Articles Posted in Driver’s License Restoration

As much as I hate having to increase my fees, and like the idea of writing about it even less, as the lawyer I am, I believe that not being clear and upfront about costs is a huge red flag. Almost since I launched my first website over 10 years ago, I have always published various fee schedules specifying what I charge in driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals, DUI cases, and criminal matters. A published fee list always was and still is unusual amongst lawyers, to the point that I’m not aware of ANYONE else who does it. And while I understand how most lawyers would rather establish a rapport with a potential client before talking money, I have always been suspicious of any person or operation that avoids or otherwise skirts around the subject of cost. Given that I’m the only lawyer I know who actually lists fees, it’s obvious that I’m in the minority here, but I have always lived by the golden rule – to treat others as you would wish to be treated – and this is one way I do that. I will get to the actual numbers later in this article, but to be clear, as of January 1, 2018, my fees in driver’s license restoration and DUI cases will be going up, as will my fees in most misdemeanor cases, as well. That said, none of my fees will go up very much, but I want to give some advance warning AND protect myself so that if someone finds an old price referenced somewhere, I can rely upon this article as notice.

Picture1Undoubtedly, one huge benefit I derive from publishing my fees is that I don’t have to bother with “tire kickers” and time wasters who either cannot afford the kind of service my office provides or who are otherwise focused on low cost. Price matters, of course, but it should not be the primary consideration in certain decisions (particularly medical and legal issues), at least for those who can afford to not make it so. For example (and I’m not out to insult anyone), I have been a Verizon customer for many many years. Once, a long time ago, I got sucked into using Nextel (they’ve long since folded) based upon the appeal that I could save a lot of money on my cell phone bill. Things are a lot different today, with unlimited calling plans, but back then, cell phones could cost as much as 30 cents per minute, so any break was a good one. To manage costs, I left Verizon (I think it was called something different then), got my new Nextel phone, and tried to convince myself that the money I was saving was worth all the dropped calls and inferior service I had accepted in return. The last straw came one day, while in the back of a Home Depot store, where I couldn’t get service with my Nextel phone, I borrowed my wife’s, which was either a Verizon phone, or it’s predecessor, and made a call that could not be made on mine. This drove home the point that you often have to pay more for better quality, but that, in certain situations, it’s just worth it.

In my capacity, I don’t compete, nor, frankly, do I need to compete, with any other lawyers based on price. In driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals, I guarantee to win every case I take. In addition, you will never meet another driver’s license restoration lawyer with anywhere near the passion I have for license appeals. Take a look around this blog; I have written and published over 400 license restoration articles to date. That’s more articles than the number of license cases all but the fewest lawyers will ever take in their entire careers (I handle about 200 license restoration and clearance appeals per year). DUI cases make up the other major part of my practice (I have put up more than 320 DUI articles), meaning that alcohol is really at the center of almost everything I do. In that sense, I’m kind of like a Q-tip, with DUI cases on one side, license restorations for multiple DUI’s on the other, and alcohol as the stick that connects them both. To make sure I’m the very best at what I do, I went back to the University classroom and completed a post-graduate program of addiction studies. I use this clinical knowledge every single day to produce better outcomes for my DUI clients and to help win back the licenses for my license restatement clients. That’s not the kind of commitment and investment you’ll get from any bargain lawyer.

This will be a short and sweet article that focuses specifically ignition interlock retest violations. Ignition interlock violations are a nightmare reality for many people who have previously won the restoration of their Michigan driver’s license through the Secretary of State. I’ve been writing about these violations for years, often pointing out that I’m seeing more and more of them, and that steady stream hasn’t stopped. In fact, of the more than 250 of license appeals clients that come to my office each year, at least 1 new case every week presents with an interlock violation. In many of my other articles, I have taken a broader look at the more common kinds of interlock violations. Here, we’ll confine our examination to skipped rolling retests and failed rolling retests. I will take the same approach in future installments and put up separate installments concentrating specifically on one of the other sorts of violations that occur most frequently in the real world.

