Articles Posted in Driver’s License Restoration

Every day, and probably due in large part to this blog, my office is contacted by lots of people who need to win back their driver’s license.  In this short article, I want to strip away all the complex rules and procedures involved in the license restoration and clearance process and look at the single, core issue that is central to every license appeal – drinking.  If I was asked to explain what driver’s license restoration and clearances were all about in one sentence, I’d say this: To make sure someone convicted of multiple DUI’s can prove that her or she has not had a drink for a few years and has the commitment and tools to never drink again.  That’s the real “meat and potatoes” of it all.

98449071-300x249Everything about losing your license and then getting it back has to do with drinking.  To those who have not truly quit and believe they can safely indulge in adult beverages, the Secretary of State’s requirement that a person prove he or she has been completely abstinent and will remain alcohol-free seems like an obsession.  On the flip side, however, it also seems like an obsession that a person who has lost his or her license for multiple drunk driving convictions is still worried about being able to drink.  Believe me, I’ve heard every argument there is and I’m numb to them all because – and this is the big thing – the deal is that you will never qualify to get your license back until you’ve given up alcohol for good.  I understand how people feel about this, although, truth be told, I side with the state on this one.  The folks who are the best risk to never drink and drive again are those who don’t drink at all.  Opening the door even a little to believe someone who swears that his or her drinking is now under control can never be made to sound like a good idea, not even for a minute.

A long time ago, before I had hundreds and hundreds of driver’s license restoration articles published on my blog (the number stands at over 370 as of this writing), I was probably a bit harder to find on the internet.  A consequence of my consistent writing on this subject is that, to the person searching just about anything related to a Michigan license restoration or clearance issues, I come up pretty highly ranked, and, if you click on any of my stuff, it doesn’t take long to figure out that I’ve written more than just about everyone else combined.  I’m actually proud of that, and believe that as much expertise as I have, the very act of researching and explaining everything logically has made me a better lawyer, as well.  The problem, though, is that many people will automatically find me and conclude that “he’s the guy,” call me, and think that just by offering to pay my fee, they can get back on the road.  It doesn’t work that way.  Sure, I guarantee to win every case I take, but, I ONLY TAKE CASES FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE HONESTLY STOPPED DRINKING.  That’s not a bunch of hot air on my part, either, it’s the whole point of a license appeal, and it is the reason I won’t get involved in a case for anyone who is not genuinely committed to remaining sober.

In my capacity as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I guarantee to win every case I take.  To make that happen, I will only take a case for someone who has honestly quit drinking.  It has never been my goal to compete with any other lawyer on price, or really at any level, beyond striving to be the very best in my field.  I don’t just “do” license clearance and restoration appeals – they are the very focus of my practice.  This goes hand in hand with my deep, 25-plus year interest in the addiction and alcohol issues, so much so that a number of years ago, I went back to the University classroom and completed a post-graduate program of addiction studies so that I might formally sharpen my clinical knowledge and expertise in things like how people recover from problems with alcohol and drugs.  Whatever else, I understand addiction and recovery from every angle – from the inside looking out, the outside looking in, and from the clinical side and the legal side, as well.  In the course of any given month, I appear and conduct (and win) more license appeal hearings before the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) than most lawyers will ever handle in the course of their entire career.

1c0242dI don’t check other lawyer’s prices, but I have been told that my fees are higher than some others.  While I try to keep my fees reasonable, I believe that I am the poster-boy for the idea that you get what you pay for.  And to be clear, there are some lawyers who charge more than I do, although I can honestly say that many times, I’ve been called in to clean up after some of those guys have lost a case, thus proving the idea that while you never get what you don’t pay for, just paying a lot doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting the best; instead, it just means you paid too much.  When it comes to winning back your driver’s license, you must understand that there is an additional cost to losing beyond the money.  If you lose your appeal, you cannot file another for a full year.  Beyond that, you’ll have to fix all the mistakes that caused you to lose the first time.  At least with me, a client has the certainty of knowing that they’ll only pay me once and they will get back on the road.

