This is a trick title, because there is no quick and/or easy way to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration appeal. In my role as a license restoration lawyer concentrating in license reinstatement and clearance appeals, I have learned one thing beyond any doubt whatsoever: There are no shortcuts when it comes to winning a license appeal. In this article, I want to make 5 quick, important points about the license restoration process. Rather than some grand set-up, let’s just get right to it:
. There is much to this, but the bottom line to a license appeal is that you must forever be done with alcohol. There is no room here for having the occasional drink or glass of wine. If you even think that, you are a million miles away from being ready to win your license back. The Michigan Secretary of State, through its Administrative Hearing Section (AHS, and until recently known as the DAAD) considers anyone whose license has been revoked for 2 or more DUI’s to be extremely risky. To have any chance of winning your license back, you’re not only going to have to prove that you are not drinking, but that you are committed to remain alcohol-free for life by having established a “sober lifestyle.”
2. Beyond being sober, you must be both legally and practically eligible to file a license appeal. The best way to illustrate this is by example. If you get 2 DUI’s within 7 years, your license will be revoked for a minimum of 1 year. This means that you will not legally able to file any kind of appeal until that 1-year period has passed. Practically speaking, the Michigan Secretary of State will not grant a license until you have been off of probation for a while, and the rules give the hearing officer absolute discretion to require more than a year of demonstrated abstinence. In the real world, you’ll need to have been off of probation for the better part of a year, making the earliest reasonable period to file a license restoration appeal far closer to 3 years from your last DUI, and you must prove that you have been alcohol-free the whole time.
3. The license appeal process requires that you file, amongst other things, a current substance abuse evaluation that is both accurate and favorable. Just about every substance abuse counselor out there believes that he or she can complete this state form satisfactorily, and, in the context of his or her clinical understanding, that’s probably true. Since the hearing officer deciding your appeal is an “administrative law examiner (another way of saying “administrative law Judge” without having to pay them the (well-deserved) higher salary), and NOT a clinician, the information they look for on the evaluation is not obvious to a clinician, and, in practice, the overwhelming majority of evaluators don’t know these things because they don’t get regular feedback about the license appeal process. The evaluators I use get that feedback from me, and understand what the state expects by way of information on its evaluation form. This is critically important because the evaluation is really the foundation of a license appeal, and the difference between an evaluation that doesn’t cut it and one that is first rate has everything to do with the frequency of experience and corresponding feedback the evaluator gets relative to the license restoration process. To make sure things are done correctly, I meet with every new client for at least 3 hours before he or she has the evaluation completed
4. You must also file letters of support with your evaluation to begin the license restoration or clearance appeal process. Even if you are a Pulitzer prize-winning writer, your letters will probably need a lot of careful editing. Just as the hearing officers look to the evaluation to provide certain, specific information, they likewise look to the letter to provide other specific information. The moment a letter writer starts talking about how hard it has been for the person to function without a license, or how much he or she deserves another chance, the letter goes from being merely useless to being a complete liability. The last thing the hearing officer wants or needs is a letter detailing how good a person the petitioner is. You can be the hardest working, nicest person in the world, but unless that letter provides clear evidence of your sobriety, it doesn’t help a stitch. By the same token, you can be the meanest, most-rotten and rudest person alive, but if your letters confirm your recovery story, then they’ll be helpful.
5. You must be thoroughly prepared for your license appeal hearing. There is no way around this. Having put in the time and effort to obtain a favorable and solid substance abuse evaluation, and having refined the letters of support until they are “just right,” we have all the makings of a wining case. Confidence is important, but overconfidence is reckless. The particular hearing officer assigned to your case will examine all the facts about you, your drinking problem and your eventual recovery. Each hearing officer sees things a bit differently, even though they all have a number of the same core concerns. Some hearing officers prefer the lawyer to do a brief summary of things and then step aside while they question the petitioner, while others want the lawyer to do most, if not all of the questioning. Knowing how things will proceed is just part of the process, because the bottom line is that whatever the protocol, it must bring out the relevant facts of your case. My clients walk into the hearing room knowing exactly what is going to happen, from the first moment of the hearing through the last word spoken. Anything less is inexcusably unprepared
There is, of course, much more to the license appeal process. There are 280 driver’s license restoration articles on this blog, not to mention even more detailed information in the license restoration section of my website. If you are thinking about getting your license back, the 5 points summarized above are good as a starting point. From here, you can read to your heart’s content. When you are ready to move forward, give me a call. Beyond all of the information on this blog and on my site, I guarantee that if I take your license appeal case, I will win it. You’ll only pay me once, and you will get back on the road. If you have any questions, pick up the phone and call my office (586-228-6523) anytime M-F, from 830 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., EST. I have the most knowledgeable and friendly staff you will find anywhere.