These cases are not won by submitting evidence that's "good enough." Instead, the law requires states that "the 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..." Read that again carefully. The hearing officer is being told NOT to grant a license unless things are proven by "clear and convincing evidence." This is a negative mandate. Just change up the wording a little and imagine what a difference it would make if the rule said that "the hearing officer shall issue a license if the petitioner, by clear and convincing evidence, proves all of the following..."

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February 10, 2014

The 3 Main Reasons why Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeals lose - Introduction

There are really 3 principal reasons why a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal before the Secretary of State's DAAD (Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) gets denied. In this series of articles, I want to look at each one, in turn. I'll begin, in this first installment, by providing a brief overview of the Michigan license appeal process and looking at few common, small mistakes that often doom any chance of having your license reinstated before an appeal even gets off the ground. These installments will be summary in scope, but for anyone interested in more analysis, there are numerous, longer articles in the driver's license restoration section of this blog and on my website exploring each of these topics in far greater detail.

If your license has been revoked for multiple DUI's, then you cannot file for either restoration (sometimes called "reinstatement") of your driving privileges or a clearance of the Michigan hold on your driving record until you become legally eligible. A person with 2 DUI convictions within 7 years will have a 1-year revocation of his or her license. Thus, you cannot apply for a license appeal until at least 1 year has passed from the date of your original revocation. To be clear, even if you just "wait" 30 years, the only way to get your license back is to go through the restoration process. For my part, I guarantee that I will win any license appeal case that I file, but I absolutely require that a person has really and truly stopped drinking before I will take his or her case. Sobriety is the first and most important requirement in a Michigan driver's license restoration case.

3-reasons 1.2.jpgIt is important to understand is that 1 year is not some kind of "magic number," because the Secretary of State (SOS) generally requires that a person be able to prove a period of "voluntary abstinence." This means that you must be off of probation or parole in order to be able to prove that you have abstained from drinking voluntarily, since the DAAD does not count any period of time when you were under court (or parole) order to not drink because getting caught violating that order subjects you to punishment. This is a simple, but unpleasant reality; if you are put on probation for 2 years after a 2nd DUI, you don't even begin to accumulate any "voluntary" abstinence until your probation has ended. How long do you have to wait? It depends, really, and I a proper determination can only be made on a case-by-case basis.

Anyone with 3 or more DUI convictions in a 10-year period will have to wait at least 5 years from the effective date of the revocation to begin the license restoration/clearance process. There is no way to shorten this period, and if you pick up any driving infractions during your period of license revocation, the revocation itself will be extended for either another identical period (called a "like" mandatory additional) of either 1 or 5 years. Accordingly, really being "eligible" means more than just being legally eligible to file license appeal documents with the state.

The formal license appeal process is started by filing the required documents with the Secretary of State, including a current substance abuse evaluation, which will be the subject of your next installment, and letters of support, which we'll examine after that. Michigan residents, and any non-resident who wants any kind of real chance to win a clearance, will thereafter appear for a live, in-person hearing where testimony will be taken. We'll wind up this series by looking at the hearing itself.

Out of state residents can seek a clearance through an abbreviated process called an "administrative review." Instead of having to come back to Michigan for a hearing, their appeal is decided on the basis of the documents submitted. 3 out of 4 such appeals filed every year are denied, meaning that only 1 out of 4 ever win. These are all-around losing propositions, and I don't bother with them. Even so, examining the reason 3 out of 4 of these "administrative reviews" lose can help us understand the real "meat and potatoes" of a Michigan license appeal. After all, there has to be a reason behind all of this paperwork and the general complexity of the license restoration process...

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January 20, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - What's in a slick name for a Lawyer? - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, I took a break from my typically informational article about what I do, as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, and began decrying what I see as a wave of unknown lawyers trying to substitute a website name with the words "license restoration" for any real experience, or anything of real value to offer the reader. I began this article because that angers me. I went on to point out that my special practice makes me part of a small group, admittedly "competitors" to me, of real Michigan driver's license restoration attorneys. I noted that these lawyers are all good and honest and skilled people who do good work. Indeed, it is at the level of our shared experience that I define (as well as differentiate) myself. It is this new crop of cyber-opportunists pretending to be part of this smaller circle about which I am complaining.

I guess my point is that having a website name with the buzzwords like "license restoration" doesn't make someone a genuine license restoration lawyer. As I noted at the outset of this article (in part 1), the website that got me all riled up in the first place didn't even identify a lawyer by name or provide an actual location for an office, but it sure used the words "Michigan" and "license restoration" and "lawyers" all over the place. It was made to sound like the greatest, most successful operation you've never heard of. What scares me is that I can see right through this because I'm in the field, but someone who doesn't know what I know, and has a degree of trust to offer, may not.

Salesguy 1.2.jpgTrust is an important element in the lawyer-client relationship. Trust is only worth anything when both the lawyer and the client are honest with each other. I like to put the exclamation point at the end of anything I say about myself by pointing out that beyond my own self-descriptions, and instead of wasting my time writing up summaries of my successes, I simply guarantee that I'll win your license back. That makes things easy. If you call me and you're really sober and I take your case, you'll only pay me one time to win back your license. That's clear and direct; there's no real risk. And while it's important to know that I stand by my clients, it's probably more reassuring to understand that I make my money by winning these cases the first time, not by having to come back and do "warranty work." In other words, I am genuinely invested in your case.

I recently published an article about my passion for this field. I truly believe that my passion for everything about the field of driver's license restorations is unmatched, but I also know that the few other lawyers I consider real competitors also have real passion for this field, as well. That kind of passion is completely missing anywhere on the websites of the "Johnny come lately" crop of opportunists who are trying to substitute the style of a search engine optimized website name over the substance to be found in real content.

In that regard, this article marks the 221st license restoration article I've published. Most of these articles run about 3 or 4 single spaced pages. That's more information about the Michigan driver's license restoration process, by an order of magnitude, than you can find on all the other websites, combined, including the Secretary of State's. If you take the time to read my stuff, you won't need any help finding the "passion."

If it sounds like I'm mad, then you're getting the picture. I work damn hard at what I do. These 221 articles took tons of time to write. Like my bona-fide competitors, I am in business to make money, but I want to be able to actually help people as part of earning my income. I don't just have my hand out to accept a fee. In fact, part of the whole "guarantee" of mine requires that a person must first have truly quit drinking before I will accept his or her case. That only makes sense, as the 2 legal issues in a Michigan driver's license restoration or clearance case is that, first, your alcohol problem is under control, and second (and really the meat and potatoes of a license appeal), that it is likely to remain under control. Sobriety is the whole point here. That's why I formally study it, and why I really require it of my clients.

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration - What's in a slick name for a Lawyer? - Part 2" »

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January 17, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - What's in a slick name for a Lawyer? - Part 1

For more than 2 decades, I have helped people win back their Michigan driver's licenses. In the last several years, I have built a solid web site (currently being revised) and developed this blog, with more than 200 in-depth articles about the whole Michigan license restoration (and clearance) process. In my various articles, I have been diplomatic, helpful, and respectful. This article, divided into 2 installments, will be a bit different. I have a bone to pick...

Recently, a new license restoration client told me that he couldn't believe how much information I have published about Michigan license appeals, and remarked that I was certainly generous in sharing my knowledge. He then went on to quip that I may have even given away a few "secrets" to help other lawyers compete with me. I thanked him for the compliment, and assured him that while my office does get calls from lawyers seeking help when they get "stuck" in a license appeal, I'm not worried about anybody following in my tracks and stealing my thunder.

salesman 1.2.pngWhat I have noticed is that while plenty of operations have tried to follow in my tracks, or even make tracks of their own, although none of them can come close to stealing my thunder. It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but here, I want to caution the reader that imitation, at its best, is just that; imitation. You need to be careful about who you hire for a Michigan driver's license restoration case, and certain devious players out there are deliberately trying to make that confusing and more difficult.

What prompted me to write this article was a google search I recently made that resulted in endless websites with some version of "license restoration" and/or "Michigan" and/or "lawyer" in their titles, or URL's. In particular, one site did not identify any lawyer by name, and seemed like a generic "referral" site that would convince a person to fill out the "contact us" form, and then forward the information to a kind of distribution center where it would be sent to one of the participating member lawyers. The site listed no physical address, no lawyer's name, and had the telltale "1-800" (nowadays, it can also be a "1-888" or "1-866") number.

Here's some free advice: No matter what kind of lawyer you're looking for, don't waste your time calling the unknown end of some "1-800" number. To be clear, I am talking about a listing or site where there is no "local" phone number or local address information provided. Lots of lawyers with a real office and a physical address have a regular phone number and/or also provide an "800" number, as well. That's fine. Here, I very precisely mean the "unknown end" of an "800" number. Who are you calling, and where are they?

Encountering this, I decided to click around a bit. I wondered, who are these various operations using every variation of "license restoration" in their website names? What I discovered left me shaking my head.

First of all, if I am going to be credible here, I must acknowledge that I do have a few real "competitors" out there in the field of driver's license restoration cases. I'm talking about good lawyers, here. Each of our respective webmasters would go nuts if we mentioned any of the others by name, thereby "strengthening" the others' website position, or search engine rankings, which is the prime "shelf space" we all fight for. Even so, I know who they are, and they know me. And whatever else, I know that we are a very small, very select group of lawyers. Sure, each of us goes to great lengths to differentiate ourselves from the others, but I can honestly say that in my practice, having "seen" the work of the other attorneys from this small cadre of real "driver's license restoration lawyers," I have found nothing short of fine quality. This article is not about those lawyers; even though they are my competition, they are people of integrity and skill. My gripe here is about a new wave of opportunistis pretending to have a level of experience and skill they don't by using a website name designed to get "hits" on search engines.

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration - What's in a slick name for a Lawyer? - Part 1" »

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January 13, 2014

Michigan Secretary of State Driver's License Restoration Lawyer - I Stand by my Clients

This article what it means for me, as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, to really "stand by" my client. Of course, you'd expect that any lawyer who accepts payment from a client would stand by him or her, at least to some extent, but I'm talking about the kind of alliance that goes way beyond money. I want to explain why, when I've been hired to win back a Michigan driver's license or get a clearance of a Michigan hold for an out-of-state case, I take things personally, and how and why that doesn't happen just because of money...

The thing that perhaps defines me the most as a Michigan driver's license restoration attorney is that I will only take a case if a person has truly quit drinking. From a purely "money" point of view, this costs me a lot of potential income. Of the large number of people whose licenses have been revoked for multiple DUI convictions, almost all of them "need" a driver's license, and sooner, rather than later. Unfortunately, amongst this group, fewer than half will have really "put the plug in the jug" and become non-drinkers. By holding fast to the sobriety requirement, I eliminate a lot of potential clients. If all I cared about was that someone could pay my fee to take on a license case, my income would more than double, and that's no exaggeration. I hold myself to a much higher standard, however...

integrity 2.1.gifIn order to win a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal after your license has been revoked for multiple DUI's, you must prove to the state, by what is defined in the law as "clear and convincing evidence," that your alcohol problem is both "under control," and "likely to remain under control." Translated, that means you have to prove that your no longer drinking (sober), and likely to remain alcohol-free (sober).

In exchange for requiring that a person has really quit drinking before taking his or her case, I guarantee a win in every driver's license case I take. This is another unique aspect of how I do things that separates me from the rest of the herd. When I take your case I guarantee that I'll get you back on the road; no matter what, you'll only pay me once to win your license appeal case before the Michigan Secretary of State DAAD (Driver Assessment and Appeal Division). And while that eliminates risking your money if you hire me, it is also as much a reflection of the kind of client that I represent as it is the quality of the work I do and the confidence I have in it.

This means that I believe in my client. I don't just "represent" you; I am invested in what happens in your case. If a person calls my office and I learn that he or she is not quite done yet with drinking, I'm going to want to help him or her understand the context within which that means they're not ready to try a license appeal. We don't blow off these callers, because that time we spend with them may be the catalyst for change down the road. Perhaps (and this has actually happened), our discussion will be another factor that helps tip the scale in favor of a decision to stop drinking.

The larger point, though, is that I know each and every one of my clients has quit drinking. In my mind, this means that my client not only deserves to win his or her license appeal, but that it is unfair if he or she doesn't. I think it matters a lot when your lawyer really believes in you, rather than just sees you as another paying client. For me, this is about a lot more than collecting legal fees. Getting sober is a big deal. It involves a whole spectrum of changes in a person's life. When you think about it, "quitting drinking" involves a lot more than just not consuming alcohol. It typically requires what we might call "global" changes in a person's life, from who they hang with to what they do for fun and how they deal with stress, as well as changes in his or her goals, outlook on life, physical health, relationships and routines. When a person "quits drinking" for real, he or she will have made a whole panorama of changes to his or her life. If you've done it, then you know that any kind of "before" and "after" comparison is quite profound.

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January 10, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer - Passion for the Client

I am a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer; that's my job description, and a kind of title for what I do. While that describes me in a very general way, it leaves out the most important aspect of my chosen occupation - my passion. This article will be about what I truly love about handling (and winning) Michigan driver's license appeal cases, and why my "passion" for it represents a lot more than just modern marketing hype.

The word "passion" has been creeping into advertising lingo over the last few years, and I want to differentiate the way I use it from it's current (and nearly meaningless) overuse. Think back to when the term "maximum" suddenly wasn't enough; products thereafter became "extreme," "mega," and then "ultimate." When having a "gold" card wouldn't do, they were made "platinum," and later, "titanium." "Passion" is being co-opted in the same way. Lawyers are now talking about having a "passion" for winning, as if that's something special. Everyone likes winning. The passion I'm talking about is for the work I do, every bit as much as the results I achieve.

Passion 1.2.jpgIn my driver's license appeal practice, it's the work itself that is my reward. Of course, I expect to win every case I take, and while that's the "icing on the cake," it is my concern for the clients whose cases I handle that drives me to make sure every case turns out to be a winner. In fact, I take my work so seriously that I provide a guaranteed win in every license appeal case I file. My guarantee isn't just the by-product of blind passion, either; it's the result of unrelenting attention to detail and intelligent case preparation.

It might help to look at things in reverse, kind of like turning the telescope backward. The end product of my work is that I win back your Michigan driver's license. That's certainly a reason to celebrate, and, at least the way I see things, a lot more rewarding than much of the other work lawyers do. I've never handled a divorce case, but I cannot imagine that there is a lot to celebrate about when a once happy couple breaks up for good. In fact, the parties are likely upset going into the divorce, and not much better when it's all over. Divorce is an ugly business, and almost the emotional opposite of winning back your driver's license.

Beyond being legally eligible to file for restoration of your driver's license (or a clearance of the Michigan hold on your driving record), the absolute key to winning a Michigan restoration of your driver's license is that you have really quit drinking and become sober. I require sobriety as a condition to accept a license appeal case, and that makes all the difference in the world in the kind of people with whom I interact. If you have made the life-changing transition from drinker to non-drinker, you know how profoundly different you are now as compared to before, when you were still drinking. One of the most prominent characteristics of anyone in recovery is the change (always for the better) in his or her disposition.

The beauty of all this is that my license restoration client base consists of sober people. Think about how different my sober license restoration client base is compared to any other group of people a lawyer could represent. Any person dealing with a criminal charge, a divorce, a DUI, or even a personal injury accident is not, by definition, a "happy camper." As lawyers tell it, none of those clients come in "on a roll." But mine do...

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January 3, 2014

Michigan Secretary of State DAAD Tampering/Circumvent Ignition Interlock Violation

In my work as a Michigan driver's license restoration attorney, I have seen a dramatic increase in the number of ignition interlock violations listed as "tamper/circumvent." This is a horrible circumstance that is most often the result of a honest mechanical problem with a person's car and somehow ends up with him or her opening a letter from the Michigan Secretary of State to learn that his or license has been revoked again. The state likes to put it in a more confusing way, and say that it has reinstated its original action, meaning the revocation. However it's said, it means that the Secretary of State has yanked your license all over again.

In many of the numerous cases I've handled, my client has actually made contact with his or her interlock company before any work was done on the car. In some cases, a new battery is put in; in others, some other work has been done on the vehicle that results in a momentary power loss. Whatever the case, and despite taking all measures to avoid trouble, a person subsequently winds up with a violation notice and the temporarily unavoidable re-revocation of his or her license. This is one area, in particular, where I can add my voice to the chorus of affected drivers and agree, "This isn't fair."

DO NOT TAMPER 1.2.jpgFair or not, it is what it is. I could stretch this article into a book and still do little more than scratch the surface of the subject. The larger point is that once this has happened, you need to take action. There is no magic phone number to call. I can list examples all day of things that have gone demonstrably wrong, where my client has seemingly "made arrangements" with the interlock company before changing a battery, or having work done on his or her car, and even where the mechanic has followed up with a call to the interlock company, only to wind up getting a "tamper/circumvent" violation anyway. For all of that, here is an actual real life best (or maybe worst) case example that illustrates how utterly broken the state's system really is, and how unnecessarily difficult it was to win:

My client noticed that his interlock handset continued to display a message ("drive safely") even after he turned the car off. Not wanting to run into trouble, he took the car to the interlock service provider to have it looked at. When he got there, he was informed that it was kind of his "lucky day," because the manufacturer (Draeger) had one of it's representatives in from Texas to help train the staff at the local facility. Needless to say, he handed over his car confidently. Likewise, a few hours later he drove it out of the shop every bit as confidently, having been given a receipt for his service indicating everything was in good working order.

Weeks later, after we had already filed for restoration of his full license, he received an ignition interlock violation notice for a "tamper/circumvent" occasioned by about a 4 minute power loss while the interlock company and the manufacturer's rep had his car. How could this be? We quickly arranged to have this violation heard with his full license hearing, figuring that the receipt showing that the interlock company had his car (fortunately, it showed the time his car was brought in and the time it was returned to him) when the power loss took place would be good enough. The receipt even had an embossed seal, making it indisputably "official."

The hearing officer wasn't satisfied with just that. I almost pulled my hair out, wondering what more he could want or we could get, insisting that we had proof that my client's car was in the interlock provider's possession when the violation occurred. The hearing officer didn't disagree with that, but replied that he had an interlock violation where, to use his exact words, a "backyard mechanic" had disconnected his unit for a few minutes and rigged things up so that when it went back on, he could provide breath samples whenever requested, with the machine having been altered in a way that it could not detect alcohol and would provide "zero" readings even after he had been drinking. I countered that what some devious guy did in his backyard was one thing, but that I doubted that the interlock company, with the manufacturer's rep on site, was going to do that to my client's car. The hearing officer insisted, however, that since the power loss was reported to the state, the manufacturer should have separately notified the state that it was responsible. While I agreed that perhaps the company should have done that, I argued that whatever it did or did not do, my client had proof that he didn't do anything to his unit...

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December 30, 2013

Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance - Short Version

As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer with loads of articles and published information about the whole license reinstatement process and clearance process, I often wonder how I can come at my subject in some new way. Many of my articles about restoring (or clearing) a revoked Michigan driver's license are very highly detailed, but long and thorough. Others are broken into multiple installments and examine just one important aspect of winning back your driver's license. To be different, this article will be an attempt to overview the entire process of Michigan license restorations in a single and shorter installment.

If you accumulate 2 or more DUI convictions, your license gets revoked. You cannot just "get it back." You have to become "eligible," meaning that you must wait at least 1 year from your 2nd conviction if you lose it for 2 DUI's within 7 years, or at least 5 years if you lose it for 3 DUI's within 10 years. If you get caught driving and are cited for any kind of moving violation during the time your license is revoked, then you get another 1 or 5 years of additional revocation slapped on. If that happens, there is nothing you can do but wait it out.

back-to-basics 1.2.jpgThe Michigan DAAD (meaning the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) will accept the filing of a driver's license restoration appeal 6 weeks before your actual eligibility date. Right now, it takes about 10 weeks after everything is filed to actually get a hearing, so this means that your case will be heard about a month after you become eligible. Many people are not aware that the hearing officer does not inform you of his or her decision at the conclusion of the hearing, meaning you will be notified by mail, anywhere for 2 to 4 weeks later.

There is certain paperwork that must be completed and filed in order to request a license hearing. This includes a substance abuse evaluation completed by a licensed substance abuse counselor, at least 3 (I never go with less than 4) letters of support that must be notarized, along with a "request of administrative review," even if you're filing for a full hearing.

For people that have moved out of Michigan, there is an abbreviated process called an "administrative review," in which the paperwork for an appeal is filed by mail, but no hearing is held. About 3 out of 4 (7%) of administrative reviews lose. They are losing propositions. That same term, "administrative review" is confusing because the Michigan DAAD uses in two very different situations. Despite that lack of clarity, the hard reality is that if you actually want to win a clearance, the better choice is to come back to Michigan to do it right.

The rule governing license appeals begins by specifying that "the 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...." This is a negative mandate, meaning that it essentially requires the hearing officer to look for a reason to deny the case, rather than look for reasons to grant it. This is not just because the state is "mean," either. Once you have picked up 2 DUI's within 7 years, or 3 within 10 years, you are, by law, categorized by the state as a "habitual offender," meaning that you are presumed to have an alcohol problem. This presents a big problem for a lot of people, but the hard reality is that you will never get your license back if you try a license appeal and try and argue that you don't (or at least didn't) have a drinking problem because the state automatically designates anyone with multiple DUI's as having a troubled relationship to alcohol.

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December 20, 2013

Michigan Hold on Your Driving Record - Out of State License Problems - Part 2

In part 1 of this article about a Michigan drivers license hold that prevents you from obtaining or renewing a driver's license in another state, we began our discussion by highlighting that being really and truly sober is a necessary prerequisite to winning. I pointed out that, as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I provide a guarantee that if I accept your case, I'll win it. I also made clear that I require a person to be genuinely sober before I'll take his or her case, but once I do, the client will have the assurance and satisfaction of knowing that they'll only pay me once to get back on the road legally.

In this second part, we'll conclude our discussion about the empowerment real world evidentiary value that being able to tell the truth in a license appeal brings to the whole cause, and then we'll move on to examine the license appeal process, both in my office and at the state level, as well as why you'll have to come back to Michigan if you want to do this right, and how long the process takes.

Mich Space pic 1.3.jpgImplicit in our discussion of really being sober and why being able to be honest about that is that there is a certain but very real power in being able to stand strong and know you're telling the truth. I will stand by my client with every fiber of my heart and soul when I know he or she is really sober. By contrast, there is just no way I could ever feel that person who still drinks is somehow getting "screwed" by the system, when the first thing that system requires to return a license is that he or she has truly quit drinking.

Beyond that, part of getting sober is becoming honest, first with yourself, then with those around you. Here again, if you "get it," you understand this. If you don't, then this discussion seems like a lot of hot air, anyway. Whatever else, I thrive off of that empowering feeling when a license appeal is all about a person having really made the change from drinker to non-drinker and we're going in to tell the truth. And as anyone who has made that change knows, giving up drinking really involves a whole panorama of changes, from who you hang around with, to what you do with your time, how you think, where you go, and how you relate to the world around you and the people in it. In fact, the transition to recovery is really the culmination of countless other changes in your life. You can't fake that stuff. Ironically, if you've actually gone through the process of getting sober, you fundamentally understand that, whereas if you merely think you understand the process of getting sober, you really don't.

Proving that you're sober is best done at an in-person hearing. Administrative appeals (meaning appeals by mail) are losers. About half of my out-of-state clients are people who have tried an administrative appeal before, often more than once, and lost. The numbers are frightening: 74% (about 3 out of 4) administrative appeals are denied each year by the Michigan Driver Assessment and Appeal Division. This means your chances are 1 out of 4 to get back on the road, and 3 out of 4 that you'll be unable to drive for another year if you try the appeal by mail. It may be a headache to come back to Michigan, but it beats having to arrange rides for another year, or hold off on a job where having a license is necessary.

This means that if you're really serious about winning a clearance, coming back to Michigan to get it done is important. I require it. Nearly ½ of my clients come from out of state, and each week I meet with someone who now lives elsewhere. I have refined this part of the process nearly down to a science:

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December 16, 2013

Michigan Hold on Your Driving Record - Out of State License Problems - Part 1

The State of Michigan has put a hold on your driving record, and now you cannot obtain or renew a driver's license in another state. At first, you wonder if there is some administrative mistake, or if there is some number you can call, or fee you can pay to get it "taken care of," because you think that Michigan Secretary of State doesn't understand that you've moved away and don't want to come back. You do your research, and you come to learn that because you had 2 or more DUI convictions when you held a Michigan license, or, because your 2nd or subsequent DUI conviction occurred in Michigan (and even if you never held a Michigan license), the hold on your license cannot go away until you obtain what's called a "clearance."

By the time you get to my website, or this blog, you have most likely already discovered that removing the hold requires filing a formal appeal with the Michigan DAAD, or Driver Assessment and Appeal Division. You may have already tried (unsuccessfully), perhaps even more than once, and have finally accepted that you're going to need a driver's license restoration lawyer to get a driver's license. Now, your questions focus on how quickly this can be done, and how much it will cost. This article will answer those questions. Before we get to them, however, there are a few other inquiries we need to make and issues to clarify.

MichiganSpace 1.2.jpgThe first thing to clarify is that no matter how badly you need a license, or how much you want it, you have to be able to prove to the Michigan DAAD that you're sober. In order to prove you're sober, you really need to be sober. This is not a point upon which a person can "scam" or skimp. The crux of a DAAD license restoration or clearance appeal is that you have really quit drinking. And "quit" means truly have quit, as in for good, and forever.

This is a huge point. Almost every day, my office receives a call from someone who wants to redefine the meaning of "sober" to fit his or her life circumstances. Thus, when Ann, my senior assistant, asks if a person is "sober," she'll often get an answer like, "Oh yeah. I don't go the bars anymore; I'll only have a beer once in a while if I'm watching a football game with my friends." I can reel off examples like this all day long: "I've been sober for almost 4 years, and the only thing I had was a champagne toast at a wedding," or "I don't hardly drink at all except maybe a glass of wine with dinner here and there." That's not "sober," as far as the Secretary of State (and just about every clinician in the world) is concerned.

Sober, in the context of winning a Michigan license appeal, means alcohol-free, and committed to reaming that way.

There's an old saying that you sometimes can't see the forest through the trees. This issue about sobriety is critically important to the state, and is even more important to me because I provide a guarantee that if I take your license appeal, I'll win it. I charge $3200 (payable in 3 installments: $1200 down and 2 subsequent payments of $1000) to get your license back or obtain a clearance. You will only pay me one time to get your clearance. My guarantee, however, requires honest-to-goodness sobriety. Once I join forces with a client, I'm in it for the long haul. And while I am in business to make money, I make that money winning all my cases the first time, and not having to come back a second time to do "warranty work."

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November 22, 2013

Losing a Michigan Driver's License Restoration case for Being too Honest - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we started looking at what happens in a Michigan driver's license restoration case when someone has lost a prior appeal and provided a date he or she last used alcohol that was untrue. This usually comes to light when the person gives a different last use of alcohol date in a new Michigan license restoration appeal that proves the date given in the first appeal to have been untrue. As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I have had to deal with this situation before. Unfortunately, it is not as rare as one might hope. To some, it can seem that the Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, or DAAD, isn't punishing him or her, because telling the truth in the new case means a person was not truthful in the prior case, and that almost certainly assures a denial in the new case, as well.

We left off in part 1 at the point where a person will have given an untrue date in his or her prior, and obviously unsuccessful attempt to win a license appeal. Thereafter, of course, the person will have actually and really quit drinking, and as part of getting sober, decide to file another license appeal. Of course, now that he or she is sober, the person wants to be truthful about everything.

Thumbnail image for Pinnochio 2.2.jpgGetting sober is often described in terms of getting clean, and part of that getting clean is coming clean. It is rather inconsistent with getting sober to misrepresent when and how it happened. Many sober people will recall having lied about their drinking so often that it was done without thought. And to the people supporting the recovery of a family member or friend, it's not the past that matters; like the person in recovery, their focus is on the future. Forgiveness is forward-looking.

Some of these family members and friends, if they remember, or are otherwise reminded, will have to forgive that the now-sober person had them write a letter to the DAAD in the prior license appeal vouching for their sobriety that turns out not to have really been sobriety at all. Of course, happy and convinced that the loved one is really doing it this time, there will be no grudges or hard feelings. In fact, many of these supporters would be happy to write a letter again if that would help.

It won't. In fact, it would hurt.

In all fairness to the DAAD, you can imagine how that looks. Even if you give the letter writer every benefit of the doubt, he or she still turns out to be a person who vouched for something that was completely untrue. At a minimum, that person is unreliable as any kind of witness. It's best to forget about ever using him or her again to write a letter of support. For some people, this can present a real conundrum because if they had previously submitted support letters from a spouse or partner, parent or parents, and a best friend, all those close witnesses are now burned, and useless. Now, a person will have to reach beyond his or her "inner circle" for support letters in the next appeal.

Still, at some point, a sober person has to have completed the act of quitting drinking and beginning the recovery process. Part of that process involves taking an account of the damage done while drinking. Things like DUI arrests or divorces or job losses are obvious, and unforgettable. Other things are just lost in the mix. When someone loses a license appeal, there will be a record. In the best case, the person will have hung on to his or her old substance abuse evaluation, letters of support and the DAAD's order denying the appeal. In any case, if that information isn't available, it should be ordered from the state. I do this when a client with a prior loss comes to hire me for a new appeal.

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November 18, 2013

Losing a Michigan Driver's License Restoration case for Being too Honest - Part 1

Part of my passion for being a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer is that these cases are won by telling the truth. Even so, there are occasions in the context of a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal where just being honest will result in an almost automatic loss. This article, divided into 2 installments, will examine that situation where being honest will prevent you from getting back on the road, at least for a year.

For my part, I absolutely and steadfastly require that a person have quit drinking before I will take his or her case. In exchange for that, however, I do guarantee that I will win any license case I file. Apparently, I am rather unique amongst lawyers for my unwavering insistence upon sobriety, but that also explains why I am unique in guaranteeing I'll win. Whatever else, I want no part of "pretending" anything. I don't have any "secret" side, nor can anyone "buddy up" to me and confide that he or she is still drinking, or even thinks he or she can still drink. I win my cases fair and square, by telling the truth and playing by the rules.

Pinnochio 1.2.jpgThe license restoration process in Michigan is all about being sober. Unfortunately, in certain license appeal situations where a person has filed a previous appeal, there can sometimes be a price exacted for being too honest, and I call this the "truth tax." This article will examine the situation where a person has filed (and lost) a prior appeal with the Michigan Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) and in that prior appeal provided a date or gave testimony about the last time he or she used alcohol that wasn't true. In other words, we'll be looking at those circumstances where the date given for a persons last drink in a new license appeal means the date given in a prior appeal must have been untrue.

I firmly believe that when someone has rebuilt his or her life and made the extraordinary change from drinker to non-drinker, and ditched the drinking friends, and done all the other things that make the sober lifestyle so much different than the old, drinking lifestyle, there is an essence, or quality to their story that you can almost feel. In a very real way, when someone has gotten sober and begins to tell his or her story, they practically radiate truthfulness. There are certain experiences a person undergoes as he or she makes, and then sticks with the decision to change, that cannot be faked. Very often, these aren't intellectual things, but rather visceral experiences that are experienced every bit as much, if not more in the "gut" rather than the mind.

This isn't really unusual, because a necessary prerequisite to getting sober involves finally getting honest with one's self, and that can be a emotionally difficult process. It is conventional recovery wisdom that a person cannot be honest with anyone else until he first becomes honest with himself. Typically, once a person finally admits that his or her drinking is a problem, and finally decides to do something about it, there is a feeling like the floodgates have opened. Very often, in the recovery process, things are admitted, amends are made (sound familiar?) and the truly important relationships with family and real friends are patched up and strengthened. Part of getting better is starting with a clean slate, and there is a rather cathartic feeling that goes with "getting it all out."

Part of staying clean is not getting caught up in denial and lies. When a person moves past drinking, he or she learns to deal with life on life's terms. This means stepping up and taking care of business. It means no more BS'ing about everything. And when a person who is really in recovery is asked about his or her sobriety, he or she will almost always tell the unvarnished truth about it. That can be an obstacle to winning a Michigan License reinstatement in the situation we're discussing...

