Articles Posted in Driver’s License Restoration

In part 1 of this article, we began looking at how every person who manages to get sober has a “recovery story,” and, even if they’ve never thought of their experiences in that way, it’s that story that is really fundamental to winning a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal. The 2 things a person must prove, in order to win his or her license back, is that he or she has quit drinking and been alcohol-free for a “sufficient” period of time, and that he or she is a safe bet to never drink again. How a person goes about staying sober is always unique to him or her, because the path of everyone’s recovery is different.

1547681302-artwork-aaa-300x287Some people go to counseling, some go to AA, some go to both, and a few go to neither. For some people, AA is a perfect fit. Plenty of others go for a while, but then stop, having gotten what they needed from the program. And for everyone who finds some benefit in AA, there are also lots of people who know that it just isn’t for them after a few meetings, or even after their first. Many sober people report having gone to counseling and/or AA in the past, well before they were ready to quit drinking. Then, something happened that suddenly made them realize they couldn’t drink anymore, and they decided to quit.

Some of these people manage to quit drinking without ever going back to counseling or AA. Lots of these people make clear that, even years later, they could recall the messages, if not the exact words, from their time in counseling and/or AA – the biggest and most important of which is that once you know you have to quit, you have to “stay quit” and can never pick up another drink again. Although there are common elements to everyone’s recovery, like the idea you simply can’t drink again, there are also plenty of things about each person’s recovery that are as unique to him or her as their fingerprints.

One of the most important yet frequently overlooked things in a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case is a person’s recovery story. Some people never think about getting sober in this way, and go on to win their cases without ever being aware of the “story” element that underlies it. Nevertheless, it’s always there, in every winning case, just like breathing is “there” for every living person. In this article, I want to bring this ever-present aspect of license appeals into plain view, because by doing that, we’ll see what really makes a winning case “tick.”

tell-your-business-story-xx-300x283The first thing we need to spell out is the actual, legal objective of a license appeal. A person wins a race by being the first to cross the finish line; likewise, he or she wins a hot dog eating competition by eating the most hot dogs. In almost every endeavor, a person begins the process knowing exactly what he or she must do to succeed. One of the strange realities is that often enough, people jump into a license appeal without understanding the rules, figuring that the fact that they “need” a license and/or haven’t been in any trouble for a while is enough to win.

It’s not. To have any chance at winning a driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal, a person must prove 2 things, by what the Michigan Secretary of State defines as “clear and convincing evidence”: First, that his or her alcohol problem is “under control,” meaning that he or she can prove they haven’t had a drink for a “sufficient” period of time, and second, that his or her alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control,” meaning that he or she has the commitment and ability to remain alcohol-free for good.

In part 1 of this article, we began an examination of the worst kind of ignition interlock violation – a start-up failure that is NOT followed either by any further testing on the interlock unit or a timely PBT or EtG test. We examined how, when it comes to driver’s license restoration matters, the term “violation” is (imprecisely) used to mean several things: a non-compliant incident, a formal violation that causes a person’s license to be revoked again, and a hearing when someone defends against a formal violation. As we closed out the first part, we began talking about the role of PBT and EtG tests.

cop-300x193As far as PBT tests go, the term “PBT” means “portable breath test” (even though the police use the same device for what, in DUI parlance, is called a “preliminary breath test). In order for these tests to have any value, they need to be administered promptly, meaning something close to within the hour after a positive interlock result. Getting a PBT test 2 or 3 hours later is really of no use.

An EtG test, by contrast, can be given anytime within 12 hours and count as valid for interlock violation purposes. There is much debate about how long these tests can go back and detect alcohol, but really, there is really NO reason that a person on an ignition interlock, no matter what the circumstances surrounding a positive sample, can’t get to a facility by the end of that same day and provide a urine sample.

Ignition interlock violations are fairly common in Michigan driver’s license restoration cases. In this relatively compact, 2-part article, I want to focus on the worst kind of violation: a start-up failure where the person just walks away from the vehicle, and does not, thereafter, obtain either a PBT or EtG test to show he or she hadn’t been drinking. I wish there was some way that this piece could be read by everyone on an interlock BEFORE they run into any trouble, but the reality is, most people will find it when they’re looking for help after something has gone wrong. At a minimum, what we’ll cover will help explain why this specific type of interlock violation is so problematic.

dont-do-this-small-217x300Before we get to that, we should clarify the term “violation.” Everybody, including the Michigan Secretary of State hearing officers, uses the word “violation” to mean 2 very distinct things: first, to describe an event or incident that fails to meet the requirements of proper interlock use, and second, to describe a formal hearing scheduled when any such incident(s) results in someone’s license being revoked all over again. Things would be much clearer if we described the former as something like a “non-compliant incident,” and the latter as a “violation hearing.” Don’t hold your breath for that, however.

