The first two legal considerations in any Michigan driver’s license restoration appeal case are sometimes lost and/or overlooked in any examination of the subject. I write extensively about every facet of license appeals, and these issues are explicitly addressed in some of my articles, and of implicit concern in all. Anyone with even a little curiosity can dive in to my examinations and spend just about forever reading; I have over 272 license restoration articles (as of this writing), each about 3 or 4 pages long. End to end, that would be a book of more than 1000 pages. For all of that detail, I think it’s time to write an article aimed at someone looking for some very basic information about winning back a Michigan driver’s license, or clearing a Michigan “hold” on a person’s record that prevents him or her from obtaining, or renewing a driver’s license in another state. Very often, it is a close family member, friend or significant other of the person without a license who begins the search for help and information. This is where you should start.
Just about all of my work is for people who have lost their driver’s license because of multiple DUI’s, and/or DUI’s and drug (driving) convictions. In these types of cases, a person’s license (or privilege to drive within Michigan) has been revoked, meaning taken away forever. In order to restore a license that has been revoked, a person has to file and win a driver’s license appeal case before the Michigan Secretary of State’s Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD). It does not matter how long a person has been without a license; there is no time period whereby a person can simply “wait it out,” no process to just “get” it back, nor is there a way to bypass the formal appeal process by going to court. In fact, the law specifically forbids a hardship appeal to court in any case where a license has been revoked for DUI’s. The only way to win it back is through a formal license appeal hearing.
This means, then, that there is a specific, step-by-step process that must be followed to get back a diver’s license that has been revoked. The first condition, which must be met to even start the license restoration process, is that a person must be eligible to do so. This is a purely legal question, and it requires nothing more than simple math. In cases where a person has had 2 DUI’s within 7 years, he or she will be ineligible to file a license appeal for at least 1 year. If someone has 3 drunk driving convictions within 10 years, he or she will not be eligible to start the license appeal process for at least 5 years. These dates are absolute; there is no workaround, and no provision for the state to “care” how hard it is for a person without a license, or how much he or she needs one.
Without a doubt, one of the most important things to understand about license restoration cases in general is that they are meant to be hard. The whole point of the rules governing license appeals is to prevent giving back a license to someone who is a risk to ever drink again. This brings us to the second condition, that a person is genuinely sober and has the commitment and tools to never drink again. Here we discover the “real meat and potatoes” of the license restoration process. From the state’s point of view, a person with 2 or more DUI’s is a huge risk; too risky to ever put back on the road if he or she has ANYTHING whatsoever to do with alcohol. The state presumes, by law, that anyone whose license has been revoked for multiple DUI’s has a drinking problem, and it is NOT going to waste any time hearing someone argue that he or she doesn’t. Instead, the starting point in license restoration or clearance appeals is that a person has completely eliminated alcohol from his or her life, and will never screw around with drinking again. That means that a person must be committed to complete and total abstinence – forever.
This simple condition keeps a lot of people off the road. The state is aware that studies consistently validate the fact that less than 10% of all alcoholics ever get and stay sober. This is precisely why the relevant provision of rules governing license appeals contains what is essentially a negative mandate. It provides that, “the hearing officer shall not order that a license be issued to the petitioner unless the petitioner, by clear and convincing evidence, proves all of the following…” (emphasis added). Put another way, the hearing officer is instructed to “not” grant a license unless the person appealing proves “all of the following,” and does so by what is defined as “clear and convincing evidence.” There is enough depth to those terms in the rule that I have examined each, multiple times, in some of my various license restoration articles and in the driver’s license restoration section of my website. The takeaway here is that the DAAD is poised to deny every license appeal that comes its way unless the person proves, by “clear and convincing evidence,” that he or she has made a permanent break with alcohol.
If you’re reading this for yourself and you are really sober, then you fundamentally understand the profound life changes involved in going from a drinker to dedicated a non-drinker. More often than not, the road to sobriety is littered with countless broken promises (to one’s self and/or others) and failed attempts to control or moderate your drinking. You finally quit when you’d had enough. You realized it had not been fun for a long time, and that there was simply no way to effective and consistently control your drinking. Quitting is the easy part; staying “quit” takes work, and typically involves about a 180-degree life change.
If you are researching for someone else, you are likely familiar with the sweeping changes a person has made to get sober. Getting sober means adopting a sober lifestyle. It means things like living in a home that is alcohol-free, and not hanging around people who drink. It means ditching the drinking friends and is almost always followed by a person raising the trajectory of his or her life. People who have left a degree unfinished go back and finish it. Education, employment and personal goals are set, and then pursued. People sometimes start to exercise or just otherwise do a complete about-face in their lives. All this stands in stark contrast to the problems of drinking and all the failed attempts to control it. Gone is language like “I’m trying,” and in its place people are clear that they have quit drinking, and that alcohol cannot play any part in their lives. For all that I could say about it, if someone you know has gone through this, there will be no doubt about it.
And if there is any doubt about it, the person will not win a license appeal. Lots of people “quit” drinking for a period of time, even up to several years. The state is concerned here with the long run. The DAAD sets out to make sure that person will never drink again. Remember, it has already been concluded that a person whose license has been revoked for multiple DUI’s has a drinking problem. As a result, only someone who steps up and can credibly say “never again” to drinking has any chance to get his or her license back. The risk that a person with multiple DUI’s will ever drink again is considered unacceptable, and it is seen as a huge risk if alcohol has a place – anywhere – in his or her life.
As I noted before, there is no “going to court” to try and get a license. Lots of people contact my office with compelling stories of how difficult it is for them without the ability to drive. They describe golden opportunities just out of reach because they have to depend on others to get around. It’s almost as if they implore me to take a shot at going to court, because they believe that their situation is so positive it would seem to merit special consideration. The fact is, however, that there is no mechanism for that, and, as I noted, the law specifically prohibits such action. If there was a way around that, believe me, I’d be rich.
Before diving into a license appeal, these two preliminary conditions must be met. As we have seen, a person must first be legally eligible to file the appeal, and second, he or she must genuinely be sober. The first condition is really a matter of doing the math; the second requires an honest inquiry. In my practice, if a person is legally eligible and truly has quit drinking, I guarantee that I will win his or her case. By contrast, if a person is not quite eligible, or not really alcohol-free, I won’t touch the case for any amount of money. If you or someone for whom you are inquiring is legally eligible and has truly quit drinking, give my office a call, and we can talk about getting you back on the road.