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Driver’s License Restoration and Clearance cases are well-suited to start over the phone, and the “down time” many people have now is a good opportunity to begin this process.

Our consultations have ALWAYS been free, confidential, and done over the phone, right when you call. We are very friendly people who will be glad to explain things and answer your questions, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (EST).

To keep this subject at the top of the heap, I find it necessary to regularly write and post about the “no drinking” requirement to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case. An email that recently came into our office illustrates why this is so, and to help make my point in this article, I’ll reprint it below. However, before we get to that, let’s first go over what a person must do – and prove – to win a license appeal.

Beerhander-300x256Under Michigan law, the only way a  person who has had his or her license revoked for multiple DUI’s can get it back is by filing and then winning a formal driver’s license restoration appeal with the Michigan Secretary of State after he or she becomes eligible. To succeed, a person must prove 2 things, by what the law defines as clear and convincing evidence: First, that his or her alcohol problem is “under control,” and, second, that it is “likely to remain under control.” Let’s look at what that actually means:

In the context of a license appeal, a drinking problem is considered “under control” when a person has been completely abstinent from alcohol for a legally sufficient period of time. In our office, we generally require at least 18 months of sober time before we’ll move forward with a license reinstatement case. An alcohol problem is considered “likely to remain under control” when a person can demonstrate both the ability and the commitment to remain alcohol-free (and drug-free) for life.

As Michigan DUI lawyers, we deal with a lot of 2nd offense and 3rd offense DUI cases. In our conversations with clients facing those charges, my team and I always explore any options they may have for admission into a sobriety court. The key goal of this article is to provide a short and sweet overview of sobriety courts. Because this subject is rather deep, however, it was no small task to boil things down into a single installment, as I’ve done here.

Help2-300x280Although each one is unique, a “sobriety court” is a regular court that has an officially sanctioned treatment program component for alcohol and/or substance abuse disorders. Although similar to an “adult treatment court” or a “drug court,” a sobriety court is a special kind of program designated by the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) to not only offer counseling, treatment, and support, but also confers upon a Judge the power to override the Michigan Secretary of State’s mandatory revocation of a person’s driver’s license and grant a restricted license.

The primary aim of a sobriety court is to offer a wide range of otherwise expensive counseling and treatment options at little to no cost to someone who wants help with his or her relationship to alcohol (and/or drugs). The idea behind this is that anyone who is racking up multiple DUI offenses has some kind of problem, and anyone who is willing to do something about it should be offered assistance, rather than punishment. Thus, it should not come as a surprise that a sincere desire for help is a prerequisite for admission into a sobriety court program.

If you win your license back through a Michigan driver’s license restoration appeal, you will almost certainly be required to drive on restrictions – with an ignition interlock unit – for one full year before you can appeal for full driving privileges. Although the law does not specifically require that anyone who wins a license appeal must start off with an interlock and/or a restricted license, it is standard practice that everyone does just that.

vectorstock_12506221-300x300And to be clear, by “everyone,” I mean that 99.9% of all people who win the restoration of their driver’s license will be required to start out with both an interlock unit and a restricted license. Our focus in this piece will be on the restoration of a Michigan driver’s license. A restoration occurs when someone who still resides in Michigan obtains the reinstatement of his or her license. This is different than a clearance case, where someone who does not or no longer lives here seeks the removal of  a Michigan hold on his or her driving record so that he or she can get (or renew) a license in their new state.

The Michigan Secretary of State has full licensing authority over all Michigan residents. In that capacity, it has what amounts to an unwritten policy that nearly everyone who wins his or her license back after having had it revoked for multiple DUI’s will have to prove themselves for a solid year before they’ll be considered for full and unrestricted driving privileges. The interlock and restricted license requirements have been the status quo for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been practicing law for 30-plus years, as of this writing.

