DRIVER'S LICENSE RESTORATION

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MICHIGAN DUI

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One of the most common questions I get as a Michigan DUI lawyer and driver’s license restoration attorney is if there is anything a person can do to get a restricted license after it gets revoked for a 2nd or 3rd (or subsequent) drunk driving conviction. Under Michigan law, a person’s license is revoked for a minimum of 1 year for 2 DUI’s within 7 years, and a minimum of 5 years if they’ve racked up 3 drunk driving convictions within 10 years. Although I usually go to great lengths to explain this, often several times, people almost always still ask, “is there some way for me to get a restricted license at least to go to work.” The answer, of course, is no.

194783f26f311100588f134509457090-300x300Almost without fail, the next thing I get asked is something like, “how am I supposed to keep my job?”, or “how do they expect me to support my family?” In this article, what I want to make clear is that the law not only “doesn’t care,” but it actually intends for this to hurt. In the grand scheme of things, the law is fashioned so that the hardship of not having a license is something that should have been considered before a person gets another DUI. One of the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) hearing officers (these are the people who decide driver’s license restoration appeals) explains it, when people characterize their DUI record as “a mistake,” like this: “A mistake is when you date something using the last year, right after New Year. When you drove drunk, you committed a crime, and when you did it again, you became a habitual criminal.”

I fully understand that people don’t go out and intend to drive drunk, nor do they intend to endanger anyone when they do drive after having had too much to drink. For most people, a DUI is a genuine mistake in judgment, but, as that hearing officer points out, that mistake is also a crime. When a person gets a 2nd DUI, much less a 3rd, he or she is legally categorized as a habitual offender, and the law states that he or she is too great a risk to allow back on the road. The revocation of a person’s driver’s license is a safety measure for the public as much as it is a punishment for the driver. If it doesn’t hurt, then what good is it? In that sense, even though the written law has no mechanism to “feel” anything, and therefore cannot “care” whether something is good or bad, to the extent the people who wrote it thought about the effects of revoking a person’s license, you can be sure they wanted it to sting.

The most common thing that screws up someones ability to win back their driver’s license from the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) is getting caught driving while revoked. When a person has lost his or her license for multiple DUI’s, if he or she gets anything – anything whatsoever – placed on their driving record, they will wind up being revoked all over again. While DWLS (Driving While License Suspended) and DWLR (Driving While License Revoked) charges are fairly routine in the court system and can  be handled quite easily there, they can absolutely kill a person’s chance to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal.

v3-Gameover-300x199In fact, because of the way the law works, if a person whose license has already been revoked has anything placed on their driving record that indicates they were driving, their license will be re-revoked for the same period of time it was originally taken away for (either 1 or 5 years). There is no way to avoid this once something makes it on a person’s driving record, so it is absolutely necessary to make sure that nothing goes on there in the first place. If a person is cited for or charged with any kind of moving violation, including DWLS or DWLR, keeping it completely off their record is essential, and doing that often requires skillful legal maneuvering.

It gets worse before it gets better: even if a person is NOT cited for any kind of infraction whatsoever, but is involved in an accident, once the accident report makes it to the Secretary of State, their license will be revoked yet again. This is called a “like additional mandatory.” Under Michigan law, a person’s driver’s license gets revoked for either 1 year (for 2 DUI’s within 7 years) or 5 years (for 3 DUI’s within 10 years). Unless and until a person has his or her license restored, if the Secretary of State receives any information that a person has been driving, he or she will automatically get an additional period of revocation, for the same length of time as the original revocation, added on to his or her driving record. That’s why it’s called a “like additional,” because what gets added on is just like the original penalty. Let’s take a look at how this works in the real world:

The essence of my job as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer is to take people who have honestly quit drinking and get them back on the road. Key here is the notion that a person has actually quit drinking for good. In that context, I have written many articles about sobriety, exploring what the term really means, how someone becomes sober, and why proving sobriety is the key to winning a license appeal. No matter how much I put it out there, however, I still get loads of calls and emails from people who want their license back, but aren’t very clear about this whole sobriety thing. It seems about time to revisit this subject, and perhaps try to make clear that “quitting drinking” means you don’t consume any alcohol whatsoever.

iQuit-2If you wanted to boil down the entire driver’s license restoration and clearance process into one short sentence, it would go much like this: you must prove to the Michigan Secretary of State, through its Administrative Hearing Section (AHS), that you have completely quit drinking alcohol and will never do so again. It really is that simple. Anything else that seems complex about the process has to do with proving sobriety. In the previous article on this blog, I looked at the 3 main reasons why winning a license appeal is so hard, and to a large extent, everything examined there had to do with proof and proving sobriety.

