When you win a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal, you usually have to wait for the decision to arrive in the mail. Once in a while, in certain, "special" cases, and only with certain hearing officers (for purposes of brevity, we'll leave "special" undefined and "certain" unidentified), a person will be told, at the conclusion of his or her hearing, that he or she has won. Last week, I had 2 such cases in the same afternoon. While that, in and of itself, is not such a big deal (I guarantee a win in every license appeal I take), in these particular cases, I was profoundly moved by sitting so near and watching, up close, the emotional reaction of my clients. I literally got to experience, firsthand, the intense feelings I usually get secondhand when a grateful client calls or emails his or her thanks. In both of these cases, I was right there as each client's eyes welled up and tears of joy ran down their faces.
Everybody needs a driver's license, but not everyone is a good bet to drive safely. From the Michigan Secretary of State's point of view, if you've had your license revoked for multiple DUI convictions, you need to come back, years later, as a whole different person before you'll be allowed back on the road. The Secretary of State has an entire administrative bureau - the Driver's Assessment and Appeal Division - called the "DAAD" (formerly known as the Driver's License Appeal Division, or DLAD), whose job is to decide who gets his or her license back, and who doesn't. The bottom line to all of this is that if you've racked up 2 or more drunk driving convictions, the only way you'll ever get a license back is to prove that alcohol no longer plays any part in your life. This not only means that you must prove that you've quit drinking, but that your entire life is galaxies away from any involvement with a drinking lifestyle.
To put this in perspective, one of the key questions sometimes asked in license appeal hearings is whether there is any alcohol kept in your home. The fact that this question gets asked shows how concerned the state is with a habitual offender's relationship to drinking, including people who drink. No one would think to let a convicted child molester, no matter how long ago his crimes were committed and no matter how much he claims to be better, work at, or even near a school or playground. It shouldn't be a surprise, then, that the state wants to make sure anyone it puts back on the road is a million miles from having anything to do with alcohol.
The 2 key that must be proven in every driver's license restoration or clearance case are first, that your alcohol problem is "under control," and second, that your alcohol problem is "likely to remain under control." This does NOT mean that you can control your drinking. Anyone who has struggled with the problem knows that cannot, does not, and will never work. Instead, the DAAD requires "clear and convincing evidence" that you have completely removed alcohol from your life. You have to prove, in a word, that you are a safe bet to never drink again. Being around alcohol, beyond the casual contact of eating at a restaurant that serves it, or attending functions where it is available, is not a good sign. Playing darts on a bar league or having alcohol in your home are not seen as hallmarks of a sober lifestyle...