The quality of service from my office is on a whole different level than what I suspect anyone else provides.  In general, I think a lot of the hype around “better service” is a bunch of BS.  When I order something online, I’m concerned about service only to the extent that the right product (meaning one that matches the description I relied upon in placing it) is sent to me quickly and correctly.  I don’t care if my order is processed by a robot, some guy in a tank top and shorts, or some guy in a tuxedo and white gloves.  License restoration cases, however, are different.   My first meeting with a new client takes about 3 hours (often, a bit more) in my office.  And let me be perfectly candid: I’m a really nice guy and consider my practice an opportunity to help people, but I’m still in business to make money, so I don’t keep these appointments long just so we can talk baseball, or anything like that.  In that same way, as far as my guarantee goes, I don’t make my money having to re-do a case a second time; I make my money winning them the first time, meaning I’m as invested in a successful outcome as my client.  I am thorough in a way that takes time.  There are no shortcuts to lasting success.

In part 1 of this article, we began looking at ignition interlock violation hearings.  This is a 2-part article, and is 1 of 3 loosely related Michigan driver’s license restoration subjects: The first article examined the standard of proof required to win a license appeal, while the second focused on the Michigan Secretary of State hearing officers who decide these cases (by applying the standard of proof), and this third article, which looks at ignition interlock violations and analyzes how the different standard of proof used here and the hearing officers are essential components of these cases.  In part 1, we examined the standard of proof required to win a violation hearing, and then talked about submitting evidence to overcome the standing presumption that, when violated, you either missed or failed a retest, had 3 startup failures within a monitoring period, or somehow did something to tamper with or otherwise circumvent the interlock unit. We’ll pick up here, in this 2nd part, I will survey how all of this plays out in the real world in each of those situations.

violation-of-rulesLet’s walk through those 3 common violations in turn.  As I pointed out before, if you miss or fail a rolling retest, the least likely explanation is that you actually did provide a sample and passed with triple zeros (.000), but that the machine simply reported otherwise.  Even if you missed the test because you were rescuing a baby from that proverbial burning building, chances are that the interlock machine is right when it indicates that you missed the required test.  The same holds true for a test that is positive for alcohol.  There are a million explanations about how or why that test result could be errant because you were not drinking, but the chance that you actually provided a sample that incorrectly detected some kind of alcohol is almost nil.  It could be that you spilled hand sanitizer on the handset, or any of those million other reasons, but the point is that it is almost certain that the machine did not somehow detect alcohol that simply wasn’t there.  Something made it register alcohol, as innocent as the cause may be.

The burden of proof you carry is to come forward and explain to the the how and why of it.  If you missed a test, then you are expected to show that you went to the police station and obtained a PBT or otherwise took an EtG test, or thereafter, within a few minutes somehow verifiably provided a negative sample.  If you don’t have those things, then you have to provide an explanation that counts as evidence to counterbalance the presumption that you missed the test or otherwise failed it because you had consumed alcohol.  Think of the scales as going from -10 to +10, with 0 being even.  In a missed retest situation, the scale that says you missed (presumably because you were drinking) sits at about a +4, meaning that the other scale, the one in your favor, sits at about a -4.  You need to add +5 to it to get it back to midpoint and then tipped in your favor.

This is the third article in a loosely-related series about the Michigan driver’s license restoration process.  It is a bit longer than the previous 2 installments, and will therefore be divided into 2 parts.  In the first article, we began by examining the standard of proof required to win a restoration or clearance appeal, and then, in the second article, followed up by surveying the role the hearing officer plays in the license reinstatement process, and how he or she must apply the standard of proof to the evidence presented to decide whether someone wins or not.  Here, we’ll conclude by looking at ignition interlock violations brought by the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) after someone has won back his or her license.  The sheer number of these violations has grown so much in recent years that I probably have at least 1 or 2 on my schedule every week.  The reason I have included this topic in this trilogy is that being familiar with both the standard of proof that’s applied in deciding violation cases (which is different from the standard of proof used to decide whether to grant a license or not in the first place), and the hearing officer who decides it are critically important components to success.  As with each of the previous articles, this one stands on it’s own, but really comes to life when read in combination with the others.

https://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2017/03/violation-promo-3.0.jpgThere is no diplomatic way to put this other than to just candidly say that ignition interlock violations suck royally.  By the time you officially learn you have one, it comes in a notice from the Secretary of State informing you that, in a few days, your license will be revoked all over again, and the only thing you can do about it is to file an request within 14 days for a hearing to challenge the re-revocation (technically called a “reinstatement of original action”) or your license will stay revoked.  There is no way to head off a violation or the upcoming revocation once the notice arrives in the mail, meaning that you will be unable to drive for a while no matter what you do.  Here, it is necessary to understand the different burden of proof used in violation cases and how the hearing officer applies it.  While it goes without saying that anyone being violated is not happy, it does no good to be angry with the hearing officer, because it is not him or her who “violates” anyone.  Instead, the the hearing officers are assigned, at random, to decide violation cases within the framework of the AHS rules by applying the relevant standard of evidence.

