Articles Posted in Driver’s License Restoration

The worst part about any article examining ignition interlock violations is that by the time you start looking for information about them, it’s almost always because you’ve already had a problem. In other words, the idea of telling someone how to avoid a problem, or what to do right after a failed or missed breath test is kind of a moot point since the usual reason they’re searching online is that they’ve already received notice of an interlock violation. By that time, it’s way too late for any kind of breath or urine test.

interlock-300x258Although a bit off-topic for this piece, it’s worth pointing out that there are things that can be done, at least sometimes, to prove you weren’t drinking, even up to 90 days after providing a positive breath sample. There is always some analysis required to determine whether any such test is worth trying, but the larger point is that if you’re violated for or have false positive test results, and even if it’s up to 12 weeks later, you’re not necessarily dead in the water in terms of being able to get some exculpatory evidence.

As complex as all of this can be, there is a fairly simple, but ugly reality to it: most violations are caused by NOT following the Michigan Secretary of State’s instructions regarding ignition interlock use, and/or what to do if you fail or miss a test. The state is rather clear about how not to fail or miss a test, and if that does happen, it directs the person to promptly go to a police station and get a PBT (breath) test, or, if that’s not possible, get an EtG urine test within 24 hours, and preferably by the end of the day the problem occurred.

Once a person’s drinking has gotten to the point of being a problem, he or she faces a simple choice; either quit, or keep going and run into even more problems. Unfortunately, many people who do stop, at least for a while, struggle with the misapprehension that they can somehow, someday, manage to drink again. This misplaced belief is a defining point of addiction, and it stands in direct contradiction to the reality that once you have a problem, you can simply never pick up again. This article will focus on that conundrum, and is really relevant to anyone looking for information about driver’s license restoration, DUI, or other kinds of criminal charges.

AAA-277x300The inspiration for this article came from a client of mine for whom I won a driver’s license restoration case, and who just hired me for a new, 3rd offense DUI charge. Although I won’t use his name, I’m quite sure he is the kind of person who would want me to use the details of his story as a warning  to help anyone who has supposedly quit drinking to NOT pick up again. My client had been alcohol-free for 10 years after his last DUI, had won back his restricted, and then full driver’s license, and, in the blink of an eye, picked up a single drink that quickly led him down the slippery slope until he got arrested for driving drunk – again.

As DUI and driver’s license restoration lawyers, my team and I spend almost every minute of every workday dealing with the fallout from people drinking. Nobody comes to our office looking to patent some multi-million dollar invention because they got drunk one night and then came up with some great idea. Instead, people contact us because they’ve gotten into trouble, and are facing something like an OWI charge or, having lost their driver’s license as the result of multiple DUI’s, now want to get it back.

In the course of our work as Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, we handle a lot of ignition interlock violation cases. While an interlock violation is always frustrating for the person who gets it, we also feel the same way when it occurs after a person could have otherwise gotten off the interlock and had a full license. Under Michigan law, when a person wins a driver’s license restoration case, he or she is required to drive on a restricted license, with an interlock unit, for at least 1 year. After that first year, he or she can request unrestricted, full driving privileges.

234-300x270It’s one thing when a person runs into some kind of trouble with the interlock device during that first year. As the saying goes, “$hit happens,” and that’s especially true when using a breath alcohol ignition interlock device (BAIID). Questions about whether or not a particular violation could have been avoided may be relevant during that first year, but after that, no matter what, the simple fact is that a person could have avoided any issues simply by having moved forward to get off the damn thing and regain full driving privileges.

The real inspiration for this article came 2 days before I started writing it, when I went in for (and won) yet another violation hearing for a fellow whose wife said that she’s been on him for a while to go for his full license and get the interlock removed. For whatever reasons, being on a restricted license just “works” for a lot of people, and as much as they know they should go for the full thing, just being able to drive again for work after not having had a license for so long has brings such relief, they don’t feel any real pressure to do anything more.