In numerous other articles, I have noted that the substance use evaluation (SUE) is really the foundation of a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case. While true, that’s also a rather general observation, because there is actually a specific section of the SUE that is really critical to the outcome of a license appeal: the prognosis. The importance of the prognosis cannot be overstated, as it is the evaluator’s professional judgment about how likely the subject is to remain alcohol-free for life.

vectorstock_3360957-281x300This is important, because winning a driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal requires a person to prove that he or she has not consumed any alcohol (or drugs) for a legally “sufficient” period of time (our firm typically requires a client to have at least 18 months’ of clean time before we’ll move forward with a case) and that they have both the ability and the commitment to never drink again. In that sense, the evaluator’s prognosis is really the main point and “bottom line” of a substance use evaluation.

A person MUST have a favorable prognosis in order to win a license appeal, but, like so much else involved in these cases, there is a lot more to all of this, and much of it is rather subtle. That brings us to the real point of this article: a prognosis must be good enough to win, but when it seems too good to be true, it’s no good at all. This most often becomes an issue when an evaluator gives someone an “excellent” prognosis. It may seem counter-intuitive, but a prognosis of “excellent” can often be a problem, rather than a good thing.

As a busy Michigan driver’s license restoration practice, our law firm is contacted every day by people interested in pursing a license appeal. Many of them find us online, see the volume of information we have put up about the driver’s license restoration process, read about our win-guarantee, and then call us, ready to pay and get started. What a lot of people miss, though, is that our guarantee not only protects the client from losing his or her money with us, it also protects us from taking and then getting stuck with a case that can’t win.

Ohhh222-300x260Our firm is in a position where we could really cash in if we didn’t have the integrity to NOT merely tell people what they want to hear and, instead, took every case that came out way. Everyone who calls our office wants to us to tell them that we win their license back, and we’d sure love to do just that. It would be easy to just agree with people when they explain how much they need to be able to drive again, and then take their retainers. An exploding practice fueled by happy people gladly paying our fees? What could be better than that?

However, my team and I are guided by conscience, and live by the Golden Rule to treat others as we would wish to be treated. We follow the mantra “do the right thing.” For us, that means telling people what they need to hear, and not just what they want to hear. Sure, being honest and not taking the cases that can’t win does costs us a lot of money, but it’s the right thing to do. We assume that when people call us, even though they want to hear that we can win their license back right away, they don’t want us to just say so – unless it’s true.

As Michigan DUI lawyers, one of the most common questions we’re asked by someone facing a 1st offense DUI is something like, “What’s going to happen to my license?” In this article, I want to answer that clearly and simply. The good news  is that although a conviction for any 1st DUI offense (OWI, High BAC, or Impaired Driving) will result in some kind of restriction to a person’s ability to drive, none of those charges will result in a permanent loss of license.

2-300x280To begin, we need to define what constitutes a “1st offense” DUI charge. In Michigan, an alcohol-related driving offense is considered a 1st offense if the date of the arrest for it occurs more than 7 years after the date of any previous DUI or alcohol-related driving conviction, including what’s know as a “Zero Tolerance” (Minor with BAC of .02 to .07) offense. The term “alcohol-related driving offense” means any “DUI-like” charge that involves driving while impaired, intoxicated, or, in the case of Zero Tolerance, having a BAC above .02.

Although it can be rather easy to get tangled up in dates, the legal definition of a 1st offense is actually quite clear: An OWI offense is considered a 1st offense if the person was not convicted of a prior alcohol-related traffic offense within 7 years from the date of his or her arrest for the current offense. The measure is NOT from arrest to arrest, nor from conviction to conviction. Instead, the clock starts running from the date of the conviction for the prior offense, and stops at the date of arrest (not conviction) for the next offense.

The inspiration for this article comes from a sense of frustration that my team and I sometimes feel in our work as a Michigan driver’s license restoration law firm when speaking with people who have lost a prior license appeal, but don’t have any of their paperwork. Numerous times each day, we interact with people looking to win back the ability to drive, many of whom have lost either a prior “do-it-yourself” license appeal or who lost their case and their money by using some lawyer who didn’t guarantee to win, like we do.

Room2-300x288Thankfully, most callers can give us a fairly good overview of their situation from memory, but no matter what, it is impossible for us (or for any lawyer) to be precise about what can, cannot, and should be done, as well as when to proceed, without first reviewing a person’s “paperwork.” I use quotes there because “paperwork” always includes a person’s driving record, but it also includes all Secretary of State orders from prior appeals, and all of the documents filed with them. Life being what it is, these things can (and do) get misplaced, or otherwise lost when people move.