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November 15, 2013

Michigan DAAD ( SOS - DLAD) Hearing Officers

In the world of Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) license restoration cases, there are numerous variables that I have to control. We've all heard the saying that "anything that can go wrong will go wrong." In a Michigan license restoration appeal uncontrolled variables are precisely those things that can (and often do) go wrong. Therefore, controlling them limits the potential for problems. This is why, for example, I spend 3 hours with a new client in order to prepare him or her to undergo the substance abuse evaluation, which must be filed as part of the paperwork to formally begin a license appeal. Beyond that, both my senior assistant and I carefully review each and every substance abuse evaluation before it's filed with the state to make sure that it is "airtight." This is another safety check to prevent something from going wrong.

One variable that cannot be controlled, however, is the assignment of a case to a particular hearing officer. What's more, unlike many other variables, where something is either "right," or "wrong," the hearing officer is neither. Instead, the hearing officer is a subjective, human element. He or she has a personality that is made up of core beliefs, experiences and preferences. Each hearing officer is a different individual, and who winds up assigned to your case can make a huge difference in how things go. At its most basic, your fate rests in the hands of another human being, with all of the idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies that make him or her human in the first place. Accordingly, there is a certain, unavoidable element of unpredictability when it comes to who will decide your Michigan driver's license restoration case.

Judges-Gavel 1.2.jpgCertainly, in a license appeal hearing, there is a certain, rather objective inquiry that each and every hearing officer will make. The 2 main issues to be decided in every license appeal are, first, whether your alcohol problem is under control, and second (and really more important), whether your alcohol problem is likely to remain under control. As much as there are differences between the various hearing officers, there is also considerable overlap in terms of the information needed to decide a license restoration appeal with these two issues in mind, and the evidence that supplies it. Yet for all of that, what one hearing officer considers "proof" that your alcohol problem is "likely" to remain under control may not even come close to satisfying another.

In order to succeed as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I have to be able to look at a case before it's filed and conclude that the evidence I am about to file with the state is good enough for every hearing officer. I wish I could pretend that my ability to do this is purely a product of a superior intellect, but the unvarnished truth is that I learned some of these things the hard way. There is no better teacher than the school of hard knocks; anyone who's really sober knows that all too well. This means that at least you don't have to worry about "taking one for the team" because I've already done that for you long ago...

Let's go back to the substance abuse evaluation for a moment. As I review a completed form in my office before approving it to be filed, I am keenly aware that something which would be just fine with one hearing officer (and I am thinking of a very specific example of a hearing officer known for denying cases on the basis of what he calls a "questionable/insufficient substance abuse evaluation") would be an absolute deal-breaker with another. It is absolutely essential to know these things before your case is filed, because once that evidence has been submitted to the DAAD, there is no going back and fixing it.

After a case has been filed, the DAAD in Lansing will assign it to a local hearing officer. If things have been properly handled, the evidence will be solid, and none of it will be objectionable to any of the hearing officers in the state system. Even so, each hearing officer will approach the case, and the upcoming hearing to decide it, somewhat differently. Here again, knowing your hearing officer isn't just some kind of "advantage," it's absolutely necessary. In fact, one of the most important aspects of the way I do license restorations is the mandatory "prep" I do with each and every client before his or her hearing. Normally, I do this the night before the hearing, and spend about an hour reviewing the case with my client. Much of that hour is spent discussing exactly how the evidence in his or her case will be examined by the particular hearing officer deciding it.

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November 4, 2013

The Role of the Substance Abuse Evaluator in Michigan DAAD (DLAD) License Restoration Cases

In a very real sense, the foundation of a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal is the substance abuse evaluation. In numerous articles on this blog, as well as in relevant sections of my website, I have written about the various requirements that must be met in order for the substance abuse evaluation to be considered good enough to win. I've also detailed what can go wrong, including what gives rise to, in the words of one of the Michigan Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) hearing officers, a "questionable/insufficient substance abuse evaluation." In this article, we'll take a step back from the written evaluation itself, and turn our attention to the person who actually completes the form: the evaluator. Given the significance of the evaluation itself, it should be obvious that the role of evaluator who completes it is at least equally important.

In order to complete a substance abuse evaluation, an evaluator must have and list certain credentials. Nowhere, however, does the Michigan Secretary of State, nor the Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) specify anything by way of minimum or required credentials. Despite this curious omission on the state's part, I've never had "credentials" become an issue in any of my cases. That's probably because within my practice as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I use a few select evaluators, all of whom are active substance abuse counselors with relevant graduate degrees. At least with the evaluators I use, "credentials" to complete a substance abuse evaluation are beyond question.

Therapist 1.2.jpgIf we take a step back and focus on the evaluator, it becomes clear that the underlying recovery philosophy of the evaluator is the thing that matters most in the DAAD substance abuse evaluation process. If there's one point I want to make in this article, its that the school of thought from which an evaluator bases his or her analysis can either make or break an evaluation for a particular client. At its simplest, this means if a person stays sober without AA, but the evaluator is a kind of "AA person," such a pairing will not likely produce a favorable evaluation. This problem can be avoided by using, as I do, an evaluator who employs a holistic approach that incorporates all of the various other schools of thought.

My own leanings in this regard are obvious; my interest in this subject arose in large part because my first legal assistant was a former substance abuse counselor who had a holistic approach to helping people get better. This woman felt equally at home endorsing AA for one person, but not another. Perhaps a bit ahead of her time, her outlook shaped my thirst for understanding and ultimately my return to the University campus where, with an undergraduate degree in psychology and a law degree already under my belt, I returned to the classroom for the formal study of addiction issues at the graduate level. This combined experience and training allows me to so completely manage the license appeal process that I guarantee a win in every Michigan license reinstatement case I file.

It wasn't that long ago that if you worked as a substance abuse counselor, you had probably been schooled in the disease model of alcoholism. AA subscribes to the disease theory. AA was long seen as the closest thing to a "cure" for a drinking problem. And while it is not my intention to be critical of AA, (I actually think it's a wonderful recovery and support system) the program does an enviable job of guarding it's turf, reminding attendees that "rarely has a person failed who has thoroughly followed our path." Regrettably, some hard-liners within the program become dismissive of anyone who manages to remain abstinent without regularly attending meetings, pejoratively calling such a person a "dry drunk."

Add to this the reality that a lot of substance abuse counselors are people who've had their own recovery. This, of course, means they not only intellectually understand what it's like to struggle with a drinking or drug problem, they know this stuff at the gut level. That is a good thing; you can read every book out there about how to ride a bike, for example, but none of that comes close to actually riding one. The same holds true for how many people feel about talking to a counselor alcohol and substance abuse issues. In point of fact, some of the best counselors are not in recovery, any more than the best orthopedic have broken most of their bones.

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October 14, 2013

Michigan Driver Asessment and Appeal Division Standard of Proof

Winning your Michigan driver's license back after 2 or more DUI convictions requires that you file the proper documents and presenting evidence to the Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division. To succeed in a driver's license restoration hearing, you must show, by what is called "clear and convincing evidence," that your alcohol problem is under control, and, even more important, that it is likely to remain under control. As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, my file cabinets are full of cases for people that have hired me after having tried to do this before, without my help, and then lost. Whatever the reason or reasons given for those denials, in each and every case it amounts to having failed to prove one or more of them by clear and convincing evidence.

This article will be about "clear and convincing evidence." If you've tried a license appeal before and lost, this will help you understand why. If you haven't tried yet, then this will enable you to really size up the level of proof it takes to win. To be precise, "clear and convincing" means the standard of proof that your evidence has to reach in order for you to prevail. A standard of proof is, to a large extent, an arbitrary thing. The hearing officer will judge whether or not your evidence is "clear and convincing." In a perfect world, this would be a consistent and measurable standard, like 12 inches, or 16 ounces, but "clear and convincing" is, to a certain degree, inherently subjective, like "beautiful" or "delicious."

Scales 1.2.jpgThus, as we try and explain a concept that eludes a precise definition, we should first clarify its application. In other words, if we ditch the overly academic and legal baloney for a minute, we can cut to the heart of the matter and talk about how things work in the real world. There are really two things you have to prove in a license appeal: First, that your alcohol problem is under control, and second (and really more important), that your alcohol problem is likely to remain under control.

I could write a whole book about proving that your alcohol problem is under control, but the bottom line here is if you lost an appeal because you failed on this point, you should blame your lawyer. If you didn't have a lawyer, then you should blame yourself for that poor choice, and think about it every time you have to bum a ride. This is basic, foundational stuff for a license restoration lawyer, and, at least in my office, something that is my responsibility to get right, and then double check before a case is ever filed. Failing to prove that your alcohol problem "is under control" really means that a critical error was made in the preparation of your case, and the same error was made all over again in not catching it before it was filed. As mistakes go, this is equivalent to a surgeon amputating the wrong leg on a patient, and then shrugging before he lops off the other.

The main task in a Michigan driver's license restoration case is to prove that your alcohol problem is likely to remain under control. Here too, we could spend eternity analyzing and explaining things, but for purposes of this article, we can just say that you to prove that you're a safe bet to never drink again. That simple definition, however, belies the complexity of having to convince a hearing officer that you yourself truly believe you can never again consume alcohol, and that you have the commitment and tools to follow through with that. Let's talk about how that's done...

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October 11, 2013

Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division Ignition Interlock Violations

Changes in the way the Michigan Secretary of State's DAAD, or Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, handles alleged ignition interlock violations have cause a dramatic increase in the number of violation cases I have seen. Chances are that if you're reading this, you're either facing a DAAD interlock violation, or, in some way and for somebody, this topic is important to you. This article will address the specific class of violations that occur after someone has won restoration of his or her driving privileges from the DAAD (usually after multiple DUI's) and is still on a restricted license and required to use the interlock device.

Although the law requires a person that wins his or her license back after an appeal hearing to drive with the interlock for a minimum of 1 year, lots of people who get "violated" are either very near or already past that first year at the time something goes wrong. It is important here to emphasize that an interlock violation is very serious business. I say this as someone who frankly detests alarmists and lawyers who use scare tactics. However, in the context of an ignition interlock violation, you not only risk the long-term loss of your privilege to drive, but also being seen by the DAAD as having consumed alcohol and/or tampered with the interlock unit after you were approved for a restricted license. If the violation is ultimately sustained, it's going to make winning your license back a lot harder next time. Frankly, it doesn't get any worse than this.

Interlock Dude 1.2.jpgThis is worth repeating: If you lose here, you are way farther behind than just having to start all over again. You're going to be seen by the DAAD as someone who won a license back and then either drank again, or tampered with the machine, which, to the state, just means you drank again and tried to hide it. Good luck coming back the next year, or anytime, for that matter, and trying to use your old sobriety date.

I wish this process is as easy as saying "bring me a whole bunch of money and I'll make the violation go away," but it's not. Remember, I'm the guy who guarantees that if I take your driver's license restoration case, I'll win it. Things are much darker and different here, when a violation has been issued. The only guarantee you have when facing an ignition interlock violation is that there will be a lot of work involved in defending it.

Let's back up for a moment and talk about what first happens when the state receives notice of a violation. Technically speaking, if it's what's called a "major violation" (and you would never have been notified if yours was anything less), the SOS (Secretary of State) will "reinstate" the previous action, meaning reinstate your license revocation. The language can be confusing, but the result is plain enough: once the SOS gets wind of a violation, they yank your license. There is no way to stop this from happening. The ONLY thing you can do is request a hearing to challenge the violation. If you win, the violation is dismissed, and your license is reinstated again. If you lose, then, to put it realistically, you're basically screwed.

Recently, I attended an interlock vendor's seminar. I walked in thinking I would learn a lot, and while I did learn a number of things, I was literally astounded at the complete lack of understanding many of the other attendees (all lawyers) had regarding how interlock units function and malfunction. This is where my being a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer makes a difference. I'm not just "familiar" with the interlock; I work with issues involving it everyday. While I may not have previously considered myself an expert, by comparison to some of the questions I heard asked at that seminar, I sure felt like one. This isn't a knock against anyone else, but when your fate depends on the information generated by one of these machines, any lawyer you consider hiring better have a thorough working knowledge of them.

Beyond just knowing how these machines work, especially in cases involving positive breath samples, a lawyer has to have a very good working understanding of the chemistry involved in BAIID testing in general, as well as how the human body processes and metabolizes alcohol. I do. Beyond just being a lawyer, and even a license restoration lawyer, I am actively involved in the formal University, post-graduate level study of alcohol and addiction issues. This requires a fundamental understanding of pharmacokinetics.

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October 4, 2013

Win your Michigan Driver's License Restoration case, Guaranteed

Because I concentrate my practice in handling Michigan driver's license restoration cases, I am frequently asked a question like this: "What do you think my chances are?" If you're my client, the answer is "nothing less than 100 percent." When I take a Michigan license appeal or clearance case, I guarantee I'll win it. While there are a million little rules governing Michigan license restoration cases, the single most important thing, probably a million times more important than anything else, really, is that you have honestly quit drinking. As long as I have that to work with, I can make virtually any case a winner.

I charge a respectable $3200 fee for my services, but in exchange for that, you are guaranteed to get back on the road. And to be clear about it, I make my living winning these cases the first time, not going back later to do any kind of "warranty work." Some lawyers charge less than me, but none offers my guarantee, and none requires sobriety, like I do, before accepting a case. In other words, you can't hire me just by paying me. I make sure anyone I represent has moved past his or her alcohol problem and really quit drinking. I play by the rules and I win fair and square. My integrity is not for sale.

auto keys 1.2.jpgIt certainly takes a lot to win a Michigan license appeal. Many people find that out by trying to do it themselves first. Some people lose the first time they try, and then try again. Lots of my clients are people that have tried before, often more than once. Some even had a lawyer, although obviously not any kind of "driver's license restoration lawyer." It seems to me that the whole reason you'd be spending money on a lawyer is to actually win your case, and not just "improve your chances" of winning. That would be like buying a new refrigerator and asking the salesman what the chances are that it would keep running. When you plunk down the money for a new refrigerator, you expect it to work, and, if something goes wrong, then you expect your warranty to cover getting it fixed. It shouldn't be any different for a driver's license restoration appeal.

I certainly have all the confidence in the world about my ability to win any case I take, but I say that without being overconfident, or "cocky." If my client has really transitioned from drinker to non-drinker, I can take care of everything else. First, however, the client absolutely must be sober. That's no less a requirement than a submarine cannot have any leaks.

The real task of winning a license restoration or clearance case is to understand the legal framework, or the "million little rules," as I call them, of the DAAD (the Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division), and then fit the clinical evidence of the client's sobriety into that framework. Perhaps one of the biggest advantages I bring to the table is ongoing, formal post-graduate level University training in addiction issues. Being a lawyer is all well and fine, and certainly a minimum to represent anyone in a legal proceeding, but I also understand things from the clinical side. I speak the specialized language of substance abuse counselors. I can discuss various aspects of different theories of recovery and treatment protocol that most non-clinicians don't even know exist.

This is hugely important, because not everyone who wants to win his or her license back is involved in AA. In fact, way more than half of my clients are NOT active in AA. Many of these folks had gone to AA for a while - some longer than others, while others have never gone. Pretty much everyone knows about AA, but knowing how and where it fits in the panorama of other treatment protocols that actually help people get sober, like brief interventions and cognitive behavioral therapy, gives me an unrivaled advantage in explaining, (and proving) how my client, whether he or she is in AA or not, meets the state's criteria of showing, by "clear and convincing evidence," that his or her alcohol problem is "under control," and, more importantly, "likely to remain under control."

This translates directly into making sure the substance abuse evaluation is done correctly. And that begins, in my office, with a 3-hour meeting just to prepare the client to have it completed. This means that I meet with each and every client for 3 hours before he or she ever sits down with a substance abuse counselor to be evaluated. Of course, I make the referral to a competent evaluator, as well. That's just for starters...

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September 13, 2013

Winning back your Michigan Driver's License After 2 or more DUI's

Being a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer means that I answer a lot of questions about license reinstatements for Michigan residents, and that I explain a lot about the license appeal process, and what it takes to get your license back. To be clear, almost all of what I do involves restoring driver's licenses for those who have lost the privilege to drive because of multiple DUI convictions. There are some questions I'm asked all the time. As a result, I am aware that most people aren't clear on those points. Other questions only come up once in a while, and, perhaps because I work with license issues all day, every day, I sometimes forget that what might be obvious to me may be rather unclear to everyone else. One of these common questions deals with the kind, or type of license you win back when you win a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal.

When this issue comes up, it's usually asked something like this: "Is there a way I can just get a full license?" Sometimes, it's phrased more like this "I understand that most people have to get that machine in their car and blow in it. Is there some way we can request to not have that?"

Interlock Install 1.2.jpgThe question arises because most people have kind of heard, at least in the background somewhere, that when you win a Michigan license reinstatement appeal, you only win back a restricted license, and that you have to install an ignition interlock unit (variously and more commonly called a "breath machine" or a "blow and go") in your vehicle, but they're not really clear on the details. I have a little good news for anyone who has bothered to check out my website or any of the other driver's license restoration articles on this blog; the answer to this question is clear and simple.

If you win a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal, you must drive for at least one year using an ignition interlock, and you may only have a restricted license. If you live in Michigan, there are absolutely no exceptions. Having clarified that there are no exceptions to discuss, let's now take the time to explore what all of this "restricted license" and "ignition interlock" stuff means.

First of all, you must be a Michigan resident to win back your driver's license. If you have moved out of state and no longer reside here, the Michigan Secretary of State cannot give you back any kind of license; that's up to your new state. Normally, you'll find out that your new state won't issue a license because of Michigan's "hold" on your driving record. In order to remove that hold, you have to obtain what's called a "clearance." The process of obtaining a clearance is virtually identical to having your Michigan license restored, except that a Michigan resident wins back a license, whereas a former resident is granted a clearance that removes Michigan's hold and allows his or her new state to issue its license. For the remainder of this article, we'll confine our focus to a driver's license that is restored for a Michigan resident.

To win any kind of license appeal, you are legally required prove to a Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) hearing officer, by what is described as "clear and convincing evidence," that your alcohol problem is both under control, and likely to remain under control. Doing that requires navigating what I call (rather accurately, I believe) a "million little rules." I explain this in painstaking detail on my site and in numerous articles on this blog, but the simplest summary we can use here is that you have to prove that you're sober, and that you have the commitment and tools necessary to remain sober. To put it another way, you have to prove that you've quit drinking for good.

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September 6, 2013

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer - Clinical and Legal Training - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, I began outlining my views on what it takes to be a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer. I pointed out that the primary legal issue in a license appeal, that you prove by "clear and convincing evidence" that your alcohol problem is likely to remain under control, requires fitting certain clinical criteria into a legal framework set up by the Michigan Secretary of State through its Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, or DAAD. In this second part, we'll pick up with my role, somewhat comparable to a psychotherapist's role, in going back and exploring the mental processes that were going on inside your head when you decided to quit drinking, and how you grappled with and eventually came to understand and internalize those recovery concepts that helped you become a non-drinker. More specifically, we'll look at how whatever you've learned about why you cannot drink is enough to sustain your continued sobriety and prove to the state that you're a safe and sober bet to put back on the road.

If you've been to AA, but no longer go, you may not remember certain phrases that nevertheless doubtlessly influenced your recovery. If you spent weeks or months, but not necessarily years in AA, you probably spent much of that time working the first step. Even if you hated AA, you likely came to understand that there is a ton of not-so-obvious meaning in that first step. It's wording is esoteric to an outsider: "We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol, and that our lives had become unmanageable." Of course you learned the somewhat obvious meaning that you must admit you have a problem, but newcomers are given lots of advice (this is sometimes a problem) about the other, subtler meanings of the first step, like taking it "one day at a time," and thinking of alcohol as "cunning, baffling and powerful." You heard phrases like "avoid wet faces and wet places," and that you just need "to put the plug in the jug."

Library 1.2.jpgFor some people, AA is a great match. Some of this may have to do with finding the right meeting, or at least finding a meeting without the wrong person. Almost everyone who has gone to AA has had an experience at some meeting or other with someone that has too strong a personality, or is just too opinionated, or is otherwise some combination of a blowhard, loudmouthed know-it-all. That kind of personality is a complete turn off. Unfortunately, some people don't take the time to look around for another meeting without Mr. or Ms. Obnoxious, and just write AA off because that kind of experience. As a license restoration lawyer, the entire palate of these things are as familiar to me as is my drive to work.

Understanding things like the background of AA, and how it was founded (by Dr. Bob and Bill W.,) and how the disease model of alcoholism came to gain favor, and how that was influenced by the work of E.M Jellinek is foundational to what I do. In order to win a license appeal in a world where about 1 out of 3 people in recovery are involved in AA, you better darn well be an expert of sorts in AA. Knowing that there are 12 steps, or even knowing those steps is a far cry from "knowing" AA. To fully understand something, you need to know the good and the bad, and understand how those things contribute to a client either being a good fit with AA, or not.

Accordingly, it is equally, if not more important to understand the other ways that people recover, given that 2 out of 3 will do it without continued involvement in AA. To understand the broader concepts of recovery, however, you must first understand the various theories of addiction. There is a growing body of scientific research in this field. I am familiar with all of the major theories of addiction because I have formally studied them. This becomes important in reviewing a substance abuse evaluation, for example, because each and every evaluator bases his or her findings on whatever theory they believe. As an example, I recently reviewed an evaluation wherein the evaluator clearly noted that the person was in the "maintenance stage" of recovery. She used this term formally, meaning she viewed the process of addiction and recovery from the perspective of what's know as the trans-theoretical model popularized by Carlos DiClemente. Unfortunately, she had given the client a "fair" prognosis for continued abstinence, a conclusion about which I disagreed. My formal, post-graduate addiction studies education allowed me to communicate with her, in the language of her profession, how and why I believed her prognosis to be inconsistent with her diagnosis. I know the trans-theoretical model (TTM) rather well.

By contrast to being an active AA member, some people just go through a term outpatient counseling and manage to quit drinking. Other people go for longer-term therapy. What matters is that you've come away from whatever you've done with a complete understanding that, in order to remain sober, you can't ever drink again. Because just saying so isn't enough to win a license appeal, I'll help you go back and explain what was going on inside your head as you became alcohol free, even if it's been a long time. To do that, however, requires that I understand the broad panorama of ways people come to understand the nature of their drinking problems, and the strategies and tools they use to make the transition from drinker to non-drinker.

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September 2, 2013

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer - Clinical and Legal Training - Part 1

In the Michigan driver's license restoration section of my website, and within the more than 200 driver's license restoration articles on my blog, I analyze and examine virtually every facet of what it takes for a person to win a license appeal case in front of the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD). One subject that could use a little more explanation, however, is what it takes to be a successful license restoration lawyer. With extraordinarily few exceptions, I win every case I take the first time around, and I back that up with a guarantee. There's more to this, however, than just being a sharp lawyer. I want to explain things from my side of the desk, and explain how I am different from any other attorney out there who merely "does" license appeals.

First and foremost, I define myself as a genuine Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer. I don't just "do" license appeals; I concentrate most of my law practice in them. It doesn't take long to figure out that I am rather passionate about this field. I don't mean to be judgmental, but there is just no way that some lawyer doing divorces can have a similar enthusiasm for the work he or she does in that field for the work that I do in mine. Central to my approach and practice is a specialized understanding of the onset, development of and recovery from an alcohol and/or substance abuse problem. Beyond claiming to be some kind of self-made "student" of this subject, I am formally involved in the study of addiction issues at the University, post-graduate level. This is critical, because in the real world, the entire crux of a license appeal is your recovery from a drinking problem.

Library Girl 1.2.jpgTherefore, just being a lawyer isn't really good enough, at least not in my book. And in my book, if I take your case, I guarantee I'll win it. To be clear about it, though, I will not take a case where a person is still drinking, or even thinks he or she can still drink. This costs me a lot of potential money, because there is no shortage of people who read some (and clearly not enough) of what I've written, see that I have a guarantee, and call my office ready to pay anything to get their license back. The first question my staff or I will have isn't about your ability to pay, but about your sobriety. If you're not sober, I can't help you win your license back, at least not yet. Perhaps, however, I can help you find some direction about getting sober.

This makes me unique amongst lawyers. It seems logical to me that if the development and/or diagnosis and/or recovery from an alcohol problem is the key issue in a license appeal, then as a license appeal lawyer, I should to have special education and training in those areas. Merely having handled a lot of DUI and license appeal cases doesn't make a lawyer anything more than familiar with them. Think of it this way: I am familiar with a television because I have watched a lot of TV. I know my way around a remote pretty well, but that doesn't make me an electrical engineer. Just because I watch a television doesn't mean I can open one up and fix it.

In the world of license restorations, your lawyer certainly needs to know everything about the law and how it's applied, but that's only the half of things. In a license appeal case, the law is applied to the story of your recovery from an alcohol problem. The state, meaning the DAAD, is going to scrutinize every shred of evidence you submit. The law essentially requires the DAAD hearing officer to look for a reason to deny your appeal, and that begins with the substance abuse evaluation that forms the basis of your appeal. Here's a newsflash: Many, if not most of the evaluations I see (this does not apply to the clinicians to whom I refer my clients) are not properly completed to the satisfaction of the state. That's not a negative reflection on any particular evaluator, because the evaluation form seems to ask for one thing, while the hearing officers seem, at least to anyone not really familiar with the process, to be looking for something different. It just means that an evaluator really needs to receive direct feedback on the specific information the DAAD really wants and what it considers important. I do this with the evaluators with whom I regularly work. What the DAAD "wants" is not obvious no matter how much you look at the form.

About half the new cases that come into my office are for people who have tried a previous license appeal and lost. Some of these are "do-it-yourself" jobs, and some involved a lawyer. Either way, in almost every such case, the person supposedly in control of the evidence didn't fully grasp the full scope of a license restoration appeal. This is where my kind of dual-purpose, specialized training is not only an asset, but becomes imperative, at least if you want to count on winning. As a lawyer, I have to make sure that the evidence is legally sufficient.

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August 30, 2013

Michigan Driver's License Revocation hold - Getting a Clearance to Obtain or Renew a License in Another State

If you used to live in Michigan and left the state with a revoked license because of 2 or more DUI convictions, you have probably learned that in your new state (and in most states), you cannot get a new license until you clear up Michigan's hold on your driving record. Even in those few states that did, in the past, allow you to get a license despite a Michigan revocation (seen everywhere else as a "hold") on your record, it is now impossible to renew that license because of the Michigan hold. This means that cannot legally drive until you formally obtain what's called a "clearance."

Getting a "clearance" is exactly the same as having your Michigan driver's license restored, except that instead of giving you a license back, the Michigan Secretary of State will remove its hold on your driving record, thereby allowing you to obtain (or, in certain cases, renew) an out-of-state license. As a Michigan driver's license restoration attorney, I have to explain that winning a Michigan driver's license restoration case, at it's most basic, requires proving that you are sober. This means that even if you've moved out of Michigan, you'll have to prove to the Secretary of State that you've done a lot more than just change your address - you'll have to prove that you've changed your life, and that alcohol is no longer any part of it. There is no consideration or exception made just because you've left the state.

michigan-state 1.2.gifIt is at this point that you must honestly place yourself into one of two categories: Either you have really, truly quit drinking, or you have not. If you have quit, then exploring a clearance is a worthwhile investment of your time and money. If you haven't completely eliminated alcohol from your life, then you're not ready to move forward with the Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, known as the DAAD. In a license restoration or clearance case, the whole focus of the DAAD is making sure that only those people who have given up alcohol and have the tools and commitment to remain alcohol free (forever, and not just for the next year or two) win their appeals. If you've previously tried your own "administrative review" and lost, particularly if you really have quit drinking, then you know the bar is set rather high to prove this.

I like to summarize the complexity of license appeal cases by simply observing that they are governed by a million little rules. Yet amidst all the details and technicalities, there are 2 key legal issues that control the process. In order to win a Michigan license appeal, you have to prove:

1. That your alcohol problem is under control, and
2. That your alcohol problem is likely to remain under control.
For the most part, it's the second issue that trips most people when they try an appeal on their own, or with some lawyer for whom license appeals is not the basis of his or her practice.

Beyond that, those 2 legal issues are governed by the written language of the rule that explicitly states that, "The 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..." (emphasis added). This means that not only do you have to prove your case by "clear and convincing evidence," but that the hearing officer is instructed to deny your appeal unless you do. We could spend pages explaining this, but a simple rule of thumb is this: If the hearing officer, in your case, has an unanswered question or an unresolved doubt about any part of it, your evidence isn't clear. And even if it's clear, if it doesn't absolutely convince him or her that you've not only remained alcohol-free for a given minimum period of time, but are also committed, from your very heart and soul, to remain alcohol-free for the rest of your life, and that you also have the resources and tools to do so, then your appeal must to be denied.

Many people think they understand all of this, and move ahead and file an administrative review without a lawyer. Not surprisingly, about 3 out of 4 administrative reviews are denied by the state. Flipping that around, only about 1 out of 4 win. While the "do it yourself" approach doesn't require paying any legal fees, the real cost is that once you lose, you're stuck with exactly the evidence you submitted and cannot file a new appeal, or any new evidence, for a whole year. With my help, that won't happen next time, and I guarantee it.

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August 16, 2013

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Substance Abuse Evaluation

In order to win back your Michigan driver's license, or, if you left the state but still have a Michigan "hold" on your driving record, you must win a driver's license restoration appeal before the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, known as the DAAD. There's a lot that goes into this, so much so that I often describe the appeal process as having to navigate "a million little rules." Underlying all of those procedural rules, however, are two really big requirements that essentially govern the license appeal process.

The requirements and standards to win a Michigan license appeal are set out in the DAAD's "rule 13." When we boil all of that down, we find that winning a license appeal requires first, proving that your alcohol problem "is under control," and second, proving that it is "likely to remain under control." It's this second (and decidedly more important) issue that will be relevant in this article.

car-driver 1.2.jpgIf you've done any research into filing a license appeal, then you've learned that one of the requirements you have to meet in order to submit your paperwork is to include a current substance abuse evaluation. For all that we can say about the substance abuse evaluation (and I plan on saying quite a bit, actually), we can sum it up by noting that this document is really the primary piece of evidence submitted in a license appeal to prove that your alcohol problem is "likely to remain under control." The substance abuse evaluation is a clinical professional's analysis of the likelihood that you will be able to successfully remain abstinent from alcohol. In other words, the substance abuse evaluation provides the evaluator's professional opinion of how "likely" it is that your alcohol problem will remain under control.

That sounds easy enough. And looking at the substance abuse evaluation form gives no reason for an evaluator to question whether he or she will have any difficulty completing it. Yet within the lines of this standard state form lies a maze of traps and unseen dangers that can kill a license appeal as quickly as showing up for your hearing with an open can of beer.

To be completely honest about it, it was really the critical role of the substance abuse evaluation, more than anything else, that ultimately motivated me to not only become a kind of self-taught "expert" regarding it, but to go back to college (University of Detroit Mercy, a great school that I'm happy to "plug") and enroll in a graduate program for certification in addiction studies. In the course of more than 23 years in the legal field, I've gone from the position of most lawyers, who play a passive role in this part of the process, relying upon the expertise of a substance abuse counselor's understanding and ability to properly complete the form, to supervising the substance abuse evaluation process and, at times, taking charge and even controlling it. This means that I have had to give a crash course to many substance abuse counselors in what the Secretary of State wants by way of information.

Whether anyone likes it or not, the DAAD hearing officers are being asked, by virtue of having to consider and review the substance abuse evaluation in every license appeal case, to "play" substance abuse expert to a certain extent. While the hearing officers must be lawyers, they are not clinicians. It became apparent to me that in order to properly interface between the world of substance abuse counselors and lawyers, just being a lawyer isn't good enough. Thus, I moved from being "self-taught" in the field of alcohol and addiction problems and recovery all the way to the university classroom in order learn things from the counselor's side of things. Now, I not only understand the larger, more well-known concepts of recovery, but also understand the more subtle nuances involved in addictions counseling, and speak both the language of lawyers and the language of the clinicians upon whom we so heavily rely in these cases.

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August 12, 2013

Michigan Driver's License Restoration and DUI - Problems with Ignition Interlock

In my day-to-day work as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer and a Michigan DUI attorney, I deal with the whole panorama of problems that arise for the use of an ignition interlock unit, from false positive test results to the utter lack of any real "tech support" or help from the vendors. In fact, it's hard to use the term "ignition interlock" and not use the word "problems" in the same sentence. While the technology has come a long way over the last number of years, it's still fraught with innumerable problems. In truth, it's far more a matter of luck, rather than anything else, if and when someone drives a year or more driving with one of these units and things go smoothly.

