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Driver’s License Restoration and Clearance cases are well-suited to start over the phone, and the “down time” many people have now is a good opportunity to begin this process.

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Getting your license back has never been more convenient! As a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I never thought I’d say anything that sounded as cheesy as that, but because of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, we’re living in strange times, and a lot has changed in the legal world. In the context of license appeals, the Michigan Secretary of State has suspended in-person hearings, and is conducting them all virtually. As a consequence, our practice has likewise adapted and evolved, allowing us to do our client meetings virtually, as well.

2-300x291Before I go any further, let me clarify a small, but important point: the “virtual” hearings taking place now are NOT the same as the video hearings previously used by the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS), which required a person to appear in a special video room at an SOS branch office. The sound and video quality of those hearings was terrible. The old, low-tech camera and boomy-sounding microphone sat up high on a shelf on the wall on the opposite side of the room, and produced a grainy picture with voices that sounded like they were coming from inside a giant metal can.

The online hearings of today are held using the Microsoft “Teams” app, and allow participants to log on anywhere there’s an internet connection. These are much more intimate and of far better quality than the kind of “closed circuit” system used before. I have always been vocal in my dislike of the video hearings the way they used to be done by the Secretary of State, before the pandemic. I have written numerous articles about why I would never have any of my cases heard that way, and nothing has changed about that.

Sobriety – in our roles as a Michigan driver’s license restoration attorneys, this is THE most important things we look for in every potential client. In our day-to-day conversations with callers, we find that the notion of sobriety is widely misunderstood. The point of this article is to try and make clear (in my case, by sheer repetition) that sobriety is a non-negotiable requirement to succeed in a license appeal case, and that, without it, a person simply cannot win.

License restoration cases are complex, and governed by what I call “a million little rules,” but absolutely none of that matters unless a person has first given up drinking for good. The reader should take note that the main rule governing license appeals requires that the hearing officer deny an appeal unless the person filing it proves, by what the law defines as “clear and convincing evidence,” that his or her alcohol problem is “under control,” and that it is “likely to remain under control.” Lets see what those things really mean in the next 2 paragraphs:

In part 3 of this article, we continued examining how, in all Michigan DUI cases, the courts are going to focus on a person’s drinking because, as simplistic as it may sound, the fact that a person already has a DUI makes him or her an identified, increased risk to do it again. I reiterated that multiple studies have shown that, as a group, people who previously had a DUI (or multiple DUI’s) test out with a higher incidence of alcohol problems than everyone else who hasn’t had one. We then concluded by noting that, despite everything else, sometimes, a DUI just happens.

Yet for as much as a DUI can “just happen” to just about anyone, the reality is that the overwhelming majority of people never get one. There are about 30,000 DUI arrests in Michigan each year, representing around 0.3% of the state’s nearly 10,000,000 person population. This means that more than 99.7% of people don’t get arrested for a DUI in any given year. Moreover, out of those 30,000-some cases, more than 9 out of 10 are NOT dismissed for any legal (or other) reason. While it’s understandable that everyone wants to get completely out of their DUI, the simple truth is that such results are the exception, and not the rule.

In part 2 of this article, we continued our examination of the court system’s focus on a person’s drinking in Michigan DUI cases. We noted that multiple studies have confirmed that there is a statistically increased rate of drinking problems among people who’ve had a DUI when compared to those who have never had one. For this reason, more than any other, the courts order everyone on bond and probation for a DUI to not consume alcohol, and also requires them to “test,” to ensure their compliance.

close-look-300x249Because of the court system’s intense focus on a person’s drinking, one of the problems we encounter, as Michigan DUI lawyers, is that Judges are seriously inclined to “overdo” the whole education/counseling/treatment thing. No matter what, all courts take a “better safe than sorry” approach. It is generally accepted that it is always better to have sent someone to counseling or treatment than he or she did not need than to have NOT sent him or her for any kind help they really did need.

