The keys to Clearing a Michigan hold on your Driving Record

The last 2 out-of-state driver’s license restoration articles on this blog have been about obtaining the clearance of a Michigan hold upon a person’s driving record in order to obtain or renew a non-Michigan license. In this article, I want to make a super-short summary of the major points from those 2 articles. If you’ve read either or both of them, then you might be interested in what I find most important. If you’re coming to this installment first, then you might as well start here.

Thumbnail image for Key 1.2.jpgWhen you walk into the DMV of any state, only to be informed that a license cannot be issued or renewed because the Michigan Secretary of State has a hold on your driving record, you want to know what can be done. In many cases, people become frustrated and upset, and while those feelings are understandable, they do absolutely nothing to help you move forward. The main focus of my day-to-day work is obtaining clearances and restoring driver’s licenses for people who have multiple DUI’s, and I do (and win) these cases by the hundreds. As a result, my office gets lots of calls from people who are being “held up” by a Michigan hold.

If you’ve honestly quit drinking, I can get you back on the road. It helps to being with the understanding that the whole Michigan clearance/license restoration process is designed to make sure you have quit drinking. This means that if you still drink at all, the entire process is aimed at keeping you off the road. I cannot say this enough; the door to getting a clearance is only open for those who can prove that they are sober, and that live a sober lifestyle. This is not negotiable.

Anyone who needs to clear a Michigan hold does have choices. The best choice, assuming that you’ve quit drinking, is to call me and let me take care of this for you. If you haven’t quit drinking, the brutal truth is that you’re going to have to choose what’s more important – drinking or driving. Because the whole point of a license clearance or restoration appeal is to make sure that a repeat offense drunk driver has made a clean break from alcohol before he or she can get a license, it is a waste of time to try and finagle your way through by thinking you are different. I don’t make those rules (nor do I disagree with them), but those are the rules, and they are not bent to make accommodations. It doesn’t matter how much you “need” a license, it only matters that you present as close to being a zero risk as possible to ever drink again.

Over the years, we’ve heard the frustration. One thing you can take to the bank, though, is that sober people don’t have that undirected angry edge in their voices and don’t lash out. What I mean is that it is always the person who still wants to drink that gets all worked up and says something like “This is bull$hit. Why should Michigan care what I do? I don’t live there anymore, and they want to tell me that I can’t have a glass of wine every once in a while?” Anyone who is sober recognizes what this is all about; if you didn’t say it yourself, you certainly can imagine yourself having said it back when you were drinking. And that “glass of wine?” Like it was ever just about a single “glass of wine,” anyway.

Think about it this way: You’re complaining about the inconvenience that not having a license is causing you. You may not be able to get or keep a better job, and you can’t drive yourself anywhere, and yet, for all of that, giving up “the occasional glass of wine” is too much to ask? Actions speak louder than words, and in that context, drinking is obviously more important than driving, even though not driving is a huge burden. How important, then, is drinking, since it trumps driving (and the job and the kids and everything else)? That doesn’t scream “problem” to you? That’s a normal way to prioritize things?

Anyone who gets all caught up in the “this is bull$hit” frame of mind is free to lobby his or her state to change its laws. Maybe you can convince the legislature to opt out of the National Driving Register (NDR) so that the Michigan hold won’t affect you. Maybe you can file an appeal and make some constitutional argument at the U.S. Supreme Court that will nullify all of this. If you want to go that route, then do it. No one before you has done it, so if you’ve got the money and the time (as in years), go for it. If you want to drive anytime in the near future, however, you’re going to have to do things the way the law requires, and that begins with NOT drinking.

Every state is now part of the NDR. If you are suspended or revoked in one state, it will affect you in any other state. There are a few folks out there who obtained a license back when this or that state wasn’t part of the NDR, but now that every state participates, those people will find themselves unable to renew their license when the report to the DMV of whatever state issued it in the first place. Whatever else, the only way to get around a Michigan hold is to obtain a clearance for it. In the case of a revocation for multiple DUI’s this requires filing a license appeal with the Michigan Secretary of State’s Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD).

There are 2 ways to do an appeal: You can file for an “administrative review,” meaning an appeal by mail (3 out of 4 lose), or you can file a full appeal with a hearing. I don’t handle administrative appeals, and there’s a good chance that anyone reading this has already tried that route and lost. If you’re curious, you can search my “out of state” driver’s license restoration articles and learn all about administrative reviews; the bottom line is only 1 out of 4 of those ever win, and who knows after how many attempts. If someone is inclined to try it I say give it a run, and if don’t win, then you can try a full appeal next year. I’m way beyond trying to “argue” someone into hiring me, especially because when anyone who has tried it on his or her own and lost calls my office the next year, the only question they have is when they can get an appointment.

I do full appeals because I can control every step and part of the case. It begins with a person who is sober, and who has some sober time to his or her credit. If you’ve really “put the plug in the jug,” then you know that “quitting drinking” involves sweeping life changes. I meet with a new client for 3 hours, before he or she undergoes the required substance abuse evaluation that must be filed, along with other documents, to begin a license appeal. For out-of-state clients, we arrange it so that they will see me in the morning, and then travel a few blocks to the clinic I use for evaluations that same afternoon. These “all in one” day meetings are scheduled Monday through Thursdays because the clinic doesn’t do evaluations on Fridays, and I’m not in the office on Fridays, either.

That’s the best choice, and it comes with a guarantee.

The remaining choices don’t have favorable odds. A person can continue to drink and complain that Michigan is being unfair, but there is zero chance of getting a license with that approach. A person can argue this or argue that, but whatever the argument, until and unless a person can step up and prove that he or she has really quit drinking, and then go through the mandatory steps Michigan requires to grant a clearance, it will all amount to nothing more than hot air. It comes down to choices and priorities.

For those who have quit drinking, sobriety brings a sense of acceptance. You’ve had to accept the consequences of your past choices, and now you have to accept one last thing: The process you must follow to get your license back. For most sober people, this is really the last piece of the puzzle to put in place. It is understandable that a person may not be thrilled with the inconvenience, and it is certainly understandable that a person may try an administrative appeal, but for most people, when that doesn’t work, they simply step up and accept that getting their license back requires a bit more effort. Looked at a different way, the effort required to win a clearance (just 2 trips back to Michigan) or get your license back is million times less difficult than what was required to finally get, and ultimately stay sober.

This is why people who aren’t yet sober can become so irritated, and stand in stark contrast to those who have established a sober lifestyle when presented with this information. The choice, as it turns out, is yours. What will it be?