To the extent possible, I always try to avoid using legalese (which I often describe as “legal mumbo-jumbo”), so my reference to the “relevant standard of evidence” in the last paragraph is rather deliberate.  In the first article, we made clear that to win a license appeal, you must prove your case by what is called “clear and convincing evidence.”  If there is any good news within the context of ignition interlock violation cases, it’s that they are decided using a lower standard of proof, known as “preponderance of the evidence.”  At its simplest, preponderance of the evidence simply means tipping the scales beyond even, in one direction or another.  “Clear and convincing evidence” is a much higher standard than “preponderance of the evidence,” but that alone doesn’t make winning a violation hearing easy.  As we’ll see, when you walk into a violation hearing, it’s not like the imaginary scales of justice are sitting evenly lined up, and all you need to do is add just a little evidence to tip them in your favor.  Instead, because of the allegation that you either failed or missed a rolling retest, had 3 positive-for-alcohol startup failures within a download period, or otherwise did something to tamper or circumvent the interlock unit, the scales are already tipped way against you (to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the allegations) and your job is to tip them back to the even point, and then just a bit more, in your favor.  Let’s see how all this works…

In the context of a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal, the most important person, by far, is the hearing officer that will be presiding over your case.  In the prior article about the standard of proof in license reinstatement cases, we examined how the evidence must stack up, and the criteria the hearing officer uses to measure it.  Since it ultimately is the hearing officer that will decide whether your evidence is “clear and convincing” (or not), it helps to more fully understand his or her function in the whole license appeal process.  In this short article, we’ll return to a subject we have not visited for a while – the role of the hearing officer in license restoration and clearance appeal cases.  Although this article stands on its own, I suggest first reading the prior article about the standard of proof, as this and the next article are intended as a kind of loose series.

imagesMany people who hire me to win their license back have tried to appeal before and lost, either on their own, or with some lawyer who probably said that he or she “does” driver’s license restoration cases.  It is normal for someone who has lost to be upset at the hearing officer who denied the appeal, especially if the person is genuinely sober.  This is where you need to understand the hearing officer’s role as directed by his or her employer, the Michigan Secretary of State Administrative Hearing Section.  Granting or denying an appeal isn’t so much about believing that someone is or isn’t sober, but rather determining if the person has submitted proof that meets the clear and convincing evidence standard.  Here, just like in the previous article, we need to understand the directive of the main rule governing license restoration and clearance cases, because it begins with the following mandate, “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…”  The key here is the “shall not” language, because it is a negative instruction to the hearing officer.  The rule does not say, for example, that the hearing officer “can” or “may,” grant the appeal, but rather that he or she “shall not” approve it unless the person trying to win back his or her license proves certain things by what is defined as “clear and convincing evidence.”

It may seem like we’re repeating things from the previous article, but it is critically important to  understand the wording of the rule, because it requires the hearing officer to to deny an appeal absent “clear and convincing evidence.”  The hearing officer isn’t supposed to vacillate between “yes or no,” but rather just think “no” until your evidence makes him or her conclude “yes.”  And as one-sided as this may sound, the hearing officer is the state’s protection against putting someone who is a risk to ever drink again back behind the wheel.  Never lose sight of the fact that the state would rather incorrectly deny 1000 people who are really sober (but came up short in proving that) than it would ever want to put just one risky drinker back on the road.  The 2 key things that must be proven in a license appeal are that the person’s alcohol problem is “under control,” meaning a person can at least reasonably approximate the point at which he or she stopped drinking, and that the person’s alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control,” meaning that the person is a safe bet to never drink again.  In other words, winning a license appeal is about demonstrating that you quit drinking and have the tools and commitment to never drink again, and it is the hearing officer’s job to approve only people who prove that by clear and convincing evidence.  So who are these people…

