As Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, we guarantee to win every driver’s license restoration and clearance appeal case we take. To do that, we have to prove to the Michigan Secretary of State that a person has been abstinent from alcohol for a “legally sufficient” period of time (normally, we require someone to have been completely alcohol-free for at least 18 months before moving forward with a case), and that he or she is a safe bet to never drink again, meaning to stay sober. In this article, I want to examine real sobriety, and show what it has in common with – but how it’s also different – than mere abstinence from alcohol.

https://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2021/06/Key-1.2-253x300.jpgSobriety is an important topic in its own right, but our discussion here will focus on the fact that it is THE critical thing needed to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration case. Unfortunately, while most people are familiar with what the terms “sober” and “sobriety” mean, their understanding is often incomplete. Of course, a person is “sober,” in one sense, if he or she is not intoxicated at a given time, but in the larger recovery world, “sober” means a lot more than just that. The importance of this goes beyond mere language, because the key difference between being abstinent from alcohol and truly sober is really the difference between being able to win a license appeal case – or not.

To anyone who has struggled with and ultimately recovered from a problem with alcohol, sobriety is not just the absence of drinking, it is really a state of being. It grows out of a person’s self-recognition that he or she has developed a drinking problem, and then made a firm decision to quit, and remain alcohol-free for life. In that sense, all sober people are abstinent, but not all abstinent people are sober. A person can have abstinence forced upon him or her, or otherwise choose to not drink for a period of time, but real sobriety requires a personal choice and commitment to never drink again.

As Michigan DUI lawyers, we answer a lot of questions about what a person can expect as he or she goes through the court process following a drunk driving arrest. There are various things that can be avoided completely, some that fall into the “maybe” category, and others that are all but certain. In this article, I want to talk about the certain requirement that anyone on bond, awaiting the resolution of his or her DUI case, or on probation, after it has been wrapped up, will be absolutely prohibited from consuming alcohol by the court.

vectorstock_21731757-226x300It might help to begin our discussion with the humbling and universally applicable reminder that, “Yes, you are special and unique – just like everyone else.” This really has particular application in the DUI world, because an important part of the role my team and I have to fulfill is very much like being a diplomat, shuttling between our client, where we are mindful of his or her individual circumstances, and the court system, which winds up, at least to some extent, treating everyone the same. Our job is to make sure the court doesn’t lose sight of our client’s individuality, and to make sure the client understands that, at certain points, you’re going to be treated like everyone else, regardless of your particular situation.

Although most people understand and accept the “no drinking” order issued by every court – in every DUI case – even if just because they have to, there are some who have a very hard time with it. Over the course of 30-plus years, I’ve heard every explanation imaginable for why such a restriction should NOT be placed upon a person, either as a condition of bond, or a term of probation. These have ranged from the “need” to share a few cocktails at business dinners and meetings to arguments like, “They’re treating me like I’m an alcoholic,” “Drinking is legal,” “What about my rights?”, and “This isn’t fair!”

My team and I know, from our experience as Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, that few things can compare to the absolute joy of winning back the ability to legally drive again. Fortunately, because our practice concentrates in restoration and clearance cases, and we handle over 200 license appeals per year, we get to share in and enjoy these moments almost every day. By and large, lawyers concentrate on fixing legal problems, and although most people are grateful for having a case cleared up, few things feel as good as finally winning back your driver’s license.

vectorstock_21193565-300x281There is no other area of law where a lawyer gets a chance to represent someone who is on the same kind of upswing in his or her life as the typical driver’s license restoration client. Most often, in a license appeal case, our client is someone who came to the hard-won realization that he or she needed to quit drinking, and then not only did that, but also made the changes necessary to remain sober thereafter. By the time anyone who has had his or her license revoked for multiple DUI’s finally wins it back, it’s like putting the last piece of the puzzle of life back into place.

When someone wins (or, one could say earns) back the privilege to drive, it feels good. So good, in fact, that I’ve had lots of people, including some very big and tough guys, cry on the spot, because they realized that life had finally come full circle for them. Suddenly, all the talk about recovery and sobriety and all the promises that things will get better came true. Yet for as great as this is, it really is kind of like the proverbial “cherry on top,” because at the point where a sober person does win his or her license back, their life has usually improved in countless other ways, as well. Let me explain…

As Michigan DUI lawyers, we analyze evidence from drunk driving arrests every single day. One of the bigger misunderstandings people have about DUI cases is that all a lawyer has to do is file challenges to all the evidence in order to “ muddy up the waters” enough to get the prosecutor to surrender. That’s completely wrong. The inspiration for this article came from my senior assistant, who, after a long day on the phones, rather astutely pointed out that “you can challenge everything, but it only makes a difference if you win. We deal in facts, not fantasy.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that observation.