mickey-mouse-WHY-300x270At its simplest, a skipped retest is a missed blow, and a failed retest is a blow that detects alcohol. It has been my overwhelming experience that when either of these violations are charged against someone who has previously won the restoration of his or her license, the person has not been drinking. In fact, I cannot recall a single case where a person has actually decided to skip a test after starting the car because he or she had been drinking, or where a person had decided to start drinking while driving the car (and providing random breath samples). Yet for as unfair as all this can be, the bottom line is that if you’re facing one of these violations, you’ve been informed by the Secretary of State that your license is going to be revoked all over again (they call, somewhat confusingly, this a “reinstatement of original action”) and that the only thing you can do about it is file a TIMELY request for a hearing to prove you should get it back.

It’s no small clue that, given how the state summarily yanks your license once your interlock company provided mere notice of an alleged violation, these matters are taken very seriously. When you fail or miss a rolling retest, the initial conclusion reached is that you did so because you had consumed alcohol; that’s why your license is being taken away. In the case of a failed rolling retest, you have the burden of proving that the positive test result was erroneous, and that you weren’t drinking. Key here is that you are required to “prove” this, and not merely show up to protest your innocence. For its part, the state really does go out of its way explaining how to avoid a violation in the first place, and what to do if there is a slip-up, so it expects more than just a mere, “sorry; won’t happen again” at a violation hearing.

I am proud of my guarantee to win every driver’s license restoration or clearance case I take. Even the quickest scan of the more than 400 driver’s license restoration articles I’ve written for this blog reveals that, beyond the occasional installment touting my guarantee, they are all about analysis and useful information. Within my archives, I take the time to explore every facet and step of the license appeal process in painstaking detail. I can safely say that I have put together more substantive material about Michigan driver’s license restoration and clearance issues that you can find everywhere else combined, and probably ten times over, at that. Yet as great as all that may be, the truth is that none of it matters if you don’t win your license back. And I truly believe that as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, my job is to not only do just that, but also guarantee that anyone who hires me will only pay me once to get back on the road. Why should anyone hand over their hard-earned money to some lawyer merely for a “shot,” or to take a chance at winning? You wouldn’t go to the appliance store and pay for a refrigerator that “might” work, would you? If you have a basement leak, you don’t look for a contractor to “try” and fix it; you hire someone to get the job done right and guarantee the work.

guaranteed-ayurvedic-treatment-image-300x275The importance of a guarantee to the client is really priceless, but I’d be less than honest if I didn’t admit that I’ve done rather well by it, too, although not without some headaches. The biggest problem it creates is the mistaken notion in some peoples’ minds that all they have to do is pay my fee and I’ll guarantee to win their case. I ONLY, and let me emphasize again – ONLY – take cases for people who are sober. In other words, I won’t take a case for someone who is still drinking, or who even thinks they can still drink. “Sober,” in that sense, means you’ve quit drinking for good. I’ve written numerous of articles about sobriety, and I encourage the reader to look through some (or all) of them. The kind of people who wind up becoming my clients are generally information seekers; often “readers,” and, to the extent that they are my clients, always sober. The problem for me is that while not everyone is into such details, everyone, without exception, who has lost his her license wants it back, and loads of people see my website and/or this blog and, without reading enough, simply think, “he’s the guy.” Then, they see my guarantee, and they’re all but running to my door, thinking the faster they can pay me, the faster I can get their license back for them.

It doesn’t work that way. The whole point of the license restoration process is to NOT give a license back to anyone who drinks at all, and even THINKS that he or she can ever drink again. The Michigan Secretary of State knows that the people who are the least likely to ever drink and drive (again) are those who simply do not drink. Through it’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS), the state had drawn a very bright line: for those who have lost their license due to multiple DUI convictions, the only way to get it back is to prove that you have quit drinking for good. Sobriety, then, is a first (and non-negotiable) requirement for a successful license appeal. For my part, I’m certainly not going to take any case – and be stuck guaranteeing the results – for someone who has not genuinely embraced sobriety.

