Clearance for a Michigan hold on your Driving Record

About half of my Driver’s license restoration practice involves obtaining the clearance of a “hold” the Michigan Secretary of State has placed on a person’s driving record that prevents him or her from obtaining a license in a different state. Amongst this group, most people have tried, by themselves, to remove the hold by filing what’s called an “administrative review,” which is essentially an appeal by mail. Statistically speaking, 3 out of 4 of these attempts lose, and there is no way to tell how many times the lucky 1 out of 4 have tried before, but the reality line is that most of my out-of-state clients have been down this road. By the time they call my office, the only things we need to work out is scheduling an appointment with me. To make everything as easy as possible, we set things up so that the client and I will have our first meeting, for about 3 hours, and then he or she simply goes a few blocks from my office to the clinic I use to have the substance abuse evaluation completed. This means that everything can be done (except the actual license hearing, which takes place a few months later) in the span of a handful of hours, and then the client can be on his or her way home before dinner time.

SOS 1.2.jpgNot surprisingly, most of my out of state clients come from the south (largely Florida and North Carolina) and the west (Arizona, California and Texas seem to get a lot of ex-Michiganders). Other states like Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Delaware have some form of mass transit, and although I see plenty of clients who have left Michigan for these places, they are often able to get by longer without being able to drive. That said, I’ve had clients from Utah, Colorado, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, Missouri, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indian, Kansas, Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, and even Hawaii. Eventually, no matter where they’ve gone, everyone winds up needing a driver’s license, and they have to file a license appeal to get rid of Michigan’s “hold” that keeps them from getting one in whatever state they live. Not only can I help with that, but I also guarantee that if I take a case, I will win it. The only requirement (beyond being legally eligible) is that you have to be genuinely sober. In other words, you must honestly have quit drinking and be genuinely committed to sobriety for me to get involved.

I have written extensively about the license appeal process, meaning clearances and restorations. You can get more information here, on this blog, and in the driver’s license restoration section of my website than you can probably find on the entire rest of the Internet in total. The simple point I want to make here is that driver’s license reinstatement appeals are hard to win because they are designed to be hard to win, and trying to get your license back by an administrative hearing is even harder. The rule governing license appeals directs the hearing officer deciding the case to “…not order that a license be issued to the petitioner unless the petitioner proves, by clear and convincing evidence…that the petitioners’ alcohol or substance abuse problems…are under control and likely to remain under control.” When you break it down, this essentially translates to a negative mandate, meaning that instead of looking for reasons to grant a license appeal, a hearing officer is directed more to look for reasons to NOT grant it. If you’ve tried your own appeal before, you know all about that…

I successfully navigate this obstacle course and win clearances for my out of state clientele every week. One important difference between the appeal by mail and how I do things is the fact that I take every case to a live hearing. I will not, despite the “convenience,” submit any of my cases for an administrative review. I conduct way over 100 hearings per year (31 in the first 3 months of 2015) and I know the benefit of showing up and being able to answer questions. In fact, one simple reason that ¾ of all administrative reviews get denied is that if the hearing officer has a question, there is no one there to answer it. Whatever else, leaving the hearing officer with an unanswered questions or questions is an obvious failure to meet the “clear and convincing” evidence burden imposed by the rule governing license appeals. It kind of boggles my mind that the Secretary of State offers this option in the first place because the whole point of a live hearing is to answer questions. There is really no case that is so clear-cut and obvious that the hearing officer, looking for reasons to deny the appeal, won’t have so much as a single question. Ultimately, whether the hearing officer has one question or a thousand, if you’re not there to answer, or your answer isn’t satisfactory, you will lose.

