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

In part 1 of this article, we began an examination of how remote meetings and remote license appeal hearings have made it much easier for people who live elsewhere to get a Michigan hold off of their driving record so that they can obtain a license in their new state. In our practice as Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, we have been able to things set up so that our clients can do everything with us, from the first meeting to the last – and have the required substance use evaluation completed with our evaluator – all from home.

vectorstock_11509240-274x300I also pointed out that the way the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) now conducts license appeal hearings – over a secure remote platform – is much different (and better) than how they used to be done when they were called “video hearings.”  That method sucked, and I have long been critical of them. I only ever did one such hearing, and refused to do any more that way. In fact, my team and I had always been eligible to do the old-style “video hearings” at a certain Secretary of State branch office less than 5 minutes from our office, but chose, instead, to drive nearly an hour away, just to appear for a live hearing. That should say something.

Now, a remote hearing can be done over a cell phone, and the sound and picture quality are a million times better than how they used to be when using the clunky old equipment in some side room at an SOS branch office for what was then called a “video hearing.” Given how much better remote hearings are than the old “video” hearings, I genuinely like them, and that means a lot, because our firm guarantees to win every driver’s license restoration and clearance appeal case we take.  Because our guarantee is on the line, you can be sure my team and I wouldn’t do anything that could or would compromise a client’s case or chances of success.

If you live elsewhere but have a Michigan hold on your driving record after 2 or more DUI convictions, then you need to clear (meaning release) it so you can get a license in your new state. This is called a “clearance,” and getting it requires a person to file the exact same documentation and evidence that he or she would submit for a Michigan driver’s license restoration appeal. The really good news is that now, as Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, my team and I can handle these matters entirely remotely so that a person doesn’t even have to leave the comfort of his or her home to get it done.

Clear-3-250x300This is a huge change from how things were done before the Coronavirus pandemic. For years, license appeal hearings were either held in person, or through the Michigan Secretary of State’s (SOS) closed-circuit video system, both of which required a person to come back to Michigan. Now, hearings are done over a secure remote meeting platform, allowing every participant to be in a different physical location, while all being the same virtual hearing room. This saves the time and money previously required to come back to Michigan, and has really made things convenient for those who no longer live here, but have an SOS hold on their driving record and still want to get this done the right way.

Up until recently, I had always believed in holding live license appeal hearings, rather than going with the alternative, which is to file an appeal by mail, called an “administrative review.” Statistically speaking, only 1 out of every 4 administrative reviews actually wins, meaning that 3 out of 4 of them are denied, and these numbers have always remained consistent from year to year. Moreover, nobody knows how many times those who eventually do win an administrative review have tried before and lost. Put bluntly, the odds of success for any appeal by mail just plain suck.

Getting your license back has never been more convenient! As a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I never thought I’d say anything that sounded as cheesy as that, but because of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, we’re living in strange times, and a lot has changed in the legal world. In the context of license appeals, the Michigan Secretary of State has suspended in-person hearings, and is conducting them all virtually. As a consequence, our practice has likewise adapted and evolved, allowing us to do our client meetings virtually, as well.

2-300x291Before I go any further, let me clarify a small, but important point: the “virtual” hearings taking place now are NOT the same as the video hearings previously used by the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS), which required a person to appear in a special video room at an SOS branch office. The sound and video quality of those hearings was terrible. The old, low-tech camera and boomy-sounding microphone sat up high on a shelf on the wall on the opposite side of the room, and produced a grainy picture with voices that sounded like they were coming from inside a giant metal can.

The online hearings of today are held using the Microsoft “Teams” app, and allow participants to log on anywhere there’s an internet connection. These are much more intimate and of far better quality than the kind of “closed circuit” system used before. I have always been vocal in my dislike of the video hearings the way they used to be done by the Secretary of State, before the pandemic. I have written numerous articles about why I would never have any of my cases heard that way, and nothing has changed about that.

The world of driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals had undergone a dramatic change because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Early on, almost all license appeals were on hold, and then the Michigan Secretary of State began offering to do some by video. Now, as of this writing, Secretary of State has announced that it will ONLY do video hearings, and that they will continue indefinitely, as we grapple with the new and evolving “normal.”

