At a Michigan Driver’s License Restoration Hearing earlier this week, I won a “Clearance” of a Michigan Hold for an out of state Client who had eight (8) prior DUI’s, but has been Sober for eighteen (18) years. While there is nothing really extraordinary about this, it was my Client’s reaction that has stayed with me these last two days, and the way it has affected me, that leads me to the keyboard to write this article. This article will tie in several themes from the body of other Michigan Driver’s License Restoration articles, as well as from my website.
There are several things that all seemed to come together in this case that make it worth talking about. As I noted, the fact that my Client had 8 prior DUI convictions was not really that big of a deal. I have managed first-time wins for Clients with as many as 13 prior DUI’s. This should ease some fears or concerns for a person who has 4 or 5 DUI’s. That’s easy stuff for me.
First, and most important of all, my Client was Sober. While there’s a lot more to a Michigan License Appeal than just that, there can be no License Appeal without Sobriety. This Client was involved in AA. Most of my Clients are not. I will screen a potential Client to make sure they have enough “clean time” (usually, at LEAST a year, often longer) and that they are, in fact, committed to remain alcohol free. Sometimes that involves being part of AA. Most of the time, and no matter what anyone says to the contrary, it does not.
If I accept a case, I Guarantee that I will win in the first time around, or else I’ll go back, without further Legal Fee, until I do. The reality is that I count on winning these the first time around, and make my income doing just that, and not going back to fulfill my Guarantee. I will if I have to, but thankfully, I rarely ever have to go back a second time. I have never had to go back a third.
There is an understandable frustration a person feels if they try a License Appeal on their own, or with some “general” Lawyer and then loses, especially if they are really and truly Sober. As I pointed out above, and as I repeat again and again in my various writings, Sobriety is a first and necessary requirement to win a License Appeal, but it is far from enough. The bottom line is that if these things were easy, I’d be out of business.
A few years before, my Client had tried a License Appeal without me as his Lawyer, and lost. This meant I had to fix those errors or omissions that caused his first Appeal to lose. This triggers a whole host of concerns about what happens when a person tries a Michigan License Appeal on their own, or with some Lawyer who claims to “do” these cases. First amongst those concerns is that they lost, and certainly not for having done everything right. There was a screw up somewhere, and they lost because of it.
When they get to my Office, they’ve usually (and hopefully) read enough of my articles to have a better handle on what is involved in a Michigan Driver’s License Reinstatement case, and are willing to do whatever it takes to win. They are, in essence, “all ears,” and make the best Clients because they realize there are countless little details that need to be observed, and they show up ready to follow proper direction.
My Client in this case also had a prescription drug issue. It really becomes as simple as this: Some prescription drugs aren’t an issue (think high blood pressure medication, or insulin, or blood thinners) and others (like anti-anxiety medication, or pain killers, or sleep remedies) are a big problem. My Client’s medication fell into the latter category, and I needed to have crystal clear written clarification from his physician to present as part of the evidence in his case. Even if a person only temporarily used “risky” medication several years ago (like Percocet, or Vicodin, after oral surgery, for example), but such use was after the date of their last drink, it raises a huge red flag about their Recovery, or at least their understanding of it. These issues must be carefully explored and thoroughly covered as part of the preparation for the Substance Abuse Evaluation, as well as for the Hearing itself.
This was an out of state case. The relief we sought was a Clearance of the Michigan Hold on my Client’s Michigan Driving Record. Former Michigan residents cannot win any kind of Michigan License; they win a Clearance of Michigan’s Revocation, or Hold, that in turn allows them to get a License in their own state. On the day of this Client’s Hearing, I had 2 other License Appeal Hearings, as well. Of the 3, one Client was from Michigan, and two were from North Carolina.
There are two major prerequisites that I observe before ever getting in the Hearing room that I should make clear: I NEVER call witnesses, and I NEVER sit for a “video Hearing.” I always appear, live, and in-person, at the Michigan Secretary of State’s Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) Office in Livonia. Calling witnesses is an amateur mistake, and video Hearings are inferior to live Hearings.