To win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal, you have to prove 2 specific things: First, that your alcohol problem is “under control,” meaning that you can fix a sobriety date, and second, that your alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control,” meaning that you are a safe bet to never drink again.  In this article I want to shift the focus from the specific things you have to prove  to how you prove them.  This is called the standard of proof.  Most readers will recognize that, in a criminal case, for example, the standard of proof required to convict someone of a crime is proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  To win a license appeal pending before the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS), the body that decides whether you get your license back or not, you must prove your case by what is called “clear and convincing evidence.”  If you read 12 articles about the meaning of “clear and convincing evidence,” you’ll probably get 13 different opinions.  Fortunately, in the context of a license restoration or clearance case, the meaning is pretty straightforward, so this, fortunately, won’t be a long article.

https://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2017/03/legal-scaled-3.0.jpgBefore we analyze the “clear and convincing evidence” standard of proof, it will be helpful to understand how it’s applied by the AHS hearing officers.  This is not putting the cart before the horse; if one was to examine the rubber composition of car tires, for example, it would be most helpful to understand how they are to be used, because snow tires built to last for several years have a very different application than race car tires designed to last a mere 50 to 100 laps around a track.  In the context of a driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal, everything is decided under the standard of Rule 13.  We’ll skip all the legal mumbo-jumbo here and go right to the relevant part of what the rule says, and then see what that means in the real world.  Rule 13 begins this way: “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…”  What is significant is that the rule, which really is an instruction to the hearing officer, begins with a NEGATIVE mandate; it tells the hearing officer that he or she “shall not order that a license be issued unless the petitioner (the person trying to win his or her license back) proves (the things required to be proven) by clear and convincing evidence…”

The set-up here is that if you present a case with 99 good reasons why you should win, but there is also 1 good reason why you should not, then you’ll lose.  The hearing officer is essentially being told to look for a reason or reasons to NOT grant the appeal.  Imagine the hearing officer being put in charge of inspecting a submarine to make sure it was okay to go underwater.  Would a report of it’s safety seem “clear and convincing” to you if it came back and said that it was 99% waterproof, except that rivet #299 was missing?  Hell no.  You’d wonder how soon until the passengers drown.  In that same way, the idea of “clear and convincing evidence” in a license appeal means that after the case is presented, the hearing officer should be left with no unanswered question.  “Clear,” in this sense, simply means clear, as in no need for further clarification or explanation.   The real takeaway from that rule is that the hearing officer is directed to make sure the case, as presented, is air-tight.

In this short article, I want to examine how I do license reinstatement cases for out-of-state residents who need clearance of a Michigan hold upon their driving record. In the previous article, I explained how I do driver’s license restorations for Michigan residents.  Here, we’ll look at how I use that same process, in a slightly modified way, for people who live elsewhere.  In terms of the restoration of a Michigan driver’s license, proving sobriety is the absolute key to success in any case where a person’s license has been revoked for multiple DUI convictions.  Given a genuinely sober client, I guarantee to win the clearance of Michigan Secretary of State’s hold in the same way that I guarantee a win in every driver’s license restoration case I take.  Pushing aside all the legal mumbo-jumbo, there is a very simple litmus test to determine who makes the cut: If you have really quit drinking, then you know how very different your life is today than it was back then.  The transition from drinker to non-drinker is profound, and it affects pretty much everything, from the way you feel physically, emotionally and even spiritually, to who is a part of your life and how you get along with them, and even your financial well-being.  If this describes you, then you’re in.  If not, then we’ve got to get you there.

michigan-clip-art-cliparts-co-LK0ivT-clipart-292x300As part of the metamorphosis that one goes through while getting sober, people sometimes move out of state.  While some leave to take advantage of better opportunities (and often better weather; 3 of the 6 license appeal hearings I held the week this article was written were for people who had moved to warmer climates), some people move in order to get away from bad influences, or to start fresh.  For all the things one can leave behind, however, the revocation of a Michigan driver’s license or driving privileges is not one of them, and it will follow, thereby preventing a person from getting a new license in another state.  Once in a while, I’ll encounter someone who was lucky enough to get an out-of-state license years ago, but cannot now renew it because he or she has finally been snared by the National Driving Register (the official NDR is the National Driving Register, not the similarly, but deceptively named commercial website using the name “National Driving Registry”).  At the end of the day, however, the fix to get back on the road remains here in Michigan, so let’s see how I make it happen.