In my role as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I am just one of three individuals whose parts in the process are absolutely critical. Obviously, the hearing officer deciding a license reinstatement case is at the center of everything, but even he or she must act within the law and follow the rules and regulations. The hearing officer must assess the evidence in every case and see how it conforms to the requirements set forth within those rules. The counselor who completes the substance use evaluation (in a very real way, the single most important piece of evidence), typically called the “evaluator,” completes this trinity. Perhaps overlooked because his or her part in the process is not as out front as either the lawyer’s or the hearing officer’s, the truth is that the evaluator is absolutely essential to the success (or failure) of every license appeal case.

fotolia_73021892_xs-300x227Almost every substance abuse counselor out there, if shown the Michigan Secretary of State’s Substance Use Evaluation form, would look at it and think, “I can do that,” but very few actually can, at least in the way required by the SOS Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) hearing officers. In the same way as learning to ride a bike, the only way to get good at this is to learn by doing it, and that means learning from your mistakes. There is simply no way a substance abuse counselor, or anyone, for that matter, can develop the necessary skills to do this well without doing it regularly AND getting consistent feedback on it. Part of the reason for this is that how the information provided on the evaluation will be interpreted is not obvious merely by looking at the form itself. In addition, every hearing officer is different, so an evaluator has to take into account that information will be interpreted by each.

Indeed, I have taken my evaluator to hearings with me (she had, of course, completed the evaluations in each of those cases) to observe how her work is examined and interpreted by the hearing officers. This is the kind of experience and feedback that separates the very best from all the rest, and when your license appeal is at stake, you want much better than “all the rest.” That’s not meant to be as folksy as it may have sounded. The bottom line to a license appeal is that if you lose, you are sidelined for another whole year. I guarantee to win every case I take, but I could not do that if I didn’t have complete faith in my evaluator, as I do, in no small part because for years we have had regular conversations about our mutual clients and their evaluations. For every one of us, learning is an ongoing process.

Sobriety is at the center of everything I do in my role a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer. For all there is to them, license appeals are really about proving you have quit drinking and are committed to remaining alcohol-free. Alcohol, therefore, is the focus or every workday for me. The other part of my practice – DUI cases – also involves alcohol, in the sense that a person drank too much and then got caught driving. Nowadays, almost every DUI arrest is followed by a court ordering the driver to abstain from drinking for various periods of time, including while on bond and probation. In this article, I want to look at sobriety, and examine the difference between it, and simple abstinence. If there’s one universal truth here, it’s that every sober person is abstinent, but not every abstinent person is sober. In other words, there is more to real sobriety than simply not drinking.

images-300x168To win a driver’s license restoration or clearance case, there are 2 main things you must prove, and do so by what is defined as “clear and convincing evidence.” First, you have to prove that your alcohol problem is “under control,” meaning that you can fix a sobriety date (the date you last drank). The date doesn’t have to be exact; things like “March of 2013,” or “summer of 2011” are okay. Second, and always more important, you must prove that your alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control,” meaning that you are a safe bet to never drink again. This generally requires showing that have both the commitment and the tools to live an alcohol-free lifestyle. Here is where the distinction between simple abstinence and real sobriety becomes clearer.

Lots of people quit drinking for a while. Some hope and try to make it permanent, especially if drinking has caused a lot of trouble in the past and they fear even more in the future. It is the threat of trouble – of going to jail, losing one’s job, losing family and/or friends – that is the only real “tool” society has to deter a person from drinking. A Judge cannot tell someone on probation anything like, “if you don’t drink for the next year, I’ll make you happy.” That makes no sense. Instead, the Judge can only threaten punishment, like jail, in the event a person does get caught drinking when he or she is supposed to abstain. It’s the same thing with a frustrated partner or spouse; there is no way to promise happiness to the other party if he or she doesn’t drink. The only thing one partner can do is make clear to the other that he or she will not stand by any longer, and that a return to drinking will damage or even end the relationship. Thus, as a society, pretty much all we can do to someone whose relationship to alcohol has grown problematic is to try and scare him or her out of drinking. Sometimes it works, to varying degrees and for various lengths of time. That’s abstinence. However, if the ONLY reason a person stops drinking is because he or she is afraid of the consequences, then all that can go out the window the moment he or she perceives those consequences as remote or unlikely to happen.

