A person MUST be sober – and prove it – in order to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal. This requires a lot more than just saying one has quit drinking. We’ll examine what’s required to win a license appeal and spell it out in plain English below. However, the real focus of this article is going to be on the single, best proof that a person really has quit drinking for good – a sober lifestyle. No matter what, every sober person lives a sober lifestyle to some extent or other.
We’ll begin by defining exactly what we mean by “sober” and “sobriety.” As used in the context of a license appeal for someone who has lost the privilege to drive after multiple DUI’s, the terms mean that one has COMPLETELY quit drinking and using any other drugs, including (and especially) recreational marijuana. That decision to quit drinking and get sober naturally follows when a person has just “had enough” of the trouble caused by his or her alcohol and/or drug use.
In other words, a sober person is one who has decided that he or she is going to remain abstinent permanently. The intention to never pick up again is really the defining hallmark of sobriety. Getting sober is not about merely taking a break from drinking, or cutting back, or anything like that. A person must first get to that point when they think, “no more,” and then set about making sure they don’t ever drink or get high again. To make that stick, they make certain lifestyle changes to support remaining alcohol and drug-free.
It’s those changes that are the foundation of a sober lifestyle. To put this all into perspective, the reader first needs to understand something important: Under Michigan law, anyone convicted of 2 DUI’s within 7 years, or 3 DUI’s within 10 years is categorized as a “habitual alcohol offender.”
As a consequence of that, he or she is legally presumed to have an alcohol problem.
In other words, there is a legally required assumption that anyone revoked for 2 or more DUI’s has a drinking problem. That’s the starting point for every Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal. As we’ll see, the legal process requires showing what one has done to “fix” that so that he or she never drinks again.
Under the rules governing driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals, the Michigan Secretary of State can only put those people back on the road who can show themselves to be a safe bet to never drive drunk again.
Not surprisingly, the safest bet in that regard are people who don’t drink, because they present exactly ZERO risk to ever drive drunk. It’s these people – and only these people – who can legally win back their driver’s license through a restoration appeal.
Now, let’s turn to the driver’s license rules. We’ll begin by examining the relevant part of the main rule (Rule 13) governing license restoration and clearance appeals. We’ll then follow what’s reprinted below with a quick explanation of what it means in real-world terms:
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.
Fortunately, we can boil all of that down to 3 key points:
First, that the hearing officer is mandated to NOT grant a license restoration or clearance appeal, unless the person proves 2 key things (we’ll identify them as A and B) by what is defined as “clear and convincing evidence.”
A – That his or her alcohol and/or substance abuse problem is “under control,” and
B – That his or her alcohol and/or substance abuse problem is “likely to remain under control.”
In plain English, a person’s alcohol and/or substance abuse problem is considered “under control” when he or she has been COMPLETELY abstinent for a legally sufficient period of time. The precise amount of time necessary will, of course, vary from case to case.
For example, a person with 8 DUI’s will need more “clean time” than someone with just 2 or 3 such convictions. As a matter of practice, our firm will generally never move forward with any restoration or clearance appeal case until a person has been totally alcohol and drug-free for at least 18 months.
A person’s alcohol and/or substance abuse problem is considered “likely to remain under control” when he or she can demonstrate both the ability and commitment to stay alcohol and drug free permanently. Put another way, this requires a person proving that he or she has what it takes to remain completely clean and sober for life.
One of the best ways to do that is by showing that one has adopted a sober lifestyle. This can mean different things to different people. It can also be different for the same person at various points in his or her recovery.
For most people, at least early on, when they decide to get sober, the are certain things that should be done . These include:
• Getting alcohol out of the home
• Ditching the drinking friends
• Staying away from activities and places that involve drinking
• Getting some kind of help, either through counseling or community support groups, like AA
Although AA is a great program, the reality is that it’s not the right fit for most people, at least in the long run. It’s worth noting that our firm guarantees to win every license restoration and clearance appeal case we accept, and most of our clients are NOT in AA when we take them on.
That said, many of our clients did previously spend at least a little time in AA before realizing it wasn’t for them. Having gone to meetings is always helpful, because, no matter what one thinks about it, AA can (and often does) provide a wonderful foundation for a person to get and stay sober.
We could get lost doing a deep dive into this, so we won’t. Instead, let’s look at 2 of the most famous AA “sayings” that have almost universal application to anyone trying to live a sober life:
“Avoid wet faces and wet places.” Put simply, this aphorism, which is especially relevant to those in early recovery, means to stay out of bars, liquor stores and other places where one might be tempted to drink, and to avoid the drinking crowd.
Those who are newcomers to sobriety are almost universally counseled to stay away from people who are drinking, avoid activities that involve or center around it, and to stay out of places where people do drink or buy booze. This is so absurdly simple that people tend to ignore it.
Imagine that Wagering Wally has a gambling problem. He’s trying to stop making bets, and has just started counseling. Would anyone think it’s a good idea for him to go to the casino with his friends, even if his intention was NOT to wager on anything? Should he go to the track while others bet on the horse races?
Sober people tend not to hang around drunks. At first, that may be to avoid any urges to drink, but in time, those temptations usually pass. Later, it’s simply because nobody who isn’t drunk enjoys the shallow company of someone who IS drunk.
Another AA saying is helpful for those who may not have been frequent or heavy drinkers:
“I didn’t get in trouble every time I drank, but every time I got in trouble, I had been drinking.”
