In a recent driver's license restoration article, I highlighted the importance of my "prep session" with my client immediately prior to his or her actual license appeal hearing. It is critical to the success of any license restoration appeal that the client walk into the hearing fully aware of the questions I'll be asking, and the questions the particular hearing officer deciding the case will pose, as well. Yet being "prepped" for the hearing is really just another step in the proper handling of a case from the get-go. No matter how you cut it, preparation is key to winning a license appeal in Michigan, and that preparation starts the very moment the client walks into my office to begin the license restoration process.
Of course, you must be legally eligible to file a license appeal. You must also be genuinely sober to win it. Sobriety is a non-negotiable requirement in a license restoration case, because the 2 main issues to be decided at the Secretary of State's Administrative Hearing Section (AHS and formerly the DAAD), by what is legally defined as "clear and convincing evidence," is that first, your alcohol problem (the law presumes that you have an alcohol problem when you rack up 2 DUI's within 7 years, or 3 or more within 10 years) is "under control," and, second (and even more important), that it is "likely to remain under control," meaning that you are a safe bet to never drink again. This is the starting point: Unless you are both legally eligible and genuinely sober, you can't even get off the starting block with a Michigan driver's license reinstatement case.
It all begins with a 3-hour meeting in my office. Before anything is filed, or any steps are taken, the client and I will have an initial meeting for at least 3 hours so that I can prepare him or her to undergo and have a substance abuse evaluation completed. The substance abuse evaluation is an official state form, and must be completed and filed, along with at least 3 letters of support, along with various other documents, to formally begin a license appeal. This first meeting is essential, and I'm not kidding about the 3 hours. In fact, I won't schedule a meeting with someone if I don't have at least a 3-hour block of time to meet with him or her.
The point of this meeting, as I noted, is to prepare the client for the substance abuse evaluation. This evaluation is, in a very real way, the foundation of a license appeal case. If it is not perfect, or very close to it, the appeal will be denied. There is way more going on in this first meeting than just "prepping" for that substance abuse evaluation, however. The week I wrote this very article, I was hired by a young man who had filed and lost a previous license appeal using another lawyer. He had a couple of years' sobriety, but he had only been off of probation for a few months at the time his prior appeal had been filed. It was clear from the hearing officer's order denying his appeal that he didn't have enough "voluntary" abstinence time, meaning that the hearing officer felt that he hadn't proven himself truly voluntarily sober because his first 2 years of abstinence were accumulated while he was on probation, subject to testing, and, even more important, subject to punishment for drinking. I would have never filed his case when the other lawyer did, and would have had him wait at least another 6 months thereafter, but the other lawyer took his money, took his chances and lost. That would never have happened with me, guaranteed.