I fully understand that the very of thought of coming back to Michigan to do this seems like a big hassle, and I therefore understand why so many people will try an administrative appeal at least once. Beyond just winning, my job is to minimize the inconvenience as much as possible. To do that, my office has this down to a 2-trip deal. As I noted before, the initial trip back to Michigan is to meet with me for our first (3-hour) meeting, the primary purpose of which is to prepare the client to have his or her substance abuse evaluation completed, and plan how we’ll work on the letters of support and such. The client thereafter goes directly from my office to a nearby clinic for the evaluation, and from there, can head for home, or wherever. The next trip back to Michigan (several months later) is for the hearing itself. Hearings are scheduled every hour on the hour, from 9:00 am through 3 pm.. The day before this article was written, I had 2 out-of-staters in for hearings; one came by car, and other flew in. The young lady that flew in had a 2pm hearing and her return flight to Delaware was scheduled for 5pm. She was home for dinner with her husband that same day.

There are really 2 things I have to ensure about the substance abuse evaluation: First, I prepare the client for it (that’s consumes most of our time at that first 3-hour meeting), and then I have to inspect it before filing to make sure that it’s both legally adequate and otherwise favorable. There is a lot of clinical detail that needs to go into an evaluation. The primary purpose of the evaluation is to provide a clinical prognosis of the likelihood that a person’s alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control.” I cannot count the number of times I have sat down with someone who has lost a prior appeal that he or she filed on their own, or with another lawyer, and have discovered that the evaluation was either the reason, or part of the reason, for the loss. This should never happen, and I certainly make sure that it doesn’t. As much as my guarantee protects the client from risking his or her money, it also means that I’m on the line to do “warranty work” if things don’t work out, and I don’t make my money wasting my time on “re-do’s.” I am as invested in winning the first time as my client.

The letters of support require a rather extensive investment of my time. The primary purpose of the letters is to verify that a person’s alcohol problem is “under control.” There must be a consistency between information provided in the letters and the evaluation. For as much work as I put into the letters of support, it is a subject about which I write very little because what I do is really proprietary. The bottom line, however, is that if the letters of support are ever the reason, or even one of the reasons for a lost appeal, then the lawyer handling the case is responsible. If someone tried and appealed on his or her own, only to lose, then he or she is to blame for “playing” lawyer. Whatever else, you pay a lawyer so you don’t have to struggle with these things.

When all of the appeal paperwork is complete and everything has been checked and re-checked, we’ll file it and the Secretary of State will thereafter send out a hearing date. Normally, it takes about 12 weeks from the time the case is filed until notice of the hearing date is sent out. You read that right: It takes approximately 12 weeks from the time the case is filed until the notice of the hearing is even mailed out! The hearing itself is scheduled about 2 weeks or so after the date the notice is sent. While this doesn’t provide a lot of lead time to schedule a return to Michigan, the intervening 12 weeks should help ease any problems with that.

In previous articles, I have talked about the importance of preparation in both the context of the case itself, and “prepping” for the hearing. You cannot just blunder into a hearing without having been extensively prepared for it. My preps are usually done the day before the actual hearing, and I make sure my client knows exactly what to expect from the first through the last moment of the hearing. Each hearing officer is different, so there is no “general” prep that will work here. Instead, the client has to be prepped for the particular hearing officer before whom he or she will appear, and that prep has to take into account the specific facts of his or her case. Thus, even the same hearing officer will ask different questions if the person before him or her has 7 DUI’s and is active in AA as opposed to someone with only 2 DUI’s and who didn’t spend much, if any time in AA.

The end result of all this, at least when I’m the lawyer, is a guaranteed win. To provide my guarantee, I need a legally eligible and genuinely sober client to come back to Michigan 2 times. Sure, an appeal by mail is more convenient, but after you try that, and it doesn’t work out, then you’re going to have to decide if you’ll be content to keep trying the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result, or if you’re ready to suck it up and make 2 quick trips back to Michigan so that you can finally put this behind you. If your license has been revoked for multiple DUI’s, resulting in a Michigan “hold” on your driving record, and you’ve honestly quit drinking, feel free to call my office and find out how I can help you get back on the road again, legally. We’re open Monday through Friday, from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm (eastern standard time), and can be reached at 586-465-1980.