Michigan Driver’s License Restoration – From Restricted to Full License in a Year

After a Michigan resident wins a Driver’s License Restoration Appeal, they are put on a Restricted License and required to drive with a kind of breathalyzer unit in their car, called and ignition interlock, for a minimum of 1 year. In a recent blog article, I examined what kind of License you get when you win a Michigan Driver’s License Restoration Appeal. This article will focus on what needs to be done after that minimum first year on the Restricted License with the ignition interlock has been fulfilled.

To be clear, this necessary follow-up only applies to Michigan residents. Out-of-state residents do not win a Michigan Driver’s License; they win a “Clearance” of the Michigan Hold on their Driving Record that allows them to obtain (or renew) a License in another state. Once they’ve won their first Appeal, they’re done.

Pieguy copy1.jpgIt’s not quite so simple for Michigan residents. The Michigan Secretary of State’s Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) requires that anyone winning a Michigan License Appeal be monitored for at least one year before they can come back and request that they be allowed to remove the ignition interlock unit from their car and be awarded a Full License. I am often asked if there is any way around this. There is not; it is required by Law.

The Hearing Officers deciding these Appeals find some security in the idea that they can keep a Driver on a kind of leash. The reader may be surprised to learn how many people on the ignition interlock wind up blowing positive for alcohol. And I’m not talking about false readings, either; I mean true-blue, bona fide proof of drinking results. Fortunately, I don’t see too much of that, as I try very hard to screen out anyone who is not really and truly Sober, and committed to remaining that way. By limiting my Representation to only those people who are Sober, I can also offer a first time win Guarantee in any case that I accept.

Yet winning the first time does not, in any way, guarantee winning the second Appeal for Full Driving Privileges and removal of the ignition interlock. This does seem rather counter-intuitive; after all, if a person has had no problems for a year, and has already won their first License Appeal, what more could the state want?

As it turns out, the state wants a lot.

After that first year is up, and a person becomes eligible to file for removal of the ignition interlock and Full Driving Privileges, they must go through the entire License Appeal process all over again. The ONLY difference is that they must also bring a “final report” from the interlock company detailing how well (or not) they did with the breath-testing unit in their vehicle. We’ll come back to this later.

This means that a person must do the following:

  • Undergo a complete and new Substance Abuse Evaluation, complete with urine test
  • Get new, updated Letters of Support
  • Get a “Final Report”
  • Request a Hearing, and
  • Attend (and win) their Hearing.

In my Office, the entire License Restoration process is repeated, as if a person has never done it before. It begins with confirming their eligibility to move for a full License.

This is important. Recently, I saw a case where a person had the interlock installed on his car, and driven with it, and without incident, for a full year. Yet somehow, due to a purely Secretary of State screw-up, their actual, physical Restricted License wasn’t issued (meaning printed) until a few months thereafter. Their second time around Appeal could not move forward because, even though the Driver had the interlock installed in his car, even though he used it for a whole year without a problem, and even though no one told him any differently, the clock for the required year did not start to officially run until the paper Restricted License was printed several months later.

Although this error was completely the state’s fault, it didn’t change the fact that, by Law, the person was required to have driven for at least 12 months on the ignition interlock and with a valid Restricted License, which did not exist for the first several months because someone at the Secretary of State failed to hit the “print” button.

Once their eligibility has been confirmed, the Client and I begin with that same 3-hour meeting to prepare them to undergo the Substance Abuse Evaluation. Remember, the Substance Abuse Evaluation is the very foundation of a License Appeal. To insure a win so that my Client can remove the ignition interlock and have a full License, I carefully prepare for, manage and oversee each and every step in the License Appeal process.

The “Final Report” is a certified document printed and prepared by the interlock company, upon a person’s request, after that have driven with the unit in their car for at least 12 months. The Final Report provides a summary overview of the person’s performance on the interlock unit, and lists and specifies any kind of violation, major or minor, along with the reason for such violation, be it a positive BAC or a start up or rolling retest failure. Major violations result in a person having their License immediately Suspended and being summoned to appear before the DAAD as soon as they occur. If that didn’t happen during the year, then it won’t be suddenly showing up on the Final Report.

If a person takes care of the regular calibration and maintenance of the unit, and pays the cost according to schedule, this document is generally in their hands within days of the request.

There are some things that can go wrong with these Appeals. I suspect that some of the common mistakes or oversights which cause these “second time around” Appeals to lose most often result from the misconception that they are easier to win the first time around, or that simply not having had any ignition interlock problems somehow becomes the most important focal point of any such case, and that having a clean interlock Record makes winning a full License a “shoe-in.”

That’s not the case. If it were, I’d quickly cut back the time I spend with my Client’s preparing for the Substance Abuse Evaluation. As it turns out, for these “Full License,” second time around Appeals, I only charge my previous Clients 2/3 of the Fee they paid me for their first win. I wouldn’t put the same work in for less money unless I really believed it was necessary.

But it is necessary. When a person goes before the DAAD, their case is randomly assigned to a Hearing Officer, meaning that, if they had their first Hearing in Livonia, there is only a 1 in 5 chance that they’ll get the same Hearing Officer again. Since I have all of my Hearings scheduled in Livonia, this means that, if a person’s first case was heard anywhere else, they will definitely have be meeting a Hearing Officer they’ve never seen before.

It takes careful preparation and conscientious management to make sure a person wins an Appeal for a Full License after spending a year on a Restricted License with the ignition interlock. This is hardly the time to miss an important detail.

I make sure my Clients win.

Yet for all of that, I maintain the same attitude about second time, “full” Appeals that I do when anyone wants to try to win back their License the first time, on their own: I say, go for it. If you lose, you can try again in a year. I’ll still be here, and if you need me, call me then. At least we can get it right the second, second-time around.