As complicated as Michigan driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals can be, I wanted to try and reduce all of it to a few sentences. Accordingly, this article will be my attempt to boil down the essence of my license restoration section of my website and the 300-plus articles from the driver’s license restoration section of this blog into a simple, meaningful concept. To keep this article brief and interesting, we’ll start with that final result. The essence of a driver’s license appeal requires proving that you are not a risk to drink and drive again because you are a safe bet to never drink again, and have both the commitment and the tools to remain alcohol-free for good. Of course, this simplistic definition overlooks a lot of what goes into a license appeal case, but it does manage to capture the real “meat and potatoes” of a license reinstatement case and the Michigan Secretary of State’s governing rule. That official rule – Rule 13 – reads as follows:
The hearing officer shall not order that a license be issued to the petitioner unless the petitioner proves, by clear and convincing evidence, all of the following:
i. That the petitioner’s alcohol or substance abuse problems, if any, are under control and likely to remain under control.
ii. That the risk of the petitioner repeating his or her past abusive behavior is a low or minimal risk.
iii. That the risk of the petitioner repeating the act of operating a motor vehicle while impaired by, or under the influence of, alcohol or controlled substances or a combination of alcohol and a controlled substance or repeating any other offense listed in section 303(1)(d), (e), or (f) or (2)(c), (d), (e), or (f) of the act is a low or minimal risk.
iv. That the petitioner has the ability and motivation to drive safely and within the law.
v. Other showings that are relevant to the issues identified in paragraphs (i) to (iv) of this subdivision.
By legal definition, then, winning a license restoration or clearance appeal involves proving to a Michigan Secretary of State Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) hearing officer, by “clear and convincing evidence,” that your alcohol problem is under control (meaning that you can fix a sobriety date appropriately far enough in the past), and that it is likely to remain under control,” (meaning that you are likely to never drink again). Yet for as simple as we can make this sound, the truth is that there are what I call “a million little rules” (many of them unwritten) that come into play in each and every license reinstatement case and that must be observed in order to assemble a winning appeal. As a starting point, however, the idea that you’re no risk to drink and drive again because you’re committed to never drinking again is perfect. As much as there is to this, if you can honestly say that have quit drinking for good, then you have the necessary “stuff” needed for me to guarantee that I’ll win your license back.
People want to argue about this, and sometimes, they even want to argue with me! First of all, I don’t make the rules, but second, I understand why they are the way they are and I really do not disagree with the state’s requirement that a person who has lost his or her license for multiple DUI’s cannot win back their license until they prove that alcohol is and will no longer be part of their lives. When you stop and think about the big picture, about the safety of everyone on road, why should the public at large have to bet its security on the promise of someone who has been convicted as a habitual drunk driver now coming forward and reassuring everyone that, while he or she still does drink, there is no reason to worry about them ever drinking and driving again? Doesn’t it make sense, and isn’t it just better (as in safer) to only give back licenses to people who no longer drink, and who, therefore, present ZERO risk to drive drunk again? As it was once asked, “Why should your drinking be more important than my safety?”
And here’s the thing, if drinking isn’t that important to you, and you really can live without it, then why is it such a big deal? This makes perfect sense to just about everyone except a person who has a problematic relationship to alcohol. Drinking obviously IS a big deal if you’ve gone through several DUI’s, been ordered to stop drinking while on probation, had your license taken away, and yet despite that, you drink anyway and want to argue that you somehow “get it” now, and that no one should worry about you getting back behind the wheel because you’ve got it all under control.
Is it possible, or even probable that some people who have lost their driver’s licenses for multiple DUI’s change enough to mature out of a period of risky drinking behavior and can drink responsibly? Even though opinion on that is pretty one-sided that it is not, let’s assume for purposes of argument that that there are such people. Admittedly, they’d be the exceptions, but why on earth would or should anyone care if a necessary condition for them to ever be considered for re-licensure requires that they quit drinking for good? At best, the most sympathy you’d ever get is a disinterested “Oh well.” This brings it all down to a simple decision: Do you want to drive again, get on with life, or do you want to drink and argue? In the final analysis, it’s really absurd to scream that it is catastrophically unfair because, after multiple DUI’s, you can’t get your license back until you can prove that you no longer drink. It’s not like you’ve been asked to give up breathing or eating. Instead, what is asked is that you sever your relationship to the one substance that has gotten you into trouble and cost your license in the first place. The more a person wants to go on about it, the more it becomes clear that alcohol is too much of a priority in his or her life.
So there it is, in all of its simplistic beauty. If you have lost your license after multiple DUI’s, then you have to prove that you have quit drinking and that you will stay “quit.” If you have, then all of this makes perfect sense to you. If you haven’t, then you’ve got some thinking to do. For my part, I can help either way: I take cases for those who have quit drinking and provide a guaranteed win. On the flip side, if I can help someone evaluate his or her relationship to alcohol, and, ultimately, decide that it’s time to terminate that relationship in favor of sobriety, I’m happy to do that. When you’re ready to get back on the road, or if you need to talk about his a little more, you can reach my office between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, at 586-465-1980. We’re here to help you.