A few days before this article was written, I attended an ignition interlock seminar put on by one of the vendors of these units. I learned a number of things, but chief amongst them, and somewhat to my dismay, is that I happen to know a lot more about these units than most of my colleagues. It's not that I'm any smarter than anyone else, but rather that I have loads of experience with these devices as part of my Michigan driver's license restoration practice. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for the reader dealing with an interlock nightmare, virtually all of my considerable interlock experience is the result of problems caused by these units. It's likely that if you're reading this, you've run into some problem with yours, or are looking for someone that has.

InterlockDemo.jpgRather than laundry list what can go wrong with these units, I think that a few significant points from my recent seminar are relevant here. First, although the particular vendor hosting the seminar did a good job of showing how much these devices have been improved as a result of new and evolving technology, it had to be admitted that they are machines, and, as a result, they do, admittedly, malfunction.

Second, and perhaps most significant, there is really nobody who works with these units who has any comprehensive knowledge about them. That's not to say that there aren't engineers and other technical people at the design and manufacturing level who don't know what they're doing. In the field, however, in terms of lawyers, Judges, probation officers, Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) hearing officers, and even service technicians, it seems that there is a decided lack of understanding about ignition interlock units, how they work, and how often they can be wrong, as well as why they can appear to be functioning normally and produce inaccurate results.

I left the seminar feeling like more of an expert than anyone there because I have a thorough knowledge of the legal situations in which ignition interlock units are used, the evidentiary standards that these units are supposed to meet, both in court and before the Secretary of State, meaning the DAAD, the standards of reliability that are (often incorrectly) attributed to them, and the practical and technical considerations that govern how they work in the real world.

Third, the science "behind" ignition interlock units is very different from the science behind the "DataMaster" breath testing machine used in police stations after a person has been arrested for a DUI. This is an area I intend to cover in another article or articles, but the key point here is that the DataMaster is supposed to give a very accurate reading of how much alcohol you have consumed. It goes without saying that there are limitations with that, and that is fertile ground for a DUI lawyer to challenge the evidence. Even so, we are told that the DataMaster can and does distinguish between "mouth alcohol," meaning residual amounts of trace alcohol NOT consumed but left in the mouth from things like food and mouthwash, and real alcohol that has been consumed by a person. I have personally attended seminars where that has been demonstrated to be untrue, but the larger point that relates to an ignition interlock unit is that even the manufacturers warn that the unit cannot tell the difference between trace alcohol from mouthwash or straight whiskey. As the presenter at my recent ignition interlock seminar explained their limitations, "These things detect alcohol. Alcohol is alcohol."

And for all of that, anyone dealing with an ignition interlock unit clearly did not win any evidentiary challenges to the DataMaster breath testing machine used in the police station in his or her underlying DUI case. That brings us to the present...

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August 9, 2013

Losing your Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance Appeal

I don't lose license restoration cases. As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I provide a guarantee that, if I represent you, I'll win your case and get you back on the road. This makes me stand out as a Michigan license appeal attorney, and in a way that makes me proud of the success my standards and efforts produce. I have written extensively about the license appeal process, including the dangers of either trying it alone, without representation, or by hiring some lawyer who claims to "do" license appeals. I am way beyond having to drum up business, so when I caution anyone about trying to represent themselves, I really mean to help them.

In more than 22 years of handling Michigan driver's license restoration appeals, I have been hired more times than I can count by people who have tried unsuccessfully to win their own license appeals. My office is called almost daily by someone who has just opened his or her mail only to learn that they've lost a "do it yourself" case. In many of these cases, the person who filed the appeal really has quit drinking, and they find it hard to understand how they could lose. Frustrated, they get on the computer, find my blog or site, and then call my office, wanting to appeal. For many of these folks, money isn't an issue, either, at least at this point.

Loser 2.2.jpgSuch people almost sound like the perfect clients, don't they? Except that, in just about every single instance, all the money in the world can't fix the damage done by someone handling his or her own appeal. The same also holds true when some lawyer for whom license restoration appeals are not the basis of his or her practice tries their hand at one. License appeals are governed by what I call a "million little rules," and even knowing most of them isn't good enough. If you're going to win license cases with anything other than luck, you have to know all the rules and the nuances involved in their interpretation. For my part, I seldom bother looking over a lost case with any intent to take the case and appeal the matter to court because almost every time, the appeal has been botched in some way by the person who handled it, lawyer or not.

Amongst the most frequent reasons resulting in a denied appeal are problems with the substance abuse evaluation, variances or lack of specificity in the letters of support, unsatisfactory testimonial answers by the person filing the appeal, or pretty much anything to do with witnesses. As I see it, only an amateur will call someone in to testify as a witness. I never call witnesses, and I not only win virtually every case I take the first time, but back up my claims with a guarantee.

However it works out, when someone loses, we can safely say that things didn't go as planned, and the person thereafter has 2 options: Wait until next year to try again, or appeal to court. Then it's left to me to tell them that appealing to court is almost never an option, or at least one that has any chance of success. Usually, they'll sigh, and then ask "So I just have to wait until next year, then?"

"Yes," I'll say. Invariably, the person will sigh again, thank me for my time, say they wished they had found my blog and site before they filed their appeal, and then tell me they'll be calling back when their next eligibility date approaches. And they usually do. Even though this is the cycle I live over and over, and even though it's how I earn my income, I wish I could find some way to break it by getting to these people before they go off and do their own license appeal. It's not that there's any more money in it for me; it's just that there's a license in it sooner for the vast majority of those people hell bent on trying the "do it yourself" license appeal only to find themselves ensnared by things they had no idea even existed. There's a decent chance that if you're reading this, you're in that group. And if that's the case, there's an equally good chance that you want to call my office anyway and just ask about your case, hoping that it's somehow different. This is particularly true if you've made the rather commendable transition from drinker to non-drinker. I can certainly help you figure that out...

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July 26, 2013

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - The First Principle of Winning your License back

As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I deal with people at all stages of losing their licenses for multiple DUI's. As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I am there from the moment someone first loses his or her license; thereafter, I switch roles, and, as a license appeal attorney, go to work on getting my client back on the road. I've published a lot of information about the Michigan license restoration process. Much of the information on my website is broken down step-by-step, while many of the articles on this blog are focused on very specific aspects of the license restoration process. This article will be more of a summary overview of how the Michigan Secretary of States' Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) sees the license restoration process. Rather than revisit the "process" part of things, we'll look more at the reasons things are the way they are. It is critically important to understand how the people who will decide your case see things.

First, you must remember that, under Michigan law, once you've been convicted of 2 DUI's within 7years, or 3 within 10 years, you're labeled a "habitual offender." That means in the case of a 2nd DUI within 7 years, your driver's license will be revoked for a minimum of 1 year; if you've picked up your 3rd DUI within 10 years, the Michigan Secretary of State will revoke your license for a minimum of 5 years. If that's not enough, being a "habitual offender" means that the law presumes you have an alcohol problem. In order to win your license back, you'll have to prove that your alcohol problem is under control, and also that it is likely to remain under control. As I often like to do, let's draw the curtain back a bit and get a look at things from the other side - in this case, the hearing officer's.

curtain 3.1.jpgHere we encounter what amounts to the biggest obstacle for many people trying to win a Michigan driver's license restoration or clearance appeal, that you have an alcohol problem. I've written rather extensively about this in many of my other articles, but here, I'll just get straight to the point; if you have 2 DUI convictions within 7 years (or, wore yet, 3 or more within 10 years) and you think you can win your license back by saying you don't have a drinking problem, you're in a for a rude awakening. There is no room for negotiation here, because not only does the law give rise to a presumption that you have a drinking problem, but no one with the authority to give a license back will ever, as long as the sun rises, agree that you don't. Some people bang their heads into the wall for years by filing appeal after appeal and trying to assert that, despite their multiple DUI's, their drinking isn't a problem. Eventually, when they've lost enough times, at least some of these people come around to realize that as long as they keep trying the "I don't have a drinking problem" refrain, they'll never win their license back.

Knowing how the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) sees this is important, but there is more to the story than just understanding the DAAD's perspective, and position. If we take a step back and look a little deeper, we can see why the DAAD applies and interprets its rules as it does. While I think there are plenty of examples of how the DAAD is off the mark, I don't really have any quarrel with them on this main point about a drinking problem.

For example, even if Dan the driver really isn't much of a drinker, if he got caught driving drunk on one occasion, spent enough money in fines, costs, insurance increases and other related expenses to buy a first class home theater system, went through holy hell with the court, and, instead of not making the same mistake again, as the overwhelming majority of people manage to do, he goes out and gets another DUI, then from the state's point of view, and really, from the whole of society's point of view, he has a drinking problem. While the meaning is essentially the same, we can certainly say that he has a problem with his drinking. At a minimum, Dan is risky. While it always seems different when it's your case, or when in concerns someone you know well, who, really, would give a license back to a complete stranger with such a record? To put it another way, people like Dan are just seen as far too risky.

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July 8, 2013

Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance Eligibility

If your Michigan driver's license has been revoked because of 2 or more DUI convictions, there comes a point when you are or will be considered legally "eligible" to try and get it back. As a Michigan license restoration lawyer, I find myself explaining this rather often. It's about time to bring this issue back for another examination and look at it again. First, though, we need to identify exactly what we're talking about. As it turns out, being "eligible" to file a license appeal doesn't exactly mean one simple thing. The terms "eligible" and "license appeal" are often used in several different contexts, so we'll try and clarify things a bit.

To start, we'll begin by defining "eligible." The DAAD, meaning the Driver Assessment and Appeal Division of the Michigan Secretary of State, has to follow Michigan law regarding a person with "multiple" drunk driving convictions. "Multiple," in that sense, means 2 convictions for alcohol-related traffic offenses within 7 years, or 3 such convictions within 10 years. Anyone in this boat is legally classified as a "habitual offender," and will have his or her license revoked. Revoked means that, until a person files and wins a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal, his or her license cannot and will not be reinstated, no matter how long they wait, and the person must wait at least until he or she is legally "eligible" just to start the restoration appeal process. "Eligible," then, means legally allowed to take the first step in the license restoration process by filing an appeal. It means being eligible to request a hearing to ask for your license back. The decision to give it back or not rests solely with the Michigan Secretary of State, and is entirely in the hands of the DAAD as it considers the evidence presented in your license restoration appeal.

Eligibility 1.2.jpgUnder Michigan law, here's how long a person has to wait to become legally eligible to file a driver's license restoration after multiple DUI's:

1. For 2 DUI convictions within 7 years, at least 1 year from the date of revocation,
2. For 3 or more DUI convictions within 10 years, at least 5 years from the date of revocation.
Often, I get called by someone who has recently has been notified of his or her license revocation following a 2nd or 3rd DUI conviction. "Can't I get some kind of restricted license just for work," they'll ask. The answer is an absolute no. Yet the simplicity and clarity of that answer often results in a person trying to reframe the question, or see if there is some way around this whole revocation thing. If the reader takes one thing away from this article, it should be that it doesn't matter if you're the most important person in the world; after your second DUI within 7 years, you can't do anything to get your license back until at least 1 year has passed, and, if you're coming off of a third DUI in 10 years, you'll have to wait at least 5 years.

This means there is no going to court to get some kind of license. Not only is going to court impossible, the law specifically forbids it. The only thing you can do to become "eligible" is to simply live long enough for your eligibility date to come around. That's it. There is nothing else you can do, period.

Every now and then, someone will hint that they know someone who knows someone who knows this or that person (often it's supposedly a judge, or prosecutor) and that the mystery friend was able to go to court and get their license back. To be clear, such a thing is absolutely, 100% impossible. The law specifically limits the jurisdiction of a circuit court by specifically forbidding hardship appeals. Given that the "knowing someone" angle is a dead end, let's look at how things really work...

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July 5, 2013

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - What to do to win your License back After a 2nd or 3rd DUI - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began looking at how and why the time between a person's last DUI, assuming that it's a 2nd or 3rd offense, and the time he or she becomes eligible to file a license appeal, is important. Given that your license will be revoked for multiple DUI's, and because the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) will be looking at what you did between the date of your revocation and the time you file a license appeal, making good use of that time is important. We identified that the most important part of a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal is proving, by clear and convincing evidence, that your alcohol problem "is likely to remain under control," meaning that you will essentially be required to prove that you're sober.

In this second part, we'll pick up by considering how that is done. The idea here is to use the time from your last DUI productively, so that it will help pave the way for winning your license back, either through a license restoration appeal, or through a clearance of the Michigan hold on your driving record that stands in the way of your getting or renewing a license in another state.

to-do-list 2.1.jpgGetting sober, however, is a journey. This is why a very basic piece of beginner's advice in AA is "fake it 'till you make it." That works for AA and even has some role in pre or early recovery, but it takes much more than "faking it" to be successful in a license restoration appeal before the DAAD. This will become clear as we separate these things out a bit. As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer actively involved in ongoing, formal education in addiction studies at the post-graduate, University level, I bring both a legal and clinical understanding to this subject. That's not meant to sound fancy; I bring it up because my special background gives me such an advantage in the field of Michigan driver's license restoration cases that I provide a guarantee that if I take your case, I will win it. This first-time win guarantee means that I am every bit as invested as you in winning your case and getting you back on the road the first time.

It would seem that our real goal, after a person's last (meaning 2nd or 3rd, or even 4th or subsequent) DUI is to nudge or urge them from the denial stage into the recognition stage that his or her drinking has become a problem. The difficulty with this is simple: The harder you try, the farther you push someone away. It is an established fact that about the least successful way to get someone to recognize a problem with their drinking is to nag them. Screaming and yelling and intellectual appeals and cost-benefit analysis presented by well meaning family and friends are almost guaranteed to have zero effect. Yet a simple line passed on from therapist to a client of mine says it better than all the slogans of AA or observations in college textbooks: Anything that causes a problem, is a problem.

When you're dealing with your 2nd or 3rd DUI, the only question to ask is, "what's causing this problem?" The answer, at least to anyone whose thinking is not impaired by denial, is obvious. This, of course, really highlights the conundrum and frustration of an alcohol problem, because, for the most part, everyone on the outside can see that a person's troubles all stem from his or her use of alcohol, while the very person affected blames the police, "the system," or some external source of pressure or stress.

Yet there is a role for the "fake it 'till you make it" approach in the whole license appeal process, and in the very way that the AA people mean it. And to be clear, none of this has anything to do with actually going to AA. AA is a great program that helps a lot of people, but in the final tally, 2 out of 3 people who maintain long-term sobriety do so without staying involved in AA. As the previous 2-part article on this blog explains, AA is helpful, but absolutely NOT necessary to win a Michigan driver's license restoration case. More than half of the people for whom I win back a Michigan driver's license, or for whom I win a clearance are not involved in AA by the time I take their case.

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration - What to do to win your License back After a 2nd or 3rd DUI - Part 2" »

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July 1, 2013

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - What to do to win your License back After a 2nd or 3rd DUI - Part 1

As a Detroit DUI lawyer and a Michigan driver's license restoration attorney, I spend almost every minute of each working day dealing with both the short and long-term legal consequences of Michigan's drunk driving laws. My focus in DUI cases is beating the charge, or at least keeping my client out of jail and minimizing consequences, if not avoiding them outright. In a Michigan license restoration or clearance case, I concentrate on winning back the privilege to drive for someone who has lost it because of multiple alcohol-related driving (DUI) convictions. There is a time gap, and really a "life gap," between these two events, however. It can take years, and it can certainly feel like a lifetime, from your 2nd or 3rd (or 4th or 5th, for that matter) DUI conviction to when you can file a driver's license appeal in the hopes of getting back on the road, legally.

This 2-part article will take a look at some things you should be doing (or should have done) between your last DUI conviction and the time you become eligible to file a license appeal. This is important stuff, because what a person does and does not do in the months following a 2nd or 3rd DUI conviction that results in a license revocation plays a key role in whether and/or when he or she can later successfully restore his or her driving privileges. One thing you can take to the bank, no one has ever lost a license appeal for having done too much.

To-do 1.2.jpgAs it turns out, the "gap" between your last DUI conviction and the time you become eligible to file for restoration of your license is a very real, often difficult period. Many people will just "endure" it, doing little more than just waiting for it to be over. Unfortunately, too many lawyers play no real role during this time period, either, and just wait and hope for a call from a returning client who, by the mere passage time, finds him or herself eligible for a license appeal. That kind of ignorance misses things on multiple levels, because being "able" to win a Michigan driver's license restoration case requires a lot more than merely being "eligible."

Given the indisputable fact that what a person has or has not done in the time since their last DUI becomes the very focus of their license appeal, it would be incredibly short sighted for me, as a Michigan license restoration lawyer, to just sit and wait and hope that anyone who calls will have used his or her in-between time wisely. Because the general scope of this article is rather broad, we'll confine our examination to a more summary review of those things people in the real world are likely to actually do, or at least have a chance of actually doing, that will help them win a license appeal after his or her license has been revoked. Even a cursory look at this subject, however, will involve packing a lot of information into these pages. As a result,in order to do this subject justice, these installments will be a bit longer than usual. While this is by no means intended to be a comprehensive examination of this subject, by the end of this article, you should get the general "gist" of things.

First, we need to define our inquiry a bit. When you're convicted of a 2nd or 3rd offense DUI in Michigan, you are automatically categorized as a "habitual offender." There is no higher offense in Michigan than a 3rd offense DUI. A 5th DUI is still charged in court as a "3rd" DUI, so when I use the term "3rd," it can mean anything from a person's actual 3rd offense to his or her 5th or 6th offense, and even numbers beyond.

This "habitual offender" label carries more than just a regrettable designation. The habitual offender laws require that your driver's license be revoked as a result of a 2nd or 3rd DUI conviction. "Revoked" means taken away for good. In the case of a 2nd DUI within 7 years, your license is revoked for life, and you are not eligible to file an appeal for at least 1 year. In the case of a 3rd DUI within 10 years, you must wait at least 5 years before you may begin the appeal process. This is very different than merely having your license "suspended." Suspended means that the license will reinstated upon a certain, specified date, or, for example, if a particular sum of money is paid. You can't just apply to get a revoked license back; you must go through a formal license appeal process with the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (known as the "DAAD") to win it back. Until that happens, you won't get your license reinstated, no matter how many years, or even decades it's been since you lost it. Accordingly, the use of the word "lifetime" when we talk about your driver's license having been revoked is completely accurate and absolutely literal.

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration - What to do to win your License back After a 2nd or 3rd DUI - Part 1" »

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June 28, 2013

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - AA or no AA? - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began a review of how AA attendance can be helpful, but is absolutely not necessary to win a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal. As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I work with both a clinical and legal knowledge of the principles of recovery every day. I have to make sure that we prove to the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD), by "clear and convincing evidence," that your alcohol problem is "likely to remain under control." This means that we have to fit the clinical indications of your transition from drinker to non-drinker - meaning your recovery - into the legal confines of proving that you're a safe bet to never drink again. And we have to do it in a way that conforms with the understanding of the hearing officers that make the final license restoration decisions. To accomplish this, I have to know specifically what kind of proofs each hearing officer is looking for.

Put more simply, we need to prove your sobriety to a hearing officer's satisfaction. Not drinking is a start, but real sobriety also involves an understanding of the need for and a real commitment to stay alcohol-free. Nothing has come close to exploring and explaining the idea that a person simply cannot control or moderate his or her drinking, and therefore must stop completely, like AA's fist step. This cornerstone concept of AA really shapes and defines the whole idea of getting over a drinking problem, and is a familiar context in which to examine a person's commitment to sobriety, even if the person doesn't go to AA.

Groupies 1.3.pngThink of it this way: If I were to talk about a specific license appeal and say we've "hit a home run," or we've "struck out," don't those descriptors help define your understanding of what happened? You know, almost by instinct, that in the "home run" case, we won, and in the case where we "struck out," we lost. Using these familiar terms is helpful by way of description of our success or failure, but it doesn't mean that we're actually playing baseball. Thus, the concept of sobriety is at least described, often enough, in "first step" terms, even for those who don't know the first thing about AA. The bottom line is that future sobriety is directly correlated to an internalized belief that you cannot drink again.

Of all the gifts that AA has passed down into the world of recovery, nothing comes close to its first step. While the language itself ("We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable") is rather esoteric to the outsider, the translated meaning is simple, direct, and clear: You have to stop drinking. At some point, everyone in recovery learns this one basic fact - moderation does not work. Some people rack up an entire series of life problems, including multiple DUI's, trying to control or cut down or otherwise manage their drinking, but sooner or later, those who get better come to realize that the only way to control their drinking is to not drink at all. You can call that a recognition of your powerlessness over alcohol, or you can consider yourself completely empowered over alcohol, as long as you choose not to drink, but semantics aside, it's the same thing: Recovery begins when the drinking ends.

If you stick around AA long enough to learn some of the nuances of the first step, you'll hear all kinds of things. Many, if not most, of these "first step" idioms have little to do with the actual language of the first step, but have become so attached to the whole concept of the "first step" that they seem eternally bound together. Of particular help to the newcomer to abstinence is the whole "one day at a time" phenomenon. You don't have to go to AA to learn this. Should you find yourself sitting in front of a knowing counselor or therapist, or in the right rehab program, you may very well learn that early in a person's recovery, when the prospect of never drinking again seems incredibly hard to grasp and rather scary, it can be very helpful to just segment the commitment to not drink into 24 hour periods. You learn, in other words, to take it "one day at a time."

Therefore, if someone expresses to their counselor, or to a table of AA members that they don't know how they'll get through the rest of their lives, including every future holiday season, without so much as a glass of wine, they'll be taught about one day at a time. "Can you get through today without a drink?" will often be the reply, to which the person will respond "sure." "Then just focus on today. You can worry about tomorrow, tomorrow." This simple little trick has helped countless people string enough days together to add up to weeks, then months, and then years.

By contrast, some people come to the point of quitting drinking knowing that they need to quit forever. This gets to the larger point of this whole article; different things work for different people. The key to getting and staying sober is finding the one that actually works for you, not what someone else says will work for you.

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration - AA or no AA? - Part 2" »

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June 24, 2013

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - AA or no AA? - Part 1

As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I either win back your Michigan license or I win a clearance of Michigan's hold on your driving record that prevents you from getting a license in a different state. Specifically, I win an appeal of the Michigan Secretary of State's revocation of your driving privileges by challenging it at a hearing before the Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, known as the DAAD, and sometimes (although mistakenly) still called the "DLAD," even though that name changed to the DAAD a number of years ago. One of the most common questions I am asked about the whole license appeal process is whether or not a person needs to be going to AA in order to win. The answer is no, and this 2-part article will explain why.

On both my website and in the license restoration articles on this blog, I have given separate treatment to how and why AA attendance is not necessary to win a license appeal, as well as how a person's current attendance can play a helpful role in a Michigan license restoration case. This time, I am going to squeeze both of those perspectives into a single article. Accordingly, and to keep this piece of readable length, I'll be summarizing, more than explaining, certain elements of the license appeal process in order to make the larger point.

sharing 2.1.jpgFirst and foremost, it would be disingenuous to deny that being involved in AA is anything less than helpful in a Michigan license appeal. Everybody knows about AA, even if they don't know the first thing about any of its 12 steps. Helpful is a far cry, however, from necessary. AA is definitely not necessary to win a license restoration case. More importantly, not going to AA does not pose any kind difficulty to succeeding with your appeal, if things are done right.

For as much as we can say that AA "helps" a license appeal, we should really ask why. The 2 main legal issues in a license restoration or clearance case are:

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

This means, more than anything else, that you have to prove that you're not likely to ever drink again. To put it another way, you have to prove (and the state requires all your proof to be by "clear and convincing evidence") that you have the commitment and ability to remain abstinent from alcohol for the rest of your life.

Beyond the fact that AA is about the first thing that comes to mind when someone says "drinking problem," what is it about AA that's so special, and why, then, if it is so helpful to a license appeal, can we honestly say that it is not necessary? As we survey the landscape of Michigan license restorations and where AA fits in, we'll look for answers to these questions.

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June 17, 2013

Michigan DUI and Driver's License Restoration Lawyer's Warning to Avoid Nyquil

In my day to-to-day work as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer and a Detroit DUI attorney, I spend most of my time dealing with alcohol, and the problems it causes. One of the biggest problems I run into is a positive alcohol test result. If you know what that means, then you're likely subject to some kind of testing, whether it be by ignition interlock, or because you have to provide a breath or urine sample somewhere. If you're facing a DUI in the Detroit area, or want to restore your Michigan driver's license, (or you need a clearance of a Michigan "hold" on your driving record because you want to get a license in another state), your relationship to alcohol takes on a primary role in your life. In the context of a Michigan license reinstatement case, where the central issue is that a person has quit drinking, my efforts are directed to understanding, and then explaining a your former relationship to alcohol, meaning how they made the transition from drinker to non-drinker. In a Detroit area DUI, I have to examine and help you define, and perhaps redefine, your drinking behavior.

In a 1st offense DUI, we'd hope, right out of the gate, that your drinking is not problematic, and that we can show that your arrest represents an isolated and out-of-character incident. In 2nd and 3rd offense cases, the law automatically presumes that a person has a troubled relationship to alcohol, so my efforts are directed to changing both the appearance and the reality of your alcohol use.

cold-medecine-scotch 1.2.jpgThat all sounds great. Yet in the real world, if you're in any of these situations, things aren't really that great. Chances are, you are being (or darn soon will be) tested for alcohol. You are expected to come up clean, and test negative. And for all of that, nothing can cause more immediate damage than a person testing positive for alcohol.

At its simplest, testing is mandated to make sure you're not drinking. It's trouble enough for some people to stay away from alcohol, I've learned. Most often, those who test positive for alcohol are either on bond, while their DUI case is pending, or on probation as a result of it. For whatever reason, a person will take the gamble and drink, figuring they either won't be tested, or enough time will have elapsed so that if they are, their result will be clean. Perhaps they think they have it all figured out; I never get calls from anyone telling me that they drank and didn't get caught. I'm called either when they do get caught, or, even worse, when someone tests positive for alcohol but has not been "drinking."

Almost every week, I hear from someone who has delivered a positive alcohol test but swears that he or she was not drinking. Most often, the story goes that they used mouthwash with alcohol in it, or they were feeling sick and took cold medicine with alcohol in it, sometimes without ever realizing that in doing so, they were "consuming" alcohol. The real problem is that, as much as I hear this story weekly, the people who monitor test results, meaning the Secretary of State, the court, or the probation department, hear it every day, and probably multiple times every day. The famous "Nyquil excuse" has become just that - an all too famous excuse. It has really come to lose any legitimacy as an explanation for a positive alcohol test. This, of course, presents a huge problem to anyone for whom it's the truth.

To put this in perspective, I have a flyer in my office that I received from a local, Macomb County probation officer that his department has posted on the window of its office warning against even trying the Nyquil excuse for a positive alcohol breath test. The information explains that a person would have to drink a rather large amount of Nyquil to achieve anything above a trace BAC result, and that before they were able to consume enough to produce such a high positive test result, they'd be on the floor experiencing seizures as a result of all the other ingredients contained in any kind of cold medicine. The flyer backs up its warning by citing the Michigan State Police toxicology lab its information source.

If I can get one thing across in this article, it's that you have to make an effort to avoid being in this situation. It is my hope that someone will read this article before they take a morning swig of cold medicine, rather than after.

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June 3, 2013

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Substance Abuse Evaluation Preparation

It was recently pointed out to me by another lawyer that the way I begin a Michigan driver's license restoration case makes the way most other lawyers do it seem backwards. I begin every license appeal or clearance case with a 3-hour meeting, the primary focus of which is to prepare you to undergo the substance abuse evaluation. Apparently most, if not all, other lawyers meet with you after you've had it completed. While I can't even begin to understand doing things that way, it perhaps explains why I'm the only lawyer (that I know about, anyway) who provides a first-time win guarantee.

This is a very important point. The substance abuse evaluation that must be filed to begin a license restoration case is really the foundation of a license appeal. If you stumble at this stage, you've lost the case before it has even begun. The information contained in the substance abuse evaluation, as well as the "tone" of that information, shapes your whole case. This is about a lot more than just getting a "good" or a "bad evaluation." The evaluation will provide a glimpse, in a kind of longitudinal way, of your recovery. Yet there is really no way an evaluator can summarize your journey to sobriety if you can't describe it first. That's what I'm here for.

3-o-clock 1.2.jpgThus, for 3 hours, we'll go over the substance abuse evaluation form line by line. I have my own "substance abuse evaluation checklist" where I make notes to give the evaluator to make sure no important details are left out. Details are significant, but there's much more to the story than that. In fact, there's the whole story that needs to be told, and that's where I help.

I call this your "recovery story" because, in every sense of the word, how you made the transformation from drinker to non-drinker is a story. Those who have spent time in AA probably feel a lot more comfortable with the "story" part of this, having spoken of their journey to abstinence at the tables. For others, they'll undoubtedly appreciate the help in setting things out and seeing the chronological progression from their early (almost always teenage) drinking days to the end of their drinking career, right up to their embrace of sobriety.

Make no mistake, there is a story here, and when we start peeling back the onion, it's usually dramatic and profound. In more than 20 years, I've never had anyone sit back and describe, without emotion, how they sat back one day and did a balance sheet with continuing to drink on one side, and no longer drinking on the other, and then just decided to stop because it was the logical choice. When someone decides to quit drinking, there has usually been quite a bit of drama leading up to that point.

Here's where I bring a lot more to the table than any other lawyer, including anyone else who describes him or herself as a "license restoration lawyer." I study the whole process of alcohol problems, from their onset to their diagnosis, and right up through treatment. I am actively involved in the formal University, post-graduate studies of these issues. I know the language of the counselors who do these evaluations. I understand nuances in the evaluation process that some people don't even know exist. Because I speak the language of substance abuse counselors as well as the language of lawyers, I can make sure that the evaluation covers the appropriate and necessary clinical bases, and that it is legally clear, and sound, as well.

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April 26, 2013

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Changes in the DSM Diagnosis

In the previous article, I examined the new Request for Hearing form required as of April 1, 2013, by the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD). This new form must be filed along with a Substance Abuse Evaluation and Letters of Support in order to begin a formal license appeal. I pointed out that the form only serves to make the license appeal process less clear, and in any number of places, asks for the same information provided by the substance abuse evaluator in the Substance Abuse Evaluation itself. As if that wasn't enough, the DAAD has (once again) completely missed the boat about alcohol and substance abuse issues by failing to prepare for an upcoming and dramatic shift in that field.

In just a few days (May of 2013), the American Psychiatric Association will release the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition). This will replace the current edition (DSM-IV TR) and will change the entire landscape of alcohol and addiction diagnosis and treatment. The DSM is the "bible" of diagnoses. If a person is diagnosed as having anxiety disorder, autism, bi-polar disorder, depression or even schizophrenia, it is because he or she meets the specific criteria set forth in the DSM.

questionmark 1.2.jpgThe DAAD requires a DSM diagnosis as part of the Substance Abuse Evaluation form. Only a trained professional can make such a diagnosis. As it stands now, the Substance Abuse Evaluation form has a section that requires the evaluator to provide a DSM-IV diagnosis. That's perfectly fine, but it won't be once the new manual comes out in the coming days. Once the new manual is published, current diagnoses of alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence won't exist anymore.

This is worth repeating: The DSM-5 is expected to eliminate the diagnoses of alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. In their place, a new category, called alcohol use disorder, will take over. This is really heavy stuff, and I will likely examine the implications in upcoming articles. This is, of course, very relevant to me, not only as a lawyer, but also as someone who formally studies, at the post-graduate University level, the diagnosis and treatment of alcohol and substance abuse issues. For now however, we'll just focus on how the DAAD missed this, and what that means.

To put this in perspective, one of many other anticipated changes in the DSM-5 will be the elimination of Asperger's syndrome as a separate diagnosis. Somewhat related to autism, anyone who has a child receiving treatment for Asperger's syndrome will suddenly find that their insurance company will no longer pay for such treatment once the new manual is published. After all, how can you be covered for a condition that no longer exists? Of course, most of those with a diagnosis of Asperger's will be re-diagnosed under the expanded continuum of Autism disorders, but the point is that, until that's formally done, there will be no insurance coverage.

In the same way, we may expect some fallout for anyone receiving outpatient treatment for alcohol abuse when that diagnosis is eliminated. Sure, such a person may very well be thereafter diagnosed as having "alcohol use disorder," but the one thing we can say for sure is that once the DSM-5 comes out, "alcohol abuse" will no longer exist. How then, can the state ask for and make legal decisions based upon clinical criteria that no longer exist?

