In the previous article, we clarified that AA is NOT necessary to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration case. In this article, we’ll dispel another common myth about license appeals; the crazy (and yes, it is crazy) idea that you have to lose your first appeal before you can win your license back. I not only win almost every case I take the first time, but I also guarantee a win in every license clearance and restoration appeal case I take. About half of my clients are people who have never tried a license appeal before. The primary reason that people who are otherwise eligible lose the first time is that they don’t do it right, or, worse yet, they pay some lawyer who doesn’t do it right.
Let’s clarify something important: Really being “eligible” means not only being legally able to file a license appeal, but also that you are genuinely sober. Sober, within the context of a license appeal, means that you don’t drink anymore. Some people who have lost their license for multiple DUI’s want to argue that they can still have a glass of wine or the occasional drink. Michigan’s habitual offender drunk driving laws create a presumption that anyone who racks up 2 DUI’s within 7 years, or 3 or more DUI’s within 10 years has a drinking problem. One of the surest ways to lose a license appeal is to file one and say, “No, I don’t.” It goes beyond just saying yes or no, however; the whole process of winning a license appeal revolves around being able to prove how different your life has become because you’ve removed alcohol from it.
This is a distinction that really needs to be highlighted. If you haven’t quit drinking, then your only hope to win a license appeal is to BS your way through it. Good luck with that, and I certainly won’t put my efforts or integrity into anything like that, much less my guarantee. Even if you have quit drinking, however, you need to understand how the DAAD (Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) evaluates that claim. Not that many people are dumb enough to file a license appeal and admit to still drinking. Most people will at least say they don’t drink anymore. The problem, from that point forward, is that you have to prove that your alcohol problem is “under control” and “likely to remain under control” by what the law defines as “clear and convincing evidence.” So what does that really mean?
It means, beyond everything else, that bar is set very high in a license appeal. The DAAD expects almost everyone to claim that he or she has quit drinking. That, however, is about a million miles from being good enough to win. In the recovery world, it is understood that the overwhelming majority of people who develop an alcohol problem don’t completely get over it. In fact, it’s safe to say that less than 10% of all problem drinkers get and stay sober. Think hard about this: The DAAD rules have already labeled everyone whose license is revoked for multiple DUI’s a “habitual offender.” That label carries a presumption that the person has a drinking problem. Statistics repeatedly and reliably confirm than less 10% of all problem drinkers get better; the Michigan driver’s license restoration process requires those who actually do get sober to prove that they will remain alcohol-free for life by the high standard of “clear and convincing evidence.” Accordingly, it should come as no surprise why so many people lose.
Being able to consistently win license appeals is about more than just experience and knowledge and skill; it is about perspective, and in reality, I think there is only a small group of driver’s license restoration or DUI lawyers who truly have this perspective. This is really key, because when I do sit down with people who have previously tried and lost a license appeal, I can almost always tell why just by reading the paperwork they filed, and without reading their letter of denial. When I point out to someone, for example, the problem with his or her substance abuse evaluation, or the letters of support, or the mistake of calling a witness, they’ll often understand the specific error, but what I’d driving at here is that the error itself really occurs because the lack of a broader perspective. In other words, the person who did the appeal didn’t see the big picture.
In life, most of us have no clue when we don’t see a “big picture.” As the saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know. I’d like to tell the reader that I’m just brilliant, and that I have a strong natural talent for what I do, and that all of this, including the ability to see the big picture just comes easily and naturally to me, but the honest truth is that I’ve learned plenty of what I know the hard way. Whatever else, part of what you’re paying for is that after having handled so many license appeal cases, I’ve made all the beginner mistakes, the intermediate mistakes, and even the mistakes that come with advanced experience. I may not have known what I didn’t know way back when, but having encountered just about everything there is to experience has helped me frame the bigger picture. I don’t think there is any way to get to this level of expertise without having made the mistakes that got me there. The fact is that we all get better with experience. If you begin with a person of good intelligence and you add extensive experience, the end product should be refined, if not perfected.
I notice the priceless value of experience when I discuss some of my cases with Ann, my senior assistant. Ann has worked on more license appeal cases than just about any lawyer you could ever find. She knows things off the top of her head that most lawyers don’t have a clue about, and will likely never encounter in their entire career. This is just the result of having been involved in hundreds, if not thousands of cases. I find it fascinating to see how she has picked things up over the years. This doesn’t come as a surprise, however, because the vast majority of my day-to-day work is on license appeal cases.
To keep this article of readable length, I’ll go back to the premise: You don’t need to first lose a license appeal before you can win. Once in a while, of course a case does come along where I get a gut feeling that a person may not win the first time. This is usually limited to cases with something like 6 or more DUI’s and a decades-long drinking career followed by just a few short years of sobriety. In these cases, I am upfront with my client (my guarantee still applies), and I explain that we could wait another year, or even wait 2 more years to file, but unless we have something like 8 or 9 years of sobriety to rely upon, we’ll just never know what exactly is “enough” abstinence (and the determination of how much is enough will vary from hearing officer to hearing officer anyway), so why not go in, give our best shot, and if we have to come back next year, we’re not out anything for having tried.
This is one of the benefits of my guarantee; whatever else a client has on the line, he or she is not gambling the legal fee. The deal is, you pay me once, and I’ll get you back on the road, so I’m as invested in making that happen as you want it to happen. Where some other lawyer can blab on and on about chances and fees and whatnot, I put my money where my mouth is in that regard. Even so, a person with a DUI record going back from the late 80’s to the mid 2000’s and who has racked up 6 or more drunk driving convictions has to understand that the DAAD is going to balance all of that against 2 years of claimed sobriety. That’s why I always evaluate a potential case and tell someone when I think it’s time to move forward. While my guarantee provides a safety net, I hardly want to run into a likely loss knowing that I’ll have to do “warranty work.” Again, this is where a client hiring me has a sense of security, both in terms of the outcome and the fact that he or she is not risking their money.
There is no practice or requirement that you have to lose a license appeal before you can win. I win almost all of my cases the first time, and many of those cases are for people who have never tried before. If you’re honestly sober, then let’s talk about getting you back on the road.