Slim-Fact-300x300The reality is that a lawyer can pretty much challenge almost every bit of evidence, but unless he or she is successful, all that work amounts to nothing more than a waste of time – and the client’s money. To be sure, that can be profitable for the attorney, but beyond jacking up the fees, such fruitless challenges cause the other key parties (namely, the Judge and the prosecutor) to lose patience with a lawyer who either knows, or at least should know better, and also puts the client on a kind of emotional roller-coaster, by getting his or her hopes up, only to ultimately disappoint him or her later on. That’s just plain deceitful.

Of course, challenging faulty or even questionable evidence is not only important, it’s an obligation for a competent Michigan DUI lawyer. My team and I always go to court and fight to exclude any evidence that may reasonably be kept out of the case. Likewise, we know how work with – and work around – the evidence that does exist (and can’t or won’t be tossed out) in order to help produce the very best outcome possible in the case; that’s what being a lawyer is all about. When some lawyer challenges any and everything, however, and just fights for the sake of fighting, or to run up a legal bill, that only serves to piss everyone off.

In part 1 of this article, we began looking at the subject of legal fees in Michigan DUI and driver’s license restoration cases. I pointed out that there are 2 main reasons why lawyers are so secretive about how much they charge, and we looked at the first of them – the idea that it’s better to establish some kind of relationship with a person before talking money. However successful or not such a tactic may be, I strongly believe that it’s better for a lawyer to be upfront about costs. Thus, our firm is the only practice I know that publishes its fees online.

Moneyguy1-279x300In all candor, I think that’s a shame. As I said before, whatever business advantage or strategy some lawyer may think there is to avoiding the topic of money, absolutely none of that benefits the consumer. Right now, the words “transparent” and “transparency” are popular, and I can think of no place where they are more relevant than letting someone know how much something is going to cost, especially when it comes to hiring a lawyer. This ties into another thing our firm does differently, and that’s suggest that anyone looking for a lawyer take the time to really look around. The fact is that there is simply no downside to being a wise consumer.

This brings us to the second reason fees aren’t disclosed up-front by lawyers, and it really grows out of the first that we discussed in part 1 of this article. Beyond just not wanting to “scare off” a potential client right out of the gate, by talking money, a lot of lawyers are afraid they’ll quote a fee that’s either too high, or, more commonly, below what they’d otherwise be able to get if they dig around a little bit and “feel out” or explore what a potential client is able and willing to pay, and what he or she has been quoted so far. Many years ago, an older lawyer explained the technique to me like this:

Within our roles Michigan DUI and driver’s license restoration lawyers, we are frequently asked something like “How much do you charge?” or “How much does this cost?” The subject of fees is always treated like a big secret by most lawyers and law firms – but NOT for us! We are the ONLY firm I know of that publishes our fees online. Having done this for more than 20 years, I simply cannot understand why nobody else lists their fees, or why, for so much of the legal world, prices are simply not disclosed up-front.

Hat2-300x276My team and I truly believe that how much you’re going to have to pay for something should always be clearly stated, and legal fees are no exception to that. There is absolutely NO good reason why a person should have to wonder, or wait to ask, how much a lawyer is going to cost for a particular case. Of course, there are reasons why some lawyers are coy about the whole subject of money, but none of them are good, and only serve them, and not the people paying them. The whole “hush-hush” attitude surrounding what a lawyers charges never benefits the client – ever.

There are 2 primary reasons why lawyers don’t disclose their fees up front: The first reason is a general fear of “scaring off” a potential client in the belief that it’s better to establish a rapport with someone before talking money (and legal fees aren’t cheap). The second reason is more nefarious, and is based on the tactic of “feeling the client out” in order to learn what he or she can (and is willing) to pay, and/or what fees he or she has already been quoted and then figuring out how much to ask for in order to “seal the deal,” so to speak. Thankfully, our firm doesn’t use those gimmicks – or any others, for that matter.

To win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case, a person must satisfy certain legal requirements, most of which are set out in the main rule governing license appeals. As Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, we know that a lot of people, including lawyers who hold themselves out to “do” license restorations, miss a critical part of the written law that’s spelled out before any of the legal issues or requirements are specified. As we’ll see, this language is so simple that it’s easily overlooked, but missing it will (and, in fact, must) result in a license appeal case being denied.

https://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2021/05/Win-1.2-300x273.jpgThe main rule that really controls the whole license appeal process begins with this critical sentence: “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…” Notice the 5th word in that sentence: it’s “not.” This means that the rule begins by instructing the hearing officer to NOT grant a license appeal unless, as it goes on to say, the person proves his or her case by what is specified as “clear and convincing evidence.”

