Every Michigan driver’s license restoration and clearance appeal is decided by a hearing officer. Technically called an “administrative law examiner” (for all practical purposes, the same thing as an “administrative law Judge”), a hearing officer is a licensed attorney employed by the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office of Hearings and Administrative Oversight. Because they decide all license appeal (including implied consent and ignition interlock violations) matters, SOS hearing officers serve an incredibly important function.
For as much power as they have to approve or deny license appeals, hearing officers are constrained to exercise it within very strict rules. This is important, because most lawyers don’t know the ins and outs of these rules, and fewer still work with them enough to really understand how they are interpreted and applied by each hearing officer. People who lose a “do-it-yourself” license appeal (or who lose with some lawyer who does not concentrate in this field) often become frustrated at the result, and blame the hearing officer, without understanding how the application of the rules controlled the outcome of their case.
Although the governing rules are written in black and white, the way each hearing officer interprets certain parts of them can vary, essentially meaning that there is some gray area. This is where the uniqueness of the various hearing officers matters, and why it is very important for us, as driver’s license restoration lawyers, to know each one, and how he or she does things. Something that one hearing officer couldn’t care less about may be a complete deal killer with another. If the lawyer doesn’t know how this applies to every part of a case, then he or she is not properly prepared to move forward with it.