The reader should first read both part 1 and part 2 of the previous article about how I do Michigan driver’s license restoration appeals.  Quite literally, everything in those articles applies here except the timing of the substance abuse evaluation.  In fact, the ONLY difference between the way I do license restoration cases for Michigan residents and clearance cases for those who now live out of state is that when people come from far away to see me (even those who live in Michigan), we always arrange it so that they have their substance abuse evaluation scheduled for that same day, and will leave our first appointment and go directly to the evaluator’s office.  Beyond the “how” I do this way is the all-important reason of why I do it this way…

In part 1 of this article, we begin an examination of how, as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I do driver’s license restoration appeals. The focus here is on what a client coming to my office can expect to happen, and how my methods are intertwined with the rules and procedures prescribed by the Michigan Secretary of State and it’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS), the body that actually decides these cases.  I think it is important to note that my way of doing thing is not only the product of extensive experience (I don’t think there is a lawyer in Michigan who has done nearly half as many license appeals as I have), but also comes with a guarantee to win.  Yet for all of that, the key to every license restoration or clearance case is that you must be genuinely sober.  In this second part, I want to pick up where we left off, with the letters of support, and work our way to and through the hearing itself.

student_success-269x300I start work on the letters of support once I have received the completed substance abuse evaluation from the evaluator because experience has taught me that they should be reviewed as part of the whole or the (big picture), so to speak – rather than read in isolation.  Even the smallest thing that’s overlooked in a case can ruin it, and there is just no way to keep track of those things by editing the letters one at a time, or in the absence of all the information in the evaluation itself.  To do this right, there is no rushing things.  It has long been my policy that I will only start work on a file when I have the time to open and finish it in one sitting.  In other words, I will never begin working on a file if there is any chance that I may be interrupted or otherwise called away, because that break in my concentration introduces a risk that I may miss something, like even the tiniest inconsistent detail.  In addition, I never work on a file just to “get it done.”  I need to be fresh, and have sharp eyes.  In the publication week of this article, for example, I have 6 license appeal hearings.  On top of all my regular court and office work, this means that I have 6 nearly 1-hour “prep sessions” to do with each of my clients.  My preps are usually done after regular business hours (again, I don’t want to be distracted or interrupted during such an important task; when I’m on the phone, I like to be in a concentration zone where my client and I are the only 2 people in the whole world).  With this week’s schedule, there will be no time this coming week where I’ll be dynamic enough to review any letters.  Fortunately, I caught up on all of them last week.

Thus, all the letters on any particular file are edited in one sitting.  When the letters of support have been finished, they’ll be sent back to the client so they can be re-typed and notarized.  The client then gets them back to me, and, at that point, we file the case.  This is also when the second payment  is due.  I have all of my cases scheduled for a live, in-person hearing at the Michigan Secretary of State’s Livonia office of hearings and appeals.  To me, it is critically important that we personally appear in front of the hearing officer, rather than doing it by video.  While we’re on the subject of the things I never do, I never call witnesses, either.  Out of the last 500 or so hearings I’ve done, I have only called 1 witness, and that was an exceptional and highly unusual circumstance involving an ignition interlock violation appeal.  As a rule, witnesses are always a mistake, and an amateur one, at that.  Once the case has been filed, it can take up to 12 weeks for us to receive notice of a hearing date, which usually takes place about 2 weeks later.  All said and done, it runs about 14 weeks from the time we file everything until we’re sitting in front of the hearing officer.

On my website, and in many of my driver’s license restoration articles on this blog, I examine the legal and practical aspects of the Michigan driver’s license appeal process.  There are specific things that need to be done to file a proper license reinstatement case with the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS).  In this article, I want to examine how I do things in my office to get to that point.  My approach is, of course, intertwined with the system established by the state for the filing and scheduling of license restoration hearings.  I think I’ve gotten it down to a science, because I guarantee to win every case I take.  There’s no “catch” to this, other than the requirement that a person must have honestly quit drinking before I will take his or her case.  In this 2-part article, I want to talk about what I do to prepare a license appeal case, and what my client can expect to happen as we go along.