Instead, any missed rolling retest, startup failure, tamper/circumvent or positive breath test result is simply, albeit erroneously, called a “violation.” Under the interlock rules, if a person has even 1 missed rolling retest or a tamper/circumvent, he or she is formally “violated,” and his or her license is revoked all over again. As if what we’re talking about isn’t confusing enough, that re-revocation of a license is technically called the “reinstatement of original action.” The only way for someone to get their license back is to request a hearing within 14 days from the date that reinstatement of original action (the revocation) goes into effect, which is usually about a week or so after he or she receives a notice of the violation from the Secretary of State.

As Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, we hear a lot of the same things over and over again. One of the most common things we’re told is that a person “needs” to get his or her license back. This is a topic I have to address rather frequently in order to keep it in the reader’s line of sight. In this article, I want to make clear that “needing” a license has nothing to do with actually being able to win it back, and then focus on the main thing the Michigan Secretary of State looks for in every license appeal: real sobriety.

Pencil-4License restoration and clearance appeals are decided under strict rules that essentially require a person prove, by what the law defines as “clear and convincing evidence,” that he or she has not consumed any alcohol (or used any drugs) for a a “sufficient” period of time (generally, my office requires a minimum of 18 months’ clean and sober), and that he or she also has the commitment and tools to remain alcohol (and drug) free for good. In other words, a person has to prove he or she has honestly quit drinking (and/or getting high) and is a safe bet to never drink or use again.

As complicated as the whole license appeal process can get, each and every one starts when a person who has had his or her license revoked for multiple DUI’s files an appeal to get it back. The ONLY thing the state cares about in all of these cases is making sure the person is not a risk to drive drunk again, and the law makes clear that the only people who will be allowed to drive again are those who no longer drink, and can show that they are likely to never drink again. In the context of a license appeal, the line in the sand has been drawn at no drinking, because people who don’t drink are exactly zero risk to drink and drive.

You cannot win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case and also use recreational marijuana. This article will look at why anyone who smokes pot (or otherwise even thinks they can occasionally drink) will automatically lose his or her license appeal. There is an exception to this for people who use medical marijuana for a serious condition, but our focus in this article will solely be on the recreational use of weed, how that stands in conflict with any notion of sobriety, and why that will stop a license appeal dead in its tracks.

ZBYYYYY-229x300As driver’s license restoration lawyers, we field an endless stream of calls from people who want to get back on the road legally. Because we guarantee to win every initial license restoration and clearance case we take, my team and I have to screen carefully to make sure a person can win (meaning that he or she is genuinely sober), before we undertake representing him or her. We don’t want to get stuck doing warranty work on a case that was a loser from the start. The recent legalization of recreational marijuana has given rise to the misconception that a person can somehow use it and still win a license restoration or clearance appeal. As we’ll see, this is 100% NOT true.

People in recovery understand that real sobriety specifically excludes the use of any mind or mood-altering, or potentially habit-forming substances, unless medically necessary, and even then, only when there is no suitable alternative. When that happens, the use of any such substances must take place under direct medical supervision. A person who is clean and sober simply cannot drink or get high, ever again. This is basic, fundamental stuff, kind of like “Recovery 101.”

There are 3 things you must have in order to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case: First, you must have a sufficient period of abstinence. Second, you must be legally eligible. Third, you must have some basic understanding of how to stay sober. This is not to say that just having these things, by themselves, means you will win your case, but rather that, without all 3 of them, you are dead in the water. This article will provide a single-installment overview of these 3 non-negotiable requirements to win a license appeal.

aaa-255x300It helps to know why the Michigan Secretary of State does things the way it does. The written law specifies that “The hearing officer shall not order that a license be issued to the petitioner unless the petitioner proves, by clear and convincing evidence,” that his or her alcohol problem is under control, and likely to remain under control. This means that the hearing officer does not sit impartially, as if he or she is holding a set of evenly balanced scales of justice, in order to decide “yes” or “no”. Instead, they start out with the scales tipped all the way to the “no” side and then require that you pile on enough evidence to tip them the other way.

