A substantial portion of my driver’s license restoration practice involved obtaining the clearance of a Michigan hold on someone’s driving record that prevents him or her from getting a license in another state. The very same evidence is submitted to the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) for both a clearance and a driver’s license restoration appeal. Although just about everyone (understandably) wonders about doing an administrative review, often called an “appeal by mail,” most learn that 3 out of every 4 such cases lose, and that a person will have to wait a whole year before he or she can file again. Those with better luck read and understand this before they try, while the less fortunate have to find out the hard way. The simple truth is that the best and surest way to win a clearance of the Michigan hold on your driving record is to do a full appeal and come back for a hearing. For my part, I put my money where my mouth is, because when I take a license clearance and restoration appeal case, I guarantee to win it.
There are several reasons why I will only handle these cases for clients who come back to Michigan, despite endless offers to hire me for help with these ill-fated and ever-doomed administrative reviews. The first is control. When a client hires me, I control every part of the case, from the preparation to the evidence to the hearing itself. My clients will go my evaluator to have his or her substance abuse evaluation (technically, it’s called a “substance use evaluation,” but everyone alive calls it a “substance abuse evaluation,” so we’ll just go along with that) completed. The first meeting with a new client takes about 3 hours in my office, and takes place prior to the evaluation. In fact, the main point of that meeting is to prepare the client for the evaluation. If someone wants to have an evaluation completed by some unknown person in another state, I have absolutely no control over any part of that process. Beyond my input, it takes a LOT of time and effort for a substance abuse counselor to learn to complete the evaluation in the way the hearing officers of the Michigan Secretary of State’s administrative hearing section expect. Although just about any clinician can look at the form and figure he or she can complete it, there are literally countless little things that are not obvious and that are learned either by direct instruction or, as is usually the case, by getting it wrong the first time.
The reader needs to understand that a winning license appeal takes a lot of experienced effort. There are no shortcuts to doing things right. As a driver’s license restoration lawyer, this cannot be done by just sending someone out to “get” an evaluation and then looking things over (including the critically important letters of support) to make sure they’re good enough. I have to spend the time with and learn about my clients recovery, meaning his or her transition from drinker to non-drinker, at our first meeting. I also have to try and summarize that whole story within the paperwork I create. As it goes, every client leaves my office with a packet of information to give to the evaluator, including a form of my own creation called a “Substance Abuse Evaluation Checklist,” a specially marked-up copy of his or her driving record, and any other documents that need to be reviewed by the evaluator before the evaluation is completed. This is part of that control I have when the client comes to my office first, and then goes to see my evaluator. It is NOT the evaluator’s job to read your driving record, figure out your conviction history and learn the most details of your recovery story that would be most relevant to the hearing officer. Instead, it is MY job to make sure that this information is clearly presented to my evaluator, and I do exactly that because of the control I exercise and maintain over the case.