As a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I understand that each and every case is unique, but even the mere act of saying that sounds kind of hokey. This hit home the other day as I was speaking with one of my assistants while I was in my car, and I needed to check on a particular license appeal case. Before we began discussing what I needed done, I had her read, out loud, a few important pieces of information from the client’s substance abuse evaluation and my own checklist. As we went over these things, I mentioned to her that, although we see certain patterns in our driver’s license reinstatement practice, it is critical to always know the details of any particular case before we do any work on it. In fact, my exact words were, “Rule number one: Every case is unique.”
All this “every case is unique” stuff may sound like a bunch of hot air, but in the context of a driver’s license appeal, it is most definitely not. Sure, there are certain patterns that show up regularly, but what makes any one particular license restoration case different from every other is the person’s recovery story. Everyone’s recovery is different, and it is imperative, as the lawyer, that I know all the details of how my client transitioned from drinker to non-drinker. The most important issue in a license restoration or clearance case is proving that your alcohol problem (you are presumed, by law, to have an alcohol problem; that’s why your license was revoked in the first place) is “likely to remain under control.” This means that you have to be able to prove that you’re a safe bet to never drink again. Saying this is one thing; proving it is quite another.
Some people will have their “epiphany moment” after a 2nd offense DUI. Many of these folks manage their sobriety without AA. Others accumulate 4 or even 5 DUI’s before the light bulb goes off. It is not uncommon for people with a boatload of DUI’s to have spent a considerable amount of time in AA. In the real world, the 5-time DUI person is far more likely to be active in AA than the person with just 2 DUI’s. Even so, it is a mistake to generalize: I have plenty of clients with only 2 DUI’s who fall in love with and become very active in AA, and I have seen plenty of people with 4, 5 or even more DUI’s for whom AA just wasn’t the right fit. Some people take to AA the first time around while others may cycle in and out of the program any number of times before they “get it.” Some (maybe even most) people never respond to the program. Other people have multiple relapses, while others just manage to quit once and for all. These details matter, because they are exactly what makes any one license appeal hearing different from the one before it, and different from the one that will follow. The key is making sure your case is different (meaning “unique”) in precisely the right way to win…
In my role as a license appeal lawyer, it is critical that I know every detail of any case that I am working on. If a client needs a call back about something and it’s been awhile since I’ve gone over his or her file, I will review the more critical aspects of the case before I return the call so that if I’m asked a question, I can base my answer on facts. Sure, this takes some extra effort, but it pays off when I win the client’s license back. And to be clear, I don’t just talk about winning, I put my money where my mouth is and guarantee a win in every case I take. The only “catch” is that I will only take a case for someone who has really and truly quit drinking. If you want something done right, then you have to put the necessary time into it; I certainly do.
Beyond the fact that I have to get to know all the details of each of my cases, it is also my primary responsibility to make sure the hearing officer does, as well. This is really the main point of what I do. Pretty much everyone, in every line of work, begins to see patterns after a while. The only pattern I want the hearing officers to see in my cases is that I don’t screw around with anyone who has not honestly gotten sober.
Part of how I do that is to make sure that my client is thoroughly prepared for his or her license reinstatement hearing. It goes without saying that there is a huge difference between merely being “adequately prepared” and being “thoroughly prepared.” I addressed the necessity of an intense, thorough “prep” session right before a license hearing in a fairly recent article. So for purposes of this discussion, I will simply reiterate that before I call my client for our prep session (usually the evening before the hearing), I will have memorized the facts of the case.
This means that I know my client’s sobriety date by heart, and know what each of the letter writers included in his or her letters of support. In many cases, I know my clients case better than he or she does. That, in and of itself, is nothing significant; chances are, when you are in the exam room waiting for your doctor, he or she will walk in knowing your important “stats” better than you. Imagine your doctor asking you things like “how’s your blood pressure? And what about your cholesterol?” And to be clear, this is not just something I “cram” right before the hearing; I need to know the details of a client’s case right from the start. That’s why my first meeting with a new client lasts 3 hours, when I prepare my client to undergo the substance abuse evaluation. When the evaluator has completed it and has sent a copy to my office, I double-check it to make sure all the details like my client’s DUI history and his or her sobriety date are properly listed.
While the premise of this article is simple, keep in mind that 2 people may have the same sobriety date and the same number of DUI’s, but one person may have quit on that particular day because that was the day his wife left him, while another may have stopped drinking because that was the date she began a jail sentence. The point, of course, is that every case is unique, even if things may look similar from the outside. It is crucial that everyone involved in a case never loses sight of this, even for a moment.