This is very different than how we think about court cases, both civil and criminal, where, to use our scales of justice imagery, the proceedings begin with the scales set evenly. Each party puts the evidence on their side, in order to tip the scales in their favor. However, in a license appeal, there is only one side. The person appealing for a license is the only party and has the entire burden of proof to show that his or her alcohol problem is under control, meaning that he or she has a “sufficient” period of abstinence, and that his or her alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control, meaning hat he or she presents as a safe bet to never drink again. Let’s see how all this ties in with the 3 conditions I listed, above.

It has been a while since I have written about our guarantee to win every initial driver’s license and clearance case we take. Therefore, It is a good time to bring the topic back for what I hope will be a somewhat refreshed discussion about it. The fact that my team and I provide this guarantee means anyone we represent for a license restoration or clearance appeal does not have to worry about risking his or her money to “try” and win back their driving privileges. Instead, you will only pay us once to win your license back.

ZZZ-300x287As reassuring as that sounds, the simple fact is we really make our money winning these cases the first time around. As much as our guarantee matters, my team and I basically count on NOT having to do any case a second time. This is our business model. In order to make that happen, we have to be careful in our case screenings and make sure we don’t take every case that comes our way. In order to provide our guarantee, we have to turn away plenty of people who are more than willing to pay our fee, but are not otherwise eligible and qualified to win.

This means that our guarantee serves to both protect the clients, while also protecting us from making a bad decision in taking a case that can not be made into a sure winner. Of course, there are plenty of people who, while they’re nowhere near being able to win a license appeal at a given moment, do have the necessary “ingredients” from which we can make a successful case; they just need to have things properly “worked over.” This is our specialty, and we do it day-in and day -ut.

In part 1 of this article, we began an examination of how much abstinence you should have before filing a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case. I pointed out that my office will generally not request a hearing until the client has at least 18 months of sobriety prior to their haring date. I also noted that the more sobriety a person has, the better, and the easiest way to figure out if you do (or don’t) have enough sobriety time to move forward with a license appeal is to simply call our office and ask. In this second part, I want to look at the role in which support plays in a person’s sobriety, and then see how that interacts with the length of time a person has been abstinent, particularly in the context of a license appeal.

2-300x240Sobriety is one thing, but support for it is another. Sobriety comes from the inside, while “support” mostly comes from the outside. Although they’re separate issues, the amount of time a person has been sober and the kind of support they do (or don’t) have interacts in a way that directly affects how a Michigan Secretary of State hearing officer will perceive his or her case. Just as with sober time, the more support a person has to stay sober, the better, especially when it comes to wining a license appeal.

Hold on, though, because almost instantly, most people will mentally jump from “support” to “support group,” and then, in turn, too AA. That’s a mistake. In fact, the majority of our clients are NOT active in AA when they come to see us, and we NEVER recommend that anyone “start going” if they’re not already in the program.

Winning a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case requires proving that you have been completely abstinent from alcohol (and/or drugs) for a sufficient period of time and that you are a safe bet to never drink (and/or use drugs) again. Legally speaking, you must prove, by “clear and convincing evidence,” that your alcohol (and/or drug) problem is under control, and that it is likely to remain under control. In this article, I want to zoom in on how much abstinence you really need, and how that ties in with the kind of “support” required by the Michigan Secretary of State.

How-Much-is-EnoughIf there is one constant about the driver’s license restoration and clearance process, it is always evolving and changing. The way things worked just a few years ago is very different from how they work now. For example, up until recently, having a medical marijuana card was a guaranteed shortcut to losing a license appeal. This is no longer the case, however, because the state’s thinking on this issue has evolved. Nowadays, medical marijuana card holders (albeit for more serious conditions) can and do win license appeals.

A trend we’ve been noticing of late is the hearing officers looking more closely at the kind of support for sobriety a person does or doesn’t have, especially when the person has a shorter, rather than a longer, period of sobriety. It has always been (and will always be) the case that the more time since a person’s last drink (and/or use of drugs), the better. Therefore, in the context of a license appeal, the less clean time a person has to his or her credit, the more the state is going to look for evidence of a good support system. As we will see in part 2, support can be found in many different ways including; group meetings, social connections, and the home environment.