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.
To 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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