It may be easier to start out by pointing out what sobriety isn’t, rather than is. Some people mistakenly think that they can call themselves sober, but still drink. Usually, this misapprehension is based upon some idea that if a person only drinks once in a while, it’s okay. Let me make this as clear as I can: “sober,” in the context of a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case, means you have given up alcohol for good, and forever. It means more than just not drinking; it means you have made a commitment to live an alcohol-free lifestyle. It goes beyond just you not drinking, and planning to never drink again, and spills over into your whole life. An “alcohol-free lifestyle” is one where you don’t hang out with drinkers, don’t go to bars or drinking functions and don’t have alcohol in your home. There’s more to it than that, but as a general description, that will do.

There are a lot of factors that make winning your license back difficult, but in this article, I want to look at 3 of the biggest reasons for that. Contrary to what some people believe, the license appeal process is not arbitrary or random, and most of it is covered by one key rule (Rule 13), which will be the first thing we examine here. Second, we’ll see how the fact that people lie (and get caught) affects everyone else, and third, we’ll look at the ever-present threat and role of relapse and why that makes the process ever more difficult. There are, of course, some differences in how evidence is interpreted by the various Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) hearing officers. It is undeniable that, in certain situations, a case that would be approved by one hearing officer might be denied by another, but that’s really how everything works in life. As a group, however, the hearing officers are pretty consistent in the way they decide driver’s license restoration and clearance cases, and that’s a good thing.

upload_5981411975029483_oog4ngkm_c_hard_work_pays_off-215x300This is due, in part, because of that main rule that govern’s license restoration and clearance cases. The sections that’s most important to our concerns here comprises just 27 of more than 900 words of that rule: “The hearing officer shall NOT order that a license be issued to the petitioner unless the petitioner proves, by clear and convincing evidence, all of the following…” (emphasis added). This wording is critically important, but it is all too easily (and frequently) overlooked. Think about this; the rule governing license appeals essentially begins with a negative mandate telling the hearing officer to NOT grant a license unless certain conditions are met. The law could just as easily have been written to say something like “The hearing officer shall issue a license if the petitioner, by clear and convincing evidence, proves all of the following,” but it didn’t There was a conscious, deliberate choice to say no, right out of the gate.

It’s easy to get someone to nod in agreement here, with the obvious, but this goes much deeper. The real meaning of these words isn’t just that you go into a license appeal with the answer starting at “no,” it’s more like “f—k no!” In other words, when you undertake a license appeal, you have a long way to go just to get to “maybe.” And to make the point even clearer, the rule then requires that a person prove his or her case by “clear and convincing evidence.” I’ve done rather detailed examinations of what that means in other blog articles, so we’ll skip over any analysis here beyond pointing out that “clear and convincing evidence” is the highest standard of proof in civil law, and is closest to the criminal standard of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” To carry my rough-language analogy a bit further, this means that your evidence had to be better than just “good,” it needs to be “f—king awesome!”

Welcome to the 7th and final part of this article about the 11 things you should do – all of which begin with the letter “R” – to find the right Michigan DUI lawyer. In the prior 6 parts, we’ve seen how you need to relax, take the time to read, and learn as much as you can so that you can recognize who, amongst all the lawyers, is right for you (and who isn’t). You also need to rate those legal skills that are important to you, and you must resolve your budget, as well. You can’t pay money you do not have, but you shouldn’t pay too much, either. It is very important to resist buying into something simply because it’s what you want to hear, and reject meaningless slogans. They may grab your attention, but they don’t provide any real information. You should always remain skeptical and evaluate everything critical. In the last section, we talked about how you must realize what actually makes any one lawyer different from the rest. Here, in this final section, we’ll talk about how and why you should rank the lawyers you’ve checked out according to what you need, and how you should reach out to those who really seem to “speak” to you.

Call-Me-Sticky-Note-Callme1426-294x300Rank the lawyers by what you need. Often enough, we’ll find the consumer, on one side, hoping to find the right lawyer quickly and easily, and the lawyer, on the other side, trying to reel them in, essentially “shouting” the same slogans as everyone else. Then you get guys like me, who write all kinds of detailed articles that only a select audience will read, and BAM! There you have it…

Because I’m that guy writing all these explanatory articles and NOT barking out the same catchphrases as the larger herd, it’s clear that I am a better fit for those people who want to dig deeper and read: detail people. Skipping any discussion of fees for the moment, what’s clear is that I am NOT the lawyer for the super-impatient person who has little or no interest in examining how DUI cases work, or getting into any kind of analysis of the court process. And that kind of person isn’t “wrong” (although I think they may be doing themselves a disservice by not being a better consumer and doing more investigating); some people have more interest in certain things than others. Whatever characteristics or qualities they may have, YOU have to evaluate the field and find the lawyer who is the right fit for you and your case.

