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.
For 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.