In my practice as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I have published over 300 articles about the license appeal process, and have examined things like determining when you are eligible, how I do things in my office, as well as every other aspect of the license reinstatement process. Without a doubt, the single most important requirement to win your driver’s license back after multiple DUI’s is that you must be genuinely sober, and I have written more about this than any other topic. This article will look at this fundamental reality from what I hope is a slightly different angle. Despite the fact that I practically scream about sobriety as much as I can, my office still gets inquiries from people who want their license back, but haven’t yet stopped drinking.
I see these contacts as, if nothing else, an opportunity to help someone understand how the Michigan Secretary of State, through the agency that handles license appeals, the Administrative Hearing Section, or AHS, perceives his or her relationship to alcohol, and perhaps nudge the person toward a decision to stop drinking. Indeed, I’ve had people come to my office who have claimed that they have reevaluated the role of alcohol in their lives because of what I’ve written, and in doing so, have seen their drinking as the common denominator to what is holding them back as well as most, if not all of the trouble they’ve gotten into. The week this article was written, I had a brief email exchange with someone that stands as the perfect example of the way to never win your license back. I’m going to reprint it later in this article, minus, of course, any names.
Here is the thing: In the setting of a driver’s license restoration case, “sobriety” certainly means that you’ve quit drinking, but it also means that you have the commitment and the tools to never drink again. The state is simply not EVER going to return a license to anyone who thinks he or she can safely pick up a drink, even if just occasionally. Step back and look at the situation from a safety and societal point of view: On at least 2 occasions, the person had too much to drink and then drove and got caught. Now, the story goes, they have somehow managed to figure out when enough is enough, and the risk of them ever drinking and driving is somehow magically gone. The license appeal process provides that “The hearing officer shall NOT order that a license be issued” (that’s a negative mandate) unless the person proves, by what is defined as “clear and convincing evidence,” that his or her alcohol problem is “under control” (meaning he or she has been totally abstinent from alcohol for at least a year, and often more), and “likely to remain under control” (meaning that he or she is a safe bet to never drink again. You either meet these requirements, or you don’t get your license back, period. And this goes way beyond just saying the right things; it’s about the whole mindset of sobriety.
Let’s look at the email exchange that was the inspiration for this article. Even though I will omit the person’s name (We’ll call him “Emailer”), I am simply copying and pasting, and not changing a single letter of the exchange, so any typo’s you see were part of the original:
Emailer: My driver license was revoked in 1993 for multiple duo’s but nothing since then, what I have to do to get my license back?
Me: Hi —–,
If you’ve honestly quit drinking (and have more than a year of sobriety), I can help you get your license back.
If I take your case, I guarantee that I will win it, and get you back on the road.
The thing to do, then, is to begin the license restoration process. You can call my office anytime, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 until 5:00, at 586-465-1980.
Emailer: I still drink but I learn not to drink and drive or drive and drink.After 22 yrs with no license and I’ve been working 2 jobs for last 10 yrs w/o license if i still have to go through the buracracy then I don’t want it.
Thanks but no thanks.
This person represents the Secretary of State’s worst nightmare. Without a complete change of thinking, he/she will NEVER get his/her license back. One of the clinical markers of a drinking problem is a desire or need to cut down or control one’s drinking. The idea that anyone has to think about limiting his or her drinking is a sign that it’s a problem in the first place. Normal drinkers are able to drink normally without thinking about it. The way the state sees it (and I don’t disagree), is that if a person’s drinking has resulted in multiple DUI’s, it means that alcohol rather obviously impairs the person’s ability to self regulate. It proves he or she is a credible risk to get drunk and drive. The state will never waste its time considering whether such a person can thereafter become the one-in-a-million anomaly who can “control” his or her drinking. From a risk point of view, why should society bother with that? Why not just limit consideration for re-licensure to those people who present as zero risk to ever drink and drive again because alcohol is entirely out of their lives? Moreover the “shall not” part of the rule governing license appeals is essentially a negative mandate to the hearing officer to look for the reason to deny an appeal, not look super hard for a reason to grant it. If someone is perceived as even a slight risk to ever drink again, the hearing officer will have to look no further.
Is it possible that someone formerly drank in a problematic manner way back, but later outgrows such behavior? Perhaps. The state, however, will NEVER bet the public’s safety on that proposition. Consider this: Suppose your local elementary school needs a new custodian/groundskeeper. Imagine the administrator decided to hire Elmer, who has been to jail twice for inappropriately touching children, and sent out a newsletter quoting Elmer as saying he’s all better now. Who would buy that? Not to be too crude about it, but there’s a lot more life threatening danger in a 3000 lb. car going 40 mph than there is in Elmer’s roving hands. The day Elmer is a serious candidate for that job is the day the “I can still drink” person is a serious candidate to get his or her license back.
As I noted before, this is about a lot more than just saying you don’t drink anymore. The kind of person who has had an epiphany and really gotten sober has also ditched the drinking crowd, doesn’t go to bars anymore, and doesn’t keep alcohol in the home. Pretty much every facet of his or her life will be radically different than when he or she was drinking. What’s different for the Emailer I used as an example? Only his statement that he doesn’t drink and drive, or drive and drink. As the state sees it, if you still drink, you will, at some point, drink and drive. The best way to avoid that from happening is to only grant licenses to people who don’t drink and are likely to never do so again, either.
The inability of someone to “get” this is often part of that un-sober mentality. If your drinking has resulted in multiple DUI’s and it has screwed your life up so bad that you can’t drive and you have to navigate your way through all the limitations that go with that, yet you think drinking is so important that you refuse to give it up, and will go without a license instead, what does that really say about your priorities? In other words, you’ll suffer through life with the limited career options and other handicaps caused by having no license because drinking means more to you than any of those things. Explain how that is NOT a problem. As the old saying goes, “Anything that causes a problem IS a problem.”
License appeals are for those people who have not only stopped consuming alcohol, but reevaluated their lives in a way where they have concluded that alcohol has no place in it. Sobriety, as anyone who has really gotten sober knows, is a state of being, and a state of mind. In a very real way, sobriety, as a way of thinking, is exactly the opposite of what was expressed by the Emailer I used for the example in this article.
If you’re sober, and you need to win back your driver’s license, or you need a clearance of the Michigan “hold” on your driving record, I can do that for you, and I guarantee it. If you’re not yet sober, and you want to talk about it, I’ll be glad to do that, as well. Whichever place you find yourself in, feel free to call my office anytime Monday through Friday, from 8:30 to 5:00 (EST) at 586-465-1980. We are here to help.