This is the 6th part (we’re nearing the end!) of a 7-part series examining the 11 things (all beginning with the letter “R”) you should follow to find and hire the right lawyer for your Michigan DUI case. Here, we’re going to sharpen our focus and look at finding what really stands out about any particular lawyer and makes him or her different from the rest of the pack. This is important, because unless you can point to a clear difference, you’re probably shopping for a lawyer like you’d shop for shoes. A person should be able to tell a friend or family member, “I’m considering this lawyer because ——“ in a way that differentiates him or her beyond just being another lawyer who “does” DUI cases. In fact, it’s quit fair to ask any lawyer, “What’s so different about you?” If a lawyer can’t explain that satisfactorily to you, as a potential customer, then how could you ever explain it to anyone else?

different-is-good-01-272x300Realize what’s really different. Although most lawyers fail miserably at this, every last one wants to appear unique. The result is that DUI lawyers, for example, look like one big herd of attorneys who all say the same things in an almost unanimous chorus of “me too.” Yep, they all graduated from law school, all passed the bar, and every last one of them tells the world that they have experience. They all say that they’re aggressive and/or tough, too, like Rocky getting ready for the big fight. Some of them will add in that they’re affordable, or that their phones are answered 24 hours (really, they personally take calls at 3:00 a.m.?) and that’s pretty much how each of them has tried (and failed) to distinguish themselves from the others. Look, if any of that stuff matters to you as a consumer, then by all means, make a note of it. Chances are, however, that it all goes right past you, like a sign that says “cold beer” (as opposed to warm beer?) or “hot pizza” (as opposed to a store selling cold pizza?).

As you check around for a lawyer (and shame on you if you don’t), you’ll find, for example, that some offices are really nice – (this is one of the things I’m most proud of – my friendly and helpful staff. In my office, whoever answers the phone should be able to answer most, if not all of your questions right when you call) – and some aren’t. The point I’m trying to make here is that you should be checking out enough different lawyers to be able to figure out who really is different and why. If the only thing you can say is that one lawyer’s office is closer, or open later than another, or that this one called you back the fastest, then you’re not doing this right.

This will be the 5th installment in my series about how to find the right lawyer for your DUI case. In the last section, we examined how you should be careful to not get tricked into handing over your money just because someone tells you what you want to hear. In this piece, we’re going to look at 2 things related to that: rejecting meaningless slogans and maintaining a healthy skepticism. The ultimate goal of this series is to help you make a wise choice and be a good consumer as you look for a DUI lawyer. Much of what we’ll examine has far more universal application, but my goal is to make sure that someone knows what to look for, and look out for, as they navigate the field of lawyers wanting their business.

63637814985Reject the meaningless slogans. Lawyers talk a lot, but they don’t always say much. Before the internet, lawyers were pretty much limited to advertising in the phone book. When the Yellow Pages ruled the day, space was extremely limited (and it still is, when you think about things like magazine ads), so the goal was to make your point in as few words as possible. Lots of lawyer-type catchphrases were born back then; things like, “tough,” “aggressive,” “experienced,” “I will fight for you,” and “results matter.” “Results matter” is probably the dumbest thing anyone could ever say (and I’ve said it!), because of course results matter. That’s like a restaurant running an ad that says, “your food should taste good.” Welcome aboard; Captain Obvious is on the bridge.

Being “tough and aggressive,” to a reasonable extent, are minimum qualifications for a lawyer doing any kind of criminal and litigation work. In that same way, a surgeon can’t be squeamish, nor can an airplane pilot be afraid of heights. For a lawyer to be “tough and aggressive” beyond a reasonable extent takes him or her into “hostile and irrational” territory. Any lawyer you consider hiring should have experience. Look, the bottom line is that you’re either paying for a lawyer’s experience, or you’re paying his or her tuition to get it, and that’s never good. There is a usual learning curve, and just as newer physicians are supposed to gain experience through their residency, younger lawyers typically cut their teeth handling court-appointed cases.

This will be the 4th installment in a series of articles about how you should look for a Michigan DUI lawyer. After acknowledging that a DUI is serious, I was quick to point out that it’s not the end of the world, and no one is going to die because he or she has been charged with Operating While Intoxicated (OWI). Thus, I made clear that the best thing to do is to relax, take a deep breath, read articles like this, learn some basics about what you’re really facing (not the scary-sounding stuff you’ll find on some websites), rate the kinds of legal skills that will be important in the lawyer you want, and then take an honest account of what kind of lawyer you can afford. In this section, we’re going to look at a very important warning – the idea that you should guard against the temptation to pay money just because someone tells you what you want to hear. Instead, you should look for honesty and integrity, and that means listening to what you need to hear.