In most of my driver’s license restoration articles, I get into a detailed examination of the license and clearance appeal process, or specific parts of it, and how it all works. The reader can get a pretty good idea of who I am and how I do things through those articles. I’ve been told many times that, in person, I “sound” just like I do in my writings. That’s exactly what I’m shooting for, so I take that as high praise. Not surprisingly, when I’m looking to hire a professional for something, I like to know about him or her and why they do what they do, as well as how they do it. In this article, I want to explain why I love being a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, and how that translates to a benefit for my clients.

136a66d34d7c5fbf5e472e964cb8eb8f-200x300For the most part, lawyers are in the misery business. No matter how much money some attorney makes, it’s almost always because something has gone wrong for someone else, be it a marriage, a business deal, a contract, an accident, or a criminal charge. I know this firsthand, because I handle DUI cases on the other side of my practice. I concentrate in driver’s license restoration and DUI cases because I believe it’s important for me to work at both ends of the drinking spectrum, and I think my experience on each side is beneficial to my all of my clients. DUI cases are never good news, whereas license restoration cases almost always are. DUI cases are all about minimizing the negatives, and no one is happy to have to deal with that. By contrast, gratitude and positivity are the defining characteristics of license appeals. License restoration clients are always on the upswing in life. A license restoration or clearance appeal is usually the last step in a person’s journey to a new, sober life.

Making money is great, to be sure. Most of us never seem to have enough of it. I know that I could have made some career choices long ago that would likely have netted me a much larger income. Of course, I do well in this field, and I’m not complaining, but my point is that if it was simply money that motivated me, I’d be a TV injury lawyer, with some cheesy slogan like “When you’re in a bad crash, Jeff will get you the most cash.” Except I hate that stuff. I hate lawsuits. I’d rather clean puke out of port-potties at a carnival than do divorce work. Instead, as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I get to help people who really deserve to win back their licenses, and I do so well at it that I guarantee my results.

One of the biggest misconceptions I encounter in my practice as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer is the idea that you have to be in AA to win your license back. You don’t. The idea that you need to go to AA meetings is completely untrue. I handle about 200 license appeals each year with a guarantee to win every one I file, and about 80% of my clients are NOT active in AA. In other words, only about 1 out of every 5 of the license restoration or clearance cases I win is for a client who is active in AA. This isn’t to say that having gone to AA isn’t helpful to a license restoration or clearance case, even if you only attended it briefly and/or in the distant past, but in no way is it a requirement for success. Some of my other articles on this subject get rather deep into this, but here, I want to keep things short, with the goal of just making clear that you do not have to go to AA to win your case, or even to have any better chance of winning it, either.

sponsoring-myselfMany years ago, the Michigan Secretary of State seemed to pretty much “require” AA before it would give back a license, but much has changed since then. And for anyone who, in the last several years, has previously lost a license appeal wherein it was noted in the denial that you were not in AA or some kind of structured community support group, that happened because your case was mishandled and AA was either made relevant to it, or not otherwise properly addressed so that it was not. These things don’t happen to my cases. If you’ve maintained your sobriety without AA, then your case should be presented in a way where that’s good enough. In hindsight, you can probably now see that this did not happen if your appeal was denied and any your lack of involvement in AA was mentioned in the decision.

