Michigan Driver’s License Restoration – An Overview of a License Appeal – Part 1

In my numerous articles about Restoring a Michigan Driver’s License, I have quite literally picked the process apart, thrusting each stage under the microscope for detailed inspection. If you want details down to the molecule, I’ve covered it.

This article, separated into 2 parts, will focus on a much briefer overview of the whole process from my point of view as a License Restoration Attorney. If my more than 40 previous articles demonstrate anything, its that these Appeals are detail-oriented, and I a detail kind of guy. Thus, it goes against my inclination to try and “summarize” a process which, by its very nature, is loaded with details. Still, I recognize that not everyone is interested in reading the Encyclopedia a la Jeff about License Restorations. That said, here goes:

Overview1.jpgThe term “License Restoration” applies when someone has had their License “Revoked.” Almost all Revocations I deal with involve 2 or more DUI’s. Sometimes, there’s a Drug-related Driving Offense in there, but all of my License Appeals begin with 2 or more DUI’s, or combination of DUI”s and Substance-Abuse Related Driving Convictions.

After a specific period of time (either 1 year for any combination of 2 DUI and/or Substance-Abuse Related Convictions within 7 years, or 5 years after a combination of any 3 such related Convictions within 10 years) a person becomes eligible to file an Appeal in front of the Michigan Secretary of State’s Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD). This is the body that either grants, or denies these Appeals.

The Process is formally begun by filing a Request for Hearing and Substance Abuse Evaluation, along with notarized Letters of Support with the DAAD main Office in Lansing. In practice, the process is begun well before that, when the person actually makes an appointment with a Licensed and Credentialed Substance Abuse Counselor to have that Evaluation completed. Taking even 1 more step back, when I Represent someone, the process begins when they meet with me, for about 3 hours, to prepare to undergo that Substance Abuse Evaluation.

The Substance Abuse Evaluation, once completed, must have 2 qualities in order to help an Appeal. If it is lacking either of these qualities, it will GUARANTEE that the Appeal is Denied:

1. It must be “Sufficient,” or Legally Adequate, and
2. It must be “Favorable,” or helpful to the person Appealing.

A minimum of 3, but not more than 6 notarized Letters of Support must also be submitted along with the Request for Hearing and the Substance Abuse Evaluation. THe content of these Letters is extremely important.

These Letters must contain certain, very specific information about the person Appealing. Letters that detail what a “good guy” the person Appealing is, and how much he or she may have suffered without a License, and how truly they will treasure the opportunity to Drive again are absolutely useless. In fact, it doesn’t matter if the person filing the Appeal is truly rotten. If the Letters of Support don’t provide the specific, necessary information about the person Appealing, then they don’t count, and the Appeal is lost before it began.

There are several issues that must be proven in order to win a License Appeal. These issues are governed by a Law known as “Rule 13.” While the actual Rule itself sets out 5 distinct things a person filing an Appeal must prove, in practice, there are really 2 main issues which must be addressed in every License Appeal, and, in some cases, a 3rd. We’ll get to those shortly.

Every bit as important as the issues which must be addressed is the nature of the proof that must be made regarding them. A License Appeal is not a case where someone goes in and “tilts the scales”of Justice in their favor. In other words, a person seeking to win their License back has a much different burden of proof than someone who is suing their neighbor over a dog bite. In the dog bite case, the burden of proof the person suing must meet is called a “preponderance of the evidence.” This means that in a dog bite lawsuit, all the person suing must do is “tilt the scales” of Justice in their favor. It means that the evidence shows that what’s at issue more likely happened than not.

In a Criminal case, the standard of proof is known as “beyond a reasonable doubt.” We know that to mean that a person can only be convicted if the Prosecutor, in a sense, hits a home run.

In a License Appeal, the standard of proof is even HIGHER. A person Appealing must prove the things we’ll discuss below by “clear and convincing evidence.” If proof beyond a reasonable doubt means hitting a home run, then clear and convincing evidence means hitting a grand-slam (for those not that familiar with baseball, that means a home run with the bases loaded).

If you have ever seen one of those Olympic gymnastics routines where those young girls do flip after flip on the cross bars, or on the horse, and do it to utter perfection, only to dismount and land without their 2 feet perfectly next to each other, and have to take a half step to line them up, resulting in a score of something like a 9.6, then you’ll understand that clear and convincing evidence means getting a score of at least a 9.9. In other words, there is virtually no room for error.

On top of that, Rule 13 directs that the Hearing Officer “shall deny” the Appeal, unless the “Petitioner [the person Appealing for a License] proves, by clear and convincing evidence…” In other words, the rule is written in the negative. It does not say that a person shall get a License if they prove their case by clear and convincing evidence, it says they shall be denied unless, and only if, they can prove their case by clear and convincing evidence.

This is one high hurdle. Not understanding its nuances can doom an Appeal before it’s filed. There is no “benefit of the doubt” to be given in these Appeals. You either do a near-perfect routine, or you come back next year, and try again.

Interestingly, and perhaps even more ironic, is the fact that a person cannot win an Appeal while on Probation. Usually, they will have to wait at least several months after Probation has ended, even if that’s well past their Appeal eligibility date, in order to prove that their Sobriety is voluntary. While on Probation (or Parole), they’re deemed to be “living in a controlled environment” which subjects them to penalties for consuming alcohol or using drugs, and may even mandate testing to insure that’s the case.

In part 2 we’ll continue and conclude our overview of the Driver’s License Restoration Process, focusing on the most important issue in these Appeals, and the conduct of the Hearing.