In other words, the hearing officer is essentially supposed to begin considering a case with “no” as the answer, and can only change his or her mind if the person presents favorable evidence that is both “clear and convincing.” To put this in perspective, it’s important to note that there is no other legal rule (at least none of which I’m aware) that begins with a negative mandate like this, and that’s huge. Unfortunately, the significance of this one little word (“not”) is often missed.

As Michigan DUI attorneys, my team and I answer a lot of questions from people who have been arrested for drunk driving. In this article, I want to provide answers to 4 of the most common, important, and widely applicable things we get asked. Before we get there, however, I want to make clear that answering questions is a fundamental part of what we do, and that asking questions is exactly what anyone looking for a lawyer should be doing. This is all part of the consultation process, and if done correctly, will help both the potential client and the lawyer figure out if they’re a good fit for each other.

vectorstock_21510773-300x300That said, the first thing a person should be looking for is a lawyer who will provide him or her with honest answers. In the world of DUI cases, it’s what you need to hear, rather than just what you want to hear, that’s most important. Of course it is basic human nature to gravitate toward things that sound “better,” but anyone facing a DUI needs to quickly become a more sophisticated consumer and really check around before he or she hands over their money to some lawyer who makes it sound like he or she has some kind of magic key to make everything just “go away.”

Moreover, any lawyer with enough confidence in him or her self (and worth hiring in the first place) should encourage a person to check around and compare Michigan DUI attorneys. I have listed 4 questions below that represent a sample of things we get asked all the time. There are other questions that regularly come up, but my goal here was to pick a handful that are among the most frequently asked, important, and that are also relevant to the broadest audience. To be sure, everyone has questions, but my goal was to discuss a few that generally applied to everyone facing a DUI.

In part 1 of this article, we began an examination of how remote meetings and remote license appeal hearings have made it much easier for people who live elsewhere to get a Michigan hold off of their driving record so that they can obtain a license in their new state. In our practice as Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, we have been able to things set up so that our clients can do everything with us, from the first meeting to the last – and have the required substance use evaluation completed with our evaluator – all from home.

vectorstock_11509240-274x300I also pointed out that the way the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) now conducts license appeal hearings – over a secure remote platform – is much different (and better) than how they used to be done when they were called “video hearings.”  That method sucked, and I have long been critical of them. I only ever did one such hearing, and refused to do any more that way. In fact, my team and I had always been eligible to do the old-style “video hearings” at a certain Secretary of State branch office less than 5 minutes from our office, but chose, instead, to drive nearly an hour away, just to appear for a live hearing. That should say something.

Now, a remote hearing can be done over a cell phone, and the sound and picture quality are a million times better than how they used to be when using the clunky old equipment in some side room at an SOS branch office for what was then called a “video hearing.” Given how much better remote hearings are than the old “video” hearings, I genuinely like them, and that means a lot, because our firm guarantees to win every driver’s license restoration and clearance appeal case we take.  Because our guarantee is on the line, you can be sure my team and I wouldn’t do anything that could or would compromise a client’s case or chances of success.

If you live elsewhere but have a Michigan hold on your driving record after 2 or more DUI convictions, then you need to clear (meaning release) it so you can get a license in your new state. This is called a “clearance,” and getting it requires a person to file the exact same documentation and evidence that he or she would submit for a Michigan driver’s license restoration appeal. The really good news is that now, as Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, my team and I can handle these matters entirely remotely so that a person doesn’t even have to leave the comfort of his or her home to get it done.

Clear-3-250x300This is a huge change from how things were done before the Coronavirus pandemic. For years, license appeal hearings were either held in person, or through the Michigan Secretary of State’s (SOS) closed-circuit video system, both of which required a person to come back to Michigan. Now, hearings are done over a secure remote meeting platform, allowing every participant to be in a different physical location, while all being the same virtual hearing room. This saves the time and money previously required to come back to Michigan, and has really made things convenient for those who no longer live here, but have an SOS hold on their driving record and still want to get this done the right way.

Up until recently, I had always believed in holding live license appeal hearings, rather than going with the alternative, which is to file an appeal by mail, called an “administrative review.” Statistically speaking, only 1 out of every 4 administrative reviews actually wins, meaning that 3 out of 4 of them are denied, and these numbers have always remained consistent from year to year. Moreover, nobody knows how many times those who eventually do win an administrative review have tried before and lost. Put bluntly, the odds of success for any appeal by mail just plain suck.

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