This is perhaps easier to understand by taking a look at a 2nd offense DUI: Under Michigan law, anyone convicted of a 2nd (or 3rd) offense DUI is categorized as a “habitual alcohol offender,” and is presumed to have a drinking problem. Consequently, the person’s driver’s license will be revoked, because he or she is seen as risky, and a danger to the public. Getting it back requires proving, to the Michigan Secretary of State, that he or she has completely quit drinking alcohol, and is a safe bet to never drink again.

In part 1 of this article, we began looking at where the courts directs their attention in all Michigan DUI cases – to the person’s drinking. I pointed out that each year in Michigan, there about 30,000 DUI arrests, and then noted that our senior assistant often (correctly) points out to people who call us that “a DUI is about your drinking, not your driving.” Although it’s normal for anyone facing an OWI charge to hope his or her case can be “knocked out” somehow, the fact is that, on average, more than 9 out of 10 (>93%) of all DUI cases brought in this state do NOT get dismissed.

lkjlkjlkjlj-300x237The upshot of all this is that in order to produce the best results in those cases – the more than 9 out of 10 that don’t get tossed out our of court – it is imperative to know why the court system focuses on a person’s drinking, and what it’s looking at, as well as what it’s looking for. As also mentioned in part 1, it has been consistently demonstrated that DUI drivers, as a group, have a notably higher rate of drinking problems than the population at large, meaning everyone else who has not been arrested for a DUI.

The fact that people with a DUI have a higher rate of drinking problems than people without a prior DUI is very significant. Unfortunately, it is also completely ignored by most DUI legal websites. While many lawyers love to talk about getting cases dismissed, few of them want to talk about the fact that such outcomes do NOT occur in more than 9 out of 10 cases, and that’s a disservice. The reality is that, with very few exceptions, almost everyone arrested for a DUI is going to wind up on probation for it, so making that probation as easy and lenient as possible is crucial.

One of the more difficult things for anyone going through a Michigan DUI to grasp is why the court system focuses so much on his or her drinking. People often mistakenly believe that the court will be most concerned about the exercise of poor judgment that led to them driving drunk, but, as it turns out, that’s not the case. Instead, as our senior assistant puts it, “A DUI is about your drinking, not your driving.” This is key to understanding how and why OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) cases are handled as they are.

werggg2-300x270For purposes of this article, we’ll skip analyzing all the legal concerns about the admissibility of the evidence and the like, especially because those issues only come up in a small minority of cases, anyway. In Michigan, on average, more than 93% of DUI arrests DO NOT get dismissed or knocked out of court for evidentiary or other problems. Thus, our inquiry here will focus on how things work for the vast majority of people (more than 9 out of 10) here in the Metropolitan-Detroit area (meaning Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and the surrounding counties).

To be sure, the fact that a person drove while intoxicated IS the central issue of any DUI case, Accordingly, the main goals of the law is to impose enough consequences and penalties to deter him or her from ever doing it again. However, this is balanced by another (and often overlooked) goal: to make that point without ruining a person’s life. While people are often initially freaked out over the potential consequences of a DUI charge, the reality is that the court system has no interest in costing a person his or her job, destroying their future, or otherwise coming down too hard.

The other day, I had the pleasure of speaking with one of the few other “big time” Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers. This attorney has been in the field for well over 30 years, and, like me, she has a website with a name that predates any slick idea of using target words like “driver’s license restoration” in the title. This stands in rather stark contrast to the new crop of “McLicense” lawyers and websites I wrote about in a recent article. In this piece, I want to look at at the very foundation of driver’s license appeals the other lawyer and I discussed – the required documents – and why experience is so important when it comes to those things.

image-2-277x300Even the most superficial examination of the documentation necessary to win a license restoration appeal could fill a library, so our mission here will be, in a play on words, to look at how we look at those documents. What I find most troubling is that the discussion I had with the other lawyer was largely beyond the experience and grasp of all those “McLicense” lawyers. Anyone can file a “do-it-yourself” license appeal, or even hire some lawyer to just “file” one for them. What matters, though, is whether that person or lawyer really knows what they’re looking at, and what to look for within the required documents.