Now, after all that setup, let’s talk about what happened at the Hearing. My Client had moved out of Michigan several years ago. He moved south, for warmer weather. He is a big, tall guy, towering at least 6’3″ and not looking like he’s afraid of much, yet he is an extremely pleasant, friendly man with a warm, welcoming southern lilt to his speech. If he told you he was the senior equipment handler and Roadie for Lynyrd Skynyrd, or Hank Williams Jr., you’d believe him, you’d be impressed, and you’d politely say “nice to meet you, sir.”
As usual, I “prepped” my Client the night before the Hearing, and knew we were good to go. I always wind things up with my Clients by reminding them that for all the technicalities we must observe, and the million little rules and regulations that we have to dance around, the bottom line is that we’re going in to the Hearing to tell the truth. My Clients are Sober, or they wouldn’t be my Clients in the first place. Unlike a situation where someone goes in, with something to hide, and hopes they don’t get “found out,” I go into a License Hearing with my Client wanting to get “found out.” We want the Hearing Officer to explore my Client’s commitment to Sobriety. The more they learn about that facet of my Client’s life, the better for us.
Still, for all the prep I can do, many Clients are understandably nervous. This is natural, and not something to worry about. Now, if I, as the Lawyer, were nervous, then we’d really have a problem. Imagine a patient about to go into surgery who says to the Surgeon “Doctor, I’m really nervous,” and the Doctor replying, “yeah, me too!” My job is to be the cool cucumber, and to make sure things work out according to plan.
This Hearing began and proceeded as I expected. Frankly, I expected to win. I always expect to win. Just not right then and there…
As the Hearing drew to a close (all Hearings must be concluded in an hour; many Hearings last less than 45 minutes, and most of mine are over in about a half hour), I was feeling rather good about how things had gone. Then, to my surprise, the Hearing Officer began to make what I though would be his closing remarks, and inform us that his Decision would be made in the coming days, after reviewing the evidence and his notes taken during the Hearing. Instead, he began to explain that he was satisfied that my Client had proven his case, and that he was going to approve him for a Clearance of his Michigan Revocation right then and there.
My Client, this big, burly guy, began to tremble. I could see water welling up in the corners of his eyes. I saw his lips curl, and tears begin to stream down his cheeks. Then he put his head in his hands and openly cried. I swear that as I write this, I feel my own eyes tearing up again. I was very moved then, and am still affected by it now. I placed my hand on his shoulder, and, as the Hearing Officer concluded, my own voice cracked as I thanked him as we finished the record. You’d have to be less than human for something like that not to affect you. I’m quite sure the Hearing Officer felt it, too.
And this brings me to the final “theme” involved in this story. It’s why I do this work. It’s what keeps me going.
There is no joy that a Lawyer can ever feel that compares to that. Most Lawyers are in the misery business. They handle Divorces, which are ugly, painful things. They take sides in Lawsuits. Lawsuits are nasty affairs. They stand next to people who get carted off to Jail. People cry then, too, but obviously for very different reasons. My Practice is different.
There is no situation in which a Lawyer can find him or herself in that is as rewarding as sharing in the joy (so intense that it can make a grown man cry) of winning back a person’s License. This is often the last piece of the puzzle in the life of a person who has made the dramatic transformation from drinker to non-drinker. It certainly was for my Client the other day. These Sober people have worked hard, made huge lifestyle changes, and really earned back the privilege to drive again.
For me, being a part of helping someone win their License back, and to have them say “thank you,” and really mean it, makes it hard to imagine doing anything else. It’s moments like these that make me love my job. This brings a couple of old sayings to mind:
“If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right” and
‘If you love what you do, you’ll never ‘work’ a day in your life.”
I am indeed lucky. Luckier, even, than my Client, because this will only happen once time for him, but I get to experience it again and again, although maybe not always in so dramatic a fashion.
There’s no real single lesson here. Instead, I hope the reader can just tap into my passion and perhaps just see things from my side of the fence, if only for a moment. It’s a good place to be, and it’s really nice to share such moments with people who deserve them.