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April 22, 2013

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - New Form

The requirements for winning a Michigan driver's license restoration or clearance case changed on April 1, 2013. The Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, known as the "DAAD" (and formerly known as the "DLAD") has added a new form that must be filled out and filed as part of a Request for Hearing, Substance Abuse Evaluation and Letters of Support in order to begin a license appeal. As is always the case when the state changes something, the result is usually more red tape or increased costs. At least in this case, there is no cost increase. The same cannot be said about red tape, however.

This new form will undoubtedly cause problems for anyone trying a license appeal on his or her own. While only a few pages long, it would take several installments to cover the requirements and potential pitfalls of this new form, so I'll save a more in-depth analysis for a potential future series of blog articles. For now, we can at least look at a few key points.

paperwork 1.2.jpgHaving already worked with this new form for nearly a month, I can safely say that it represents a stunning achievement in lack of intelligent thinking. While I can understand that there may be someone simple and uniformed enough to draft something rather dumb, I am, frankly, surprised that anyone reviewed it and approved a form this idiotic.

In one place, the form asks for beginning and ending dates for any term or probation or incarceration a person had as a result of a DUI conviction. A few sections down, it asks. "Have you ever abstained from alcohol or controlled substances while incarcerated, on probation or on parole?" We all know plenty of people drink while on probation, but I'm not aware of any Jail that serves alcohol. Are you kidding me? Who is the genius responsible for that question?

In another place, it asks about the date a person last used alcohol. It goes on to ask for the "Name of alcohol consumed." This might seem to mean "what kind" of alcohol, but only a few sections earlier, as it asks about a person's former drinking habits, it specifically requests the "kind" of alcohol a person used to drink, and how often. Already, I'm seeing people describe the night of their last drink as having been a combination of beers and shots and/or mixed drinks. For many people with a few years of sobriety to their credit, thinking back to their last drink doesn't produce a crystal clear memory of what they last consumed. "Kind" of alcohol is one thing, but how many people name their drinks? "This one is 'Charles,' and that one is 'Kathy.'"

These are just a few examples amongst many. Instead of providing clarity to the process of license restoration, a person filing an appeal is asked about things already covered by the substance abuse evaluation, as if the state is just waiting for someone to say something that doesn't exactly match up so they can deny the appeal. Remember, the whole point of a driver's license restoration is to prove, by what the state calls "clear and convincing evidence," that your alcohol problem "is under control and likely to remain under control." This means that you have to prove you haven't had a drink for the statutorily required minimum time (that can range; in my Office, I require at least 12 months of sobriety), and, more importantly, that you have the tools necessary to back up a commitment to never drink again. Winning a license appeal means proving that you're sober, and also proving that you're a safe bet to remain sober for life, meaning that you'll never drink again.

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April 19, 2013

Guaranteed win in your Michigan Driver's License Restoration case

I guarantee that I will win any Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance case that I take. As I describe it, "it's that simple." Despite the clarity of my guarantee, and the fact that, rather unlike the stereotype of a typical Lawyer, I do not have some long list of exceptions or a bunch of fine print limiting how it works, my office still gets call from people who essentially ask, "what's the catch?"

There is none; it's that simple. In fact, the only limitation I place upon my guarantee is if someone lies to me, or holds back essential information. And to be very clear on that point, I spend 3 hours with a new Client at our first face-to-face meeting, not only going over every line of the state's Substance Abuse Evaluation form, but also completing my own Substance Abuse Evaluation Checklist form, as well. Essentially, this precludes anything from being "forgotten," or "not clear."

Guaranteed 1.2.gifA few months ago, I had a case that, to be polite about it, involved a "fib", and it served as the inspiration for the article immediately before this one. I represented a guy in a License Appeal who first told me, and then the Evaluator that completed his Substance Abuse Evaluation, that he had gone to AA for about 8 of the last 9 years 3 to 4 times a week, and then reduced his attendance to 1 or 2 times a week for the last year. He was adamant about that, and even brought a letter from his AA "sponsor."

When we "prepped" for his Hearing, I was clear about how his AA attendance would play a role in his case. Then, when we got to the Hearing, the particular Hearing Officer that was deciding his case asked him about a few of the AA steps. Not only couldn't the guy repeat one word of any of the steps the Hearing Officer asked about, but when the Hearing Officer asked if he could repeat any part of any of the steps, he choked. Later, he admitted that he had really overstated his involvement with AA (that was not a surprise). He was, however, really and truly sober, and while that's far from enough to win, I'm certain the Hearing Officer knew that, whatever else, at least my Client was not still drinking. This would have been the classic case where I could have explained that my guarantee doesn't really apply, but that's not how I do things. I'm sticking with my Client, and will handle the next License Hearing without additional charge. I know my Client is really sober, but I'll just have to make darn sure that he is far more accurate in describing his involvement with AA next time.

The larger point here is that, absent something really profound, when I take your case and put my name on your paperwork, it becomes personal. I accept my Fee with the explicit understanding that in exchange for you paying it, I'll get you back on the road. This is not the kind of agreement that needs to be riddled with disclaimers and exceptions and all that bologna. That's half the problem with our world, anyway. When someone looks you in the eye and tells you something, you should be able to count on that. If you buy a new car, it comes with a warranty. The modern idea is that if you plunk the money down to buy or lease a new car, you shouldn't have to worry about it working or not; if there's a problem, it's covered. I work the same way. If I take your case, you'll only pay me once, and you're getting back on the road, period.

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April 15, 2013

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Don't lie about AA.

I have pointed out in numerous articles on this blog and on my website that you don't need to be in AA to win a Michigan Driver's License Appeal. I guarantee I'll win every case I take, and the reality is that less than half of my Clients are active in AA. That translates to mean that more than half of my Clients, all of whom are guaranteed a win, are not involved in AA. Yet there exists a lingering notion that you have to be in AA to win your license back, or that it's "better" if you are. While active involvement in AA is never a bad thing, and can usually be made to work to your advantage, in the context of a Driver's License Restoration case, such involvement is absolutely not necessary.

This means that not being in AA doesn't present any problem in winning a License Restoration or Clearance case. Problems do arise, however, when people don't believe this and claim to be involved in AA when they're not, or otherwise exaggerate the extent of their involvement in and knowledge of the AA program. You can't fake this stuff.

pinocchio 1.3.jpgAt a Driver's License Restoration Hearing, you will likely be asked about your AA involvement. If you don't go, or haven't gone for quite a while, then you won't be pressed on the subject any further, except that some Hearing Officers may ask why. This isn't a bad thing, but as anyone who has ever gone to AA knows, the AA program teaches that once you begin attending meetings, you should always keep attending. While I entirely disagree with this sentiment, some of the program's more vocal advocates will call someone who no longer attends meetings, but is also no longer drinking, a "dry drunk." That's not only wrong, it's counter-productive. Fortunately, most people active in AA know that what works for one person may not work for another, and don't hold such a misguided view.

If you never went to AA, then you'll have to explain to the Hearing Officer what you learned about your relationship to alcohol and how you internalized that. You'll have to describe the tools you've developed to avoid triggers and relapse and what changes you've made in your life to insure that happens. While this might sound like a tall order, it is precisely the stuff that I help with to insure you win. Remember, I guarantee you'll win, so I'll do whatever is necessary to make sure you're fully prepared for your Hearing.

If you did attend AA in the past, but no longer attend now, then the Hearing Officer is going to want to know why you stopped. This is not an accusatory question. Instead, the Hearing Officer will be looking to see if you simply got what you needed from your time in the program, or had some "issue" with it (many people complain about the "religious" aspect of AA) or simply found something better. Plenty of people find that, by the time they ever get to AA, they've just "moved on" and have established a busy, sober lifestyle.

One of the worst things a person can do, however, is to think that they've spent enough time around AA to make it seem like they are active in the program, or that they learned things that they cannot articulate very well. This may work for someone who has a few years of attendance to their credit, and only recently quit going, but not for someone who only went for a short time and hasn't been back for a long while.

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April 1, 2013

Winning a Michigan License Appeal Requires "Getting it."

In order to win a Michigan License Appeal after multiple DUI's, you have to "get it." I've written countless articles about how and why Sobriety is a first, and necessary requirement to win a Michigan License Appeal. I've made it clear that, in order to win your case, you must have really quit drinking, first. Despite all this information on my site, and the numerous articles saying much the same thing on my blog, I still get calls every day from people who admit to still drinking. Of course, once we ask about that, every one of them tries to qualify it by noting that they only drink "once in a while," or "occasionally." This misses the point that the whole first requirement of a License Appeal, or at least one that has any chance of actually winning, is that a person has stopped drinking for good.

"Getting it," means coming to the realization that you can no longer drink. It means having been beaten up by your drinking so badly that you can truly say you've had enough. In fact, if there's one thing that really separates those who get it from those who don't, it's that those who really "get it" have hit bottom.

gotItGuy 1.2.pngTo put his in perspective, the rules of the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) require that, in order to win a License Appeal case, a person must prove, by what it calls "clear and convincing evidence," that his or her alcohol problem "is under control and likely to remain under control." That means a person must essentially convince the Hearing Officer that they are a safe bet to never drink again. There is no middle ground or qualifier here: Either you've quit drinking, or not.

The truth is that any person who still hangs on to the belief that he or she can have the occasional glass of wine has not yet hit bottom. That belief conflicts with reality, as well. I "occasionally" light fireworks, usually on the Fourth of July and on New Years. I "occasionally" eat at McDonalds, maxing out at about 3 or 4 times a year. Those struggling with the belief that they can somehow find a way to control or manage their drinking will inevitably define "occasionally" with a much greater degree of frequency than everyone else.

However you cut it, "occasional" is a lot less frequent than "weekly." The larger point is that once a person's drinking reaches the point of becoming a problem (and the State presumes that's the case once a person racks up 2 DUI's within 7 years), the only accepted way of getting over it is to completely eliminate alcohol from the picture. Forever. Sober people understand this.

There is an identifiable starting point from which everyone gets sober. AA people sometimes describe it as "being sick and tired of being sick and tired." Substance Abuse Counselors characterize it as "hitting bottom." You can also think of it as a kind of "final humiliation," because in every case where a person throws down the gauntlet and declares that, "enough is enough," they have already felt humiliated, even if just privately, by the consequences of their drinking. I've heard people say that they realized their drinking had become problem when they kept on (in some cases "couldn't stop") drinking even though they recognized that it was causing them to live well beneath their own potential. For such people, drinking wasn't fun anymore...

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March 29, 2013

Driver's License Appeals - Problems with the Substance Abuse Evaluation - Part 3

In Part 1 of this series, we began our examination of the problems within a Substance Abuse Evaluation that will cause a License Appeal to fail. We looked at how even simple, little things like a name and address must be done correctly. After all, if these small details aren't correct, what does that say about the really important stuff? We then went on to review how important it is to accurately list all of your DUI's, your BAC results (if you can), any other convictions you have, and your treatment and support group (AA) history. I also noted that most of my Clients DO NOT currently attend AA.

In Part 2, we focused on the important role of the alcohol assessment test, and how the result of that test helps "suggest" a diagnosis. We also saw that a very common problem is the DAAD's over-reliance on that test result in determining a proper diagnosis. From there, we looked at how issues with a urine screen can create the appearance of problems that aren't really there, and how a person's prior periods of abstinence can similarly give rise to the appearance of being a chronic "quitter" who just can't stay "quit."

no_problem-LRG 1.2.jpgIn this final installment, we'll tackle the most important section of the Substance Abuse Evaluation, the prognosis. It only makes sense that the Evaluator's educated prediction about a person's ability to remain Sober is "the big cheese" of the whole Evaluation process. We will also see how the final section of the Evaluation, the Continuum of Care Recommendation, can upset the whole apple cart. While I'll go on to introduce this section as "last, but not least," it is precisely because this section is often given the least amount of consideration by an Evaluator that it can tank an otherwise good Evaluation.

Everything we've covered thus far in both Parts 1 and 2 of this article eventually and inevitably leads to the ultimate goal of the Substance Abuse Evaluation - the Prognosis. At its simplest, this is the considered and professional opinion of the Evaluator about whether the person's alcohol problem is "likely to remain under control." This is really the answer to the $64,000 question, so to speak. If there is any "it all comes down to this" aspect of the License Appeal process, this is it.

Here again, what sounds easy at first gets rather complicated. Over the years, a number of Clinics and Evaluators made a quick, albeit short-lived fortune writing up glowing Evaluations that gave only the best prognoses for anyone willing to pay their Fee. The DAAD caught onto this with lightening speed. Those operations have come and gone like yesterday's news.

Even with those concerns part of ancient history, there are plenty of other "prognosis" issues that arise with enough regularity to be considered relatively common. By Law, a prognosis must at least be "good." That means that with a prognosis of "poor," "guarded" or "fair," a License Restoration Appeal MUST be denied. To put it another way, you cannot win a License Appeal with anything less than a "good" prognosis. Many of those who ultimately hire me have already tried a License Appeal before and lost. Part of what I need them to bring in, when we meet, is the paperwork from any prior Appeal(s). It's not that I want to show off (okay, maybe I do a little bit...), but often enough, I'll pick up their prior Evaluation first. Within a few seconds of beginning to read it, and without ever having looked at their Denial order, I can tell them why they lost. When I see an Evaluation, for example, with the "fair" box checked in the prognosis section, I can tell the person that such a prognosis figured prominently in the reason for their prior denial. This is always met with an agreeing shake of the head, and then a question about why their previous Evaluator or Lawyer didn't know this.

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March 25, 2013

Driver's License Appeals - Problems with the Substance Abuse Evaluation - Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, we began our examination of the things that can go wrong with the Substance Abuse Evaluation form that must be filed to begin a License Appeal, and how some of these errors can cause the Appeal to be denied without the DAAD ever having to consider the more important issues of whether the person's alcohol problem is "under control," meaning the person has stopped drinking, "and likely to remain under control," meaning the person is committed to and has the necessary tools to permanently remain alcohol-free.

We covered the proper listing of a person's biographical data, as well as their alcohol education, counseling and support group history. Here, in this second installment, we'll begin by examining the next part of the Evaluation form. This is called the "Testing Instrument," and refers to the written alcohol screening test a person takes as part of the Evaluation. This test is used to help come up with a diagnosis of a person's drinking problem. We're going to see how, in the Clinical world, this test is only part of the diagnostic process, and how the DAAD often places far too much emphasis upon this test, sometimes to the point of using the test result as the sole criteria for reaching a diagnosis, thereby undermining the role of the Evaluator and reaching an Clinically deficient conclusion.

NOPROB 1.2.jpgOne of the biggest problems that can cause an Appeal to tank involves the administration and interpretation of the written alcohol-screening test (the "testing instrument") used by the Evaluator. This is really a tricky subject. Only people with proper training and credentials should administer and interpret one of these tests. Some tests, however, are of the "over the counter" variety, and can be "scored" by anyone with a scoring key. This happens all the time when a person takes such a test as part of their Probation screening in a DUI case, before the Sentencing. Almost without exception, Probation Officers have no formal Clinical training or certification or advanced degree that allows them to do anything more than take a garden variety test you can get anywhere on the internet, thrust it in front of someone, and then add up his or her score and compare it to the provided scoring key. On these tests, a person's "score" suggests a diagnosis regarding their alcohol use. Such a "suggestion" related to a score on a written test is hardly any kind of proper Clinical "diagnosis," but the Court system, and, by extension, the DAAD overlooks this.

To digress for a moment, this is a subject that is very important to me. Beyond just being "interested" in it, I am enrolled and involved in post-graduate addiction studies at the University level. Imagine how I felt when, as part of my Clinical matriculation, it was presented, as a matter of fact, that the Judicial system in the U.S. is between 10 to 20 years behind understanding, much less using current Clinical protocols. I was embarrassed for my profession, although relieved to find out that everyone was just behind the curve, and not simply stupid...

This has meaning for the DAAD. It means that the best Clinical understanding most Hearing Officers have, particularly as non-Clinicians, is not only frighteningly incomplete, but anywhere from a decade or two out of date, at that. Yet these same people will examine a Substance Abuse Evaluation completed by a credentialed, licensed Clinician and essentially second-guess it. This means that in a world where streaming hi-def video is already making Blu-Ray obsolete, the DAAD is just learning how to work a VHS videotape machine. And while that sounds funny, it's anything but that when YOUR License Appeal is on the line.

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March 22, 2013

Driver's License Appeals - Problems with the Substance Abuse Evaluation - Part 1

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeals are complex. They involve what I call a "million little rules." Miss one of these simple requirements, and your case will be rejected right out of hand. The frustration here is that many License Appeals lose without any consideration being given to whether the person has really quit drinking, and has the commitment and tools to remain alcohol-free. That determination is really at the heart of a License Appeal. Within the various sections of my website and blog, I have made detailed examinations of those two critical issues from every conceivable angle. In this article, I want to take a step back from the "meat and potatoes" of a License Appeal and look at some of the other, more technical (one might say "clerical") requirements, that, if not met, will still completely derail a License Restoration case. We'll limit our focus in these three installments to the Substance Abuse Evaluation that must be filed with the State to being a License Appeal.

The Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) operates under a very strict set of rules. I have written a whole numerous articles detailing how those rules work. One aspect that helps to explain why so many people who try a License Appeal on their own, or use some Lawyer who claims to "do" License Restorations and then loses, is the opening sentence of the ultra-important Rule 13:

"The hearing officer shall NOT order that a license be issued, unless the petitioner proves, by clear and convincing evidence, all of the following...(emphasis added)."
No Problem Alf 1.2.pngThis is a negative mandate. Specifically, it means that the Hearing Officers are instructed more to look for a reason to deny an Appeal, rather than a reason or reasons to grant it. The Hearing Officers are expected to review the paperwork in any case with a critical eye, and, make no mistake, they do just that.

A License Appeal begins by filing certain paperwork with the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD). Required amongst those documents is a Substance Abuse Evaluation(please note that a new form will be required by the DAAD as of April 1, 2013). This is usually the first thing read by a Hearing Officer, and is really the foundation of any License Appeal. Of course, the first thing the Evaluation must properly list is the name, address, date of birth and Driver's License number of the person who submits it. All it takes in the busy world in which we live is for an Evaluator to be working on his or her computer, and then turn away for a moment, perhaps to take a phone call, and then overlook verifying a person's Driver's License number or correct address.

A real life example of the mess this can create occurs if a person, who now lives out of state, comes in for an Evaluation, bringing a driving record that lists their former Michigan address. One moment's distraction can result in the evaluator using the address on the driving record (this is usually the right address, for most people, after all) to identify the person being evaluated. This, in turn, can create a problem at the Hearing, when the now out-of-state person requests a Clearance of the Michigan hold on his or her driving record rather than the Restoration of a Michigan License, and the Hearing Officer points out that the Evaluation provides a Michigan address, and questions the person's true residency. While this doesn't sound like a big deal, the inevitable next question from the Hearing Officer is something like "what else isn't accurate or true in this Evaluation? Didn't you read it?"

Another common but simple mistake that will cause an Appeal to be denied right out of the gate is not listing all of one's DUI convictions. Sometimes, really old convictions don't show up on the driving record a person gets from the Secretary of State. Other times, out-of-state convictions don't show up, or at least not at first. In fact, sometimes, convictions show up years later. The workaround here is really simple: Tell the truth. List every DUI conviction you have. In cases where those convictions are really old, and/or out of state, disclose them with as much, or as little, specificity as you can. This is where I help. I have my own "Substance Abuse Evaluation Checklist" that I complete as I meet with my Client for about 3 hours BEFORE he or she ever has an Evaluation completed. I do this to make sure there are no problems with the Evaluation, and that nothing is left out or not properly explained or presented to the Evaluator. My Client gives this Checklist to the Evaluator. This way, I have no worries. I can rest assured that I've clarified, disclosed or explained everything.

Continue reading "Driver's License Appeals - Problems with the Substance Abuse Evaluation - Part 1" »

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March 18, 2013

The Role of the Hearing Officer in a Michigan License Appeal

It has been a while since I wrote about the various DAAD (Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) Hearing Officers who decide Driver's License Restoration Appeals for the Michigan Secretary of State. Within the context of any given Michigan License Appeal, the Hearing Officer is really the most important person in the world, at least while your file is on his or her desk. This article will examine, in general terms, the role of the Hearing Officer and some of the more important differences and similarities amongst them.

In a previous, 2-part article, I took a sort of "anonymous" look at the 5 Hearing Officers at the Livonia branch of the DAAD, where I have all of my License Appeals heard. The same 5 Hearing Officers are still there, and nothing has changed in the time since I published those installments, so there is really nothing to update about them. Yet the whole concept of the role of the Hearing Officer is so critical to how I prepare my cases (and very relevant to why I provide a win Guarantee) that it needs to be reviewed from time to time.

Mystery Man 1.3.jpgIt's easy to get caught up in the fixed, almost mechanical requirements of a Michigan Driver's License Appeal. The process starts with a Substance Abuse Evaluation. I start by spending 3 hours with a new Client just to prepare them to undergo that Evaluation. Letters of Support need to be written, and I spend a lot of time "correcting" and editing them. When all of this paperwork has been completed and reviewed and made "just right," it's filed with the State and a Hearing date is eventually given. Part of the notification of the Hearing date is the assignment of the case to a particular Hearing Officer. The Hearing Officer is the opposite of fixed, or mechanical. Different Hearing Officers have different backgrounds, concerns, life experiences and perspectives that influence how they evaluate the evidence in and ultimately decide a License Appeal. The Hearing Officer is, in that sense, a fluid variable in a License Appeal.

To complicate that even more, you don't know who this "fluid variable" in your License Appeal case will be until AFTER it's filed. My job would be much easier if I knew, in advance, to which Hearing Officer any particular case would be assigned. Precisely because the assignment of cases is random (and that really is the only way to make it fair), I have to consider the idiosyncrasies of all of the 5 Hearing Officers before whom I have my cases heard as I prepare each one.

This means, for example, that if a person has used any potentially addictive or mind or mood altering medication after the date of their last drink, I have to prepare the case as if it might go in front of the one Hearing Officer most concerned about that issue (identified as "The Doctor" in the previous 2-part installment about Hearing Officers) and before whom every "I" must be dotted and every "t" crossed. Not doing so could be a fatal mistake, even though there is an 80% chance the case may be assigned to one of the other 4 Hearing Officers. This means I have to get the proper Doctor's letter before the case is ever filed, and make sure the Evaluator receives a copy so that she can include its analysis in her Evaluation.

Accordingly, considerations about the Hearing Officer are relevant even before the case is ever assigned to one. This is why I have all of my cases scheduled in Livonia, because at least I only have to keep a handle on 5, albeit 5 very distinct personalities. Fortunately, regular and repeat experience in hundreds upon hundreds of cases before them has exposed me to the gamut of how they see things. Even so, as each case I handle has its own story, or theme, I have to review it in light of the way each of the 5 different Hearing Officers will consider it. This means I have to make allowances for and prepare for certain things that there is only a 1 out of 5 chance that we'll actually have to deal with. To put it another way, I have to take into account things that there is an 80% chance will never come up. But doing things properly means doing just that...

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March 15, 2013

Medical Marijuana means Losing your License Appeal

A number of recent inquiries have thrust the whole issue of a medical marijuana card squarely within the context of a Driver's License Restoration Appeal. On top of that, a few of the Hearing Officers before whom I appear have recently been asking if a person has a medical marijuana card, or has ever applied for one. Medical marijuana laws do conflict with other laws, and the resolution of such conflicts is still unsettled in many of those situations. However, unless and until there is ever some hard and fast ruling to the contrary from one of Michigan's Appellate Courts regarding License Appeals and medical marijuana, don't expect to see the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) approving any License Appeals for someone with a medical marijuana card.

For the most part, the underlying reasons for this should be rather obvious. In an earlier article about Sobriety, I pointed out that people who are truly sober understand the meaning of "Sobriety," whereas people who don't really understand the meaning of "Sobriety" will mistakenly equate it with simply not being drunk, or not drinking to extremes. "Sobriety," in the sense we're discussing here, is more a state, or state of mind, than just the absence of intoxication. In this way, "Sobriety" implies that a person previously had a problem with alcohol has decided to give it up for good.

MedPot 1.2.jpgBecause the language we're using here is precise, we must differentiate the general concept of "abstinence" from the more specific meaning of "Sobriety." Abstinence means to abstain. If we're talking about someone who has had a struggle with alcohol or drugs, abstinence simply means, "not using." Thus, a person can be put in Jail, meaning they've been forcibly separated from the ability to drink alcohol for a given period of time. Even if they desperately want a drink, and count the days until they're let out and can drink again, that period of time during which they were in Jail and could not drink is a period of abstinence.

Such a period without alcohol is NOT, however, a period of Sobriety. This distinction is a good litmus test for the reader's understanding of "Sobriety." If you understand the above example, even if more by instinct than anything else, then you have a concept of the real meaning of Sobriety. In that sense, Sobriety requires abstinence, but abstinence does not require Sobriety. In order to be a real candidate to win a Driver's License Restoration Appeal, this should all make perfect sense. If it does not, then we've got some work to do...

Part and parcel of the process of becoming sober means acquiring a basic understanding of certain notions about alcohol (or drug) use. When a person's use of alcohol or drugs becomes so problematic that they have to separate themselves from such use, they learn that they must give up using all potentially addictive and mind or mood altering substances. It is a given that if the alcoholic is separated from his booze, but has access to something like Xanax, he or she will soon enough use it as a substitute. The same thing applies when a person with a drug problem is separated from drugs, but has alcohol available. A person with a drug problem will always be told that he or she must not only abstain from his or her substance of choice, but also not drink alcohol, either. In countless cases, such individuals have replied that there is nothing to worry about, because they never liked alcohol anyway, only to wind up transferring their addiction to alcohol as a substitute, and usually in a relatively short period of time.

The bottom line is that once a person develops a problem with ANY substance, be it either alcohol or drugs, getting better, as in recovering, necessarily involves abstaining from the use of any other potentially addictive or mind or mood altering drugs. You can't "get sober" by giving up getting drunk, only to start getting high instead, nor can you "get clean" by giving up getting high, only to start getting drunk, instead. This is pretty basic recovery stuff. Anyone who has spent any time in any kind of outpatient treatment program or around the tables of AA should know this. And that means that if a person knows this, they know that marijuana (or any potentially addictive or mind or mood altering drug) should be avoided at all costs, unless absolutely medically necessary and without suitable alternative. Thus, a person undergoing a brutal cycle of chemotherapy may have a much better "medically necessary" or "without suitable alternative" argument for using marijuana than someone who claims chronic back pain.

Continue reading "Medical Marijuana means Losing your License Appeal" »

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March 11, 2013

Getting your Driver's License back in Michigan after Multiple DUI's

Being a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer generally means that I Restore the Driver's License for someone who has had it Revoked for multiple DUI convictions. In many cases, the person has moved out of Michigan and cannot obtain (or renew) an out-of-state License. Whether the person lives in Michigan or not, I can help if the person cannot get a License because of 2 or more Drunk Driving convictions. Of course, it is also necessary that the person has quit drinking, as well. Sobriety is not optional.

The formal description of this kind of legal work is called "License Restoration." Technically, I Restore a Driver's License that has been Revoked as a consequence of multiple DUI's. This is a fairly narrow and specialized field. Essentially, if you lost your License after 2 or more DUI cases, have quit drinking, and need to get back on the road, I'm they guy.

Deb License.jpgUnfortunately, way too many people see the words "Driver's License" and "Restoration" and think I'm the general "fix-it" guy for any kind of License problem. While there are some situations that I fix above and beyond multiple DUI Revocations, there are 2 situations that I never touch:

1. If your License has been Suspended because you owe money to either the State or a Court, I cannot help. Your License is being held until you pay the money you owe. It's that simple. Some people will email me, asking for advice, or if there is anything I can do. Here is the complete extent of what I can advise: pay the money. If you don't have it, set up a payment plan. If you can't do that for whatever reason, then get the money. If you can't get the money, then you're out of luck. Even if there was something I could do (and there isn't), how would someone with no money pay for it, anyway?

There are countless reasons why a person can wind up owing money to a Court, or to the State. Believe me, I've had the longest emails detailing every conceivable screw up and mistake justifying why a person doesn't owe what they supposedly do. While I know it can seem unfair, I can't help. I only handle Revocations for multiple DUI's, or Suspensions from Drug cases or Breath Test Refusals. If the basis for your not having a License has anything to do with owing money, you'll have to work that out on your own. Thus, if your License has been taken, or is being held because you owe money, the ONLY thing you can do to get it back is pay the money.

2. If your License has been taken away for multiple DUI's, but you have not quit drinking, I cannot help you. I GUARANTEE that I'll win any License Restoration case I take, but a necessary prerequisite to my taking a case is that a person has really quit drinking. This is not a "technical" thing, either; if you still drink, however infrequently you may claim, or you still think that you can have a drink every once in a while, then you haven't truly quit drinking. Winning a License Appeal requires proving Sobriety (this has nothing to do with AA, and most of my Clients don't go to AA), and that means demonstrating that you have made the transition from drinker to non-drinker and intend to remain alcohol-free.

Continue reading "Getting your Driver's License back in Michigan after Multiple DUI's" »

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February 22, 2013

Being Sober and Getting Your License Back - Michigan License Restoration

To win a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal, you have to be Sober. It's been a while since I've written about this topic, and the number of recent inquiries from those who want to get their License back but haven't yet quit drinking means it's time to address it again. If you've had your License Revoked for multiple DUI's, you cannot get it back until you go through a process called a License Restoration. This is done through the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD), and requires certain legal documentation just to get started.

The most critical of those documents is the Substance Abuse Evaluation, which is a state form that needs to be completed by an accredited Substance Abuse Counselor. The form is completed as part of what really is a larger, clinical evaluation. Although the form is entitled a "Substance Abuse Evaluation," it is really just a summary listing of the more salient points learned during the actual evaluation. And for all of the information required to complete the Evaluation form, the key is that you are Sober, and will remain that way.

My Worst Day in Sobriety 1.2.jpgIn other articles, and on my website, I examine the License Restoration process and the numerous things that one must do to begin a License Appeal. In the interests of brevity, this article will focus on the key issue that is critical even before a person begins thinking "License Appeal." Being legally eligible to file a License Appeal has nothing to do with the most important eligibility requirement: Sobriety.

Of all the things a person must prove to win their License back, nothing comes close to having to prove Sobriety. I am sometimes asked by those trying to handle their own License Appeal, "How do I prove Sobriety?" I don't know how to tell anyone else to do it, but I know how to do it. It's what I do every day, and I do it well enough to Guarantee that I will win any License Appeal I handle. Whatever the recipe for proving Sobriety, you can't even begin to think about proving it unless you've gotten it, first.

The term "Sobriety" can have a few meanings, but within the context of a License Appeal, it has one specific meaning. If you're reading this, and you're really Sober, then you know what it means. If you are in, or have been to AA, and understand that you cannot drink again, then you understand Sobriety. If you think not having consumed alcohol today, or just not being inebriated has anything to do with real Sobriety, then you're lost...

My Office gets calls almost every day from people who have lost their License for multiple Drunk Driving convictions, but say they can still drink, or that they only have an occasional glass of wine with dinner, or that they have a beer or two every now and then. These people consider themselves "sober" because to them, that just means "not drunk."

To be Sober, in the sense that you can even begin thinking seriously about winning a License or Clearance (meaning an out of state case with a Michigan "hold") Appeal, you have to have decided to quit drinking. Permanently. You have to have, as the AA people say, "put the plug in the jug." You have to have made the decision to eliminate alcohol from your life, and live an alcohol-free lifestyle. And if you've done that, then you know every part of your life is immeasurably better now...

Continue reading "Being Sober and Getting Your License Back - Michigan License Restoration" »

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February 15, 2013

How AA Helps a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal, Even if You Don't Go

Within many of the articles on this blog, and in various places on my website, I often point out that being currently involved in AA is absolutely NOT required to win a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal. I go to great lengths to make clear that more than one-half of my Clients are NOT actively involved in AA at the time we begin the License Appeal process. Just by the numbers, however, the majority of my Clients have had, at some point in their lives, at least a little contact with AA. Even though this may have been what seems like a million years ago, having had any spent any time in AA, however far back in your past, can really help in a Michigan License Appeal.

Before I explain, let me reassure the reader who has never been to AA that, while helpful, past AA attendance is absolutely not necessary to win a License Restoration case. Remember, if I represent you, I guarantee a win, and AA attendance does not figure into that at all.

AA Poster 1.2.jpgAs a point of interest (actually, of great interest to me), it is generally accepted in academic circles that the Judicial system (and the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division falls into that category) is 10 to 20 years behind the times in terms of understanding and using modern treatment protocols in alcohol and drug-related cases. This means that the modern trend in alcohol treatment has long ago moved away from the "AA for everybody," one-size-fits-all type approach to dealing with alcohol problems, having evolved instead to an approach that utilizes treatment tailored to the needs of the individual. The DAAD is, at least, beginning to catch up...