3e444-300x216This has necessitated a radical change in the way my team and I will do things in our office, as well. First and foremost, we’ll still GUARANTEE to win every first time license restoration and clearance case we take. That said, I have always preferred face-to-face meetings with clients, and live, in-person license appeal hearings, but the whole coronavirus situation requires us to put that on ice, at least for a while, until this situation passes.

For now, we’re doing client intakes and meetings by video and/or phone, but will resume meeting with people as soon as it’s allowed – and safe to do so.  This is the new reality. As much as I wish things were different, they’re not. People need to drive now, more than ever. Loads of callers have told us they’re nervous about getting into an Uber or Lyft. Others cannot get rides from friends or family that don’t live in their household. This has given people plenty of time to think about how they struggle because they don’t have a driver’s license.

As the Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer who puts out the most information about license appeals, I try to examine every aspect of the process within the more than 500 articles on this subject I have published to date. There is, however, one theme I must return to regularly, and it will be the point of this article – the fact that you must have given up drinking in order to be able to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case. Being sober is the absolute key to filing a license appeal that has any chance of success.

FirstThingsFirstIn my numerous articles, I try to come at this subject from a slightly different angle each time. This time, I want my take to be “brief,” as in “short.” The bottom line in a Michigan driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals is that they are all about proving you have quit drinking for good. Of course, license appeals are complicated, but unless a person can prove that he or she has been alcohol-free for a sufficient period of time, and also has the commitment to remain alcohol-free for good, NOTHING ELSE MATTERS.

Indeed, the whole reason I have to bring this topic back to center-stage so often is that most people overlook this simple fact, and focus, instead, on how much they need a license, or how long they’ve gone without one. As one of the Michigan Secretary of State hearing officers puts it, “everybody needs a license.” That, however, has absolutely nothing to do with being able to win it back. No matter what a person’s circumstances, the laser-sharp focus of the state is going to zero in on when he or she last consumed alcohol (we prefer a minimum of 18 months’ abstinence to file a case) and his or her intention to never drink again.

In many of my articles about driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals, I point out that anyone who now lives out of state and can’t get or renew a license there should come back here to do a proper clearance appeal. My office requires our clients to return to Michigan to meet with us, have their evaluation completed, and then attend the actual hearing. In exchange for that, we provide a guarantee to win every license appeal case we take. In this article, I want to focus on one of the key reasons we do it this way: control.

268x0wThe idea of “control” means that we direct, oversee, and do quality assurance over every part of the process, including the planning of the appeal, getting it ready, and then ultimately, filing it. Specifically, we meet with every client for several hours prior to him or her going to the required substance use evaluation (SUE). We arrange things so that the client will meet with us first, then go directly to the evaluator’s office from ours. This makes the whole trip back to Michigan a “one and done” deal, and it allows us to guarantee a successful result, and far outweighs any inconvenience of having to come back.

Our guarantee to win stands in stark contrast to the reality of administrative, or “do-it-yourself” appeals: each year, 3 out of every 4 them, what we call an “appeal by mail,” are denied. However, rather than waste time and effort trying to talk someone out of going this route, it’s far easier for me and my team to simply say that, if you’re inclined to try an administrative appeal, then go for it. If it works out, good for you, but if it doesn’t, then call us after. As it turns out, many of our clients have done just that, and when they do contact us, they’re ready to get down to the business of actually winning.

Every Michigan driver’s license restoration and clearance appeal is decided by a hearing officer. Technically called an “administrative law examiner” (for all practical purposes, the same thing as an “administrative law Judge”), a hearing officer is a licensed attorney employed by the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office of Hearings and Administrative Oversight. Because they decide all license appeal (including implied consent and ignition interlock violations) matters, SOS hearing officers serve an incredibly important function.

fairness-278x300For as much power as they have to approve or deny license appeals, hearing officers are constrained to exercise it within very strict rules. This is important, because even many lawyers don’t know the ins and outs of these rules, and fewer still work with them enough to really understand how they are interpreted and applied by each hearing officer. People who lose a “do-it-yourself” license appeal (or who lose with some lawyer who does not concentrate in this field) often become frustrated at their lack of success, and wrongly blame the hearing officer, without understanding how the application of the rules controlled the outcome of their case.