A little history lesson will be helpful here. Up until about 25 or so years ago, AA was pretty much the only game in town in terms of recovery, and certainly the biggest player. Prior to AA, there was really no established way to help someone struggling with his or her drinking, beyond shaming the person and otherwise screaming at him or her to stop, for the sake of self and/or family. You can imagine some poor problem drinker being told how bad a person he or she was, handed a bible, and instructed to pray for help. This was called the “moral model,” and, as the reader can probably imagine, it wasn’t very successful. Then, AA came along in 1935 and characterized alcoholism as a disease instead of a moral failure, while it also provided a 12-step solution for sobriety. It was ground-breaking. And while there is no doubt that AA is a wonderful program that can transform a person entirely, and has done so for tens of thousands of people, its most obvious and sought-after benefit is that it helps people stop drinking.

The goal of every Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal is, of course, to win. Let’s skip over all the fluff and not mince words here, so we can be clear: the bottom line is that when you hire a lawyer, you want to win your case, not just pay some lawyer to keep you company at the hearing. I raise the bar a bit on that score, because I believe that when you hand over your money, you should expect to win, and I actually guarantee to do just that. When I take someone’s money, that’s exactly what’s going yo happen – they’re getting their license back. I can speak about this with such confidence because I concentrate in the license restoration field, and know exactly what to do to win. I handle about 200 license cases per year, more than anyone I know. As a result, when I state something as a matter of fact, it is. That may sound cocky (although it’s not meant to), but if that wasn’t true, then I wouldn’t be where I am, and wouldn’t be providing a guarantee in every case I take. Therefore, when I say you should never call a witness at a license restoration hearing, and that doing so is almost always a mistake, you can take that to the bank.

Court-drawing-of-Mick-Philpott-in-the-witness-box-at-Nottingham-Crown-Court-300x238I was reminded of this the day I started this article, at an early morning license appeal hearing at the Livonia office of the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS). At the conclusion of my client’s testimony, the hearing officer asked, with a smile, if I had any witnesses, because he knows I I NEVER bring in witnesses. Calling witnesses is a first rate amateur mistake, that, if it doesn’t backfire, means you got damn lucky. I’d be less than honest if I didn’t admit I learned this lesson the hard way, many, many years ago. In fact, the thing about doing license appeals is that you just have to learn much of it the hard way. It’s kind of the same thing for riding a bike; you can get some of it right, but the most important part – not falling off – is one of the things you only learn through trial and error. And it doesn’t matter how smart you are, either. Einstein could have probably written out an equation about how the rider stays upright by maintaining a certain minimum speed that involves a particular balancing of his or her weight, but for all of that, he’d still would have landed on his a$$ until he jumped on and tried enough times to just “figure it out.”

Most of the lawyers I see at the Livonia office of hearing and appeals I never see twice. There is a small handful of familiar faces that I see from time to time (this is a very niche field in which to concentrate one’s practice, so in terms of being a real “license restoration lawyer,” you can pretty much count us on one hand, not including your thumb). If I’m in the waiting room with my client and some lawyer comes out to retrieve a witness, you can be sure it’s always someone who won’t do as many license appeals in his or her whole legal career as I will in a single year. In other words, it’s some poor lawyer who just doesn’t know better. By now, I think I’ve made clear that I don’t call witnesses, and that doing so is a mistake, but why? What’s so bad about calling someone in to testify?

In my practice as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I conduct a lot of appeal hearings, and every last one of them is done live and in-person, in the same room with a Michigan Secretary of State Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) hearing officer. In this short article, I want to address why I never have and never will allow any of my hearings to be done by video. It should note, right out of the gate, that there is a video location less than 5 minutes from my office, while, by contrast, the Detroit-area hearing office, located in Livonia, where all my hearings take place, is about 45 minutes from my office. In terms of convenience to me, there is absolutely no comparison, but all the same, I wouldn’t consider giving up a live hearing for that crappy, boomy-sounding video feed no matter how much time and effort it would save. Above and beyond all of that, I guarantee to win every case I take, so I am completely invested in doing things the right way, not the easy way.