In order to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case, a person has to be genuinely clean and sober. I have to raise this subject rather frequently, because my office gets contacted all the time by people who don’t really understand what sobriety means, and want to plow ahead with a license appeal even though they still drink or use marijuana. They miss that the first requirement, and key to winning, is proving that you have quit drinking and/or getting high for good. In this article, I want to take a quick look at how that applies to drinking, and using marijuana.

1-marijuana-alcohol-ma-cabr-min-2-300x195The rule governing license appeals necessitates that a person show that he or she has been alcohol and/or drug free for a sufficient period of time (at least 1 year, although longer is always better) and that he or she has the commitment and the ability to remain clean and sober for life. That leaves no room for any drinking, nor the recreational use of marijuana – ever. We’ll skip any discussion of medical marijuana in this piece, because whether or not its use will prevent someone from winning back their license can only be determined on an individual, case-by-case basis.

As much as I try to explain this every way possible within these blog articles, and although I always try to be diplomatic about it, the simple, cold truth is that only a minority of people truly “get it” when it comes to sobriety. That’s a problem, because only those who do get it have any chance of getting back on the road. Indeed, the main job of the Michigan Secretary of State hearing officers who decide license appeals it to screen out those few people who do get it from all the rest who don’t.

In part 1 of this article, we began exploring the critical role of recovery and sobriety in a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal. The first consideration for winning your license back is proving that you have quit drinking for a sufficient period of time, and are a safe bet to never drink again. Without that, you have no chance to win. The Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) has zero interest in how long you’ve been without a license, how much you “need” one, or anything like that. The main focus of the license appeal process is about proving that you’re sober, not just that you’ve stopped drinking.

7-1-300x206There are plenty of people that stop drinking for a while, but for that to become permanent, meaning in order for someone to go from merely being abstinent to being genuinely sober, some fundamental changes have to take place from within. Getting sober requires altering a lot of things in one’s life. This is reflected in one of the most important bits of advice a person will hear in AA: “Avoid wet faces and wet places.”

Simply put, this means that a person in early recovery should stay away from bars and places where people gather to drink, and also stay away from people who drink. That doesn’t require a person to cut out any and everyone out of their life who enjoys a glass of wine once in a while, but it does mean that they can’t be hanging with people for whom drinking is a primary activity, or hanging out with them when they do drink.

At the heart of my practice as a Michigan driver’s license restoration and DUI lawyer are issues of recovery and sobriety. In the context of a driver’s license restoration case, where everyone has had at least 2 DUI’s, the law presumes that the person has an alcohol problem. Accordingly, the main issues, in a license appeal case, are proving that the person has quit drinking, and has the commitment and tools to remain alcohol-free for good.

Sobriety-and-Recovery-1-300x185The first question – have you quit drinking? – must be answered with an honest “yes” by anyone who hopes to win back his or her driver’s license. Next, I’ll need to know when. In general, a person should have at least a year sober before giving any serious consideration to starting a license appeal. In practice, I generally won’t file a license appeal until my client has been sober for a minimum of 18 months.

The idea of having quit drinking for good is so basic that it’s easily overlooked as people think about getting their license back. The Michigan Secretary of State, however, doesn’t overlook anything, and has very clear-cut rules about granting license appeals that require a person to have been alcohol-free for a sufficient period of time, as well as proving they are likely to remain sober for life.

Ignition interlock violations are an unfortunate fact of life for many people on a restricted license. As busy Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, we do all we can to help our clients avoid getting a violation in the first place, and will even try and head one off, if possible. However, the sheer number of people required to use these devices at any given time means that there will always be a lot of violations. Inevitably, a sizable part of our caseload is made up of interlock violations.

xxx-167x300As much as I want to (and, in other articles have tried) to write about how to avoid getting violated, the problem is that nobody goes online and looks for anything about ignition interlock violations until after there has been a problem. Although that’s probably the case right now, just in case the reader finds this piece soon enough after something like a missed or positive breath test, please follow the Secretary of State’s advice that you either promptly get a PBT test at a local police station, or at least get an EtG urine test the same day as any positive or missed test. And yes, they know there is a camera on your interlock unit, but they still prefer an independent test, anytime you miss or test positive.