Although the governing rules are written in black and white, the way each hearing officer interprets certain parts of them can vary, essentially meaning that there is a lot of gray area. This is where the uniqueness of the various hearing officers matters, and why it is very important for us, as driver’s license restoration attorneys, to know each one, and how he or she does things. Something that one hearing officer couldn’t care less about may be a complete deal killer with another. If the lawyer doesn’t know how this applies to every part of a case, then he or she is not properly prepared to move forward with it.

In the course of having written more than 500 articles about driver’s license restoration, I have consistently made clear that a person must be genuinely sober to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case. Because this is so fundamental to the whole license appeal process, it is worth repeating that there are 2 facets to being “sober,” in the way that qualifies someone to win a license appeal: First, that you have given up drinking and remained completely abstinent for a “sufficient” period of time (in my office, we generally want our clients to have a minimum of 18 months’ alcohol-free), and second, that you have the commitment to remain sober for life.

nodrinking-3Being able to win a license appeal and drinking alcohol are mutually exclusive things. The Michigan Secretary of State has drawn a line in the sand: after 2 or more DUI’s, the only people who will ever be allowed back on the road are those who can prove they have quit drinking for good. The state sees anyone who has had his or her license revoked after multiple DUI’s as too much of a risk when it comes to alcohol. It may not be able to stop such a person from drinking anymore, but it’s not going to let them drive as long as they do. You can’t get past the fact that people who don’t drink are exactly zero risk to drink and drive.

Even though I try and explain the requirement that a person must be sober to win a license appeal quite regularly, and probably because of the sheer volume of information I put out (not everyone is a big reader, after all), as well as the fact that my team and I guarantee to win every first time driver’s license restoration or clearance case we take, people find me online and think “he’s the guy.” While that’s flattering (and for anyone who’s has honestly quit drinking, I certainly AM the guy), the sobriety requirement is set in stone, and is the key issue in every Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal.

The best way for someone who lives out of state to remove a Michigan  Secretary of State hold on his or her driving record is to come back and do it in person. My office handles about 200 license appeal cases every year, and more than 1/3 of them are clearance cases for people who have moved out of state. Part of the reason we guarantee to win every case we take is that we require our out-of-state clients to come back, in order to do this right. The alternative to coming back is an “administrative review,” which is an appeal by mail where, instead of appearing for a live, in-person hearing, a person merely sends in his or her evidence for consideration. Each year, 3 out of 4 administrative reviews are denied.

SSSSS-273x300Let me be very clear about this: even though we don’t do administrative reviews, it is not my intention to try and dissuade anyone who wants to give it a shot from doing so. I could write a book about all the things that can, and usually do go wrong with these “appeals,” but for all that effort, it’s far easier for me, instead trying to talk anyone out of trying an administrative review, to just say give it a whirl; if you win, then good for you, and if you don’t, then call us. For everything else I could say, the reality is that many of the people who hire us for a “proper” clearance have already tried to do it on their own, and called us after losing.

There are lot of reasons that administrative reviews fail, but 2 of them stand above all others: First, most of them are based upon an inadequate substance use evaluation, and second, not being present to answer the hearing officer’s questions is a real problem, since there are always questions. In the real world, most lawyers don’t really know how to properly do a license restoration or clearance appeal (certainly not enough to guarantee their work), so how can better work be expected of anyone trying it on his or her own? The fix, of course, is simple: skip the shortcuts, come back, and do this right.

As Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, we hear a lot of the same things over and over again. One of the most common things we’re told is that a person “needs” to get his or her license back. This is a topic I have to address rather frequently in order to keep it in the reader’s line of sight. In this article, I want to make clear that “needing” a license has nothing to do with actually being able to win it back, and then focus on the main thing the Michigan Secretary of State looks for in every license appeal: real sobriety.

License restoration and clearance appeals are decided under strict rules that essentially require a person prove, by what the law defines as “clear and convincing evidence,” that he or she has not consumed any alcohol (or used any drugs) for a a “sufficient” period of time (generally, my office requires a minimum of 18 months’ clean and sober), and that he or she also has the commitment and tools to remain alcohol (and drug) free for good. In other words, a person has to prove he or she has honestly quit drinking (and/or getting high) and is a safe bet to never drink or use again.

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