“Everyone needs a license,” admits a hearing officer from the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS). As a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I know that all too well. My office is contacted every day by people who have lost their licenses after multiple DUI’s and pour their hearts out, explaining how difficult it is to get by without the ability to drive. In some cases, a person has a great employment opportunity that requires being able to drive; in others, a license is needed just to keep a job. Needing a license, however, has just about nothing to do with whether or not you can win yours back. In this short article, I want to explain how you actually do win back your license, and make clear that needing it is NOT a consideration at any point in the legal process of winning a license reinstatement appeal.
Let’s back up from the point of restoring a driver’s license to the point of losing it. Perhaps one of the most common questions I am asked when handling DUI cases, particularly 2nd offense and 3rd offense cases, is if there is some way the person can get a license for work. This question always follows my having explained in detail, and usually numerous times, that a 2nd or 3rd offense will result in a license revocation and that there is no “workaround.” People will often begin their questions with something like, “How do they expect me to…?” I get it. Everyone gets it. You need a license, and you can probably even demonstrate a pressing need for one, but it doesn’t matter. Anyone whose license has been revoked for multiple DUI’s has probably already asked these questions and learned that needing a license was a non-issue back then. It still is. Before you can ever win your license back, you have to be legally eligible to file a license restoration appeal, and that doesn’t happen until the mandatory period of revocation passes: 1 year for 2 DUI’s within 7 years and 5 years for 3 DUI’s within 10 years.
Even when you’re legally eligible to begin the appeal process, needing a license doesn’t really have anything to do with your ability to win it back. When you become legally eligible to proceed, you must also prove that you are sober, as well. From the Secretary of State’s point of view, putting anyone back behind the wheel who presents as any kind of risk to ever drink again is unacceptable. There is a very important distinction here, because the Secretary of State (SOS) is not interested in any talk about just not drinking and driving again. Instead, its threshold inquiry focuses on whether a person is any kind of risk to ever drink at all. It is a basic assumption that anyone who is seen as a risk to ever drink again is likewise seen as a risk to drink and drive again. Thus, the only people who have any kind of chance to get back on the road legally are those who can prove, by the legal standard of “clear and convincing evidence,” that they are a safe bet to remain completely alcohol free for life. In other words, you have to prove your sobriety, and that’s where I come in…