Articles Posted in Driver’s License Restoration – Out of State Issues

My office is contacted daily by people who can’t get a license in another state because Michigan has a “hold.” As a result, a huge part of my driver’s license restoration practice involves winning clearances of Michigan holds on driving records for people who now live out of state. In this article, I want to skip over much of the actual license appeal process (I’ve covered that in plenty of my other articles) and simply explain why you should come back to Michigan in order to do this correctly.

Y2-300x194As a matter of policy, my office will ONLY handle clearance cases for someone who comes back to meet with us. This isn’t nearly as bad or inconvenient as it sounds (especially compared to the inconvenience of not driving). My clients only have to come back to Michigan twice. The first visit is to meet with us (for about 3 hours) and then our clients go from our office to the counselor’s office to have the substance abuse evaluation completed. This is essentially a “one and done” kind of deal, because we’ll work on the letters of support and anything else that needs to be done via email or the like.

The second trip back Michigan is for the license appeal hearing itself. Hearings last about a half hour, and they are scheduled every hour on the hour, so a person can rely on being in and out of that proceeding in less than 60 minutes, no matter what. Thus, a person who comes in from another state for something like a 1:00 p.m. hearing can plan on being able to head back home before 2:00 p.m. that same day, unless he or she wants to stick around for a while afterward. What I’m driving at is that doing it this way – the right way – isn’t nearly as difficult or involved as it may at first seem.

Everybody needs a driver’s license, and anyone who has been without one for a long time feels that need even more. In this article, I want to briefly explain how needing a license, or not having had one for years, and/or just having stayed out of trouble for a long time, doesn’t matter at all when it comes to winning a driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal from the Michigan Secretary of State, and then look at the main requirement for getting it back – being sober.

start-with-why-300x150On average, I file and win nearly 200 driver’s license restoration appeals each year. Every week, my office is contacted by any number of people who explain how much they need a license, or how long they’ve been without one, or how long it has been since they last got in trouble. While it is understandable that those things matter to someone who can’t legally drive, those things do not matter AT ALL to the Secretary of State. As one hearing officer says, “everybody needs a license.” To the state, the key to getting back on the road is proving that you have quit drinking, and are a safe bet to never drink again.

Similarly, a lot of people think that having stayed out of trouble for a long time makes it look like they’ve learned something, or have somehow become less “risky” than before. From the Secretary of State’s point of view, the only risk that matters is the risk that you will ever drink again. The state, for its part, could not care less about how much someone promises to never drink and drive. The simple reality is that the people who are the safest bet to never drink and drive are those who just do not drink. The idea that a person hasn’t had a DUI or other legal scrape in a long time, no matter how long, means nothing in the context of a license appeal. What you must prove in a license reinstatement case is that you will never drink again, not merely that you won’t drink and drive.

There really is no way to overstate the importance of the role of the substance use evaluation in a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case. In a very real sense, the substance use evaluation (abbreviated as SUE, and often mistakenly called a substance “abuse” evaluation) is really the foundation of a driver’s license restoration appeal. Over the years, many counseling operations have popped in and out of existence with the promise of providing really favorable evaluations. That may sound appealing at first, but the hearing officers from the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Sections (AHS) have been onto that gimmick forever, and instead of being fooled by it, look instead for indicators of real integrity in the evaluation. Thus, we begin with the idea that the evaluation must be an accurate, honest and sincere clinical assessment.

thisisimportant-279x300This is important, because it means that to wind up with a good evaluation that bears the required hallmarks of integrity, you have to be genuinely sober in the first place. If you still drink, or think you can still drink, forget trying to win a license appeal, and forget trying to fool a good evaluator. The whole reinstatement process is designed to make sure that only those people who do not drink, and who have the commitment and ability to remain alcohol-free for good, are allowed back on the road. For everything we can and will say about it, the main purpose of the evaluation is to provide the hearing officer with a clinical analysis of how likely a person is to NOT drink again. A competent evaluator isn’t going to mistake someone who still drinks, but talks a line of BS about not drinking anymore, for someone who is really sober and has made the dramatic life changes that go along with that.

The evaluation itself is actually a form provided by the state. Some evaluators use their own format instead, but any homemade design must still provide all the information required by the state’s form. Personally, I don’t care for evaluations done on anything other than on the state’s form. One of the problems with that, beyond making the information harder to read and therefore more difficult to understand, is that some evaluators go off and start adding information they feel is helpful, taking what would have been a 2 or 3 page state form and stretching it out over even more pages. The SUE is really like a tax form, and provides spaces for all the necessary information without the need to paste in the dreaded “see attached” and add more pages.

