Clearing a Michigan hold on your Driving Record in Another State

A significant part of my driver’s license restoration practice involves obtaining the clearance of a Michigan hold on a person’s driving record, and this includes people who never even had a Michigan driver’s license in the first place. While most clearance appeals involve former Michigan residents, it seems doubly frustrating that a person who never really had anything to do with the state of Michigan other than get a DUI here cannot obtain or renew a license in another state until they clear the Michigan hold. This article and the next will examine how to get rid of a hold from Michigan that prevents a person in another state from obtaining, or, in some cases, renewing a driver’s license, even in cases where a person never held a driver’s license from Michigan.

MiniMich 1.2.gifIf you have a hold from Michigan on your driving record, no state will issue (or renew) a license because now all of the 50 states participate in what’s called the National Driving Register (known as the NDR, and not to be confused with the commercial website trying to profit by using the similar name “national driving registry”). However much you may dislike the NDR, the reality is that any action taken to suspend or revoke your license in one state will be enforced by every other state in which you try to obtain or renew a license. This means that a hold from Michigan will follow you anywhere in the United States. The “hold” itself is defined by Michigan law, which specifies a minimum 1-year revocation of a person’s privilege to drive for a 2nd DUI offense within 7 years, and a minimum 5-year revocation of a person’s driving privilege for a 3rd DUI offense within 10 years. The key to understanding how that affects you is explaining what we mean by “privilege” to drive.

Anyone who ever had a Michigan driver’s license during a period when he or she accumulated multiple DUI’s within 7 or 10 years, regardless of the state or states in which those DUI’s occurred, will have to deal with the mandatory revocation of his or her Michigan driver’s license. When that happens, the Michigan Secretary of State revokes a person’s privilege to drive by revoking his or her actual Michigan driver’s license. If that person moves out of state, no matter where, the DMV in any of the other 49 states will not issue him or her a license because the fact that a person had his or her Michigan driver’s license revoked shows up a “hold” on the NDR when the person applies for a license. Let’s look at 2 examples to help clarify the distinction between those who still have Michigan residency, and those who do not:

If Linda Lansing lost her Michigan license for 2 DUI’s a few years back, and she continues to live in Michigan, no matter how long she waits, her license will remain “revoked” until she files and wins a formal driver’s license restoration appeal before the Michigan Secretary of State’s Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD). Her license status in Michigan is “revoked.” Important here is that Linda is still a Michigan resident.

Assume, however, that Linda Lansing moves to another state. If she goes to its DMV to apply for a license there, she will be refused because Michigan’s revocation shows up as a “hold.” The only way to get rid of that hold is to file for a clearance, which is the exact same thing as a license restoration appeal, except that since the person filing it is no longer a Michigan resident, the Secretary of State cannot issue him or her a license (how could it, because the person is a resident of another state?), but can remove its hold by granting a clearance.

In each of the two examples above, Linda either still was or had been a Michigan resident with a Michigan driver’s license when her revocation took place. Because she held a Michigan driver’s license, revoking her “privilege” to drive and revoking her driver’s license amounted to the same thing. Yet some people who have never been a Michigan resident still wind up with a Michigan hold on their records. How can that be?

In the first place, Michigan cannot revoke or suspend a driver’s license issued by a different state. Similarly, no state can suspend or revoke a driver’s license issued by any other state. What state of Michigan can and does do to someone with an out-of-state license who is convicted of a 2nd or 3rd DUI here (irrespective of where any previous DUI’s occurred) is revoke a person’s “privilege” to use that out-of-state license within the state. Therefore, if Toledo Ted, who live in Ohio and has an Ohio license, got his 1st DUI in Ohio in 2009, and then, while traveling through Michigan, picked up his 2nd DUI in 2014, Michigan would create a driving record for Ted and thereafter revoke his privilege to drive in Michigan. This is done separately and independent of anything Ohio would do. Let’s take this a bit further:

If Ohio chooses to do nothing to Ted’s license for the 2nd (Michigan) DUI, then Ted’s license is still valid in Ohio and in every other state, except Michigan. Michigan’s revocation of Ted’s privileges to drive here means that Ted cannot drive in Michigan no matter what. Even if Ted moved to Florida and obtained a valid license there, it would not work in Michigan, because Ted is essentially “persona non grata” by virtue of his privileges to drive in Michigan having been revoked.