Yet as far along as new treatment ideas have evolved, AA remains an anchor in the whole conceptual world of Recovery and Sobriety. The notion that the only viable method for overcoming a drinking problem was to seat the drinkers around a table to tell their stories and work the 12 steps seems simple-minded now, but for a long time, it was the only thing that did work, and the only protocol for which there was demonstrated success. In the same way, certain surgeries that used to be invasive and involve lots of cutting, stitching, hospital stays and long-term healing have been replaced by much more efficient methods, including out-patient, minimally invasive procedures that have a person home for dinner that same day with a "butterfly stitch" in the place where the old-fashioned "zipper" used to be. Things change....

Perhaps the most important "gift" of AA is that, by and large, at least to people like me, who deal with DUI's, Revoked Licenses and people still struggling with an alcohol problem on the one hand, and those who have overcome a drinking problem, on the other, AA has given us the "language" of Recovery. It's hard to avoid talking about recovery from a drinking problem and not use some AA terms. And of all the AA terms out there, the granddaddy of them all is "the first step."

AA's first step has become so ubiquitous (meaning found everywhere) that the very phrase "the first step" has taken on a meaning all its own. For example, if your friend goes out and buys nicotine patches in preparation to stop smoking, you would likely congratulate him or her for recognizing that smoking was a problem, and deciding to do something about it. You'd tell that friend that recognizing the need to quit was a good "first step." While this rather misses the real point of AA's first step ("Came to believe we were powerless over alcohol, and that our lives were unmanageable"), it does serve to show how AA has become part of our culture.

Continue reading " How AA Helps a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal, Even if You Don't Go" »

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February 11, 2013

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Full or Restricted License

In my role as a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, there are certain questions that I am asked almost daily. One of, if not the most common question asked of me is whether or not a person who wins a License Restoration or Clearance case can skip the Restricted License and obtain a Full License, instead. Given how a blog will "archive" older articles, it's about time that I come back to the topic about Restricted Licenses versus Full Licenses after a person wins their Driver's License Appeal. The answer itself is rather simple, but even after hearing it, many people want to ask the question again, or ask it differently, as if that might bring about a different response.

If you are a Michigan resident and you win a Driver's License Restoration Appeal after having your License Revoked for multiple DUI's (and/or Substance Abuse related convictions), you MUST, as in NO EXCEPTIONS, drive the first year on a Restricted License with an ignition interlock. That answer is simple, but the questions that follow can get complex. The answer is different, however, for those who no longer live in Michigan. We'll get to that later.

Carlock 1.3.jpgThere are no exceptions to the Restricted License requirement. It does not matter how much a person needs a Full License, nor does it matter how much a Restricted License doesn't "work," the Law is clear and absolute on this score.

"Restricted" means 1 of 2 things:

1. The most common Restricted License is purpose-based, and is NOT limited by way of any time of day or night. It allows a person to drive to, from and during the course of employment, to and from school, to and from any support groups (like AA), and to and from any necessary medical treatment. This means that if the boss calls at 3 in morning and demands that you come into work, that's allowed. It also, means, however, that there is NO ability to take the kids to school, go grocery shopping, or drive to Cousin Carrie's wedding.


2. In certain cases, the state will allow a Restricted License that is time-based, and is unlimited in purpose (meaning a person can take the kids to school, can go grocery shopping or drive to Cousin Carrie's wedding) but is limited by time. Thus, such a License will allow a person to drive for any reason during certain, specified hours. There is no ability to drive before or after the specified hours, however, for any purpose. Those hours are usually rather limited, and are not wide-ranging. These "from-to" hours based Restricted Licenses don't allow 16 or 18-hour days. Thus, a person can forget about being able to drive from 6 am to 10 pm. Normally, a person on such a License cannot drive after 7 or 8 pm.

No matter whether a person has a Restricted License that is purpose-based or time-based, they will have to drive with an ignition interlock unit in their vehicle for 12 full months before they can even ask to have it removed. This is also mandatory. If you travel for work, and need to rent a car, you're out of luck. If you have to drive a company vehicle, then any such vehicle has to have an ignition interlock in it. A Michigan resident who wins a License Appeal cannot operate any vehicle without an ignition interlock until the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (now the DAAD, but sometimes referred to by its old name, the DLAD) allows it to be removed. As I noted above, this can only happen after a person has driven on the Restricted License, using the interlock, for one full year.

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February 4, 2013

Michigan Driver's License Clearance - Administrative Review Guaranteed Win

After years of looking for a way to handle out-of-state Driver's License Clearance Appeals without the return trips to Michigan and being able to still guarantee a win, as I do with regular License Appeals that require a person appear for an actual Hearing, I've finally found one. At first, this appears to contradict my strong position that these "Appeals by mail," called Administrative Reviews, are generally losing propositions. The challenge, then, was to find away around the odds, and be able to do that well enough to still guarantee a winning result. I've met the challenge and fixed that problem.

Nothing will ever convince me that there is a better way to handle an out-of-state License Clearance Appeal than coming back to Michigan. I have that process down to a science. But I have also come to understand that making 2 trips back to Michigan to do this can just be too much for many people. For some, it's cost prohibitive, while for others, it's a lack of time, rather than funds. Whatever the reasons, there are a lot of people who simply cannot or will not make the 2 trips back to Michigan. In recognition of that, I've struggled to find a way to help them and still be able to offer a win Guarantee.

cup 1.3.jpgIt would have been rather easy for me to offer some unguaranteed plan to handle an Administrative Review. In fact, most people "wing" these on their own, which no doubt accounts for the overwhelmingly unfavorable results (3 out of 4 lose). Yet my goal is always to win, and beyond just talking a good game, I wouldn't think of doing anything that I couldn't back up with a Guarantee.

A number of logistical challenges had to be put to rest before I could even get to the more substantive issues. I'll spare the reader the minutia of all that, and move on to the most important issue, and how I came to resolve that.

This was the problem of the Substance Abuse Evaluation. I have noted many times that most Substance Abuse Counselors in Michigan don't know how to do them properly. That's not a knock to them; unless an Evaluator has received careful and specific instruction as to how to properly fill out Michigan's form, emphasis on certain areas will be overlooked, and likely misplaced in others. The form itself only looks self-explanatory; it's not. In reality, it's more like a minefield.

I have to meet with a new Client for 3 hours just to prepare them to undergo this Evaluation. If you come to Michigan, we'll meet in my Office for 3 hours. From there, you'll go to a local Clinic to have your Evaluation completed. If you hire me for an Administrative Review, we still need to do the 3 hour thing, but we can do it by Skype or by phone. These first "meetings" will be done during regular business hours (eastern standard time) and will be just like a regular appointment in my Office. My staff will forward a folder of material to you before our first meeting. This way, when we undertake that "meeting," you'll have various forms in front of you so that we can go over them during our initial 3 hours together. When we're done, I'll instruct you to find an Evaluator, local to you, who will do the Michigan Evaluation under my direction and guidance.

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January 28, 2013

What to do if you Receive an Ignition Interlock Violation in Michigan

Recent changes in Michigan's DUI Laws have impacted the way the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) handles alleged violations while a person in driving on an ignition interlock. This article will skip the long, detailed explanation that is the hallmark of so many of my other articles, and get right into what you should do if you receive a notice of an interlock violation.

First, most violations now involve a person being notified that their License has been Revoked again. Once in a while, a person will receive what's called a "show cause," where they're told to come in on a certain date and attend a Hearing where they will have to show "cause," or proof, why they are not responsible for the alleged violation, and explain why their License shouldn't be taken away. The majority of people, however, open the mail to find that their License already has been pulled, and learn that the only thing they can do about it is file an Appeal. When such a letter is received, the person needs to swing into action.

Interlock 1.3.jpgThe best course of action is to hire me. I know that sounds rather self-serving, but let me explain. In the spirit of being upfront, I'll get right to the cost factor: I charge $1500 to handle one of these cases. Unlike almost everything else I do, where a "consultation" can turn into a half-hour phone call, when a person calls about an interlock violation, I can't go into much detail until and unless they come in to hire me. This is because beyond my telling someone that I can help, and that I have more experience with these matters than I can count, pretty much anything else I can say amounts to "legal advice," and I am on the line (as in liable) for it.

Consider what else is on the line: Your Driver's License. At the point a person has won it back, and is under the state's supervision with an interlock, a violation is a huge deal. Here is the simple truth: The vast majority of the people I speak with have NOT really drank any alcohol (despite a "positive" test) or tampered with the ignition interlock unit. To be brutally honest, most people facing one these violations could probably go in on their own, without me, and successfully handle an Appeal of an interlock violation. But not everyone.

Violation Appeal Hearings are legal proceedings, and evidence counts. I have seen cases wherein I truly believed that the person had not consumed alcohol, or did not intentionally tamper with the device, but because they came up short on the evidence, they lost their License. These, of course, are NOT cases that I have handled. I'm sure every one of these people went in and swore up and down that they didn't drink, or screw around with the device, but cases are decided on the basis of hard evidence. A common example occurs when a person has "work" done on their vehicle, and the interlock company reports that they disconnected or tampered with the unit. In these cases, a general "we worked on Dan the Driver's car on this date" kind of letter is far from good enough.

The interlock companies don't do a very good job on their end, either. I have seen numerous cases where people have called them, in advance, to tell them they were having work done on their cars, and then had the repair facility call afterward, to confirm the work, only to later discover that some utter bonehead from the interlock company didn't follow up and turned them in for a violation. What's worse, once the violation has been submitted, it's too late. In many of these cases, the Clients tried to have the interlock company "undo" or recall the violation, only to find out that even if the company admits it screwed up, the person will still have to file an Appeal and then appear in front of the DAAD.

Continue reading "What to do if you Receive an Ignition Interlock Violation in Michigan" »

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January 14, 2013

The Michigan Driver's License Restoration and Clearance Process - Part 6 - The Hearing

This is the final installment in my abbreviated series about winning back your Michigan Driver's License (or obtaining a Clearance) after having it Revoked for multiple DUI's. After determining eligibility (Part 1), obtaining a rock-solid Substance Abuse Evaluation completed (Part 2), editing and revising the Letters of Support (Part 3), double-checking everything again, make any last minute changes, and then filing the Appeal (Part 4), and then receiving notice of and prepping for the Hearing (Part 5), we will, both figuratively and literally, be walking in to the actual Hearing itself. In this last section, we'll talk about what happens there.

I often try and relax a nervous Client about the Hearing by pointing out that, although it tends to feel like it, the Hearing itself is not some "it all comes down to this!" proposition. In fact, precisely because we will have done all the groundwork with precise attention to detail, and have made sure, by check and re-check, that everything is correct and right and good to go, the Hearing won't be nearly half as bad as one might fear. In reality, the Hearing will mostly be about confirming what has already been submitted to the Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) of the Michigan Secretary of State.

Judgey 1.2.gifHearings are scheduled on the hour at 9, 10, and 11 am, and then 1, 2, 3 and 4 pm, Monday through Friday. They are scheduled to last no more than an hour, but most last about a half hour, and I've never been part of one that lasted much more than 45 minutes. As I noted in the previous installment, the irony of this is that my Client and I will usually spend twice as long "prepping" for the Hearing as we will actually conducting it.

And that brings me to a point that I have learned to be rather important. Handling as many cases as I do for people who previously tried a License Appeal with another Lawyer and lost, I was surprised to find out that many of those Lawyer didn't take charge and open the Hearing by asking the first set of questions. Not to be flippant about it, but what are you paying a Lawyer for if he or she doesn't take the lead and start winning your case right from the outset? When someone tells me about a Lawyer who "just sat there," or otherwise didn't ask the very first questions in order to set the direction and tone of the case, I'm reminded of the old saying that there are 3 kinds of people in this world: Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. As a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, I have be the kind of person who makes things happen, and that has to be a win.

At the appointed hour, the Hearing Officer will call the case, and my Client and I will go from the lobby to the Hearing Room of the particular Hearing Officer to whom the case has been assigned. (I only do live, in-person Hearings. I don't believe in and will NEVER do a video Hearing, and I have every one of my Hearings set for the Livonia Branch of the DAAD). After being seated, the Hearing Officer will open the proceedings with certain preliminary remarks, and then goes through the documents we have previously submitted, identifying each and marking each as an exhibit. Once we're through with that, and everyone has identified himself or herself for the Record, the Client will be sworn in. I then have the opportunity, as Attorney for the Petitioner (that's what someone is called who is Appealing to get their License back before the DAAD) to make an opening statement.

Continue reading "The Michigan Driver's License Restoration and Clearance Process - Part 6 - The Hearing" »

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January 11, 2013

The Michigan Driver's License Restoration (and Clearance) Process - Part 5 - Preparing for the Hearing

In the last installment (Part 4), we essentially concluded the paperwork part of a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal or Clearance case, having gone from determining eligibility (Part 1), completing the Substance Abuse Evaluation (Part 2) and the Letters of Support (Part 3) to preparing and double-checking all the documentation, making sure that it adequately relates a person's Recovery Story, insuring it's complete and ready to file, and then filing it (Part 4). In this installment, we will look at the importance of preparing for the actual Hearing. I call this "prepping."

In the Part 4, I noted that it takes about 6 weeks after the paperwork is filed with the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD), until notice of the Hearing date is received. Usually, the Hearing date is about 2 weeks from the time the notice is received. Over the course of the last 22-plus years, I have refined how I do things, and have found that the best time to do a "prep session" for a License Appeal Hearing is as close to the actual time of the Hearing as possible. Almost all of the time, this means the night before the Hearing, and by telephone.

Telephone 1.2.jpgI have pointed out in numerous other articles that I have all of my cases set for a live, in-person Hearing at the Livonia branch of the DAAD Hearing Office. I do this no matter where a person lives. To underscore how strongly I believe in a live, in-person Hearing, the reader should know that the Secretary of State has a large Branch Office about 4 minutes from my Office, where there is a video terminal at which I could have any or all of my Hearings scheduled. By comparison, the drive to Livonia is nearly an hour from my Office, yet I wouldn't ever consider doing a video Hearing, even if a Client offered to double my Fee for doing it. I don't think twice about driving for nearly an extra hour (two if you count the return trip); it's just what you do if you want to do this right.

By having all of my cases assigned for a Hearing in Livonia, I get to go in front of the same 5 Hearing Officers all the time. I know what they look for in a case. I know how each conducts a Hearing. What is so very important to one Hearing Officer, is, in some cases, beyond irrelevant to another. And amongst them, several will conduct a Hearing one way, and ask a certain set of questions if a person claims to still attend AA, whereas they will ask a different set of questions if a person is not actively involved in AA.

This is all very relevant to the "prep" that I do the night before the Hearing. Who will be Hearing your case is very important to how you prepare for it. This is part of the process that is left to blind luck for anyone going in without a Lawyer, or with a Lawyer who is not a Driver's License Restoration Attorney, or is anything less than a "regular" at the Hearing Office where the case is assigned.

As part of the "prep," I will always have a "homework" or review assignment for my Client the night before their Hearing. I will, of course, have once again gone over their file and its contents, and I am not only going to direct them to do the same, but will point out those facets of their case to which I want them to pay particular attention. Everyone should know their own story, but in a License Appeal case, there are certain aspects of a person's Recovery Story that are more important than others. Beyond the relative importance of one thing over another, it can sometimes be the way things are described in the documentation, or how those documents relate to each other (or not) that can become a key focal point in a License Appeal case, and therefore should be highlighted in the Appeal Hearing. This, of course, is my job. The Client can leave the heavy lifting to me; I will chart the course and direct things.

Continue reading "The Michigan Driver's License Restoration (and Clearance) Process - Part 5 - Preparing for the Hearing" »

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January 7, 2013

The Michigan Driver's License Restoration (and Clearance) Process - Part 4 - Finalizing the Documents

In Part 1 of this series, we observed that a person must be eligible, both in terms of timing and Sobriety, to file a Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance Appeal. In Part 2, we looked at the Substance Abuse Evaluation that must be filed in order to begin a License Appeal, and in Part 3, we examined the importance of the Letters of Support that must be included along with the Evaluation. In this 4th installment, we'll look at the final preparations of the case in terms of how my Staff and I review and finalize the necessary documents that are filed with the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) to request a Hearing. In the next installment (Part 5), we'll review how I prepare my Client for their actual Hearing.

When talking about the License Appeal process, I'm often asked something like "How long does it take?" Depending on how we define and focus that question, the answer varies. If a person is motivated and ready to get their License back, or obtain an out-of-state Clearance, we can squeeze the time from they meet me until the day they sit in front of a Hearing Officer down to 10 weeks. As it stands, once the paperwork is filed with the Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, it takes about 6 weeks to be notified of a Hearing date, and that date is usually about 2 weeks thereafter, meaning it takes about 8 weeks from the time of filing to the time of Hearing.

Pilot 1.2.jpgMost people, however, don't go so fast. Ironically, almost everyone says they will ("I want to get this done as soon as possible..."), but the reality is that most people take a few months from the time they first see me and have their Evaluation completed until everything is ready to file. However long it takes, there is a lot of work that I do in reviewing the Substance Abuse Evaluation and the editing and revising the Letters of Support as they come in. Sooner or later, however, there does come a point when everything is in, and the documents need to be filed.

This is the time for one last review - a final inspection of sorts. Now, the Substance Abuse Evaluation and the Letters of Support need to be read in conjunction with each other as well as the Substance Abuse Evaluation checklist form we will have completed at the time of my first, 3-hour meeting with the Client.

This is the point where I have to make sure that everything "fits," and there are no inconsistencies amongst the information presented in the documents. Beyond that, it can be misleading, or kind of misses the point to simply say that there has to be consistency within the information provided, particularly with respect to dates. In fact, sometimes, rather than speaking about "consistency," it is more appropriate to speak of there not being any inconsistencies. This really applies when someone gets a Letter of Support from a close family member who knew the person when they were drinking and watched as they quit drinking,and transitioned from drinker to non-drinker, as compared to a letter from a newer friend (or co-worker or neighbor or the like) who did not know the person back when they were drinking, and has only known them for a short time, and as a non-drinker.

The "double-checking" process isn't really much different than when an airplane Pilot and Co-Pilot sit in the cockpit and do a final inspection of the plane's systems before taking off. Undoubtedly, the plane has already been serviced and cleared by the mechanics, but redundancy is still the best way to make sure nothing has been missed, and the value of such redundant checks is highlighted every time some small thing that was somehow overlooked is discovered at the last minute.

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January 4, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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December 28, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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December 21, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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December 17, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Success

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

Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas to us all.

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

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

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

Please have a safe and wonderful Holiday season this year.

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

Regards,

Richard

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

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

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

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December 7, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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November 26, 2012

Michigan Clearance for Former Resident with Revoked License

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

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

Subject: Thank you thank you thank you

MI Seal 2.1.pngJeff and Ann ,

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

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

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

Mike G

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

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

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

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November 16, 2012

The Costs of a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal

This article will address the "costs" of a Michigan License Restoration or Clearance Appeal from 2 different points of view: Yours and mine. Not a day goes by without my Office being called by someone interested in hiring me for a License Appeal and asking how much I charge. My Fee is $3200 for a License Restoration, beginning with $1200 down, and I Guarantee to win any case I file. It used to frustrate me to no end when this question was asked because I am the ONLY Lawyer I know of who lists his prices all over his website AND offers a Guaranteed win.

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

Cashola 2.1.jpgBecause I win about 98% of my License Restoration cases the first time around, and back that up with a Guarantee, I don't have to, nor do I "compete" with anyone for business. While my whole approach to License Appeals is different, here are 3 ways where I really stand apart from the pack:

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

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

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

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

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

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November 12, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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November 9, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Letters of Support

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

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

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

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

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

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

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November 2, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Substance Abuse Evaluation

In some of my previous Driver's License Restoration blog articles, I have conducted a detailed examination of the Substance Abuse Evaluation that must be filed to begin a Michigan Driver's License Restoration or out-of-state Clearance case. I refer each new Client to a local Clinic to have their Evaluation completed. In this article, I want to focus on the fact that almost every "outside" Substance Abuse Evaluation I see is NOT done correctly, and why this is so important. Without exception, it has been my experience that any Evaluation done before I've first met with a new Client first has been unusable.

As a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, it is my job to assemble and double-check the evidence submitted in any License Appeal I handle. The Substance Abuse Evaluation is the single most important piece of evidence in a License Restoration case. In my Practice, I exercise extremely tight control over who does my Evaluations, and how they're done. On top of that, they are checked, checked again, and re-checked before I ever give them the "okay" and send them off to the State.

Evaluation 1.2.jpgMy "quality control" measures begin at the very first meeting with a new Client. That meeting is scheduled before the Client undergoes his or her Substance Abuse Evaluation. It takes about 3 hours, and the whole focus is to prepare the person for their upcoming Evaluation. An important part of those 3 hours is the completion of my own "Substance Abuse Evaluation Checklist," which is a proprietary document I have created based upon decades of experience handling and winning Michigan License Appeals. This "Checklist" is filled out as the Client and I go over the actual Evaluation form, line-by-line, and a copy is sent with them to give to the Evaluator so that no detail is overlooked or otherwise not done correctly as the actual Substance Abuse Evaluation is completed.

There is a good chance that anyone who has previously tried a License Appeal and lost was Denied because of a "questionable/insufficient Substance Abuse Evaluation." A problem with the Evaluation is one of the most common reasons a Michigan License Restoration Appeal case loses. I make sure that doesn't happen, and for all my efforts, I back them up with a Guarantee.

Anyone hiring me for their License Restoration case will be directed to the local Clinic that I use to have my Evaluations completed. Out-of-state Clients will usually schedule their meeting with me the same day as their Evaluation, and then leave from my Office and go directly to meet with the Evaluator. While I strongly encourage my Clients to use this local Clinic, it's probably not for any of the reasons the reader might at first suspect.

This Clinic does a first-rate job on the Evaluations, and I cover any and all contingencies with my "Substance Abuse Evaluation Checklist." They have the highest degree of integrity, and the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) knows that, because this Clinic has never tried to do any kind of "snow job" on an Evaluation. In other words, they produce a clinically accurate document, and not some kind of favorable "report for hire." This is important. Think about it; if they just took their fee to generate a glowing, favorable (meaning b.s.) report, I certainly wouldn't need 3 hours to go over the Evaluation form line by line with a new Client to make sure they do well on it, nor would I need a checklist to send with them to insure that.

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October 26, 2012

Michigan License Reinstatement, Restoration and Clearance - Guaranteed

This blog article, like many others in the Driver's License Restoration section of this blog, was inspired by a real life occurrence in my Practice as a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer. Responding to my web site, a man recently called about getting his Michigan Driver's License reinstated. I wasn't in at the time, and he spoke for a while with my Assistant, Ann. After screening him, Ann discovered that, for reasons beyond the scope this article, he was not yet "ready," at least by my standards, to begin pursuing his Appeal. Although he was legally eligible to start a License Appeal, the way these cases are decided in the real world meant that there was no chance he could have won his License back without a little more time passing.

Anytime someone calls my Office about a Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Appeal case, we'll will take the time to answer their questions, explain what we can and cannot do, and then, if they are not yet legally (or otherwise) able or ready to proceed, tell them what they need to do, or should do, in order to become ready, or at least how long they should wait. At the end of this recent conversation, the gentleman expressed his gratitude for Ann having spent a while with him on the phone, and having taken the time to explain everything so clearly. He noted that my Office spent far more time with him than anyone else he called. Then he said something that made me stop and think about what makes my Office so different: He said every other Lawyer he talked to pretty much only told him how much money he needed to bring in to get started.

Drive 1.2.pngApparently, no one spent any real time with him, and asked questions to discover his exact situation. No one explained how the Michigan License Restoration process really works. No one bothered to tell him that if he was to file now, he'd surely lose, because there were some things he needed do first, while he waited a few months, in order to put his ducks in a row an line up a winning case. Equally as important, he told Ann, no one bothered to ask him if he was Sober, and when he had stopped drinking.

In fact, he said that everybody else just told him to bring his money and come on in. Sure, my Office didn't get his money, at least right then, but the flip side is that he didn't get bamboozled into a certain loss, both of his case and of his money, only to have to sit on the sidelines and wait for another year to try again. If I accepted his money, knowing what I do (and my Staff does) about License Appeals, it would have been morally wrong. Anyone who knows better, but takes him money anyway, would simply be "fleecing" him. Obviously, anyone who doesn't know License Appeals as well as we do, and who would take his money NOT knowing there was no way he could win his License Appeal at this time, isn't guilty of a moral transgression, but is, instead, dreadfully (if not harmfully) ignorant of what it takes to win a Michigan Driver's License Restoration case.

My take on License Appeals is simple: Winning your case the first time around is the only thing that matters. I Guarantee that I'll win your case the first time we go in. In order to do that, however, I cannot take just any old case that comes along. "Bring your money and come it" may be a good way for a Lawyer to make a lot of money, but it isn't any way to build or maintain a winning record. I consistently win around 98% of my cases the first time around. I do that by, first and foremost, making sure anyone who I represent is Sober, and has quit drinking.

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October 22, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal Hearing and what Happens

All the preparation involved in a Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance case leads up to one thing: The Hearing. In previous Driver's License Restoration articles, I have examined the preparation leading up to the Hearing, and have over-viewed what takes place at the Hearing itself. In this article, I want to come back to the actual Hearing, and focus on what I do, and how I conduct a License Appeal Hearing.

I think it's important to understand that I conduct the Hearing in the sense that I open it, decide what evidence to present, and how to present it. I ask the very first questions, and I establish the theme and set the tone for what's to follow. This is critically important to winning back your License, and accounts, at least in part, for why I can Guarantee I will win your case the first time around. I have heard that, in some cases where a person has tried to win their License back with another Lawyer, and lost, the Lawyer didn't ask any questions. I cannot imagine such a situation.

Hearing Room 1.2.jpgCertainly, if a person goes in on their own, unrepresented, the only questions asked will come from the Hearing Officer. In such a case, the person will have no opportunity to "make their case" or have any real hand in presenting their Recovery story. While this is hardly a recipe for success, at least when a person loses a "do-it-yourself" Appeal, they can console themselves that they got what they paid for. It makes no sense, however, to pay some Lawyer to sit next to you and not do anything except act as a spectator to what unfolds.

License Appeal Hearings are set every hour, on the hour, at 9, 10 and 11 am, and then at 1, 2, 3 and 4 pm. Each Hearing can only last an hour, although most (at least those that I conduct) are over in about half that time. All my cases are heard in the Livonia Branch Office of the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment an Appeal Division Office (DAAD). I only conduct live, in-person Hearings; I will never allow a case of mine to be decided by a "video Hearing."

The Hearing itself commences when the Hearing Officer to which the case has been assigned opens the lobby door from the Hearing room area to the waiting room, and calls the name of the person. He or she holds the door, and my Client and I will go through the door and into the hallway leading to the Hearing Rooms, and then into the Hearing Room of the particular Hearing Officer who will be deciding the case.

Once inside, the Hearing Officer and I will open the proceedings on the Record by having a short discussion about the evidence that has been submitted before the Hearing, and specifying what, if any, additional evidence is to be submitted at the Hearing. The Hearing officer will identify the various documents submitted, and then will mark each as an exhibit. These will include the Substance Abuse Evaluation and the supporting documents that must be submitted along with it, as well as the Letters of Support.

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October 19, 2012

Avoiding the Wrong kind of Lawyer for a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal

I cannot believe that anyone would think that "hiring a Lawyer" for a Michigan Driver's License Restoration means just paying some Attorney to show up for the Hearing, and/or maybe meeting with him or her for a little while beforehand, but apparently, some people do. A recent experience while in the waiting room at the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division Hearing Office left me in disbelief about what some people, (including Attorneys), consider the Lawyer's role in a Michigan Driver's License Restoration case.

As I was waiting for a couple of my Hearings to be called at the Driver Assessment and Appeal Division Hearing Offices, I saw 2 situations that made me, as a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, cringe in shock. Both involved Lawyers and Clients who, to my mind, were about to blunder into the Hearing Room a million miles from being anywhere what I'd consider "ready" to pursue a License Appeal.

DevilLaw 1.2.jpgIn the first "shocker," I watched as a young lady was called in for her Hearing, and went in with her Lawyer. Her mother stayed behind, and began conversing with my Client and I, as we waited. As a general rule, I really don't get into specific legal discussions with anyone but my own Client for a lot of different reasons. The lady with whom we were speaking mentioned that her daughter had flown in from another state the night before because she was sick of losing every attempt to get a "Clearance" of the Michigan hold on her Driving Record by filing an Administrative Review, which is a mail-in Appeal. I politely responded that coming back to Michigan is a good idea, because 3 out of 4 Administrative Reviews lose.

She next indicated that the family had decided to do it "right" this time, and had hired a Lawyer. While I'd never seen this particular Lawyer before, I reserved judgment. Then, she dropped the shocker: She said her daughter had just gotten in last night, and went from the airport to meet with her Lawyer for the first time. I just smiled, but could not stop thinking about how far short such an arrangement fell from properly doing a License Appeal. This meant that the Lawyer had no input into or control over the evidence submitted when the Appeal had been filed, and was just walking into the Hearing room to deal with whatever had been filed with the state by his Client, having exercised no quality control over it. This Lawyer was, quite literally, just going along for the ride.

I cannot imagine being part of any case in which I have not had complete control over every single detail of the case, and the evidence within it. Putting together a winning case means charting out a plan before the first step is ever taken in a License Appeal case. This is something I take very seriously. In fact, I won't touch or take over a case that I haven't built right from the start.

The reader already likely knows that to begin a License Appeal, a person has to file a document called a "Substance Abuse Evaluation." Before you ever even think about having an Evaluation completed, you'll meet with me for 3 hours to go over, line by line, everything it asks about. I'll fill out my own special form, called a "Substance Abuse Evaluation Checklist" that I'll have you give to the Evaluator so that she has every relevant detail needed to properly complete this form. On top of that, I'll make sure you have your Evaluation done right, by an experienced and skilled Counselor who knows exactly what information the Michigan Secretary of State wants. The Clinic I use to have my Evaluations completed is located just a few blocks from my Office. My purpose in using this Clinic, however, has nothing to do with its convenience or affordability (they charge about $200 for an Evaluation, which is far less than plenty of other places), and everything to do with the top-shelf quality of the Evaluations they produce.

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October 15, 2012

Preparing for your Michigan Driver's License Restoration Hearing

Preparing your Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance case is different than preparing you for your actual Restoration or Clearance Hearing. I have written extensively about how, as a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, I put together a License Appeal case. Once that case has been assembled and filed, the next step is a live Hearing. In this article, I will examine why preparation for this next stage is so important. Given that I Guarantee I'll win your License back the first time around, I wouldn't place such emphasis on this if I didn't really believe that a thorough Hearing prep is critical to winning.

There's an old saying that applies to Lawyers who take testimony of any kind: Never ask a question if you don't already know the answer. In a License Appeal case, we can add something to that, and it's about the person trying to win back their License: You should never be asked a question you haven't been asked before. This is really another way of saying that there should be no surprises. While that's true, there is a lot more to prepare for in a License Hearing than just the questions you'll be asked.

preparation 1.3.jpgAs I explain when you first come in, I'll have your Hearing scheduled live, in the Livonia Branch Office of the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, known as the DAAD. I never do a "video Hearing." And I never call witnesses. As I've pointed out in other articles, live Hearings are far superior to some webcam hookup, flickering video thing, and calling witnesses to testify is almost always an amateur mistake.

To even begin to properly prepare for a Hearing, we have to know which particular Hearing Officer will be deciding your case. Each Hearing Officer has his or her own unique way of conducting a License Hearing. While it's true that they'll all ask some of the same general questions, they'll each have a lot more specific questions unique to what they feel is important in a License Appeal. In addition, many of the Hearing Officers will ask an entirely different set of questions of someone who does not go to AA than they will of someone who does attend AA meetings. For what it's worth, more than half of my Clients do not go to AA, meaning AA involvement is absolutely not necessary to win your License back, although knowing how to talk about why you do, or do not go, is.

I suppose every Lawyer has his or her own way of prepping their Clients. I cannot imagine any Lawyer not making this an important and separate part of the License Appeal process. Surprisingly, I have heard that not every Attorney schedules a "prep session" with the Client before the Hearing. I'll skip being polite here, and will just be blunt instead: If that's not part and parcel of your Lawyer's standard procedure, you need to get your money back before you blunder into that Hearing room.