A fair-sized number of my clients are people who, before hiring me, have lost a previous attempt to either win back their license or obtain a clearance to remove a Michigan hold on their driving record. In this article, I want to talk about losing a license appeal. I don’t have much experience losing. Michigan driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals are my special niche (I handle more than 200 a year), and I guarantee to win every case I take, so we’re talking either about someone who has tried on their own, or with some other lawyer. Among the cases I handle after someone has lost, more than half have tried on their own, with no lawyer. Almost without exception, those people who did hire a lawyer hired someone who did not specifically concentrate in license restoration cases, but may have listed them, or had a blurb about them, on a website. Almost every out-of-state client who has previously filed for a clearance and lost did it on his or her own.

maxresdefault-300x223It is not unusual for me to be contacted by people who’ve lost right after they get the bad news from the Secretary of State. One of the first things they want to know is if they can appeal the decision. I have to explain that while appealing to court is, legally speaking an option, your chances of winning are somewhere between slim to none, especially for those people who played lawyer and represented themselves. Not to put too fine a point on it, but over the course of my 27-plus years as a lawyer, I have NEVER seen anyone who lost a do-it-yourself appeal who I thought had ANY chance of winning an appeal in court.

It’s important to understand that if you appeal to court, it has nothing to do with merely disagreeing with the result, but rather proving that the process used by the hearing officer to get that result was legally flawed. In other words, the law provides the hearing officers with a lot of discretion to say yes or no, and even if a Judge concludes that he or she would have ruled differently, that’s not enough to overturn the decision. Instead, the Judge basically has to find that the hearing officer committed a certain kind of significant legal error. Good luck with that. Of the handful of court appeals I’ve done over the last decade or so, I’ve won them all, but those were all cases that I personally handled. If you’ve lost, or you do lose a license restoration case, it almost certainly means that you’re going to have to wait until you can file again next year to get it right.

I handle a lot of appeals to clear a Michigan “hold” on a person’s driving record so that he or she can get (or renew) a license in another state. In fact, somewhere around 1/3 of my license appeal clients come from out of state. In the course of my practice, I get tons of emails from people who need to obtain clearance of a Michigan hold on their driving record. Understandably, many of them inquire about using my services in a limited way to “help” out with an appeal, because they’re trying to avoid coming back here. In this article, I want to explain why I won’t do that for any amount of money, and why coming back is the key to winning your clearance the first time around.

Letsfixthisalittlebit_7cdd9205ebc87243e945fbfb39104d4fThe Michigan Secretary of State allows a person who now lives out of state to file what is called an “administrative review,” which is actually an appeal-by-mail, in order to try to obtain a clearance. Every year, 3 out of 4 of these appeals are denied. No one really knows how many times those who do eventually win have tried in the past, but the bottom line is if you’re looking to try this route, it’s a clear signal that you don’t fully understand the process. That’s not an insult, because here, in Michigan, very few lawyers fully understand the license appeal process, and fewer still (if any) guarantee to win every case they take, like I do. In fact, the reason I won’t touch administrative review cases, despite the financial incentive to do so (less work for the same money), is precisely because I DO fully understand the process, and see how an appeal by mail is entirely inferior to a conventional license appeal, which also includes a hearing, something that is conspicuously absent from the decidedly lazy and second-rate, shortcut method.

There’s a reason I guarantee to win every regular, in-person license case I take, and that’s because I not only start with a genuinely sober client (or I won’t start at all), but also because I control every aspect of the process. To be clear, the only difference between an administrative review and a regular clearance appeal is that the administrative review is decided on the documents alone (without a hearing), whereas the regular appeal is decided after a hearing. It’s not that the hearing itself is such a big deal to me, but rather that when my clients come back, I begin to make sure I exercise proper quality control because they’ll first see me for 3 hours at our initial meeting, get prepared for and then go to have their substance use evaluation completed by MY evaluator, whose office is just a few blocks away. After that, I personally handle every step we take. My clients will send me draft copies of their letters of support for review and correction before they are ever notarized. Ultimately, I double and triple-check the entire package of evidence, including the substance use evaluation and all the letters, before it’s submitted. Finally, I prepare each and every client for the hearing so that when we go in for it, all they have to do is tell the truth.