Part and parcel of being a busy license restoration practice is that we do, in fact, see it all. I can honestly say that we have had numerous cases where, unbeknownst to the client, his or her camera somehow moved out of aim and was not pointing directly at the face, and therefore the pictures that accompanied all the relevant breath samples did not clearly identify him or her as the person providing them. In fact, in one case, proving it was my client who re-tested clean turned on the distinctive watch he was wearing. Can you say for sure that, right now, that your camera is still perfectly aimed?

There’s a lot more to being a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer than just winning license appeals. As I thought about this, an acronym – GUT – came to mind, for the 3 words that best describe our practice: guarantee (my office guarantees to win every restoration case), understanding (we have profoundly deep interest in and understanding of real recovery and sobriety), and trust (our clients trust us to take care of them entirely, as people, including making sure they know all about the interlock device and helping with problems along the way).

happy-driver-3-300x241Our guarantee to win every driver’s license restoration or clearance case is important and valuable, but it falls far short of telling the whole story about what kind of people we are. After all, my team and I could be real jerks but still guarantee our work. The idea for this article came about as we realized how much involvement we have with our clients after winning back their licenses. This often includes extra work to help a client avoid or head off an ignition interlock violation.

Interlock violations are very common. That’s why part of the ongoing service we provide to our clients is to help them at every step, including once they’re driving on a restricted license. Even though “heading off” a violation is something of a crapshoot, and the state’s decision to drop an issue is often arbitrary, we put our hearts and souls into always being there for our clients. Most of this follow-up work is done without charge, because we consider it to be part and parcel of what a client has paid for, and deserves.

One of the best parts of my job as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer is actually winning licenses back for people. As much as I have written about how my team and I guarantee to win every case we take, and why we can do that, I want this article to shift the focus to how awesome it is to actually be the person, and be with the person, who wins.

preview-300x169Over the course of my years, I have been rewarded with a heartfelt “thank you” countless times. For everything we do, nothing beats the satisfaction of actually helping someone who genuinely deserves to be able to drive again win back a valid license. I feel good about my driver’s license restoration work. I help honest, sober people get back on the road, not risky drinkers.

The simple truth is that the work that most lawyers do is miserable. Almost nobody comes into a lawyer’s office on a roll. This is certainly true for anyone facing a DUI or criminal charge. Although I have never handled a divorce case, I’d be hard-pressed to imagine a situation much more unpleasant than that.

As a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer who handles around 200 cases a year, I get loads of calls and emails from people who want to win back their driver’s licenses. Because I guarantee to win every case I take, I have to make sure that everyone I do accept can and will, in fact, win. The absolute key to winning a driver’s license restoration or clearance case is proving that you have really quit drinking, and are a safe bet to never drink again. In other words, the main focus of a license appeal is on drinking, and making sure that you have quit and will stay quit. Without that, nothing else matters.

Square_important_series-450x450-300x300The simple truth is, the whole sobriety thing is misunderstood, if not completely missed, by most people. Almost everyone who emails me, for example, will give the year of their last DUI conviction or will indicate how long it’s been since they’ve had a license. They’ll often go on to explain how hard it’s been for them to get by without a license, and how much they need one. That’s all great, but none of it matters a bit unless a person can also show how much their lives have changed without alcohol. Accordingly, the first question I have of anyone interested in a license appeal is, “when did you quit drinking?”

A big problem is that many people don’t really understand what sobriety actually means. In the context of a driver’s license appeal, it means that a person has quit drinking for good. It does NOT mean that a person still drinks, but does so differently, or less, or only once in a while. Moreover, it does NOT mean that a person can or should ever try to BS his or her way through a license restoration case by falsely claiming to have quit drinking. In fact, a major purpose of the license appeal process is for the Michigan Secretary of State to find anyone who is trying to scam their way back onto the road by lying about their drinking.