Over more than 22 years, I have refined how I do things, and for the last decade or so, I have found that the best way to carefully and thoroughly prepare a Client for their Hearing is to do it the night before, or close to it. "Night," in this case, means just that; it means after hours, when I'm at home, and the Office is closed, and there are no distractions. When we get on the phone, you and I are, to my mind, 2 of the only 3 people in the world who matter. The 3rd, of course, is the Hearing Officer before whom we will be appearing the next day.

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October 8, 2012

Recovery and Sobriety as the Focus of a Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance case

In a Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance case, a person's "Recovery Story" takes front and center stage. In fact, the whole License Appeal process before the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division is really a close-up and critical examination of that story. If you intend to file an Appeal with the Michigan Secretary of State to win your License back, or to win a Clearance of the Hold placed against your Driving Record, you are going to need to be able to tell your Recovery Story. That's what I'm here for.

Perhaps you tell your story again and again at the tables of AA, or maybe you used to go, but not anymore. If so, then you've probably had some experience talking about your transformation from drinker to non-drinker. If you've never been to AA, then you probably haven't ever had to talk much about that part of your life. Whether you talk about it regularly, or never really give it much thought, the change you underwent when you decided to quit drinking is a story, and a pretty dramatic one, at that.

MyStory 1.2.jpgIt is not uncommon for someone to have quit drinking, and then changed the way they live, eliminate alcohol from their lives and simply move on. For these people, living without alcohol has truly become second nature. And while that's great, and part of what the state is looking for in the context of a License Clearance or Restoration case, it's really only part of the story. In the previous article about not over-complicating a Michigan License Appeal, I focused on Sobriety, and how that is a central part of a person's "Recovery story." This article will be about that story.

My task, as a Michigan License Restoration Lawyer is to help you put the words the story of your transition from drinker to Sober person. If you've clicked around this blog, or my website, you've seen that I have no trouble with words. Beyond finding the right words for your story, however, my job also requires helping you go back in time to recall and properly describe who you used to be, and what your life was like right up to the point of your last drink. While that sounds easy enough, we have to get all that done in a space about 1/5 the size of this article. In a winning License Appeal, every single word either helps, or hurts you; there is no middle ground. Anyone who has tried a License Appeal before knows this all too well.

To do this, I have to get to know you and your life's story in a comparatively short period of time. I'll have to cut to the heart of certain matters, in mere minutes, that therapists may take years probing. Of course, it helps that you've at least worked through these things. All the same, it's like I'm taking a core sample, drilling through layers (and often years) of gratitude and Recovery all the way through denial and consequence and shame. This isn't just your typical "Lawyer stuff," either. It requires me to be part Biographer, part Counselor, part Lawyer and part Writer.

In many of my other Driver's License Restoration articles, I note that I have made a decades-long study of alcohol and addiction issues. I have constantly read and updated my understanding of the process of alcoholism, and Recovery. Ive even gone back to graduate school and earn a Graduate Certificate in Addiction Studies. While this program is limited to those who already have a graduate degree in a related field (it was humbling to realize that, here, my Law Degree didn't mean so much) and who primarily treat patients with alcohol and addiction disorders, I felt that the perspective and skills those professionals have will help me as I help re-trace each Client's path to Recovery. I'm sure the reader finds this a bit "different" from what most other Lawyers write as they explain how they do License Restorations, but at least I hope that my passion for this chosen Practice specialty stands out. It is this passion and drive to do everything the best it can be done that allows me to Guarantee that I'll win your case.

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October 5, 2012

Winning back your Michigan Driver's License - Don't Over-Complicate it

Within the many Driver's License Restoration articles on this blog, and in the various License Restoration sections of my website, I break the Michigan Driver's License Appeal process down and make a detailed, thorough examination of how each step works. I do this because I'm a "detail person." If I'm going to have some work done, whether on my home, my car, or even medically, on my body, I am interested in learning the details about it. That's me. Not surprisingly, many of my Clients are also "detail people," and they will comment that it was the amount of detail that I go into which drew them to my blog, or site, in the first place.

Some people, however, are the opposite; they don't care about all the details, they just want the work done right the first time, and are far more interested in the results, and not what produces those results. I get a lot of calls from these people, too. In most cases, I assume they just look at how much information I have written about the License Appeal process, and figure that I'm the expert. That's kind of flattering, but it also brings a few problems, as well. Perhaps the biggest is that these "just get it done" people don't read enough to discover that Sobriety is a first and necessary requirement to win a Michigan License Clearance or Restoration case, and that it is one of the first inquiries I'll be making of anyone who contacts me.

keep_it_simple_poster-r564c33a1d35c492687a072e642569409_wir_400.jpgSomewhere in between the microscopic detail that interests me, as a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, and the "just get it done" attitude that others have, lies the real heart of a License Appeal. I have described the License Appeal process as being, in part, about navigating "a million little rules." Doing that is my job, however, and the whole point, really, of anyone hiring me in the first place is to make sure I take care of all that. In this article, we'll deliberately try to avoid over-complicating things, and focus on what's really the core issue of a License Appeal: Sobriety.

As I've also noted in various other articles, a person does not need to be in AA in order to win their License back. It is a common misconception that a person needs to be in AA in order to win a License Appeal. More than half of my Clients are not active in AA at the time we file their cases. With a first time win rate of nearly 98%, and a Guarantee that I will win any case I file, I speak with more than a little authority on this topic. AA is helpful, but far from necessary.

Some of my Clients, however, are in AA. As I see it, the advantage these Clients have is that they'll be a bit more familiar with the way we talk about Recovery, and the language we'll be using in drafting their Recovery story. Thus, when I talk about the moment a person became sick and tired of being sick and tired, someone in AA will instinctively understand that. If I'm talking with someone not in AA, they might just recognize this better when it's described as the moment a "switch flipped," or as their "a-ha" moment.

The larger point here is that in order to win a Michigan License Restoration Appeal, AA is not necessary. But Sobriety is.

Sometimes, a person trying to do their own License Appeal will contact me and, having figured out that Sobriety is a key component of the process, will ask, "How do I prove Sobriety?" That's a good question, but there is no simple answer. On top of that, the question itself, while important, does not cover the entire core of a License Appeal, either. In other words, while asking, and then answering the question "how does a person prove Sobriety?" is important in a License Appeal, there's a lot more to it than that. In order to win a License Appeal, a person really has to put forth their whole Recovery story. And if that's not enough, they have to be able to get it done in far less space than this article. That's where I come in.

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October 1, 2012

Clearance of a Michigan DUI Hold on your Driving Record

If you used to have a Michigan Driver's License that was Revoked because you had several DUI's, and you've moved to another state, you either need, or will need a Clearance of the Michigan Revocation that's currently on your Driving Record. About one-half of the Clients I help in my role as a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer now live outside of Michigan. Some of them have never been able to obtain a License in their new state. Others were able to get a License, but now learn that they are or will be unable to renew it once it expires.

I can get that Clearance for you so that you can drive again, or keep driving. If you're not drinking, I Guarantee that I'll win your case the first time. If you're eligible to start the proceedings to get a Michigan Clearance, the real cost of not doing it right the first time is losing your case and having to wait another year to try again. This can really hurt if you currently have a valid License from another state that's about to expire, and cannot be renewed because the Michigan "Hold" has caught up with it.

MIOUT 1.3.jpgIt is understandable that anyone needing a Clearance wants to know if they can do this without having to come back to Michigan, and even without having to hire a Lawyer. Theoretically, it can be done. Realistically, it's a bad idea. In the year 2010, the last year for which Official statistics are available, the Michigan Secretary of State DENIED 74% of all Appeals filed from out of state where a person did not come back to Michigan. 875 of these Appeals, called "Administrative Reviews," were filed, and 650 of them lost. On the bright side, about one out of four actually did win...

Within my Practice, a large number of my current out-of-state Clients are individuals who tried an Administrative Review the year before, and lost. Bolstered by my Guarantee to win their case the first time, they make the trip to meet with me and get the process underway. In turn, having made sure that they really are Sober, I know that they are just 2 trips back to Michigan away from being able to drive again, or keep a valid License in their wallet.

Those who have tried their luck on a "do-it-yourself" Administrative Review and lost very often call my Office right after they've learned they've been Denied, and want to talk about an appeal. I have to explain to them that an appeal from a loss is invariably a waste of time and money. An appeal from a lost Administrative Review is not a chance to try all over again; rather, it is a chance to argue, based solely on the evidence previously submitted, that the Hearing Officer was legally wrong. I don't take these cases, so I tell the caller they'll have to wait until next year, when they can file a new one.

An Administrative Appeal is not Denied because someone does everything right. There is precisely about a zero chance that hiring a Lawyer to appeal such a Denial is going to change anything except the balance in a person's bank account. This is what is meant by the phrase "throwing good money after bad." In that regard, all the money a person tried to save the first time will probably fall far short of the expense and hassle of not being able to drive for another year. I can't tell you how many times someone has said they wish they'd have found my site before they plowed into the License Clearance or Restoration process on their own.

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September 21, 2012

Win Your Michigan License back the first Time

If you have lost your License because of multiple DUI convictions, you know how tough it is without one. At the point where you're looking for a Lawyer to help you win it back, you know that the most important thing is not just winning your Michigan License Appeal. It's about winning it the first time (or at least the next time) around. You've waited long enough. Getting stuck for another year without the ability to drive and having to bum rides from everyone is not a plan. Getting back on the road is...

From my perspective, this is a spin on the old saying that "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." Yet it's also spot-on. If you've tried to win your License back before, and filed a Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance case, only to wind up having lost, you're probably not interested in the cold comfort of reassurances like "eventually," or "sooner or later" when it comes to finally winning your License back. Nor should you be. If and when you become eligible to file, or file again, you need and want to win, not lose.

Victory 1.3.jpgI bring a bit of a unique twist to this. If you've clicked around my site or this blog, you've likely seen that I Guarantee that I will win your case the first time around. I can do that by screening out people who cannot win. Sure, there are "a million little rules" involved in handling a Michigan License Reinstatement case, but to me, it's not any of those that pose a problem. I know that stuff like the back of my hand. The most important factor that I look for in a person is their commitment to not drinking again. If you have that, I can get your License back.

You don't need to be in AA to win your License back; more than half the people whose cases I win are NOT active in AA when I file their case. If you are in AA, then I can use that to your advantage. If not, don't worry about it. My Guarantee is ironclad, and applies to any case I handle. If I'm your Lawyer, you're getting your License back.

Lots of people get frustrated with the Secretary of State after trying a License Appeal on their own, and then losing. Many of these same people are determined, and try again, and even again after that. This week, I had a guy contact me who had just tried for the fourth time on his own and lost. This is where those "million little rules" come in. Many of these people are genuinely Sober. It's one thing to lose a License Appeal case while the state is asking all kinds of questions that take it for granted that you're not drinking, even though you still are. It's another to really be Sober and lose anyway. It's like they think you're a liar.

I think it's even worse if you spent money and hired a Lawyer, and then lost anyway. That's money wasted, and another year without a License in your wallet. That's why I offer a Guarantee. Now you feel worse; the state doesn't seem to believe you, and some Lawyer took your money and lost your case. When you get the Denial, the Hearing Officer explains why your case was rejected, and you're left wondering why your Lawyer missed something. It certainly can scare a person about doing business with any more Lawyers. Again, that's why I have a Guarantee.

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September 17, 2012

"Do-It-Yourself" Michigan Driver's License Restoration and Clearance Appeals

What does it take to win a Michigan Driver's License Restoration case without a Lawyer? Luck. As a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer who concentrates in reinstatement and clearances of Licenses that have been Revoked for multiple DUI's, I see certain patterns. By far, the most common thing I see is inquiries from people who try to win back their License without a Lawyer, lose, and then start looking for a Lawyer to appeal their loss.

I recently published an article about the Differences between a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal, and an appeal from a losing decision. The terms can be confusing, but the way this plays out in the real world is pretty clear. Lots of people think they can do their own License Appeal, so they give it a try. They assemble their documents, and, if they live out of state, send in for an Administrative Review, or, if they live in Michigan, show up for a Hearing. A few weeks later, they get the news that they have been denied.

DIY 1.4.jpgBeyond the fact that, almost every day, my Office get a call from someone who has just learned that they have lost their "do-it-yourself" License Appeal, it seems that more than half of the new Clients I meet are people who have previously tried this route and lost. To be brutally honest about it, these Clients are actually easier to deal with than someone who has never been "through the system." They fundamentally understand how difficult the process can be, and they certainly realize that winning a Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance case involves navigating a million little rules.

Those who call my Office, frustrated about losing their "do-it-yourself" Appeals are in for more disappointment when they find out that they'll have to wait a year to try again. Of course, they immediately begin to point out to me that there are certain "appeal" rights (as if I didn't already know that), but I explain that any such "appeal" is based upon the evidence they assembled and submitted in the case they lost, and that there was a obviously a problem with it (that's why it was denied), and that I have no interest in trying to resurrect and save their do-it-yourself Appeal that, by all accounts was already doomed before it began, anyway. They come to understand. They may not be happy, but they accept the truth of what they're told. It certainly helps when I explain that I don't make any money turning someone away.

Because so many of my new Clients come to me with a "do-it-yourself" loss under their belts, my custom intake form that I fill out during our first 3-hour meeting has a special section about prior Denials. I need to know how many times a person has tried this before. I also will want to see the Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) Order of Action denying their prior cases. I want to see what damage I have to fix, and make sure that I can account for what has been stated in any prior Substance Abuse Evaluations and in prior Letters of Support. Let's face it, no one loses an Appeal because they get everything right.

Despite the fact that most "do-it-yourself" License Appeals are destined to lose, I tread carefully, and really do not explicitly advise against them. That smacks of trying to "scare" someone into hiring my services. Sure, if your circuit breaker or fuse box is smoking and sparking, you should heed the warnings of any electrician who advises, "call now!" But losing a License Appeal is not the same thing as dying in a house fire. The worst thing that happens is that a person is stuck bumming rides for another year. Thus, to anyone who wants to try this on their own, I say "Go for it!"

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September 14, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer - Different is Better - Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, I began talking about how and why I am "different" as a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer. I noted that there seems to be a flood of Lawyers claiming to "do" License Restorations, but that I am the only Lawyer that I know of who both requires that a person be Sober to accept their case, and then Guarantees that I'll win it the first time around. I began explaining my background and experience, and how that all comes together to account for my passion for the work I do. Sure, winning about 98% of my cases brings a certain job satisfaction, but it is also the satisfaction with he kind of work I do that help brings about such a high success rate.

I have a keen sense of what's important in any given License Appeal. There is no way to just "do" these cases, or have any kind of "cookie-cutter" approach to doing them, and this applies equally to the Lawyer, the Counselor doing the Substance Abuse Evaluation, and the Hearing Officer deciding the case. As a result, I have my own "Substance Abuse Evaluation Checklist" that I fill out during my first, 3-hour meeting with a new Client, and I give a copy to my Client to give the Substance Abuse Evaluator in order to make sure that all those pesky little details are covered, any one of which, if overlooked, can derail a License Appeal. This is a special form I've developed and refine, and is the product of having handled hundreds upon hundreds of License Restoration Hearings.

RandaBearDifferent2.2.jpgTo make sure that someone is not only legally eligible to file a License Appeal, but really able and really likely to win, I'll make sure they're screened when they call. I will always want to know how long the caller has been Sober, and will figure out if he or she can and should come in to meet with me, or should wait. If there is a problem, and the person cannot or should not move forward yet, we'll explain why. If they're ready to move forward and win your License back, they'll be scheduled to meet with me for a first, 3-hour appointment just to prepare to undergo the Substance Abuse Evaluation. I've tried (believe me, I have!) to shorten this meeting, and, once in a while, I can maybe knock a ½ hour off, but I've gotten winning my cases the first time around down to a science, and it just takes that long.

Later on, when someone's Substance Abuse Evaluation comes back, I don't even see it until my Senior Assistant, Ann, has first reviewed it. She checks for accuracy of names, addresses, dates, spelling, and things like the BAC test results (particularly important if a Client has listed "unknown," and then, somehow, a number shows up in that box) and the date of last use of alcohol. If she finds no obvious errors, she then puts in on my desk, for a thorough, final inspection. This is another place where the study of substance abuse issues comes into play: I need to make sure that a person's Diagnosis conforms with the other facts stated within the Evaluation itself, and that their Prognosis is not in any way inconsistent with anything else listed, therein, and that there is nothing implicitly or explicitly "conditional" about that Prognosis. These are not "legal" things; understanding these things means understanding Recovery and Sobriety, both in the "real world" and in the clinical world where people who diagnose and treat alcohol and substance abuse problems do their jobs.

At some point, my Client and I will go in for their Hearing. I do not do, and never will accept a "video Hearing." They are, to my mind, woefully inferior to a live Hearing. I could have any, or even all of my cases set for a video Hearing about 4 minutes from my Office if I wanted to. Sure, that would be a lot more convenient for me, but, as the sayings go, anything worth doing is worth doing right, and nothing good comes easy. I make the hour drive to Livonia to conduct a live Hearing because I know how crucially important it is to winning that I conduct all my Hearings live, and in-person.

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September 10, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer - Different is Better - Part 1

I win back Michigan Driver's Licenses, and I Guarantee that, if I accept your case, I'll win it back the first time around. I am passionate about what I do. About 75% of my day-to-day work is dedicated License Appeal matters. I consider myself a genuine Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer. While I try and maintain a high standard of dignity and professionalism, I have, on a few more recent occasions, found myself frustrated at what seems like the growing number of Lawyers who claim to "do" License Restorations and pretend that they somehow specialize in this field. In this article, I want to explain a little bit about what's different about me.

In the last few years I've won more License Appeals than anyone I know. In the course of any given month, I have written and published more useful information about the Michigan Driver's License Clearance and Restoration process than you can find, cumulatively, on the rest of the entire internet. My blog has over 350 informational articles; I publish 2 new ones every week. 146 of them, to date, are about Michigan Driver's License Clearance and Reinstatement matters.

Thumbnail image for Different 1.2.jpgI've seen some legal sites with a long page, or even a few pages of general information about License Appeals, but all of it ends with some kind of "call me now for a free consultation" line. No other site comes close to providing anything near the amount or quality of information about the License Appeal process that you will find right here. Click around the Driver's License Restoration section of my website or this blog and see for yourself.

Some legal sites have a section detailing their owner's "wins." I have too many wins to ever list, much less detail. Each year I win around 98% of more than 100 Driver's License Restoration cases that I handle. Instead of a list of wins, I provide a Guarantee that I will win: I Guarantee that, if I accept your case, you'll win your License back the first time we try. You cannot do better than that...

I set the bar at it's highest in terms of the results I promise to produce, but I also set the bar high in terms of who I will accept as a Client. I REQUIRE that a person be really and truly Sober before I will undertake a License Appeal on their behalf. This rather clearly separates me from the rest of the herd, and leaves me standing alone, holding what amounts to a red flag. This requirement explains how and why I can offer a win Guarantee, and it says a lot about me, and why I'm different.

A Client recently explained that he had decided to hire me to handle his License Appeal, knowing that my Fee was higher than some others, precisely because I was the only Lawyer whose site he had found that clearly stated that he would only accept a case for a genuinely Sober person. To him, and to me, requiring that a person meets the minimum legal (and inherent ethical) requirement that a person be committed to not drinking in order begin a License Appeal just seems like a given. After all, the whole goal of the License Appeal process is to prove that a person's alcohol problem "is under control, and likely to remain under control." This is absolutely required by Law. How could I just be willing to accept a Fee from anyone who will pay it without inquiring the person's past abstinence and their commitment to remaining Sober? Don't you think that a person's Sobriety (or lack of it) should be the very first thing a Lawyer asks about? Shouldn't a Lawyer make sure he or she can actually win someone's case before taking their money?

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer - Different is Better - Part 1" »

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September 7, 2012

Reinstating, Restoring or Clearing a Revoked Michigan Driver's License - Investing in your Future

In my day-to-day work as a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, I frequently meet people who were eligible to seek Restoration of their Driver's License, or at least seek a Clearance of a Michigan "Hold" upon their Driving Record much earlier. Their reasons for waiting are varied, but lack of funds is frequently a part of problem. In this article, I'm going to turn the tables a bit and talk about how, in some cases, not getting that License back can itself be part of the reason for a lack of funds, and how getting back on the road again, legally, is really an investment in your future.

Many people find their way to my Office after first having tried their own hand at a License Appeal, and losing. Given that 3 out of 4 Administrative Reviews are Denied, many of my new Clients hire me to get it right the second time around. Sometimes, however, people become discouraged after trying a License Appeal on their own and losing, and don't even bother to look at their options again until some change in circumstance forces them to do so.

Opportunities 1.2.jpgBeyond lack of funds, quite often, it's a job, or the possibility of a new job, that motivates someone to really find about winning back their License, or getting a Michigan Clearance so they can get a License in a different state. Whatever the reason, almost everyone finds that being able to drive again certainly increases their options, as well as their earning potential. This is particularly true for those who live in Michigan, or any place, really, without a first-class mass transit system. By contrast, if a person lives in Chicago, or New York, and has access to a subway system that can take them pretty much any and everywhere they'd need to go, then lack of a Driver's License isn't such a big deal.

The inspiration for this article came, like so many others, as a result of a conversation I had with Ann, my Senior Assistant. A guy from out of state had just called and asked if we could help him out because he lost a "do-it-yourself" Administrative Appeal. He wasn't happy to find out he was going to have to wait another year, and then complained about how he had a good job offer, but needed a License to take it. He had become eligible to file his Appeal a few years before, but didn't feel any real push to do anything about it until the job thing came up.

Ann and I then began to discuss how many other opportunities a person may miss simply because they rely on other people to get them around. If you think about it, even if a person has a good job close by, or at least has a ride to get there, if they have no way of driving anywhere else, they probably don't even have their eyes or ears open for a better opportunity elsewhere. In other words, they can't really give any serious thought to the idea of finding a better job because they're stuck.

Continue reading "Reinstating, Restoring or Clearing a Revoked Michigan Driver's License - Investing in your Future" »

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August 31, 2012

Michigan License Restoration - The joy of Getting back on the road Legally

I am a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, and I love my job. I love what I do, and the end product of my work brings great joy to my Clients, and, by extension, to me, as well. Helping someone get back on the road, especially someone who has earned the right to be there, is a rewarding occupation. I get the pleasure of dealing with Clients who have, in essence, turned their lives around. But the path by which they get there can sometimes be trying.

Anyone who has had their Michigan Driver's License Revoked because of multiple DUI's knows that if they get behind the wheel and drive and get caught, the consequences are severe. As a Michigan License Restoration Lawyer, I deal with this from all angles. I am hired to represent people charged with Driving While License Suspended and Revoked (DWLS and DWLR) charges all the time. Amongst that group of Clients are people who were either eligible, or close to becoming eligible to have their Michigan License Reinstated (Restored), or to obtain a "Clearance" of the Michigan "Hold" upon their Driving Record.

Happiness jump 1.2.jpgWhether they have not driven at all, or have taken that chance and been lucky enough to not get caught, there is a palpable excitement that charges the atmosphere when I meet with someone to help them get their License back. They look forward to being able to legally get back on the road. Sometimes, when I first meet with a new Client, they are a bit nervous, wondering if the end goal of regaining the privilege to drive is just too good to be true. There are a lot of misconceptions out there regarding License Appeals, and most of them are negative.

Often, I hear someone relate that they "heard" that a person cannot win a License Restoration Appeal the first time. While the statistics are rather bleak for anyone trying it without me, as a Lawyer, my win rate hovers around 98%, and I Guarantee that I will win any License Appeal I accept the first time, or I will continue to represent my Client before the Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) without further Attorney Fees until he or she does, in fact, get back on the road. The prerequisite to my accepting a License Appeal case is that a potential Client must be really and truly Sober.

If a person is Sober, and legally eligible to file a Driver's License Restoration Appeal, I can get them back on the road, legally. For a Michigan resident, this means that they MUST (as in, there is no way around it) drive on a Restricted License for at least one year, and do so with an ignition interlock device installed on whatever car they drive. If a person has relocated outside of Michigan, and lives in another state, they can seek a "Clearance," which is a complete removal of Michigan's "Hold" on their Driving Record. This will allow them to get a License (usually a "Full" License) in another state. Either way, when I win someone's License back, or get them a Clearance, it's an awesome feeling...

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August 27, 2012

Michigan 2nd Offense DUI and Driver's License Restoration

As a full time Michigan Driver's License Restoration and DUI Lawyer, I deal with the implications of a Second Offense Drunk Driving charge daily, and in different contexts, as well. As a Michigan DUI Lawyer, I am involved, nearly from the beginning of a 2nd Offense case, to guide my Client through the Court process. In that role, my job is to take a case and put it under the microscope and look for those flaws in the evidence that can be used to get the charge dismissed, or at least reduced. As a Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, I help explain how that 2nd DUI was often the catalyst for my Client to recognize that they had a drinking problem.

Attitude is important. A DUI Lawyer must go in to a case expecting to find some problem with the evidence, or how it was gathered, and not just wait for the obvious to jump out of the file. I often point out that DUI cases don't dismiss themselves. If you want to find a defect in the case, you have to look for it.

2nd 2.2.jpgThat said, by the time anyone is out of Jail and looking for a Lawyer, the facts of the case have been set in stone. What happened that resulted in the DUI Arrest happened; now, we're looking backwards in time to see if the legality of what happened holds up under the law.

The same thing holds true a few years later, after a person becomes eligible and ready to file a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal. A person who has lost their License for multiple DUI's has, in the meantime, either gotten Sober, or not. When someone calls my Office about a License Appeal, and I ask about their Sobriety, they either have it, or they don't. These facts are also set in stone.

My differing roles as a Michigan DUI and Driver's License Restoration Lawyer requires me to have certain differences of personality, as well. As a DUI Lawyer, I am the Lawyer, first and foremost. In a certain sense, I am a hired gun. My first mission, once hired in a DUI case, is to find some way to beat the case, or at least do serous damage control. When I can exploit a flaw in the evidence, or the way it was gathered, and manage to get the case "knocked out," I do just that. I am hired, really, to make as much of a DUI go away as I can.

Yet there is a whole other side to this, and to me, as well. If a person picks up a 2nd DUI within 7 years, Michigan Law concludes that they are what's called a "habitual offender," and presumes that they have an alcohol problem. When that same person comes forward a year to two (or three of four, or even more) years later, to have their License Reinstated, the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) will require that the person prove, by "clear and convincing evidence," that their alcohol problem is "under control, and likely to remain under control." This means that I also have to work under the legal presumption that a person with a 2nd (or subsequent) DUI has an alcohol problem.

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August 24, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Appeals - Clearances, Restorations, Denials, and Appeals from Appeals

As a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, I handle Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeals. But I don't do appeals to Court. More specifically, I do Driver's License Appeals, but I don't appeal Appeals.

Confused yet? The idea for this article, clarifying what a "Michigan License Appeal" really is, and what it means to "Appeal" a loss came about earlier this week after Ann, my Senior Assistant, had a call from a lady who wanted to "appeal" a License Restoration case that someone else had handled, and, obviously, lost.

Scales 2.1.jpgAnn explained to me that it was confusing for some callers how the word "Appeal" is used all over the place in the context of a License Restoration. Once I stopped to think about it for a moment, it kind of became obvious that this confusion is rather well founded because of the imprecise use of the word "Appeal." Worse yet, a Lawyer, like me, who handles "License Appeals" is as guilty as anyone for helping to proliferate the imprecise word use that only serves to muddy the water.

This article will be my attempt to clear things up and clarify what is meant by the term "License Appeal," although I will no doubt continue use the word "Appeal" imprecisely and indiscriminately.

A Michigan Driver's License that has been Revoked because of multiple DUI's will remain Revoked until it is either "Restored" by the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD), or until a person who now lives out of state obtains a "Clearance," which is for all intents and purposes the same as a Restoration, except a person gets their License in a state other than Michigan. Once in a blue moon, a person who never even held a Michigan License can have their Driving privileges Revoked here if they pick up more than 2 DUI's inside the state.

Most of the time, however, either a Michigan resident wants his or her Driving privileges Reinstated (Restored), or a former resident needs a Clearance to be able to obtain a License in another state.

Whatever the story, a person wants to clear things up. To do that, they must file for a Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance. Almost everyone calls this a "License Appeal." And it is, but it's not the only kind of "Appeal" that can be filed, and that's where the confusion starts. This is a clear example of how imprecise word use confuses a situation.

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August 13, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Revocations and Holds and Clearances - You Should Come back if you Really Want to win

A person who has a Michigan "Hold" on their Driving Record because of multiple DUI convictions is not legally required to come back to Michigan to obtain a Clearance that will allow them to get a License in another state. In my role as Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, however, I would NEVER accept a case unless my Client is willing to come back. This is not about money, or convenience, or anything less than winning. I take these cases to win them. I Guarantee that I will win any case I accept. Consequently, I will not take a case that I'm not sure I can win.

It seems that not a week goes by without someone contacting my Office from out of state, asking if I can or will take their case and handle it administratively. While a Michigan resident must appear for a License Appeal Hearing, a non-resident may seek a Clearance of the Michigan Hold upon their Driving Record by filing what is called and "Administrative Review," which is essentially a Driver's License Restoration Appeal without the Hearing.

michigan greenie 1.2.pngThese people want hire me for my expertise, and have me manage their "Appeal by mail" so that they don't have to come back to Michigan. This can, at times, get frustrating, because with more than 140 Driver's License Restoration articles on my Blog, and a rather comprehensive website, you almost have to be blind to miss how many times I point out that I only accept Michigan Revoked License cases where a person will return to the state, first to meet with me and have their Substance Abuse Evaluation completed, followed by a second trip back for their actual License Appeal Hearing.

The good news for anyone trying an Administrative Review is that the only "travel" expense is postage.

The bad news is that 3 out of 4 Administrative Reviews lose.

In 2010, the last year for which statistics are available, the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division received 875 Administrative Review Appeals. It DENIED 650, or 75% of them. That means only 1 out of 4 "mail-in Appeals" were successful. There's really nothing more to say on that point.

By contrast, I Guarantee that I will win any case I accept. I have kept a win rate of near 98% for as long as I can recall. I can do this because I only take cases for people who are genuinely Sober. If you're still drinking, I cannot help you, and I won't touch your case. If, however, you've put drinking behind you, and plan on remaining alcohol-free, then we should talk.

I think that it is important that any reader stop for a moment and think about my method, because, in reality, it only costs me money. I am completely serious when I say that I receive weekly inquiries about doing someone's Administrative Appeal. The reader may not believe how many contacts I receive from people willing to give me their credit card information right then and there, but who do not want to return to Michigan. No matter what, I'm in business to make money, and turning away good money is not part of anyone's business plan, but I also have a higher standard than just the almighty dollar. My integrity is not for sale, nor is my reputation.

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Revocations and Holds and Clearances - You Should Come back if you Really Want to win" »

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August 3, 2012

The Bottom Line in a Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance Appeal

In my role as Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, I regularly publish articles on this blog examining every aspect of the License Appeal and Clearance process. I have published more informative, useful information about Michigan License Restorations than anyone. In the last few years alone, I've won well over 200 License Restoration cases precisely because I am honest, play by the rules, and require a person to really be Sober before I will take their case.

As a result, I Guarantee that if I do accept a License Appeal case, I will win it.

Stang 1.2.jpgYet within that body of over 140 Michigan Driver's License Restoration articles, many, if not most, are extremely detailed. This article will be different; instead of looking at the legal issues or procedures involved in a License Appeal case, I am going to try and shift the focus to the most basic, practical requirement to win a License Restoration.

Here, we'll ask, "what is Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance case really all about?" What is the "bottom line?" Rather than explore the nuances about how a certain issue is addressed, or proven, we're going to try to uncover what the central, real concern is in a License Appeal case, and we're going to put it in terms that people mean when they say things like, "at the end of the day," or "the bottom line is," or, "here's the thing."

So what is the bottom line in a Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance case? What does need to be proven, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, in order to win a License Restoration Appeal?

To really focus on the "bottom line" answer to this question, we have to consciously try to steer away from a discussion of the finer points of the issues and rules governing a License Appeal. This is difficult, because License Appeal cases involve what seems like a million little rules. If there ever was an example of the saying "you can't see the forest through the trees," this is it.

Accordingly, we cannot completely avoid this inquiry. We at least to need to back up a bit, and look at why a person's Driver's License has been Revoked in the first place, and how these cases are decided. Remember we're talking about License Appeals for Revocations that are the result of multiple DUI convictions.