In my role as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I’ve written every article this blog, which is by far the best and most comprehensive resource for information about every facet of the license appeal and clearance process on the internet. One thing that I have to bring up regularly, just to keep squarely within view, is that you must have quit drinking in order to win your license back. While I guarantee to win every case I take, I do not take every case that comes my way, and will only accept cases for people who genuinely do not drink anymore. I get endless emails from people who tell me how much they need a license and how long they’ve gone without one, but when I ask how long they’ve been sober, things suddenly go quiet. In this familiar-themed article, I want to make clear, once again, that you must have completely severed your relationship with alcohol as a pre-condition to winning a driver’s license clearance or restoration case filed with the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS).

89b6b6b380687d516ec55270162905f7-213x300Look, I’m in business to make money, not turn away people who are willing to hire me. However, I do have a conscience AND a guarantee, so I simply cannot and will not take on a case that cannot win. Sobriety is a non-negotiable requirement to win your license back. I was speaking with another lawyer recently about this, and he kind of laughed in agreement and said that once, when he asked a guy if he was sober, the reply was something like, “Yep. I only drink beer now.” Among other things, over 27 years as a lawyer has taught me that many people simply don’t understand that an important part of what sobriety means is that you have completely stopped drinking. For its part, the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) has drawn a line in the sand regarding license restoration and clearance appeals; only people who have quit drinking for good can win. Period. The state knows that, whatever people will say about how they are “different” now when it comes to drinking, and despite all the commitments and promises they make to never drink and drive again, those who no longer drink alcohol are exactly zero risk for a repeat performance. That’s the safest bet, and the only one the state will make. It’s that simple.

At least to me. And the Secretary of State. Part of the problem here is that everybody needs a license, so when some of them go online and find something like this blog or my website, see that I guarantee to win every case I take, they think, “Eureka!” It’s human nature, I suppose, for someone to focus more on how tough things have been without a license and how long they haven’t had one, than anything else. It’s perfectly understandable that a person will believe, in his or her heart of hearts, that no matter what, they’ll never drive drunk again. Under the main rule (Rule 13) governing license appeals, however, a person has to prove that he or she has been completely abstinent from alcohol for a sufficient period of time (in the rule, this is stated as the person’s alcohol problem being “under control“). The Secretary of State’s AHS hearing officers are given rather wide discretion in determining how much abstinence is enough (i.s., “sufficient”). More important, the second part of the rule requires that a person prove that his or her alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control,” which means that he or she has the commitment and the tools to remain alcohol-free for good, and otherwise seems like a safe enough bet to not drink again. This is really the “meat and potatoes” of the license appeal process – proving that a person will never drink again.

In my role as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I get tons of calls and emails from people who need to win back their license. However, and as one hearing officer with the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) so adroitly puts it, “everybody needs a license.” Needing a license, however, has nothing to do with actually winning a license appeal, anymore than needing money has anything to do with actually winning the lottery. In this article, I want to take a look at 5 common things that people believe are important, but that don’t really matter a bit in the context of winning a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal. As we’ll see, not only do none of these things have anything do with winning your license back, there is one overlooked and recurrent theme within the process that essentially everything else and is the absolute key to getting back on the road.

635907898137118831-1557727704_5ThingsFirst, as we’ve just noted, the idea that you “need” your license couldn’t matter less to your ability to actually win it back. The whole point of the license restoration process is to make sure than only people who are and will remain sober get back on the road. When a person racks up multiple DUI’s, he or she is categorized, under Michigan law, as a habitual alcohol offender, and his or her driver’s license is revoked. The Secretary of State will not even consider giving a license back to someone who still drinks, or even thinks they can ever drink again. This point is missed by loads of people who will assure any and everyone that they are no longer any kind of risk to drink and drive again for all kinds of reasons: they won’t drink when they drive, they don’t drink like they used to, they only drink at home, they only drink once and a while, and so on. From the state’s point of view, however, these people are nothing less than proven risks. By contrast, who is the least risky to ever drive drunk again? People who don’t drink. Thus, the line in the sand is drawn there; the only people who have their licenses restored are those who have quit drinking for good and can prove it.

Second, a lot of people will observe, with a strong note of exasperation, that they haven’t driven in X number of years. I’m not trying to be the bad guy here, but that begs the question, “so what?” If proving sobriety is the key to winning your license back, what does not having had a license for any period of time have to do with that? Plenty of people don’t drive anymore, but still drink. It’s the same for people who complain that they haven’t had a license for a long time. So what? The key to getting that license back is proving sobriety, and that has nothing to do with how long you haven’t had a license other than your minimum period of revocation must have passed before you become eligible to file an appeal.