keep-calm-we-re-going-live-thing-191x300The biggest reason I won’t do video hearings is that I truly believe something special gets lost in the transmission that otherwise is obvious when you’re right there, in person. I think some of this has to do with the fact that I only take cases for people who are genuinely sober, and who, oftentimes, are enthusiastic about their sobriety. Some people, of course, are more low key than others, and don’t bubble over with excitement about no longer drinking, but even the shyest person just exudes that “something” that only happens when a person has really gone through the transition from drinker to non-drinker. This “something special” includes everything from a person’s body language to all kinds of small, subtle cues you can only see when you’re sitting across from them. These are precisely the things that aren’t clear or obvious when your image is displayed on a 20-inch screen and that’s being picked up from a camera on the other side the room. Imagine a bad webcam, or bad Skype, with bad sound, to boot; that’s a video hearing.  Who, if they know better, would seriously trust their license appeal to that?

I can’t tell you how many times people will cry, or have tears well up in their eyes, when they are testifying. This happens all the time, and it happens every bit as much to big, strong guys as it does to anyone else. Not everyone bursts out sobbing, but the sound of a voice getting choked up as they’re telling their story, or the moistening of a person’s eyes are the kind of subtle signals that are plainly obvious when you’re right there, but simply don’t broadcast very well, if at all, over video. Of course, lots of people are understandably nervous or shy about testifying, yet even what the most nervous person doesn’t have in “professional witness skills” will be made up for in confirming body language. The hearing officers spend a lot of time being lied to, so they are about as experienced at reading people as anyone you could ever meet. All of that is lost on video – every last bit of it.

This will be the final installment in our non-consecutive, and what I’ve called “loose series (LS)” about the Michigan driver’s license restoration and clearance process. Up to now, I’ve covered every step in that process, starting with my first, 3-hour meeting (LS1) with a new client, the substance use evaluation(LS2), or SUE (often mistakenly called the “substance abuse evaluation), the letters of support (LS3) that must also be filed with the case, the standard of proof (LS4), meaning how the evidence is evaluated, the hearing officers (LS5) who decide these cases, the live hearing (LS6) and what takes place there, the all-important prep session (LS7) to get ready for it, the kind of license you win (LS8) if you filed for a restoration, rather than a clearance, and the dreaded ignition interlock violation (LS9) for some non-compliance or problem while using the device. Although there are no more steps in the process left to examine, there is one aspect of license appeals that is foundational to every one of them, and really at the core of everything: sobriety.

abc157ad2b7c26d715704dc53f90db3a-182x300Sobriety is so important to a license appeal that you could say it is everything. In fact, it is. On my website, I call it the “meat and potatoes” of winning back your license. To really gain a sense of it’s importance, we need to back up a bit, for perspective, and look at the big picture. When a person loses his or her driver’s license for multiple DUI’s, the state concludes he or she has a drinking problem. Key here is the word “conclude.” There is no debating this, and the Secretary of State won’t even listen to why anyone thinks he or she is an exception to that. As a result, when a person comes back and appeals to the Michigan Secretary of State for a license, no matter how many years later, the threshold inquiry is about what they have done to fix that drinking problem, as is get clean and sober, and not whether there is or was one. In the view of the state, anyone with multiple substance-abuse related driving offenses is seen as too much of a risk to put back on the road unless they have completely quit drinking and/or using drugs. This means that the ONLY people who will ever get their licenses back are those who no longer drink, and have been and plan to continue living an alcohol (and drug) free lifestyle. The indisputable, simple fact is that people who do not drink anymore are ZERO risk to ever drink and drive again.

This is it, folks – the keys to the kingdom, so to speak. Absolutely nothing else matters in a license reinstatement case if you’re not sober. It couldn’t matter less if you haven’t been in trouble for over 20 years and have a very sick child who needs to be driven to medical treatment to survive – unless you can first prove your sobriety, your case is not even legally qualified for consideration. Needing a license, not having had one for a long time, or having stayed out of trouble, even for decades, is completely and utterly meaningless in the context of winning a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal without also being able to demonstrate that you’ve quit drinking for good.