Continue reading "The Bottom Line in a Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance Appeal" »

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July 30, 2012

The Steps in a Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance - Short Version

A person who picks up 2 DUI's within 7 years, or 3 or more within 10 years will have his or her Driver's License Revoked by the Michigan Secretary of State. A Revoked License is different than a Suspended License. Usually, a License is Suspended for a certain, definite period of time, or until money is paid. When a License is Revoked, a person cannot legally drive again until they get approval from the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) for Restoration of their driving privileges. A person can NEVER just go to Court to Restore a License that has been Revoked.

The only way for a person to win back a License that was Revoked for multiple DUI's is to wait until they are legally eligible (1 year minimum for 2 DUI's within 7 years; 5 years minimum for 3 DUI's within 10 years) and then file a Petition for a Driver's License Restoration with the DAAD. There is nothing that can be done to shorten the period of Revocation. Beyond the necessary passage of time, a person must be really and truly Sober to win their License back

Red Car 2.2.jpgPart of being a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer is fielding questions from people who provide all kinds of compelling reasons why they need to drive - work, school, or medical necessity for them, or their children or even parents. Often, these long stories end by asking, "Is there any way I can just get some kind of Restricted License?"

There isn't. Revoked is Revoked.

The License Restoration process cannot begin until the minimum period of Revocation has passed. There are a million little details involved in this process, but only a few actual steps. I have written a library full of articles on just about every facet of Michigan Driver's License Appeals, and a person can spend a lot of time reading them and learning. My point in this article is to reduce this incredibly complex and detailed process to its most basic elements.

Once a License is Revoked for multiple DUI's, it is gone until a person wins it back after a Hearing in front of the Secretary of State's DAAD. A person must wait the minimum period of time of that Revocation before they can start the License Appeal process. Beyond just waiting the minimum period of time to file, a person must be prepared to prove several issues, outlined in DAAD Rule 13. Amongst them, the two things that matter most in any License Appeal are that:

  1. The person's alcohol problem is under control, and
  2. The person's alcohol problem is likely to remain under control.
The second issue is the hardest to prove, and is undoubtedly the single biggest reason most Appeals are Denied. Ultimately, "proving" this issue means a person must demonstrate to the state that they are a safe bet to remain alcohol-free, almost as if the Hearing Officer were to say to them, "I need to be convinced that you are convinced that you can never drink again."

Continue reading "The Steps in a Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance - Short Version" »

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July 27, 2012

Michigan Driver's License DUI Revocation Clearance for out of State DMV

Within the more than 135 Michigan Driver's License Restoration articles on this blog, I have covered pretty much every step in the License Restoration process. Some of those articles are rather detailed examinations of very fine points of the procedures and requirements for an out of state resident to obtain a clearance of a Michigan Hold that prevents them from obtaining or renewing a Driver's License in another state. This article will be rather the opposite of that - a summary look at the general process of obtaining a Clearance of a Michigan Hold, or Revocation, and how it's done in my Office, so that a person can go to the DMV in their new state and get back on the road.

A Michigan "Hold" is really just a Michigan Driver's License Revocation. If someone living in Michigan whose License has been Revoked for multiple DUI's were to go into a Secretary of State Office to try to get a License, they'd be told that they cannot do so until they file (and win) a Driver's License Restoration Appeal Hearing. They would be told that they are "Revoked."

michigan-map 2.1.jpgIf that same person were to go into the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) of a state other than Michigan, and try to get a License there, they'd be told that Michigan has a "Hold" on their Driver's License, and that they cannot get one in the new state until that Hold is removed. Many of my Clients were able to get that out of state License in years past, only to find out that now, as technology makes the transfer of information more complete and much faster, that old Michigan Revocation has caught up with them, and they are unable to renew their License in whatever state they now reside.

The only difference between a License Restoration and a Clearance is that if a person wins a Restoration Appeal, they win back their Michigan Driver's License. If a person who lives out of State wins a Clearance, they win a removal of Michigan's "Hold" (meaning the Revocation), which in turn will allow them to get a Full License in another State. To be clear, if a person wins a Clearance, they DO NOT win any kind of Michigan License. They can only use their Clearance to get a License in another state. It cannot be used to get a Michigan License.

The process for removing a "Hold," meaning obtaining a Clearance, is identical to having a Michigan Driver's License Restored. However, anyone who lives out of state can try to file a License Appeal by mail, called an "Administrative Review," whereas a Michigan resident must actually appear for a Driver's License Restoration Appeal Hearing. It is a statistical fact that 3 out of 4 Administrative Reviews are Denied, meaning that anyone who tries an "Appeal by Mail" has about a 25% chance of winning. While I would never recommend that anyone try this route, I would never actively discourage anyone from giving it a go, either, should they be so inclined. I will be here the next year for anyone who needs me.

The better route, of course, is to go for a full License Appeal Hearing. This is not just some sales pitch I use to reel in out-of-staters. I so strongly believe in live, in-person Hearings that I schedule ALL of my cases to be heard live, at the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) Office in Livonia. As it turns out, I have the option of scheduling any of my cases for a Video Hearing at a local Secretary of State Branch Office about 4 minutes down the road from my Office. I would NEVER even consider making that mistake. Instead, I happily make the one-hour drive to Livonia for each and every case I accept, because I know that a live Hearing is incredibly superior to a second-rate, grainy video sort of web cam deal.

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License DUI Revocation Clearance for out of State DMV" »

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July 20, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Five Year Wait After 3 DUI's Within 10 Years

Answering questions about Michigan Driver's License Restoration issues is a large part of what I do everyday. This goes beyond just being in the Office; I wind up answer emails after hours, while I'm at home. Because a large part of my Michigan Driver's License Restoration Practice involves Representing people who live all over the world (I'm not kidding; as of this writing, I have Clients stationed in Korea and Japan), I get emails at all hours. As the song goes, it's always five o'clock somewhere...

One issue that comes up again and again centers on the length of time a person must wait until they can file a License Appeal. This is particularly true when a person is dealing with a 5-year Revocation after picking up their 3rd DUI within 10 years. Frankly, I am somewhat angry and rather shocked at the amount of misinformation that seems to be circulating about when a person can get their License back.

Five Years 1.3.pngIt angers me that anyone would open their mouth and give what amounts to legal advice about something in which they have had no legal training and are dead wrong. I am shocked that this completely wrong information circulates as much as it does, and am equally shocked to learn from where some of it comes. More often than I'd like to admit, this misinformation comes from AA. I love the AA program, and think it is a wonderful way for some people to get Sober. However, AA people tend to listen to other AA people, and that's good. However, being "good" at Recovery doesn't make one an expert at DUI Laws or License Restoration Law, anymore than having been a patient makes one a medical expert.

When I am faced with pronouncements like "you can never win a License Appeal the first time" or "you can go to Court and get a hardship License," I go nuts. A person may be the 4th Step guru, but that doesn't make him or her a Lawyer. Yet because people sit around the tables and discuss life issues, what is said at those tables is sometimes given far more credibility than it deserves. Imagine, for example, someone mentioning that his wife has breast cancer, and another person saying something like "Oh, man, that's fatal. My sister had that and was dead in a few months." By the same token, imagine yet another saying "My sister had that. She didn't trust Doctors, so she just went with an all-natural, organic diet and she cured herself."

Both of these are incredibly ignorant things to say, but the "legal advice" given by most of these non-Lawyer "experts" isn't much better. In fact, I've heard some pretty off-base observations from Lawyers, much less non-Lawyers. I certainly won't offer an opinion about Divorce issues, because I don't do that kind of work, and the world would just be a lot less dumb if people didn't offer advice or opinions about things they don't really know about.

Anyway, my complaints aside, many people have difficulty accepting that a 3rd DUI conviction within 10 years means a person will have to wait 5 full years from the date of their Revocation to be able to pursue a License Appeal. I agree that it sucks, but it is what it is, and, more importantly, there is nothing that can be done about it. And this is major point: I make most of my living handling (and winning) License Appeals. If there was a way to just go to Court so a person would NOT have to wait, that would mean more income for me. Why would I turn away a person willing to come in and hire me?

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July 16, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Requires Alcohol Problem Likely to Remain Under Control

To win a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal, a person must prove, by "Clear and Convincing Evidence," that their "alcohol or substance abuse problems, if any, are under control and likely to remain under control."

In the real world, this translates to a person having to show that their alcohol problem is under control, and likely to remain under control. Absent any indication of past problematic drug usage, the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) is not going to waste time inquiring about a "substance abuse" problem that doesn't exist, and anyone who has 2 or more DUI convictions within 7 years, or 3 or more within 10 years will be presumed have an alcohol problem, with no "if any" question about it. This essentially means that anyone filing a License Appeal because their License was Revoked for multiple DUI convictions will be presumed to have an alcohol problem.

Drinking 1.2.jpgThis is important. Anyone thinking of trying a License Appeal on the basis that they don't have an alcohol problem is wasting their time. This approach isn't just a bad plan; it's worse than having no plan at all. The DAAD (and pretty much the rest of the world, for that matter) will conclude that anyone with at least 2 DUI's in 7 years has a drinking problem. This adds another translation to the concept that a person's alcohol problem is likely to remain under control, and amounts to a person being a safe bet to never drink again. I tell my Clients that, in a very real way, the Hearing Officer has to be convinced that the person is, in fact, convinced that they can never drink again.

Theoretically, a person can have 2 Drunk Driving convictions, even within 7 years, and not have a drinking problem. In reality, such a case is rare. In my 22 years as a License Restoration Lawyer, and out of all the Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance cases I've handled, less than a handful have ever presented this circumstance. Usually, by the time any normal person picks up their second DUI, they've had other issues with alcohol, as well. A Client of mine said it best at his License Appeal Hearing (which, by the way, he won):

"By the time I got arrested the second time, I had already run into some other complications from my drinking, but I thought I had a good explanation for all of them. Sitting in that Jail cell, it was like a switch flipped. I could see that that alcohol was the common denominator to all the problems in my life; it was why I was in there again. My explanations didn't make sense anymore. I realized I had been in denial, and that alcohol was my problem."
It's not that a second DUI within 7 years, standing alone, is absolute proof of a problem, it's that almost everyone who gets that second DUI will be hard pressed to honestly say that the only problems alcohol has ever caused are just those two DUI's, and nothing more.

Almost without exception, therefore, anyone who becomes my Client will have long ago accepted that they have an alcohol problem. I don't waste my time with anyone who is not genuinely Sober, or who thinks that they can still drink, however occasionally (like that works, anyway). In practical terms, if the next two hundred people to call my Office about a License Restoration were to claim that they don't have a drinking problem, or really believed that they could continue to drink without risk, I'd be lucky to find even one that the DAAD would agree with. Accordingly, it's nothing more than a waste of time to deal with anyone who thinks this way.

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July 13, 2012

Winning a Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Guaranteed

I Guarantee that I will win any Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance case that I accept. I never dreamed that my Guarantee could become such an important focus of my whole License Restoration Practice, yet the number of Clients that mention it as a reason for hiring me, or at least giving me and my Office a closer look, has really surprised me. I'm very glad for that, of course, yet I think that, given the way I handle a Michigan Driver's License Appeal case, NOT having a Guarantee would be crazy.

For the longest time, I have maintained an overall win rate somewhere around 97 or 98% in License Restoration cases. I am proud of the results that I achieve, and truly enjoy the work I do to produce them. I have been extremely candid and open about what I do, and how I do it both on the Driver's License Restoration section of this blog, and on my website.

Ironclad 1.2.jpgFor about 20 years, I have studied and maintained a keen interest in the whole panorama of alcohol and substance abuse problems, from their onset and development to the methods and tests by which such problems are diagnosed, to their treatment, and ultimately, through the entire Recovery process. This is not just accumulated knowledge, either; I actually study this stuff. As of this writing, I am reading a textbook for Counselors called "Treating Alcoholism: Helping Your Clients Find the Road to Recovery" by Robert R. Perkinson. In that sense, I suppose I am different from many other Lawyers, for whom such reading would be boring beyond compare. For me, it goes right to the heart of what I do every single day; deal with Recovery from a drinking problem.

Of course, I know that my understanding of the development of an alcohol problem, and the Recovery from it, plays a significant role in my success as a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer. Perhaps the most important legal issue in a Michigan License Appeal case is that a person's alcohol problem "is likely to remain under control." Because this must be proven to the state by "Clear and Convincing Evidence," a detailed understanding of the internal, psychological processes by which a person transforms from drinker to non-drinker seems, at least to me, to be a minimum requirement to accept a License Appeal case. In other words, as the Lawyer, I have to know and understand the language of Recovery. Since most of my Clients are not active in AA, I need to be able to help them describe how and why they became alcohol-free, and to explain how they plan to remain that way. I could not do this if I didn't have a fundamental understanding of the onset and development of an alcohol problem, its progressive nature, the role of AA, and Recovery without AA.

I have a thorough understanding of alcohol problems. I do not take cases where a person is not really and truly Sober. With those things and lots of hard work, I win almost every Michigan License Restoration case I take. The recipe may sound simple, but these are the ingredients for success.

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July 2, 2012

The Steps in a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal

As a Lawyer specializing in Michigan Driver's License Restoration cases, I have received lots of very nice compliments about this blog, the Driver's License Restoration articles within it, and my site, as well. Some of my more recent articles have gotten rather detailed, and it seems about time for a short, general piece about the Driver's License Restoration Appeal process in Michigan for someone with multiple DUI's.

In Michigan, a person's Driver's License will be Revoked after their 2nd DUI within 7 years, or their 3rd within any 10-yer span. Specifically, in DUI cases, the Secretary of State will Revoke a Michigan Driver's License as follows:

  • 2 Drunk Driving convictions within 7 years = Revoked for at least 1 year
  • 3 Drunk Driving convictions within 10 years = Revoked for at least 5 years
It doesn't matter if all, some, or even any of the DUI convictions took place in Michigan. I've seen cases where, over the course of 7 years, a Michigan Resident with a Michigan Driver's License received 2 DUI convictions, both outside of the state, and had their Michigan License Revoked.

Night Driving 1.2.jpgIf a Non-Resident of Michigan picks up two or more DUI convictions here, in Michigan, our Secretary of State will Revoke the his or Driving privileges within this state (Michigan cannot take action against an out of state License, nor can another state do anything to a Michigan License), meaning they cannot drive within the State of Michigan on ANY License, no matter where it was issued. When such a person goes to renew their License in their home state, they'll find that they will be unable to do so until they obtain a Clearance of the Michigan "Hold" upon their Driving Record. In effect, Michigan's actions will ultimately act just like a Revocation of their Driver's License.

Once a person loses their License for multiple DUI's as outlined above, they cannot get their License "reinstated" (Restored) until they appear before the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) and prove certain things. There are five legal issues that must be proven under what is known a s "Rule 13," the rule governing License Appeals. For purposes of this summary article, the real meat and potatoes of the Driver's License Restoration process can be boiled down to two issues:

1. That the person's alcohol problem is under control, and
2. That the person's alcohol problem is likely to remain under control.
Each of these issues must be proven by "Clear and Convincing Evidence." This means that a person must present an airtight case, and submit compelling evidence in order to win. Think "home run."

The first issue involves establishing a Sobriety date. This means that a person will say "I haven't had a drink of alcohol since "X" date." Normally, a person will have to establish at least 12 months of abstinence from alcohol, with several months of that being demonstrably voluntary, meaning NOT while on Probation or Parole. Often, this means a person will have to wait more than 12 months to begin the License Restoration Process. With very few exceptions, you cannot win your License back while on Probation or Parole.

Continue reading "The Steps in a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal" »

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June 25, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance Without a Lawyer

Recently, someone inquired about whether they "needed" to hire a Lawyer for a Michigan Driver's License Restoration case. This caller had moved out of Michigan, across the country, and was understandably skeptical about paying lots money to fly in and come and see me for three hours, then go and have his Substance Abuse Evaluation completed at the Clinic a few blocks from my Office to which I refer my Clients, only to return home, wait for his Hearing date, then come back again to attend that. He candidly asked if all the statistics about how many "do-it-yourself" License Appeals lose and isn't a bit exaggerated, and if I don't just "say that stuff" to drum up business.

Actually, I think that's a great question, and it has been awhile since I've really taken this subject on. Here, I'll open with an answer before my explanation, and I suspect that my response might surprise the reader: If you are thinking about trying to handle your own Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal (or Clearance), I say, "Go for it." I make my income helping people who really need or want my help. I have absolutely ZERO interest in "scaring" anybody into calling me. Therefore, anyone who thinks they can handle their own case should give it a go. While the statistics are overwhelmingly unfavorable, the fact is that some people actually do, eventually, win.

Ruleta1.2.jpgIn terms of the success rate for out of state Appeals that don't require a Hearing (called an Administrative Review) the numbers have remained fairly constant: 3 out of 4 lose. There are several reasons for these dismal results. Before I get into any of the "Lawyer" stuff, the biggest reason overall is often the one most frequently overlooked: Most people with an alcohol problem cannot beat it.

That might sound harsh, but it's true. In "Treating Alcoholism: Helping Your Clients Find the Road to Recovery" by Robert R. Perkinson, PhD., (2004; Wiley Books), a textbook I'm currently reading, the author restates one of the most stark and frightening statistics of all: 95% of all alcoholics die of their disease.

Think about all those people from high school who were the "big drinkers." Almost all of them just went on to become "bigger drinkers." Most people, in their youth, knew someone who could have (or was) called or considered an "old drunk." Think about what happened to those people; they never got better, they just died an "old drunk."

Statistically speaking, it is a distinct minority of people with an alcohol problem who actually overcome it. If the reader finds him or herself in this rather elite group, then congratulations are in order. In my Practice, I require anyone whom I represent to actually be Sober as a prerequisite to accept a Driver's License Restoration Appeal case. If I do accept a case, I Guarantee that I will win it. Yet of those people who contact my Office, many admit to still drinking, or otherwise don't think they have a problem with alcohol. I cannot help them. Nor will the Michigan Secretary of State...

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance Without a Lawyer" »

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June 15, 2012

Michigan Driver's License and Driving Record Holds - Fixing or Clearing the way for an out of State License

As a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, my Office is contacted almost daily by someone who now lives outside of Michigan, in another state, and discovers that they cannot get a Driver's License because of a Michigan "Hold" on their Driving Record as a result of multiple DUI convictions. About one-half of the Clients for whom I win back the privilege to drive again live outside of Michigan. I work with and resolve these issues more in any given month than most Lawyers will ever see in their lifetime. Not only do I have loads of experience fixing these DUI Driving Record problems, I have a first time win Guarantee that assures the Client that, if I accept their case, they'll only have to pay me once to get back on the road.

Out-of-State/Michigan Driver's License cases often start the counter of another State's DMV, the equivalent of Michigan's Secretary of State. A person will go there to apply for a License, only to learn that a License cannot be issued because of a Michigan "Hold," or Revocation for multiple DUI's. Most of the time, the person will have lived in Michigan, at least for a time, and held a Michigan Driver's License. It does not matter if all (or even any) of their DUI's took place in Michigan. What matters is that they held a Michigan License at the time they received a 2nd DUI within 7 years, or a 3rd within 10 years, regardless of where those DUI's occurred.

Mi Map copy1.3.jpgI've handled cases where a person NEVER held a Michigan Driver's License, but picked up 2 DUI's here within 7 years. As a result, the Secretary of State created a Michigan Driver's License number for them, then immediately "Revoked" their Michigan License, even though they never really had one issued here. The upshot of all this is that when their out of state License was due for renewal, they could not renew because of the Michigan "Hold."

Once a Michigan Driver's License is Revoked for multiple DUI's, it almost always prevents a person from obtaining a License in another state. In years past, some people were able to slip past this and get an out-of-state License. That was then, this is now...

As the reporting procedures for the NDR (National Driving Register) started to improve, those people who once held out-of-state Licenses began finding themselves unable to renew them. Amongst those calling my Office, a significant number have had an out-of-state License that they are unable to renew because of DUI convictions from years ago.

In either case, the reality is that the State of Michigan has Revoked a person's Michigan Driver's License for multiple DUI's, and the person will never be able to get another License, anywhere, until they fix or "clear" the Michigan Revocation (which amounts to a "Hold" to an out of State DMV). A "Clearance" is identical in every single respect to a regular Michigan Driver's License Restoration except for one thing:

If a person still lives in Michigan, they can only have their Driver's License "Restored," meaning Michigan will grant them a Restricted License at first. If a person no longer resides in Michigan, the State cannot grant them any kind of License. Instead, it can only "clear" its Revocation on their Driving Record, which, in turn, will allow them to obtain a Driver's License in their new home state.

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License and Driving Record Holds - Fixing or Clearing the way for an out of State License " »

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June 11, 2012

MIchigan Driver's License Restoration Success - Don't Settle for a Video Hearing

As part of my Practice as a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, I always have my License Appeal cases heard live, and in-person. I NEVER conduct a "video Hearing." I schedule each and every one of my Michigan Driver's License Appeal cases for a live, in-person Hearing at the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) in Livonia. In this article, I will review why I think a live Hearing is infinitely superior to one done by video.

Some of this seems pretty obvious. A video Hearing near where one live or works can, of course, be more convenient than a live Hearing much farther away. As it turns out, I could schedule every one of my cases for a video Hearing at a Secretary of State Branch location just down the road from my Office, less than a five minute drive from my parking lot. Yet given what I believe to be the incomparable advantage offered by a live Hearing, I would never settle for convenience over advantage. I gladly make the one-hour drive to Livonia, because that's part of my winning strategy.

bad video copy2.2.jpgThat should count for something. I could charge the exact same Legal Fee and cut about two hours off of my drive time, yet I elect to make the drive anyway. Whatever else, you can believe that it's not that I have some great love for driving...

I do, however, have a great love for winning my Michigan Driver's License Restoration and Clearance Appeals the first time. I have an even greater love for being able to Guarantee a win, and not having to worry about actually backing that up, because I win almost all my Appeals the first time, anyway. I can boast a first time win Record of around 98% because I handle (and ultimately win) more License Appeals in any given year than most Attorneys will ever see in their whole career, which means I not only have tons of experience, but tons of winning experience.

And from all of that experience, I know that in every single respect, a live, in-person Hearing beats a choppy, flickering, grainy, impersonal video Hearing. This really seems like a no-brainer.

In a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal, the two most important issues to be proven (by what is called "Clear and Convincing Evidence") are that the person's alcohol problem "is under control," and that their alcohol problem "is likely to remain under control." Of the two issues, the second is the more difficult to prove, and most often accounts for why so many "do-it-yourself" Appeals, or those handled by some "general" Lawyer, lose the first time.

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June 8, 2012

Michigan DUI Driver's License Revocation, Restorations and FIxes

As a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, I receive tons of inquiries about the License Restoration process. These inquiries include every possible scenario one could imagine. My actual License Practice is essentially limited to Restoring Michigan Licenses, or fixing Michigan Driving Records (for out-of-state Clients) for people who have lost their License because of multiple DUI convictions. In this article, we'll examine how multiple DUI cases cause Licenses to be lost.

Almost every day, I receive an email from someone who needs help with a "Suspended License." Often, a few questions later, I learn that they really need help with a License that was "Revoked" because of multiple DUI convictions. That's my specialty. If a person is Sober, and I accept their case, I Guarantee that I will win their Michigan Driver's License Appeal and get them back on the road.

Fixit 1.2.jpgUnfortunately, others see the terms "Michigan Driver's License" and"Appeal" and look no further. Worse yet, most of these people face no real obstacle to reinstating their License beyond owing a lot of money to the State, or a Court, or both. If someone owes money to the Secretary of State for Driver Responsibility Fees, or has outstanding Court Costs or Fines, I cannot help them. They simply need to pay what they owe. Sometimes, they might hope I can "do something" to help them get a License without first paying what they owe, but I cannot. No one can. When the problem is owing money, the solution is paying the money. And if they can't come up with the money they owe elsewhere, how would they hire me, anyway, and for what, to be the courier of their payment?

In that sense, my DUI Practice and my Michigan Driver's License Restoration Practice are interconnected. By extension, License Restoration is always related to DUI, as well.

The number of DUI convictions a person has accumulated is the single most important factor affecting their eligibility to seek Restoration of their License, or to have their Driving Record Cleared. This is actually quite simple, because back in 1999, the State of Michigan adopted new rules regarding multiple Drunk Driving cases under the moniker of "Habitual Offender."

Beginning on January 1, 1999, the State simply counted the number of DUI convictions a person had, and began imposing Driver's License penalties accordingly. At its most basic, it looks like this:

  1. Two DUI's within seven years = License Revoked for one year minimum

  2. Three DUI's within ten years = License Revoked for five years minimum

Continue reading "Michigan DUI Driver's License Revocation, Restorations and FIxes" »

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June 4, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Win Guaranteed Without WItnesses

In a prior article, I examined why I do not call witnesses for a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Hearing. In my role as a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, I am often asked about witnesses. I think it's about time to bring this subject back into the spotlight for another look.

I should preface this discussion by pointing out that I bring some qualified authority to this topic. I handle well over 100 License cases a year, and not only do I win about 98% of them, I have a first time win Guarantee. Part of my success, I think, stems from the fact that I will only accept a Michigan License Restoration or Clearance case for a person who is really and truly Sober. Another important component is that I spend about 3 hours with a new Client just to begin preparing them for the very first step in a Michigan License Reinstatement case: The Substance Abuse Evaluation.

Lady and Judge 1.2.jpgI don't know anyone who handles a fraction of the Michigan Driver's License Restoration cases that I do. Nevertheless, it makes sense to question how I do things. After all, anyone checking out the Michigan Secretary of State's website and information it provides about the Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) will see that calling witnesses is permitted. At first blush, it would seem that corroborating or supporting witnesses would be a helpful thing. But they're not. In fact, beyond just not being helpful, witnesses actually create problems, and lots of them, at that.

As a preliminary matter, it must be remembered that when a person files a Request for Hearing and Substance Abuse Evaluation with the Michigan Secretary of State in order to begin a License Restoration Appeal, they must also include Letters of Support. Technically speaking, they must submit at least 3 "good" Letters of Support, and can turn in as many as 6 (in a License Appeal I handled and won last week, we filed nearly 8 such Letters).

To keep this article concise, I will avoid getting into what those Letters of Support must and should include. Instead, the reader can simply assume that the Letters of Support will have been carefully reviewed and edited by me, and then reviewed (and possibly edited) by me yet again. By the time I'm done with them, they will be exactly what they need to be. All those Letters, signed by friends and family and other individuals who can contribute helpful information and observations, will contain everything necessary to help win their Michigan License Appeal Hearing.

This is really important because there is nothing a witness can say in person that he or she cannot say in a Support Letter. Yet there are all kinds of things a witness can be "tricked" into saying that a letter cannot be "tricked" into saying, because letters don't testify. They don't answer questions. They say what they say, and nothing more, and nothing less. You cannot "trick" a letter. You cannot question it. A letter does not get nervous, nor does it make any mistakes. It does not forget things.

Witnesses, however, do all of the above.

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June 1, 2012

Winning a Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance Case - Tears of Joy

At a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Hearing earlier this week, I won a "Clearance" of a Michigan Hold for an out of state Client who had eight (8) prior DUI's, but has been Sober for eighteen (18) years. While there is nothing really extraordinary about this, it was my Client's reaction that has stayed with me these last two days, and the way it has affected me, that leads me to the keyboard to write this article. This article will tie in several themes from the body of other Michigan Driver's License Restoration articles, as well as from my website.

There are several things that all seemed to come together in this case that make it worth talking about. As I noted, the fact that my Client had 8 prior DUI convictions was not really that big of a deal. I have managed first-time wins for Clients with as many as 13 prior DUI's. This should ease some fears or concerns for a person who has 4 or 5 DUI's. That's easy stuff for me.

Smurf Tears 1.2.jpgFirst, and most important of all, my Client was Sober. While there's a lot more to a Michigan License Appeal than just that, there can be no License Appeal without Sobriety. This Client was involved in AA. Most of my Clients are not. I will screen a potential Client to make sure they have enough "clean time" (usually, at LEAST a year, often longer) and that they are, in fact, committed to remain alcohol free. Sometimes that involves being part of AA. Most of the time, and no matter what anyone says to the contrary, it does not.

If I accept a case, I Guarantee that I will win in the first time around, or else I'll go back, without further Legal Fee, until I do. The reality is that I count on winning these the first time around, and make my income doing just that, and not going back to fulfill my Guarantee. I will if I have to, but thankfully, I rarely ever have to go back a second time. I have never had to go back a third.

There is an understandable frustration a person feels if they try a License Appeal on their own, or with some "general" Lawyer and then loses, especially if they are really and truly Sober. As I pointed out above, and as I repeat again and again in my various writings, Sobriety is a first and necessary requirement to win a License Appeal, but it is far from enough. The bottom line is that if these things were easy, I'd be out of business.

A few years before, my Client had tried a License Appeal without me as his Lawyer, and lost. This meant I had to fix those errors or omissions that caused his first Appeal to lose. This triggers a whole host of concerns about what happens when a person tries a Michigan License Appeal on their own, or with some Lawyer who claims to "do" these cases. First amongst those concerns is that they lost, and certainly not for having done everything right. There was a screw up somewhere, and they lost because of it.

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May 25, 2012

Appealing a Michigan Driver's License Restoration (DAAD) loss Directly to Circuit Court

Not a week goes by in my Michigan Driver's License Restoration Practice without someone calling me right after they've opened their mail and found out they've lost a Michigan Secretary of State License Appeal. To be clear, these aren't my Clients: I win about 98% of my cases the first time around, and I even Guarantee it. Those who call me after a loss are either people who have tried a "do-it-yourself" Michigan License Reinstatement without a Lawyer, or hired some Attorney who said he or she could "do" a License Appeal. Obviously, things didn't work out quite the way they had hoped.

On my website, I have noted that it is almost always too late to hire a real Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, like me, after a person has gone before the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) on their own, or with a Lawyer who doesn't specialize in License Appeals, and lost. Not to sound flippant about it, but hiring a qualified specialist should have been the original plan of action.

sad-face2.1.jpgWithin the body of the Driver's License Restoration section of this blog I have examined how and why people who have tried a Michigan License Restoration Appeal on their own, or with some Lawyer whose best qualification to handle one of these rather complex cases is that they "do" License Appeals, or that they do them "cheap," and then lost, turn out to be the best Clients for me. In the series of articles that followed, I carefully reviewed how I'll have to go about fixing the errors and mistakes that the person, or their former Lawyer made in trying that first Appeal, causing it to lose. Nothing about that has changed.

Unfortunately, another thing that has not changed is that those who call my Office after losing a "do-it-yourself" Michigan License Restoration seem to think that all they need to do is spend the money and hire a specialist like me to fix things. They often believe that filing an Appeal in Court will change the outcome.

That rarely happens. On top of that, I never do Appeals to Court. Because I win almost all of my cases, and back that up with a Guarantee, I have very little experience losing, and have no reason to take any of my cases to Court. I certainly have no interest in going to Court on a case that someone else has screwed up. The reader must understand that you cannot appeal to Circuit Court just because you disagree with the decision. Nor can you appeal to Court and "correct" mistakes made in the original case, such as a loss caused by a "questionable/insufficient Substance Abuse Evaluation," or problems with the Letters of Support.

Instead, an appeal to Court must essentially prove that the Hearing Officer who decided the case committed a legal error. Technically speaking, while the person who files a License Appeal must prove his or her case by "Clear and Convincing Evidence," the Hearing Officer's decision must be based upon what is called "Competent and Material Evidence." This means that even if the Hearing Officer was really "nit-picky," and even if a Circuit Judge reviewing the case comes right out and says (and this has happened) that "if I had been the Hearing Officer, I would have Granted your Appeal," unless that Judge can find legal error to the degree that he or she concludes that the Denial was not supported by Material and Competent Evidence, it will stand. Good luck with that....

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May 21, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer - Honesty in Training

Recently, a younger Lawyer who had taken on a Michigan Driver's License Restoration case called to ask me some questions about the process. As a full time Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, getting calls from all corners comes with the turf. This includes calls from Lawyers who have already accepted a case, and then need some guidance in trying to figure out what to do with it.

As I spoke with this inquiring Lawyer, I soon learned that not only hadn't she screened her Client about his (or her, I really can't remember) Sobriety, but was pretty much aware, or at least believed, that the Client was still drinking. That's when I had to be brutally honest. To me, that a person is really and truly Sober is a first and minimum requirement before I will accept their case. Yet once I do agree to accept a case, I Guarantee that I will win the person's License back the first time, or else continue to represent them before the Secretary of State (technically, the Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, or DAAD), without further Legal Fee, until they do regain their License. In large part, I can make this win Guarantee because I don't take cases where a person isn't genuinely Sober.

integrity-sign 1.4.jpgI told her as much.