As a general rule, a person should always hang on to everything from any prior license appeal(s) until they’ve won back their full driving privileges. While it’s best to save all of one’s documents, the driving record and any orders from prior cases are the most important of these, because the information on them is determinative of when a person can move forward with a license reinstatement case, as well as identify the main issue(s) to be considered within that appeal.

As Michigan DUI lawyers, we would love to be able to deliver nothing but good news to people who contact us about a pending OWI charge, but that’s just not how things work in the real world. This article will be a warning to anyone facing a DUI who starts looking around for information and then gets sucked in by some legal marketing message telling them too much of what they want to hear, instead of listening to what they need to hear. As the old saying goes, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Truth2-300x274Our office could make a lot of money if, instead of being honest, we made everything sound rosy and then sold an overly optimistic bill of goods to those who call us, but we’d never do that. Instead, we follow the Golden Rule to “treat others as you would wish to be treated.” In previous articles, I have tried to be more delicate about this, but the real point of this piece is that if you are a potential consumer of legal services for a DUI case, you need to understand that you’re going to be inundated with BS from legal websites looking to get your money.

Of course, our firm is every bit as much in business to make money as every other, but, returning to that Golden Rule, we want to attract good karma by taking care of people who need help the in the same way we’d hope to be taken care of when we need help. That means skipping the BS and telling the truth. This is rather the opposite of listing all the things that could be wrong with a drunk driving case, and then implying that the only thing that stands between the person facing the charge and some lawyer who can get the whole case dismissed is just paying his or her retainer.

One of the most important things we do, as Michigan driver’s license restoration and DUI lawyers, is to read and fully understand a person’s driving record. Lots of people can, in a general sense, “read” their driving record, but we earn our livings based upon correctly interpreting every single entry on it. This is a lot like looking at an x-ray as a layperson versus being a radiologist: Pretty much everyone can see a broken bone, but there are subtleties in those cloudy, gray areas, that – lost to everyone else – reveal important medical information to those whose work depends on correctly reading them.

CarSk-300x286The inspiration for this article came from a recent phone call we received from someone who worked within the criminal justice system, inquiring about a license appeal. Our firm won’t undertake the first step in a license reinstatement case until we’ve read a person’s driving record, and no decent lawyer would ever think to do otherwise. This caller claimed to know all of the relevant information from his driving record. When we told him that we’d still need a copy of it anyway, he became angry, insisting there was no need for that, because, as he put it, “I just told you everything.”

Beyond very real questions about this caller’s claimed sobriety date (given his attitude), the simple fact is that even if he did have a perfect memory of every driving infraction he had ever received (including the dates when he was arrested and the dates of his various DUI convictions), that doesn’t mean that he understood every last entry on it, or that his driving record was necessarily accurate. Driving records can contain mistaken information.

As Michigan DUI lawyers, we understand the panic that many people experience following a DUI arrest. The sense of fear they have is often palpable. Unfortunately, this level of stress sometimes leads people to rush out and hire some lawyer, even after-hours, or over the weekend. That’s a mistake. Instead, and as I’ll explain in this article, the best thing a person can do is take the time to look around and comparison shop from the full range of legal help that’s available.

VSWW-300x270Finding a lawyer should be undertaken with the understanding that it’s something of a process. It’s a given, for example, that every lawyer (and everyone else in business) loves referrals. When someone calls our office at the suggestion of a prior client, I am flattered. However, I also find myself a bit bummed out if I learn the person hasn’t checked around at all, and is instead relying entirely on someone else’s recommendation. My ego wants our firm to have been chosen from among the competition, and wants to have won the comparison contest.

When someone contacts us about a DUI, I always hope they’ve already seen this blog and found that I’ve satisfactorily addressed some of their questions or concerns. Of course, I know people are in good hands with us, but I want them to know that, as well. The point I’m making is that if you’re referred to a lawyer – even our firm – you still owe it to yourself to check around and do some comparison shopping. I’ll repeat this theme throughout this article, but the fact is that there is simply NO downside to exercising good consumer skills and exploring your options.

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