20121122-183432The requirement that a person be genuinely sober is, for all practical purposes, the “meat and potatoes” of a driver’s license appeal case.  Once I know someone is really in recovery, and as long as he or she is otherwise eligible to proceed (both legally and practically, meaning having been off probation or parole long enough), I can make his or her case a winner.  It begins with a phone call to my office.  All of the consultation stuff is handled over the phone, right when a person calls.  One of the first and most important things we must establish is that a person is both legally eligible to file a license appeal (meaning that, according to the driving record, it is legal to proceed) as well as practically eligible.  “Practically eligible” requires that although a person may be legally able to file an appeal, he or she also meets the Secretary of State’s criteria to actually win.  For example, and as noted just above, you cannot get your license back if you are still on probation or parole.  The Secretary of State (SOS) requires that, amongst other things, you prove some “voluntary sobriety” time.  While probation or parole, where you are not allowed to drink, and are subject to being violated if you do, and it doesn’t matter if you are tested for compliance or not.  The SOS takes the position that none of the time on probation or parole (with the exception of being on sobriety court probation – by law, that time counts as voluntary abstinence) without drinking counts as voluntary abstinence.  This means you have to be off of probation or parole for a while (again, this does NOT apply if you’re on sobriety court probation) before you have a chance to win a license appeal, even though, legally speaking, you can file one.

After explaining the process, answering the person’s questions, and then screening him or her, the next step is to make an appointment – my first meeting with a new client.  This takes around 3 hours (often a bit more), and is done before my client has his or her substance abuse evaluation completed.  The main point of that first meeting is to prepare the client for that evaluation.  Many of my clients go directly from my office to the evaluator I use (and whose office is located just a few blocks from mine; don’t worry, we help coordinate all the appointment stuff).  For those who live near enough to my office, it is less important to have the evaluation already scheduled when they meet with me, so they can set that up later.  And just for the record, even though the form is technically called a “substance use evaluation,” everyone just calls it a “substance abuse evaluation,” so we will, too.  Now, let’s shift out focus to what goes on at my first meeting with a new client…

As a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I receive tons of emails from people who want to win back their driver’s license, or who need a clearance of Michigan’s hold on their driving record so they can get (or renew) a license out of state.  Many of these email messages are long, and recount the history of a person’s DUI convictions, and/or go on to explain how much they need a driver’s license.  As I read them, my eyes are searching for one thing – mention of sobriety.  All to often, people who send me a long story without any mention of quitting drinking or sobriety don’t pan out to be good candidates to win a license restoration or clearance appeal case.  The point I really want to make in this short and simple article is that sobriety is the absolute first and most important thing –  the real “meat and potatoes” – of a Michigan driver’s license restoration or out-of-state clearance case.

qwd-202x300I have written more about the license appeal process than everything else out there combined.  I haven’t seen much about the sobriety requirement on other legal websites.  By contrast, you would have to try hard to miss it on my site or in any of my articles.  Even the quickest glance at my stuff makes clear that you must have quit drinking in order to win a license appeal.  I provide a first time win guarantee in every case I take.  Yet even in the relevant (although short) guarantee sections of my website, I make clear that sobriety is a non-negotiable requirement.  Experience has convinced me that some people just look at the sheer volume of information I have put out about driver’s license appeals and just figure, “he’s the guy,” without taking the time to read any of my stuff.  If they did, they’d see how I put sobriety front and center in everything.  The only thing I can figure is that some people simply define sobriety differently.  This is an important point because, legally speaking, there is no flexibility here:  The rule set forth by the Michigan Secretary of State, through its Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) states that a license appeal “shall not” be granted unless the person proves that his or her alcohol problem is “under control” and, more important, is “likely to remain under control,” meaning that a person is a safe bet to never drink again.

There is no room in here for the misguided idea of having the occasional drink at home, or a toast at a wedding, or anything else.  The state requires “clear and convincing evidence” to prove you’ve quit drinking, sworn off alcohol for good, and have the commitment and the tools to stay sober for life.  Anything less is not enough, and the hearing officer is required to deny the appeal if you can’t prove that.  In fact, the rule governing these cases specifically begins by reminding the hearing officer that he or she is under a negative mandate to look for the reason(s) to deny an appeal, because it begins with this language: The hearing officer shall not order that a license be issued to the petitioner unless the petitioner proves, by clear and convincing evidence…” [that the person’s alcohol problem is under control and likely to remain under control].  Beyond denying anyone who so much as entertains the possibility of ever drinking again, the whole point of the license appeal process is to examine a person to make sure that, beyond just saying as much, he or she really does live, and is otherwise genuinely committed to, life without alcohol.