There's no real news in all of this. What I found so interesting was how she responded to my suggestion that she not take a case for a person who is still drinking. She pointed out that she didn't have the potential Client base that I have, and that she wanted to learn this area of the Law, get some experience, and try and establish herself, at least to some extent, as able to "do" License Appeals. She couldn't charge nearly what I do and certainly could not offer any kind of win guarantee. She felt she had no choice but to accept a "lesser" case than I would ever consider.

I thought about what she had said. No doubt, back when I was cutting my teeth, I took some cases I would never touch now. I didn't know better. Much of the "expert knowledge" I sell now was acquired in the school of hard knocks years earlier. Hopefully, experience and practice refines our skills. I know it has for me.

Yet I got lucky in one very important way; I had a background in alcohol and substance abuse assessment, counseling, diagnosis and treatment. It was then, and continues now, to be a field of study in which I have a keen interest. My undergraduate college degree is in Psychology, and I had seriously considered continuing those studies and earning a PhD, but the call to be a Lawyer was stronger. Thus, even as a young Lawyer, I knew all about Sobriety, and the important role it plays in a Michigan Driver's License Appeal.

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May 7, 2012

Winning a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Case Without Going to AA

Most of my Practice is devoted to being a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer. In reality, at least 75% of my day-to-day work centers upon Michigan License Reinstatement cases where a person has lost their License for multiple DUI's. I have found that there are probably more misconceptions about the License Appeal process floating around than there is correct information. This article will focus on one of those misconceptions, the myth that a person must be actively involved in AA in order to win a Driver's License Restoration Appeal.

In a few previous articles, I specifically examined how and why a person can win a License Appeal without being involved in AA. Rather than repeat the same thing here, this shorter article will focus more on the simple fact that a person can win License without AA, and not so much how or why that's the case.

AA pic copy1.2.pngI should point out that this isn't just my opinion, either. If a person is genuinely Sober, and I accept their Driver's License Restoration Appeal, I Guarantee that I will win their case the first time, or I will continue to Represent the them before the DAAD without further Legal Fee until they do win back their License. Thankfully, with a win rate of over 98%, I don't go have to go back a second time very often.

Driver's License Restoration Appeals are heard and decided by the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) Hearing Officers. All of my cases scheduled for a live, in-person Hearing at the DAAD's Office in Livonia, where there are 5 Hearing Officers before whom I have appeared countless times. There are 2 other Hearing Office Locations in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and numerous remote locations that do a "video Hearing" over closed circuit TV.

It used to be the case that winning back a Michigan Driver's License without AA was almost impossible. I am told that there is still some of this bias left in the Grand Rapids and Lansing Hearing Offices; since I never go to either of those locations, I really have no first-hand knowledge about how they do things there. Instead, by having all of my cases heard in the same place, I just know what it takes to win when I handle a case. And more than half of the cases I win are for people not active in AA.

That said, most of those Clients not active in AA at the time I file their License Appeal do have some past AA attendance. While not necessary, even the shortest prior involvement with AA is helpful. The AA program, whether you love it, hate it, or just don't care about it, more or less created and provided the language of Recovery. Just about any and everything a person can learn about Recovery or Sobriety can trace its origins to AA.

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May 4, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - From Restricted to Full License in a Year

After a Michigan resident wins a Driver's License Restoration Appeal, they are put on a Restricted License and required to drive with a kind of breathalyzer unit in their car, called and ignition interlock, for a minimum of 1 year. In a recent blog article, I examined what kind of License you get when you win a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal. This article will focus on what needs to be done after that minimum first year on the Restricted License with the ignition interlock has been fulfilled.

To be clear, this necessary follow-up only applies to Michigan residents. Out-of-state residents do not win a Michigan Driver's License; they win a "Clearance" of the Michigan Hold on their Driving Record that allows them to obtain (or renew) a License in another state. Once they've won their first Appeal, they're done.

Pieguy copy1.jpgIt's not quite so simple for Michigan residents. The Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) requires that anyone winning a Michigan License Appeal be monitored for at least one year before they can come back and request that they be allowed to remove the ignition interlock unit from their car and be awarded a Full License. I am often asked if there is any way around this. There is not; it is required by Law.

The Hearing Officers deciding these Appeals find some security in the idea that they can keep a Driver on a kind of leash. The reader may be surprised to learn how many people on the ignition interlock wind up blowing positive for alcohol. And I'm not talking about false readings, either; I mean true-blue, bona fide proof of drinking results. Fortunately, I don't see too much of that, as I try very hard to screen out anyone who is not really and truly Sober, and committed to remaining that way. By limiting my Representation to only those people who are Sober, I can also offer a first time win Guarantee in any case that I accept.

Yet winning the first time does not, in any way, guarantee winning the second Appeal for Full Driving Privileges and removal of the ignition interlock. This does seem rather counter-intuitive; after all, if a person has had no problems for a year, and has already won their first License Appeal, what more could the state want?

As it turns out, the state wants a lot.

After that first year is up, and a person becomes eligible to file for removal of the ignition interlock and Full Driving Privileges, they must go through the entire License Appeal process all over again. The ONLY difference is that they must also bring a "final report" from the interlock company detailing how well (or not) they did with the breath-testing unit in their vehicle. We'll come back to this later.

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration - From Restricted to Full License in a Year" »

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April 30, 2012

There is a lot more to a Michigan Driver's License Restotation Appeal than just Being Sober

As a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer who has published over 120 articles on just about every imaginable aspect of the License Appeal process, I have certainly done my part to emphasize that Sobriety is a first and necessary requirement in order to win Reinstatement of a Michigan Driver's License, or the Clearance of a Michigan "Hold" on someone's Driving Record for those whose License has been Revoked for multiple DUI's.

However, while Sobriety is a "first requirement" in a License Appeal case, it is, by itself, far from enough to win. There is much more to it than that.

Nighter copy2.1.jpgWithin the body of the Driver's License Restoration section of this blog, I have covered the steps in a License Restoration case. Many of those articles involve multiple installments. This article will be far more summary in nature, and will address the misconception that all you need to win a License Appeal is to prove Sobriety.

In fact, a fairly common question I'm asked is "how do you prove Sobriety?" That very question demonstrates that the way one wins a License Appeal is far from obvious, and certainly not as simple as losing the privilege to drive in the first place.

Being Sober is a first requirement in a License Appeal in the same way that having a racket is a first requirement to play tennis. Having a racket doesn't mean you know anything about playing the game, other than you have to hit the ball. As it turns out, I don't know the first thing about tennis, never took lessons, and could not play the game for the life of me. I do have a racket, though, which I used to paddle the ball back and forth off of a brick wall when I was younger. I am about as ready to play tennis with a good, veteran player as someone who is "Sober" is ready to undertake a Driver's License Reinstatement case before a Hearing Officer who knows the many rules and requirements of these Appeals like the back of his or her hand.

In order to Restore a Michigan Driver's License, or to win a "Clearance," a person must be able to make all the proofs necessary under DAAD Rule 13, which is the Law that controls and governs these Appeals. Reduced to its most basic elements, Rule 13 requires that a Hearing Officer Deny a License Appeal unless the person seeking Restoration proves, by what's called "Clear and Convincing Evidence," two main things:

1. That their alcohol problem is under control, and,
2. That their alcohol problem is likely to remain under control.
Proving the second issue is the more difficult task, as it essentially requires the Hearing Officer to be convinced that a person is a safe bet to never drink again.

Continue reading "There is a lot more to a Michigan Driver's License Restotation Appeal than just Being Sober" »

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April 27, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration and the Issue of Prescription Medication - Part 4

This will be the fourth and final installment in our examination of the issue of prescription medication a Michigan Driver's License Restoration case. We began Part 3 of this article by turning our attention to the urine test that is a required part of a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal, and we noted how that test is more than just a "dirty" or "clean" proposition. A urine test that is positive for potentially addictive or mind and/or mood altering medication in a License Appeal is almost always bad news. As a Lawyer who specializes in Michigan License Restoration cases, I can plan around the necessary use of such medicines, but if they are first detected in a urine test, or, worse yet, are revealed at the License Hearing itself, things pretty much crash and burn.

In the course of the actual License Hearing, a person will be asked about their use of any prescription medications, past or present. I can only theorize, but I think when asked about this, some people feel they can demonstrate the strength of their Sobriety by admitting to having used something like the painkiller Vicodin in the past without having suffered any adverse consequences, like a relapse.

prescription bottle3.1.jpgUnfortunately, the Hearing Officer won't see it that way.

Instead, he or she will see a person supposedly in Recovery who failed to tell their treatment provider about their alcohol problem. The Hearing Officer will not view this as a success, but rather a big potential problem that, fortunately, didn't come to pass.

Beyond a problem that didn't occur, the Hearing Officer will become concerned about the person's lack of understanding of the need to abstain from any and all potentially addictive, or mind and/or mood altering drugs. They'll perceive the person as a risk. Remember, the most important issue before any Hearing Officer in a multiple DUI License Appeal is that the person's alcohol or substance abuse problem is likely to remain under control. Even if a person has been Sober for years, a few spoonfuls of Codeine or a few Vicodin pills can trigger a relapse. It doesn't necessarily have to be a relapse with alcohol, either. A person Recovering from an alcohol problem can easily be lulled into a relapse with a different substance.

Up to this point, we have not examined the role that medications for mental health issues play in a Michigan License Restoration case.

Anxiety disorders, ADD and ADHD problems as well as bipolar issues, to name a few, are rather common across the population, and this is no less the case with people in Recovery. However, some estimate that as many as 60% of all people with bipolar disorder will suffer from some kind of addiction problem. This is often called a "dual diagnosis." Examination of this in any detail would require a separate article, and probably one like this, with multiple installments. For our purposes, it is only necessary to note that the DAAD looks beyond the use of medicines to treat mental health issues, focusing its concern on the underlying issue, as well, and the potential it presents as a risk for a person's "alcohol or substance abuse problems...to remain under control."

In my Practice, I believe it is critical to thoroughly examine and explore these issues with my Client BEFORE he or she ever undergoes the Substance Abuse Evaluation.

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration and the Issue of Prescription Medication - Part 4" »

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April 23, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration and the Issue of Prescription Medication - Part 3

We concluded Part 2 of this article with the general notion that anyone claiming or even trying to be "Sober" should not be using any potentially addictive or mind and/or mood altering medication. In this third installment about prescription medications in a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal, we'll look at how the presence of these medications is detected beyond a person simply admitting such use. In particular, we'll review the urine test that is a required part of any Michigan Driver's License Appeal. While the urine test is used to provide the state with an assay of the substances in a person's system, including prescription medications, there is more to it than just testing "clean" or not.

In the last installment, I noted that, as a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Attorney, I had better be the first person to learn that a person is on, or has (detectably) used the potentially addictive or mind and/or mood altering medications that is the focus of our inquiry. Here's where that "strategy" to which I alluded in Part 1 of this article comes into play, and I must take a "diplomatic pass" and trust the reader will understand that, outside of the confines of my Office, I can say little more about what happens once I learn about such use. Suffice it to say here that while the strategy varies from case to case, the key element of any such strategy is planning. Each plan, in turn, depends on the unique facts of any particular case.

Pill Bottle 1.2.jpgI am often asked about the logistics of the urine test; some people think it is collected separately from the Substance Abuse Evaluation. It is not, at least for my Clients. The Clinic to which I refer my Clients for the required Substance Abuse Evaluation is located a few blocks from my Office, and collects their urine for the lab test. This is particularly helpful for the roughly one-half of my Clients who come from out-of-state. For those who live either out of state, or across the state, we'll arrange for their first appointment with me (which takes about 3 hours) to be scheduled the same day as their Substance Abuse Evaluation. This way, they can go right from my Office to their Evaluation.

The urine test serves several purposes beyond just showing that a person has or has not been puffing on a joint in the last few weeks.

To begin, the urine test can't just be any old urine test. The $10 do-it-yourself home test, even administered by the Substance Abuse Evaluator, will not cut it. In order to pass muster in a Michigan License Reinstatement (Restoration) Appeal, a urine test must be a "10-panel" test with at least 2 "integrity variables." Integrity variables are very much what they sound like; things that are examined in the test to make sure he sample is unadulterated or diluted.

Dilution is a big problem. If a person drinks too much water, their test will come back "diluted." Dilution is usually determined because the level of creatinine in a person's urine is lower than what's considered clinically normal. Creatinine is present in everyone's urine, and there is a guideline range that dictates what is normal, and what is not. When the level of creatinine falls below a certain amount, the urine sample is considered dilute, and therefore considered invalid. Thus, the real implication of a diluted sample is "invalid," as in adulterated, or hiding something. This can completely derail an otherwise winning License Appeal.

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration and the Issue of Prescription Medication - Part 3" »

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April 20, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration and the Issue of Prescription Medication - Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, we began our inquiry into the potential dangers or prescription drug use in a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal. We clarified that we were not talking about things like blood thinners or heart medications, but the kind of prescriptions upon which people can become dependent. Let's continue our discussion...

Reduced to its most basic level, alcoholism and drug addiction are really an addiction to getting a buzz. Alcoholics and addicts are hooked, in large part, on changing the way they feel. After a while, being "sober" is not the norm, or at least not the desired norm. Changing one's consciousness can become a psychological and/or physiological habit in some people, but not in others.

PillMan1.2.jpgIt is interesting that every Substance Abuse Counselor in the world considers this basic stuff, yet many Physicians aren't particularly well versed in it. Doctors are trained to cure diseases, treat illness and fix injuries. It is actually a somewhat rare medical specialty (not surprisingly called addiction medicine) that treats alcoholism and addiction. Other than that, about the only professional contact most Doctors have with alcoholism and addiction is when someone shows up in the ER suffering any of the many consequences of such abuse, from accidents to liver failure to overdose. And the best (and really only) advice they can give is for the person to stop and get some help. That help comes from someone who treats alcohol and substance abuse issues. With the exception of those few Doctors specializing in addiction medicine, this will almost always be a Substance Abuse Counselor.

Because they spend their time fixing injured people, and helping sick people get well, many, if not most, Physicians don't have any detailed knowledge of the proper treatment protocol for the diseases of alcoholism and addiction, and how cross-addiction and substitution are inherent risks in the addiction AND Recovery process. Besides, Doctors are usually very busy; they have limited time with each patient. Come in with a broken leg, and you'll have it set and get discharged with instructions and a prescription for painkillers.

This is a complication. This is actually a complication within other complications...

It seems that the more we analyze or talk about this, the farther reality moves away from theory...

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration and the Issue of Prescription Medication - Part 2" »

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April 16, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration and the Issue of Prescription Medication - Part 1

One aspect of the Michigan Driver's License Restoration (or, as some people say, Michigan Driver's License Reinstatement) process that has been turning up more frequently in my Office involves the use of prescription medication. Depending on the medication, and/or the reason for its use, this can be a huge issue, and has the potential to derail what would otherwise appear to be a winning Michigan License Appeal. This article will examine the issue of the potentially addictive, or mind and/or mood altering prescription medication use in a Michigan Driver's License Appeal. Our focus will be limited to legitimately prescribed medications, and will not encompass any other substances, like recreational drugs, or medication used without a valid prescription.

I need to be clear about something right up front; there's a significant part of this topic that is intimately wrapped up with the strategies I use to win Restoration Appeals. As much as I'm going to pull the curtain back on this topic, like a magician talking about his show, I'm not going to reveal my "trade secrets." The fact of the matter is, much of what I know about properly handling License Restorations accounts for why I win as much as I do, and why I offer a first-time win Guarantee. This separates me from the pack of Lawyers who claim to "do" License Appeals, or who buy web site domain names with the words "license restoration" in the title. None of these operations, as far as I know, (whatever Fee they may charge), offers a Guarantee like I do.

RX1.2.jpg Anyone who is truly in "Recovery" fundamentally understands that they cannot use any kind of potentially addictive, mind and/or mood-altering substance unless there is no medically suitable alternative. We're not talking blood pressure medication, or thyroid medication, or anything like that; we're talking about things like tranquilizers, painkillers, and psychotropic medications upon which people can become hooked.

I realize that there are some people who've been able to quit drinking (often without the help of AA or any kind of long-term treatment) that don't know this. Within the context of winning a License Appeal, however, they need to know it, even if I'm the one to teach them. Unfortunately, some approaches to Recovery and Sobriety fail to recognize that certain people are capable of overcoming a drinking problem without lifetime AA involvement or anything more than a commitment to never drink again, and a fundamental understanding that they cannot.

Beyond that, in the real world, there are people who have successfully quit drinking and that safely manage to use medication that would otherwise be considered potentially addictive or mind and/or mood altering without any problems.

That doesn't change the fact, however, that the Michigan Secretary of State, through its Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD), will absolutely DENY an Appeal if someone tests positive for, or otherwise admits to using any such medication without proper explanation. As we continue our analysis, we'll more fully explore the meaning and significance of testing positive for any of these medications, and what a "proper explanation" for their use really means.

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration and the Issue of Prescription Medication - Part 1" »

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April 13, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeals - FInding That Winning Voice

Within the body of the Driver's License Restoration section of this blog, I have tried to examine the License Appeal process from every possible angle. This article will present a different perspective, as it won't focus so much on the process, or an aspect of the process, but rather something that underlies the whole process; the "voice" of the Lawyer. In a few recent additions to the DUI section and the Criminal cases section of my website, I have focused on the importance of the "voice" of the Lawyer and how, really, it all comes down to this.

In a License Appeal, the Lawyer's "voice" is a bit more understated, but no less important. In a Criminal case, the Lawyer's first job is to help shape his or her Client's side of the story, or at least their explanation for it. In a License Restoration Appeal, that "voice" helps shape the case as a whole. In an earlier article, I noted how the story of a person's Recovery is, in fact, a "story," and that a big part of my job is to help the Client put the words to it.

The Voice2.gifImagine, for a moment, if you were sitting out on a suburban backyard patio, and suddenly, you looked up and rather surprisingly saw a deer standing about 20 feet away, just looking back at you. Now, think about how you would tell this story to different groups of people in your life:

To your small children, you'd talk about the deer like you might describe a "bunny rabbit."

To the women in your life, you'd describe the graceful beauty of the creature, with its big eyes.

To the guys you know who are big hunters, depending on your own disposition, you might not say a word, you might ask how they could shoot such a beautiful animal, or you might talk about the venison dish that "got away."

The point is that, depending on the audience, the "voice" of the story, if not the storyteller, changes. Knowing how to tell a story is every bit as important as the story itself, if not more so.

In a License Appeal, it falls to the Lawyer to help put the right voice to the story, and then, once the identity of the particular Hearing Officer who will ultimately decide the case becomes known, to fine-tune it accordingly.

I think I have the right "voice" to win a License Appeal, and, given my overwhelming success, this allows me to offer a win Guarantee. Nevertheless, I know that the voice I use in a License Appeal is neither the only one possible, nor the only one that can win. Still, my voice is strong enough to offer my first-time win Guarantee, and I don't hear any more of those amongst the chorus of Lawyers...

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeals - FInding That Winning Voice" »

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April 2, 2012

Getting A Driving Record to begin a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal.

Reading Driving Records is part of what I do everyday as a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer. On any given day, my Office answers inquiries from any number of callers either telling us that they're eligible to file a License Appeal, and want to begin the process, or asking us if they are, in fact, eligible. Often, the caller will know how many years have passed since their last DUI. From there, they either presume that they are ready to go, or believe that, having been provided with that information, I can make that determination.

This uncharacteristically short article will examine "eligibility" to file a License Appeal, but not so much as an analysis of the rules affecting when a person can proceed, but rather how and why they should get a copy of their Michigan Driving Record in order for me to determine and verify that they are, in fact, eligible.

driving in fire 1.2.jpgTo be clear, there are just some cases so cut and dried that I don't need to review a person's Driving Record to know they're good to go. Here's where a review of the rules and consequences of multiple DUI's is helpful. The previous link will take the reader to the more detailed subsection of my website. Here, we can summarize as follows:

Two (2) DUI convictions within seven (7) years = 1-year Revocation

Three (3) DUI convictions within ten (10) years = 5-year Revocation
Accordingly, if someone calls my Office and says, for example, that their entire Record consists of just 2 DUI'S, the last having been over 2 years ago, that they've been off of Probation for at least several months, and that they've never had any Tickets since then, I can tell, without referring to any Driving Record, that they are at least legally and really eligible to seek Restoration of their Driver's License.

When someone calls, however, and has more tha 2 DUI's, and isn't clear on the dates, or they've been caught Driving after they've had their License Revoked, or has a combination of DUI's from more than 1 state, then it's best if I verify their eligibility by reviewing their Driving Record. And getting that Record is easier than ever...

Continue reading "Getting A Driving Record to begin a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal." »

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March 30, 2012

You Must be Finished With Probation or Parole to Win a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Case

In my previous blog article, I addressed the myth that a person can never win a License Restoration Appeal the first time. I pointed out that I GUARANTEE that I'll win any Appeal I take the first time around. In this article, I want to continue with another installment of shorter length (this from a guy whose average piece runs about 4 pages) and clarify that, almost without exception, a person cannot win a License Appeal if they are still on Probation, and absolutely will lose any such case if they are on Parole.

On several recent occasions, my Office has received calls from people who have outright disagreed with this, and said "another Lawyer told me that didn't matter." Because I have more than enough License Appeal cases to keep me busy, I have no desire to argue with these callers. I feel obligated to inform them, however, that the Case Law is clear on that point. I also remind them that I offer a "Win" Guarantee, and challenge them to get one from whoever gave them the incorrect advice about being able to win a License Restoration Appeal while still on Probation, or Parole.

Probation Badge 1.2.jpgAs I noted, I have enough License cases booked into the future to keep me busy. Yet I am, after all, in business to make money. I have no reason to send a person and their money to another Law Office to pay for the services I provide. But I will not accept someone's money for something I know to be legally impossible.

And winning back your License while on Probation, except in extraordinarily limited circumstances, is not Legally possible. Parolees will have to wait until after their Parole has ended.

I have read the opinions of the few other Lawyers on this topic, and at least those who have taken the time to write about it clearly understand that being on Probation or Parole precludes winning a License Appeal.

And while I agree that the Michigan Court of Appeals decision (linked above) that upheld this ruling by the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) is unfair, the Law is now clear, and unfair or not, it is what it is.

And it is what it is because several years ago, a Hearing Officer with the DAAD, the bureau that decides License Restoration Appeals, ruled that if a person is on Probation, or Parole, they cannot prove that any period of abstinence from alcohol is truly voluntary, because a standard condition of Probation or Parole that they not consume alcohol, very often back up with either regular, or at least random testing. The DAAD determined that such a person is "living in a controlled environment."

Continue reading "You Must be Finished With Probation or Parole to Win a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Case" »

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March 26, 2012

WInning a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal the First TIme, Every TIme

As a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, a significant part of my job is explaining the License Restoration process to Clients and callers alike. In that regard, I often have to address misconceptions and myths about License Appeals. In this article, I will examine and hopefully dispel the longstanding myth that "you cannot win your License back the first time." To begin, I should point out that not only is that notion dead wrong, but that I make most of my income winning License Restoration Appeals the first time, and I back that up with a Guarantee.

Curiously, I am most often confronted with this misconception by the most unlikely of sources; People who are involved in AA. This is really ironic because, of all the people for whom I could rather easily win a License Appeal the first time, those who are really and truly Sober, and actually sit at the tables, are at front of the class. In fact, the inspiration for this article was a recent meeting with a new Client who had been referred to me and wasn't even aware of this blog. Let's examine her story a bit...

PRIZE_EVERY_TIME4.3.jpgThis Client was given a very enthusiastic referral to my Office by someone for whom, I had, as usual, won a License Appeal the first time. She had already seen a few other Lawyers, and figured that I'd just be another of the bunch. Before beginning her quest to get back on the road, she had repeatedly heard from her fellow AA members that everyone gets Denied on a License Appeal their first time around, and that she should just assume she'll have to go back a second time to win.

She said her whole reason for coming to see me was the unqualified and glowing referral to me that she had been provided. While I was flattered, the fact that she had not read any of my Driver's License Restoration articles meant that she had no real insight about the process. Even though she had met with some other Lawyers, the plain fact of the matter is that I have no doubt written more about License Restorations than all these other Lawyers have ever written about everything in their combined careers. Beyond that, I'm quite confident that I have won more License Restoration cases in the last few years than all these Lawyers, combined, have ever handled in their careers. Despite having sat with a few Lawyers who told her that they "did" License Restorations, I was rather sure she had been told nothing useful or worthwhile about what was involved. And as if on cue, at the end of our 3-hour meeting, she told me that, in fact, no one had gone into anything even close to the detail I had.

She was, understandably, a bit skeptical when I told her that I'd win her Appeal the first time around. In fact, she said that she had come prepared to hire me, but also to request that I do the absolute minimum so that we could just get what she expected to be her first and inevitable loss out of the way, thus paving the way for next year's Appeal.

Continue reading "WInning a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal the First TIme, Every TIme" »

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March 19, 2012

Common Reasons why Many FIrst Time Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeals Lose

A significant, if not majority portion of my Driver's License Restoration Practice involves Representing people who have previously tried a License Appeal (without me as their Lawyer) and lost. These Clients necessarily fall into one of two categories:

  1. Those who hired some Lawyer who claimed they could "do" a License Appeal, and
  2. Those who figured they could do it on their own.
Try Again 2.gifIn some of my previous blog articles, I have explained that these people make the best, or "easiest" Clients a License Restoration Lawyer, like me, can have. They show up, eager to pay and ready to follow instructions. Whatever beliefs they may have had about the License Restoration process, and however much they previously thought that they knew enough to win, they have been humbled by the depth and scope of the process, and know that, in order to do it right, they need expert guidance. In this article, we'll shift focus to a few of the most common reasons for that kind of lost License Appeal.

From my point of view, beyond simply offering guidance, I offer a Guarantee that if I don't win any Appeal I undertake the first time, I will continue to represent my Client before the Secretary of State's DAAD (Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) until they get their License back. This means that although a person may have lost without me, I want to make sure, and will guarantee, that they'll win with me.

Despite the almost unlimited possible ways someone can lose a License Appeal, most that I see are for what is considered a "Questionable/Insufficient Substance Abuse Evaluation." As we shall see, however, this one simple category encompasses a rather wide panorama of problems.

I have also pointed out in some of my prior articles that way too few Substance Abuse Counselors actually know how to complete, or "do" a DAAD Substance Abuse Evaluation. This is not really the fault of those Evaluators, but that lack of blame is cold comfort for anyone whose efforts to get back on the road are rejected.

Continue reading "Common Reasons why Many FIrst Time Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeals Lose" »

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March 16, 2012

What kind of License you get when you win a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal

Handling Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeals is the basis of my Practice. In that regard, I have gone to great lengths (some might say "overboard") within this blog and on my website to provide as much insight and information about the various steps in the License Appeal Process as I can. Recently, I capped off a 7-part series about License Appeals. Yet as I look back, I found that I came up a bit short in explaining what happens after a person wins. I never explained what kind of License or relief a person gets when they win their case. Anyone who has explored the Driver's License Restoration section of this blog knows my articles are generally rather long; this one will be comparatively short.

In the spirit of trying to answer those questions that I am most frequently asked, this article will look at what kind or "type" of License a person will get after a successful License Appeal, and how that differs if a person still lives in Michigan, or has a Michigan "hold" on their Driving Record and now lives out-of-state.

pickprize1.1.jpgNot to begin this article by sounding cocky, or over-confident, but I have an across-the-board win rate of over 98% in my License Appeals, and this allows me to GUARANTEE that I will win any case I accept. If, for some reason, I do not, then I will continue to represent my Client in all subsequent DAAD Hearings without further Fee. Fortunately, I have rarely ever had to go back a second time, and have NEVER had to go back a third. Thus, when I accept a case, we speak of what will happen after we win, not if we win.

First, it is necessary to understand that the "kind" of License Appeal a person files dictates what kind of relief they can get. If a person lives in Michigan, then they file for Restoration of Driving privileges. If they no longer reside in Michigan, they file for what is called a "Clearance" of the Michigan hold on their driving Record. This will allow them to get a "full" License in their home state.

Thus, anyone who now lives outside of Michigan essentially wins a "full" License after a successful License Appeal.

Michigan residents seeking Restoration of their Driving privileges after a Revocation for multiple DUI convictions can only win a Restricted License, and must drive with an ignition interlock, a kind of ignition-breathalyzer unit, for at least the first year.

In terms of what is filed, whether a person lives in Michigan or not, the Appeal is identical. The same documentation must be filed, and the same proofs must be made. The Hearing is also identical.

I am asked all the time by my Michigan Clients, "is there some way around this?" Unfortunately there is not. The rules are set in stone. If you live and Michigan, and you win a Driver's License Restoration Appeal, you MUST drive with a Restricted License and an ignition interlock unit for at least the first year.

Continue reading "What kind of License you get when you win a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal" »

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March 12, 2012

Why Being a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer is so Specialized

Being a Driver's License Restoration Lawyer puts me in a specialty with only a handful, at most, of other Lawyers with a similar Practice concentration. It can, at times, be a bit lonely, in that I simply never find myself exchanging war stories with anyone who does as much of what I do for a living. Recently, I have developed a friendship with another Restoration Lawyer a number of Counties away, but aside from her, there's really no one else with whom I can compare notes.

That's not to say that I don't receive my fair share of inquiries from other Lawyers who find this blog, and my website, and contact me with a question or two. However, in those situations, our experience isn't nearly as lateral as it is vertical.

Special 1.2.jpgBut I'm not complaining. I get time enough for the normal Professional contact when I'm in the back room of some Courthouse, surrounded by Prosecutors and other Defense Lawyers as I handle a DUI, or some other Criminal case.

Yet this got me to thinking about why being a License Restoration Lawyer is so specialized, and wondering what, if anything, is so different about my membership in this ultra small group, beyond the extensive experience I have handling and winning License Appeals?

The answer, it seemed to me, is that I have a deep and detailed knowledge and understanding of the concepts of addiction, alcoholism, and the whole process of Recovery. This subject, at least for me, has been a field of study in which I have engaged for nearly 20 years.

When we look at those Attorneys who are Patent Lawyers, we find that the vast majority of them have engineering, or similar backgrounds. There probably isn't a Patent Lawyer out there, or certainly not many, who earned their College Degree in English, or Sociology. They have to know the mechanical workings of the things they are trying to Patent, and an engineering, or similar background (like chemistry for someone Patenting drugs) is more or less a basic, foundational requirement to work in that field. In a very real way, they have to understand how the Law applies to a whole other discipline.

For the same reason, Tax Lawyers have backgrounds in Taxation.

At the heart of any License Appeal lie the issues of alcoholism (and/or addiction) and Recovery. It is one thing to understand that those issues are present, and quite another to understand them in depth. In other words, just like Patent Law, being a good License Restoration Lawyer means applying the Law to a whole other discipline.

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March 5, 2012

Michigan License Appeals and Restoration - Why Being Abstinent from alcohol is not Enough

In the previous Driver's License Restoration blog article, we reviewed how and why Sobriety is a first and necessary requirement in a License Restoration Appeal. Within the world of License Restorations, the terms "Sobriety" and "Abstinence" are used rather frequently. However, within the Rules governing License Appeals, the term "Sobriety" is not used; instead, the applicable Law refers only to "Abstinence."

Yet mere Abstinence is not enough to win a License Appeal. A person must not only be Abstinent, they must be Sober, as well.

boozey1.1.jpgThis article will examine how these two terms are related, and the important way in which they differ. It is rather likely that the reader who is really "Sober" already understands the difference quite well, and this piece will do little more than vainly demonstrate to them that I do, also. For the reader who is curious about the key difference between the terms "Abstinence" and "Sobriety," they will either find that they their Abstinence includes Sobriety, or they will find that they are coming up short on the most important component of a Driver's License Appeal.

As a Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, I must make sure any License candidate I Represent is both Abstinent, and Sober. When my Staff takes a License Appeal call, one of the very first questions they will ask is when the caller last consumed alcohol. While the answer to that question does not really address the issue of Sobriety, a person will need to have been alcohol-free, generally speaking, for a minimum of 1 year, and have been off of Probation or Parole for at LEAST 3 or 4 months in order to file a License Appeal.

Abstinence means just that: abstaining from the use of alcohol. Sobriety, on the othe