Michigan Driver’s License Restoration or Clearance – Short Version

As a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer with loads of articles and published information about the whole license reinstatement process and clearance process, I often wonder how I can come at my subject in some new way. Many of my articles about restoring (or clearing) a revoked Michigan driver’s license are very highly detailed, but long and thorough. Others are broken into multiple installments and examine just one important aspect of winning back your driver’s license. To be different, this article will be an attempt to overview the entire process of Michigan license restorations in a single and shorter installment.

If you accumulate 2 or more DUI convictions, your license gets revoked. You cannot just “get it back.” You have to become “eligible,” meaning that you must wait at least 1 year from your 2nd conviction if you lose it for 2 DUI’s within 7 years, or at least 5 years if you lose it for 3 DUI’s within 10 years. If you get caught driving and are cited for any kind of moving violation during the time your license is revoked, then you get another 1 or 5 years of additional revocation slapped on. If that happens, there is nothing you can do but wait it out.

back-to-basics 1.2.jpgThe Michigan DAAD (meaning the Michigan Secretary of State’s Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) will accept the filing of a driver’s license restoration appeal 6 weeks before your actual eligibility date. Right now, it takes about 10 weeks after everything is filed to actually get a hearing, so this means that your case will be heard about a month after you become eligible. Many people are not aware that the hearing officer does not inform you of his or her decision at the conclusion of the hearing, meaning you will be notified by mail, anywhere for 2 to 4 weeks later.

There is certain paperwork that must be completed and filed in order to request a license hearing. This includes a substance abuse evaluation completed by a licensed substance abuse counselor, at least 3 (I never go with less than 4) letters of support that must be notarized, along with a “request of administrative review,” even if you’re filing for a full hearing.

For people that have moved out of Michigan, there is an abbreviated process called an “administrative review,” in which the paperwork for an appeal is filed by mail, but no hearing is held. About 3 out of 4 (7%) of administrative reviews lose. They are losing propositions. That same term, “administrative review” is confusing because the Michigan DAAD uses in two very different situations. Despite that lack of clarity, the hard reality is that if you actually want to win a clearance, the better choice is to come back to Michigan to do it right.

The rule governing license appeals begins by specifying that “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….” This is a negative mandate, meaning that it essentially requires the hearing officer to look for a reason to deny the case, rather than look for reasons to grant it. This is not just because the state is “mean,” either. Once you have picked up 2 DUI’s within 7 years, or 3 within 10 years, you are, by law, categorized by the state as a “habitual offender,” meaning that you are presumed to have an alcohol problem. This presents a big problem for a lot of people, but the hard reality is that you will never get your license back if you try a license appeal and try and argue that you don’t (or at least didn’t) have a drinking problem because the state automatically designates anyone with multiple DUI’s as having a troubled relationship to alcohol.

The two main things that must always be satisfactorily proven (remember, by “clear and convincing evidence”) to win a Michigan license restoration or clearance appeal are:

1. That your alcohol problem is under control, and 2. That your alcohol problem is likely to remain under control
Accordingly, you must prove a sobriety date, and that you must also prove that you have the commitment and the tools to remain sober. “Sober,” in this sense, means that you have quit drinking for good, and have made the transition from drinker to non-drinker. You will need to show what you learned through counseling and/or at AA, if you attended (even briefly). Here, the Michigan DAAD (sometimes called the DLAD) will be interested in what you’ve learned about yourself more than anything else.

The letters of support are the primary evidence of your sobriety date. My job is to edit and revise the letters to make sure of two things: First, that they contain the necessary and expected information, and second, that they don’t get into to things that are not helpful, which is a very common problem.

The substance abuse evaluation is the foundation of a license appeal. It is a professional clinician’s assessment of the likelihood that you will be able to remain alcohol-free, meaning sober. Unfortunately, way too many clinicians don’t know how to do a substance abuse evaluation in the way that the DAAD wants it because the state’s “preferences” are not particularly clear from looking at the form. I have a unique background that separates me from the herd of other lawyers “doing” license appeals in that I have formal training and am actively engaged in the study of alcohol and addiction issues at the post-graduate, University level. I understand things from the clinical side of things, and speak that language. As a result, I have built a working relationship with a network of evaluators that I have cultivated over the years.

This is so important that when I take a case, I will first meet with a new client for 3 hours just to prepare him or her before his or her substance abuse evaluation is completed. I have my own special form, called a “substance abuse evaluation checklist” that I fill out as we go along and send with my client to give the evaluator to make sure that every little detail is properly covered.

And details are important. The whole thing about the DAAD looking for a reason to deny your appeal is this: When you present your case, you must prove it by “clear and convincing evidence.” That means that after everything has been considered, if the hearing officer has any questions about your evidence, it is not “clear.” If attend a hearing and are there to answer any questions (and you do so satisfactorily), that’s good. If you just mail in your paperwork and the hearing officer reviewing it has a question that you’re not there to answer, then you lose. This explains why 3 out of 4 administrative appeals are denied.

If any of the details of your case are not crystal clear, and strongly convincing that your alcohol problem is under control, and likely to remain under control, then your appeal will be denied and you’ll have to wait another year to try again.

When I take your case, I guarantee that I’ll win it (but you must honestly have quit drinking before I will represent you), so that you’ll only pay me once to get back on the road. I often observe that license appeals are governed by “a million little rules,” some of which only become clear after lots of practice. Some people dive headlong into this without a lawyer and find this out for themselves that this is more complex than it seems. The important thing to remember is that the real cost of a losing your appeal is that you must to wait another whole year to file again.

While not short on my usual degree of elaboration, this article has distilled the very basics of a Michigan driver’s license restoration case into one manageable installment. Of course, just about every point made here could form the basis of its own article. Fortunately, within my rather large collection of blog articles and website sections just about any topic reviewed here has been put under the microscope for those interested in a more detailed examination. As a starting point, or a summary, this should suffice.