In my role as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I am often hired after someone has previously tried to do a license appeal without a lawyer (or with some lawyer who claims to “do” these cases as part of a larger practice) and then lost. In this article, I want to revisit and reiterate why it’s better to let a professional handle these things, not because I’m greedy, or want to use scare tactics to discourage someone from trying; in fact, on both this blog and on my website, I have always said “go for it.” I really do have enough business to stay busy with people who just want to do it right the first time as well as others who have already tried and lost. My goal here is to try and help the person understand that it is worth hiring a driver’s license restoration lawyer, like me, for a license reinstatement case primarily in order to NOT lose, and NOT have to wait an entire additional year before he or she can file again.

bigstock-Professional-And-Amateur-Direc-78086273copy-300x289I remember, as I was growing up, that my dad was never much of a do-it-yourself kind of guy.  Working as a mailman, it’s not like we had lots of extra money to throw around, but my dad knew enough to let the experts handle the things that made them experts in the first place. Later on, as an adult, when someone would tell me that they had just fixed or installed something themselves that I had hired out, I would often pause and wonder if I should have saved the money and tried it myself. One thing I couldn’t overlook, though, were results.  Sorry folks, but most do-it-yourself work looks or ends up like do-it-yourself work. As I grew older, I began to pick up on little things, like when some technician working at my house would explain something to me along the lines of, “even though the directions say you should connect a 225 to the widget here, I always use a 226 because the 225’s clog up after a few years, and the 226’s never do.” In other words, there are all kinds of little tricks and secrets that people who do something day-in and day-out know that the one-time, do-it-yourselfer will never learn.  This really applies in the world of license restoration and clearance appeals.

This doesn’t matter so much if you can’t hook up the surround-sound system in your home, because you can call the expert in later to get it right without having done much, if any damage. But if you remodel your own kitchen, you’re going to have to live with those results. If you do your own license appeal and lose, your not only going to be bumming rides for another year, but now you need to make sure the lawyer you hire next time can fix or get around the things you screwed up that caused your case to lose in the first place. For the most part, the things that people do screw up aren’t usually difficult for me to fix, but we should be very clear that you lose a do-it-yourself appeal precisely because you did screw something up. There’s really no nice way to put this without missing that key point. The big problem with anyone trying to do anything on his or her own is that you don’t know what you don’t know. Worse yet, very few lawyers really grasp the intricacies of the license restoration process, so no matter how you cut it, there is a strong element of luck involved in trying to do it yourself. Yet for all of that, if you’re inclined to give it a try, then go for it, as long as the cost of losing (not driving for at least another year) is something you can handle.

In my capacity as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I can and do win license appeal cases for people living anywhere in the world. In other words, I handle license restoration cases no matter where in the state a person may reside, and I handle clearance appeals for anyone who no longer resides in Michigan. This can sometimes create a bit of confusion, and is very different from handling DUI and other criminal cases, where I believe it is very important to find a lawyer who is relatively “local” to the court where the charge is pending. In this article, I want to explain the difference and make clear that I file and win license appeals for anyone, no matter where in (or out) of Michigan they may live. The only limitation for me to take someone’s driver’s license restoration case is that they must travel to my location and see me for our first 3-hour face-to-face meeting. And to make matters really convenient, we schedule things so that the client leaves my office and goes directly to my evaluator to have his or her substance use evaluation completed, making it a “one and done” trip.

PTAC-Map-for-web-300x283The reason I meet with the client first is to prepare him or her to undergo the evaluation. There is a lot to go over. Certain information must be included in the evaluation, while many other things that seem relevant are best omitted, not because we’re hiding anything from the Secretary of State, but rather because there is limited space on the state’s form. Because they don’t know better, some evaluators will write something like “see attached” when they run out of room. There is no need for that – ever. One of my clients had 13 prior DUI convictions (I won his case the first time, no less), and you can be sure that there was plenty of information in his case, but my evaluator managed to get everything on the state’s form without the need for any kind of addendum. When I meet with the client, I complete a detailed form of my own, called a “substance abuse evaluation checklist,” that lists all the information I know to be important, and which I send with him or her, along with various other documents, to give to the evaluator.

While it doesn’t matter where a person lives in order for me to take his or her case, it is absolutely essential that he or she has genuinely quit drinking. As much detail as I provide on my checklist, the underlying key to it all is the story of why and how a person decided to quit drinking. Nobody quits drinking because it’s working out so well. There is a real human story – your story – behind all the dates and facts. We need to “flesh” that out. Most people have never thought of the journey from drinker to non-drinker as a story. Most of my clients are not in AA, so they don’t have the regular experience of talking around the tables. Even those who do go to meetings often need a little help summarizing everything in a way that it can be translated by the evaluator directly onto the state’s form. That’s where I come in. It’s that story, and not where you live, that matters most.

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 than you can find anywhere 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.