A person doesn’t have to be what one would call and “alcoholic” to have a drinking problem. The very idea that drinking is risky for someone is enough for it to be a problem. If a person drinks every other weekend, meaning twice per month (or about 26 times per year) and he or she has racked up 2 DUI’s in less than 7 years, that means that he or she got in trouble roughly 1% of the time he or she drank.
Merely NOT getting arrested 99% of the time one drinks isn’t good. Would anyone fly on an airline that said “99% of our flights don’t crash”?
There are plenty of people who sometimes can’t stop themselves from going overboard when they drink. Not having that “off” button – even on rare occasions – is enough to make it risky, and that, in turn, is enough to be a problem.
In fact, there’s another saying (although not attributable to AA) that really sums all this up:
“Anything that causes a problem IS a problem.”
When drinking causes problems, like multiple DUI’s and then NOT having a license, it’s a problem.
Many people who get sober will find help and support from their family and friends. Very often, people who live with family, or a partner, or a roommate or spouse will ask that there be no alcohol kept there. A supportive partner or spouse will be glad to do that – just to be supportive. As the wife of one of our client’s once put it , “My job is to help him, not tempt him.”
Although it’s expected that a person who gets sober will ditch the drinking friends, that’s not the same thing as ditching everyone just because they drink. A good friend, though, won’t drink around his or her recovering friend, nor will he or she want to take that person to some activity where drinking is a main focus. Again, it’s about doing things to support a person’s sobriety, not things that put it at risk.
For example, a guy might quit drinking but still go the occasional baseball game with his old friend (and here, we mean a real friend, not some drinking buddy). That friend, who might otherwise have a beer or two during the game, won’t have a problem foregoing the booze when he goes with is sober pal. When you think about it, if it is a problem for him or her to do that, what does that say…?
Lately, my team and I have found recreational marijuana to be a huge problem in the context of license restoration and clearance appeal cases. Ever since it became legal in Michigan, loads of people who had quit drinking have now found something else to use.
To be clear, “sober” means abstaining from any and ALL mind and mood-altering substances. Going from alcohol to marijuana isn’t any kind of “sober.” Instead, it’s substitution. I’m sure plenty of readers will get mad about that, but those who are truly sober get this.
Sober is sober, as in clean and sober. A sober lifestyle is one that leaves absolutely no room for alcohol and/or any drugs.
This doesn’t mean that a person who is sober can’t go to the company Christmas party, even if there is alcohol present (although that may not be a good idea when he or she is in early recovery). However, once it starts getting late and people are getting more intoxicated, the sober person will want to leave. As we noted, that’s not so much because he or she might be tempted to drink, but rather because there is little fun to be had from incoherent and meaningless chit chat with anyone who is stupid drunk.
My team and I regularly have people call our office for a license restoration or clearance appeal and insist that they’re okay to go to the bar with their friends, because, as they’ll say, they can go and not drink. Here is another old saying that applies to that very situation – “Hang around the barbershop long enough, and you’re going to get a haircut.”
Maybe there are a few people who are so exceptional that they can do these things, but the Secretary of State will NEVER buy it. Anyone who tries to sell themselves as an exception the general need to live a sober lifestyle is going to lose his or her restoration or clearance appeal case real fast.
And before any reader thinks about simply trying to BS their way through this, understand that the whole license restoration appeal process is designed to separate out those people who really do prove their sobriety by that clear and convincing evidence standard from everyone else. Remember, the hearing officer is legally required to deny a case if a person doesn’t present “clear and convincing evidence,” and hit what amounts to a home run with his or her proofs.
Through more experience than the reader could ever imagine, the hearing officers know they’re going to get lied to every day. They expect it.
For our part, my team and I will question any potential client to make sure he or she really is sober. Our guarantee makes us as invested as our clients in winning the first time around. The last thing we want to do is take a restoration or clearance appeal case for someone who isn’t truly sober, lose it, and then be obligated to come back and have to do the whole thing all over, without charge, next year. We simply would have no heart to do that for anyone who was trying to BS their way through the process.
Anyone who really has quit drinking and stayed clean can see how profoundly things have changed by doing a quick “compare and contrast” with their life now to what it was back when they drank. Those differences will be significant.
Sober people feel better physically, mentally, and sometimes even spiritually. They ditch the drinking friends and earn back the trust and respect of those who really matter. They do better at work, and sometimes get promoted, or move to other positions.
In a word, everything about their lives improves.
For all that there is to a sober lifestyle, the starting point is the decision a person makes to never drink (or do drugs) again. From there, everything changes, and it’s those changes that ultimately define a sober life.
If you are looking for a lawyer to win the restoration of your license, or to secure the clearance of a Michigan hold on your driving record so that you can get a license in another state, be a wise consumer and read around. Pay attention to how different lawyers break down the license appeal process, and how they explain their various approaches to it.
This blog is, of course, a great place to start. It is fully searchable and update weekly with new, original content. As of this installment, I have written and published more than 670 articles in the driver’s license restoration section. The reader can find more useful information here than anywhere, but don’t take my word for it – search around for yourself.
Once you’ve done enough reading, start calling around. You can learn a lot by speaking to a live person. Our firm can handle your case no matter where you live, so make sure you give us a ring as you explore your options.
All of our consultations are free, confidential, and done over the phone, right when you call. My team and I are very friendly people who will be glad to answer your questions and explain things. We’ll even be happy to compare notes with anything some other lawyer has told you.
We can be reached Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (EST), at either 248-986-9700, or 586-465-1980.