Here’s where things get sticky. Michigan’s revocation of Ted’s ability to drive here (meaning his “privileges”) would kick in pretty soon after his conviction. Ohio, however, would probably not get wind of the Michigan DUI, Ted’s 2nd overall, until Ted had to renew his license there. Assume Ted’s Ohio license is good through 2017. Ted would be able to drive in Ohio, and in every other state, except Michigan, until he went to renew his license at the DMV in 2017, at which time Ohio would run him through the NDR and learn of his revocation of privileges in Michigan. Ohio would interpret Michigan’s revocation of Ted’s privileges to driver here as a “hold,” and then would refuse to let him renew his license. Ted will have to clear the Michigan “hold” on his driving record before Ohio would let him renew his Ohio license, or any other state would grant him a license.

A revoked Michigan license remains a revoked license as long as a person remains a Michigan resident. If, however, a person changes his or her residency to another state, then he or she forfeits any claim to a Michigan license. This means that he or she must apply for a license in the new state, which, as we’ve seen, will run his or her name through the NDR and then find that the person’s Michigan license was revoked. The revocation of a Michigan license essentially translates to a “hold” in any other state, prohibiting the person from obtaining a license until he or she first obtains a clearance in Michigan.

Accordingly, once you have a Michigan hold on your driving record, there is absolutely, 100% NO WAY to get it off until you win a driver’s license clearance appeal. While the language and terms (revocation -vs- hold, and clearance -vs- restoration) are different, what is needed get back on the road is identical. Under Michigan law, if you rack up 2 DUI’s within 7 years of 3 DUI’s within 10 years, you are categorized as a habitual offender and it is presumed that you have an alcohol problem. To get your license back, or to win a clearance of a Michigan hold, a person must file for a license appeal with the DAAD and prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that your alcohol problem is under control and likely to remain under control. In the real world, this means you must prove that you are and have been sober, and, more importantly, that you are a safe bet to never drink again.

A person who lives outside of Michigan can try and get a clearance through what is called an administrative review. 3 out of 4 of those lose. There is a good chance that if you’re reading this, you’ve already tried that. To be perfectly blunt about it, these appeals are a tremendous waste of time, and rather than take my word for it, anyone who can afford to lose and be without a license for another year can try this route on his or her own. Call me next year, when you can file again.

Anyone serious about winning a clearance, however, can do it the right way and come back and see me. My office arranges things so that a new client will come back to Michigan twice: First, to meet with me for 3 hours and then go and have the substance abuse evaluation completed at a local clinic to which I refer most of my clients. The primary purpose of that 3-hour meeting is to prepare my client to have the substance abuse evaluation completed, and to help map out our case. This can be accomplished in one day. The second trip back to Michigan won’t happen for several months, until the DAAD schedules the appeal hearing. Right now, those hearings take about 12 weeks from the time everything is filed.

I guarantee a win in every case I take, so I am quite literally invested in making sure my clients win the first time around. In order to provide my guarantee, however, a person must have really and truly quit drinking. I do not screw around with anyone who hadn’t made the dramatic and life-changing transition from drinker to non-drinker. If you’ve really done it, then you know how profound and far-reaching those changes are. If you think that you can still drink, however, then you’re not there yet. This is a huge problem for some people who still want to drink, but the thing to bear in mind is that the whole point of the license appeal/clearance process is precisely to prevent anyone who has not made a clean and permanent break from alcohol from ever getting back behind the wheel.

Accordingly, arguments like “why should anyone tell me I can’t have a glass of wine with dinner” are nothing more than a waste of time. Instead, the DAAD is looking for people who can truthfully say that they understand that there will never come a time when they will be able to take a sip of alcohol, much less have a glass of wine. The real meat and potatoes of all this is that you must have really gotten sober.

This is as good a place to leave off as any. We have seen that a person can wind up with a hold on his or her driving record in 2 ways: First, anyone who ever had a Michigan license that was revoked for multiple DUI’s will find that revocation becomes a “hold” when he or she tries to get (or, in some cases, renew) a license in another state. Second, even if a person never had a Michigan license, but picked up a 2nd or subsequent-offense DUI here, the revocation of his or her privileges to drive in Michigan will ultimately become a “hold” when he or she attempts to renew an existing license or otherwise obtain a license in a different state. For anyone in this position, this is a hassle, but it is what it is.

In the next article, I am going to look at a common theme that underlies the frustration of people with a Michigan hold on their records, the idea that it isn’t fair, or that Michigan is “stupid.” We’ll see that while you can dislike and complain about the way things are all you want, the ONLY way to ever get past the Michigan hold is to “clear” it, and the only way to do that is to comply with the law and do what needs to be done. As I’ve noted, that begins with being sober.