2-243x300Resist buying into what you want to hear. Despite the value of real knowledge, some people (a lot of people, actually) will gladly fork over money to anyone who paints a rosy picture and tells them what they want to hear, rather than telling them what they need to hear: the truth. Don’t be that person. Of course you want your case dismissed (everybody does), and yes, there are all kinds of things that can impact the evidence against you, but those things that are significant enough to make a Judge throw an entire DUI case out of court always have been and always will be the exception, NOT the rule. You need a lawyer who will examine the evidence against you with a fine-toothed comb, and who will look carefully for anything that can be used to your advantage, but that’s not the same thing as some lawyer making it sound like just about any and every case can be knocked out if you hire him or her.

As much as it may feel good to have someone nod, sympathetically, when you tell them that you just can’t have a DUI on your record, that doesn’t change the fact that the evidence against you is either solid, or not. Does it count that you have made something of yourself and are otherwise a law-abiding, hard-working taxpayer? Absolutely. Will that get you completely out of a DUI, however? No. Your accomplishments and status can certainly help to make sure you get through the case with as few consequences as possible, but that, standing alone, won’t make the who thing go away. At the end of the day, DUI cases  stand or fall based upon the evidence, period.

In parts 1 and 2 of this article, we’ve covered the first 4 of 11 things that you should do to find the right Michigan DUI lawyer. To make this article more interesting, I’ve called these things the 11 “R’s” because each one begins with the letter “R.” In our last installment, we saw how you should rate those skills that a lawyer can bring to make things better in your DUI case. While there are certain skills that are just always good, OWI cases, by their very nature, involve an almost endless combination of people, places and other things that can make certain legal skills extremely useful in some situations, and utterly worthless in others. We’ll resume here and look at another important topic – money.

ahorrar-300x227Resolve your budget. You need to know how much you can and should spend on a lawyer. These are always separate questions. If we’re going to be honest about it, some people simply cannot afford a better lawyer. There are plenty of “bargain” lawyers out there, but if there is one universal truth about legal fees, it’s that you’re never going to get top-notch services from a cut-rate lawyer. On the flip side, however, it is almost nearly as easy to pay too much for mediocre services. Whatever else, a person simply cannot pay what he or she cannot afford. You need to be honest with yourself about what you can do here, and that’s one of the reasons I publish my fees. I simply do not have the time (and it would be unfair to take it away from my paying clients) to spend with every caller, going over case details for those who cannot hire me. Personally, I am suspicious of any person or company that is secretive or not upfront about costs, so to me, listing my fees is only natural.

When it comes to those fees, I’m definitely not the lawyer for someone who is primarily concerned about cost. I have a specialized background, but still consider my fees reasonable, even though they are higher than those charged by bargain lawyers, who make their money by pleading out the greatest number of cases as quickly as possible. My practice is pretty much the opposite of that. This brings us to the idea of how much you should spend for a lawyer. As much as a person needs to find a lawyer who is a good fit for themselves, a lawyer (at least one whose survival does not depend on getting any and every potential client) should also be looking for a client that is a good fit for his or her way of doing things. Even if I could make more money quickly hustling cases through an assembly line type system, I’d rather spend more time on my cases and do everything the right way.

This is the 2nd installment in a multi-part article about the 11 things you should know to help you find the right Michigan DUI lawyer for your case. Although this analysis is applicable to DUI cases anywhere in the state, my DUI practice is concentrated in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties. To keep each piece manageable, I will skip my usual practice of summarizing what has been previously examined and jump right in from where we left off. In this article, we’ll look at how you should rate the legal skills that matter to your DUI case.

38433378-thumbs-up-and-thumbs-down-hand-sign-720x720-300x183Rate those skills that are important to your case.  To put this in perspective, a colleague of mine once pointed out how some DUI lawyers proudly market themselves as certified Datamaster breath machine operators. He then asked, rhetorically, what good would that do for anyone whose entire case doesn’t specifically depend on problems with the breath test evidence, even if his or her lawyer could take the machine apart and reassemble it while blindfolded? The point is that those skills have very limited application. If you hire a plumber to install a new water heater in your home, what good does it do you if he is also certified to do plumbing work on airplanes, or even the space shuttle? And why in the hell would you pay more for that?

The internet has certainly changed the way we look for goods and services. In the legal forum, you can shop for lawyer like you shop for shoes. Today, legal services are marketed much like any other commodity. When you look around, you’ll notice that most lawyers say the same things: we are experienced, we will fight for you, I’m a former prosecutor, or I’m a former police officer, etc. It doesn’t take long before your head starts spinning. I know where I fit into this scheme: I often brag about all the articles I have written and published (more than 340 DUI articles as of this writing), but I also realize that nobody is going to read them all, and that most people are impatient, and don’t want to start digging through something like Jeff’s Encyclopedia of Michigan DUI Law. It’s almost like you’re walking through a carnival, and everyone is barking at you: winner every time, five throws for a dollar

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