In other words, does the person filing the appeal really know how to properly check over the substance use evaluation, letters of support, and request for administrative review before filing? My driver’s license restoration lawyer colleague observed, in a “shop talk” kind of way, that it takes a lot of work to prepare, assemble, review and file these things. Each of these documents must be done correctly in the first place, and that alone requires a lot of effort. Then, before they are filed, each must be checked and re-checked – not just for typos and such – but also to make sure the information contained in each is consistent, both with itself, and with the others.

Although we are “Michigan” DUI attorneys, my team and I concentrate our drinking and driving practice to the local courts of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and the surrounding Counties. Unlike our driver’s license restoration practice, which is state-wide (and country-wide, really), we limit the DUI cases we take to those pending in the Greater-Detroit area. This concentrates our experience in the same circle of courts, working with the same Judges and prosecutors, day-in and day-out, and enables us to really know how to best handle a DUI case in each of them.

unnamed-300x300The bottom line is that a person hires a DUI lawyer to make his or her situation better. The expectation is that a lawyer is selling relevant and specific experience that can be used to help the client, and not just accepting payment, like some kind of “tuition,” in order learn how things are done in a court where he or she doesn’t regularly appear. I think that it’s better for a lawyer to accept a DUI case when he or she can genuinely help someone, based upon having actual experience in the court where the case is pending, rather than just seizing an opportunity to take in another retainer.

Location is critically important, especially in DUI cases, because every court is different and those differences can sometimes be profound. I recently explained to someone that facing a DUI in one local court would be like going to the dentist for a regular dental cleaning, while facing a DUI in the neighboring court, one district over, would be like going in for a root canal. The likely outcome of the same garden-variety DUI case can range from “not so bad” to very tough, simply because of the court in which it arises.

We began part 1 of this article by noting that it is not a “cheat sheet” to learn all the things a person needs to say in order to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case. There is no way to do that, because the one thing that the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) looks for in every license appeal is real sobriety. A person basically has to prove that he or she is a safe bet to never drink again. Thus, anyone just trying to say the “right” things to win a license restoration case is really just trying to fake being sober, and that won’t fly.

1-Hero-mobile_1545325955-1-300x286I noted that the SOS hearing officers have learned to filter through all the BS that comes their way in order to verify that a person seeking to win back his or her license has, in fact, quit drinking. Using an old turn of phrase, we saw that the license appeal process was about making sure that, beyond just being able to “talk the talk,” a person can also “walk the walk.” I went on to point out that nobody quits drinking because it’s working out so well; instead, people quit when their drinking has caused too many problems for them, and they’ve just had enough.

This means that there really is no way to win a license appeal by just repeating certain “buzzwords” and having a rudimentary grasp of the language of recovery. The hearing officer is going to expect a person to talk about the struggles he or she went through that finally led to him or her deciding that they couldn’t drink anymore. The decision to quit drinking involves what is clinically described as a “tipping of the decisional balance,” and it describes how a person will be okay with drinking for years, but then, one day, simply decide that they’re done.

This article is actually NOT a tutorial covering all the right buzzwords a person needs to say in order to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal. Instead, I chose the title as a satirical way to point out that you can’t do that, and to make clear that there are no shortcuts on the path to winning your license back. While a person does have to say some of the “right” things in order to win a license appeal case, what matters more is that he or she really means them, and that they are true.

unnamed-42-296x300Let’s begin by taking note that, in order to win a driver’s license restoration or clearance case, a person must prove 2 things, by what is legally defined as clear and convincing evidence: First, that his or her alcohol problem is “under control,” which requires showing he or she has been completely abstinent from alcohol for a legally “sufficient” period of time (our office generally prefers a minimum of 18 months before we’ll file a case), and second, that his or her alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control,” which requires demonstrating that he or she is a safe bet to never drink again.

The key to winning a restoration or clearance case, therefore, is proving sobriety. The Michigan Secretary of State has no interest in listening to anyone who lost his or her license for multiple DUI’s now argue that he or she can somehow safely drink alcohol once in a while, on “special occasions,” or anything like that. The line in the sand has been drawn by the law: Only those who can prove that they haven’t had a drink for a legally “sufficient” period of time and have both the ability and commitment to remain alcohol-free for good can win a license appeal.

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