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

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.

Pencil-4License 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.

As complicated as the whole license appeal process can get, each and every one starts when a person who has had his or her license revoked for multiple DUI’s files an appeal to get it back. The ONLY thing the state cares about in all of these cases is making sure the person is not a risk to drive drunk again, and the law makes clear that the only people who will be allowed to drive again are those who no longer drink, and can show that they are likely to never drink again. In the context of a license appeal, the line in the sand has been drawn at no drinking, because people who don’t drink are exactly zero risk to drink and drive.

There are 3 things you must have in order to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case: First, you must have a sufficient period of abstinence. Second, you must be legally eligible. Third, you must have some basic understanding of how to stay sober. This is not to say that just having these things, by themselves, means you will win your case, but rather that, without all 3 of them, you are dead in the water. This article will provide a single-installment overview of these 3 non-negotiable requirements to win a license appeal.

aaa-255x300It helps to know why the Michigan Secretary of State does things the way it does. The written law specifies that “The hearing officer shall not order that a license be issued to the petitioner unless the petitioner proves, by clear and convincing evidence,” that his or her alcohol problem is under control, and likely to remain under control. This means that the hearing officer does not sit impartially, as if he or she is holding a set of evenly balanced scales of justice, in order to decide “yes” or “no”. Instead, they start out with the scales tipped all the way to the “no” side and then require that you pile on enough evidence to tip them the other way.

This is very different than how we think about court cases, both civil and criminal, where, to use our scales of justice imagery, the proceedings begin with the scales set evenly. Each party puts the evidence on their side, in order to tip the scales in their favor. However, in a license appeal, there is only one side. The person appealing for a license is the only party and has the entire burden of proof to show that his or her alcohol problem is under control, meaning that he or she has a “sufficient” period of abstinence, and that his or her alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control, meaning hat he or she presents as a safe bet to never drink again. Let’s see how all this ties in with the 3 conditions I listed, above.

It has been a while since I have written about our guarantee to win every initial driver’s license and clearance case we take. Therefore, It is a good time to bring the topic back for what I hope will be a somewhat refreshed discussion about it. The fact that my team and I provide this guarantee means anyone we represent for a license restoration or clearance appeal does not have to worry about risking his or her money to “try” and win back their driving privileges. Instead, you will only pay us once to win your license back.

ZZZ-300x287As reassuring as that sounds, the simple fact is we really make our money winning these cases the first time around. As much as our guarantee matters, my team and I basically count on NOT having to do any case a second time. This is our business model. In order to make that happen, we have to be careful in our case screenings and make sure we don’t take every case that comes our way. In order to provide our guarantee, we have to turn away plenty of people who are more than willing to pay our fee, but are not otherwise eligible and qualified to win.

This means that our guarantee serves to both protect the clients, while also protecting us from making a bad decision in taking a case that can not be made into a sure winner. Of course, there are plenty of people who, while they’re nowhere near being able to win a license appeal at a given moment, do have the necessary “ingredients” from which we can make a successful case; they just need to have things properly “worked over.” This is our specialty, and we do it day-in and day -ut.

In part 1 of this article, we began an examination of how much abstinence you should have before filing a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case. I pointed out that my office will generally not request a hearing until the client has at least 18 months of sobriety prior to their haring date. I also noted that the more sobriety a person has, the better, and the easiest way to figure out if you do (or don’t) have enough sobriety time to move forward with a license appeal is to simply call our office and ask. In this second part, I want to look at the role in which support plays in a person’s sobriety, and then see how that interacts with the length of time a person has been abstinent, particularly in the context of a license appeal.

2-300x240Sobriety is one thing, but support for it is another. Sobriety comes from the inside, while “support” mostly comes from the outside. Although they’re separate issues, the amount of time a person has been sober and the kind of support they do (or don’t) have interacts in a way that directly affects how a Michigan Secretary of State hearing officer will perceive his or her case. Just as with sober time, the more support a person has to stay sober, the better, especially when it comes to wining a license appeal.

Hold on, though, because almost instantly, most people will mentally jump from “support” to “support group,” and then, in turn, too AA. That’s a mistake. In fact, the majority of our clients are NOT active in AA when they come to see us, and we NEVER recommend that anyone “start going” if they’re not already in the program.

Winning a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case requires proving that you have been completely abstinent from alcohol (and/or drugs) for a sufficient period of time and that you are a safe bet to never drink (and/or use drugs) again. Legally speaking, you must prove, by “clear and convincing evidence,” that your alcohol (and/or drug) problem is under control, and that it is likely to remain under control. In this article, I want to zoom in on how much abstinence you really need, and how that ties in with the kind of “support” required by the Michigan Secretary of State.

How-Much-is-EnoughIf there is one constant about the driver’s license restoration and clearance process, it is always evolving and changing. The way things worked just a few years ago is very different from how they work now. For example, up until recently, having a medical marijuana card was a guaranteed shortcut to losing a license appeal. This is no longer the case, however, because the state’s thinking on this issue has evolved. Nowadays, medical marijuana card holders (albeit for more serious conditions) can and do win license appeals.

A trend we’ve been noticing of late is the hearing officers looking more closely at the kind of support for sobriety a person does or doesn’t have, especially when the person has a shorter, rather than a longer, period of sobriety. It has always been (and will always be) the case that the more time since a person’s last drink (and/or use of drugs), the better. Therefore, in the context of a license appeal, the less clean time a person has to his or her credit, the more the state is going to look for evidence of a good support system. As we will see in part 2, support can be found in many different ways including; group meetings, social connections, and the home environment.

As Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, we work on license appeals every day. There are a lot of “moving parts” in these cases, and even the most straightforward of them calls for a significant amount of attention. One thing we frequently hear from callers is a sense of frustration that they “have to go through all of this” to get their license back. The point of this article is to try and explain that, while the license restoration process is, in a manner of speaking, a pain in the rear, it is also non-negotiable, and that either you do what the Michigan Secretary of State requires, or you won’t get your license back.

Office-2-300x290It’s a given that it was a hassle to have gone through all the court stuff from a DUI, including probation and testing and having had to paid fines and costs and whatever else. The problem, however, is that the frustration most people feel about having, as they say, “to jump through hoops” to win their license back, while very real, also misses the fact that after racking up multiple DUI’s, the license revocation process is every bit as much about protecting the public as it is about punishing the offender.

Michigan’s drunk driving law clearly states that if a person racks up 2 DUI’s within 7 years, or 3 within 10 years, his or her license will be revoked. Most people, however, never read the law, and are surprised to learn that having their license “revoked” means having it taken away for good, and not just suspended for a certain period of time. This is often why they’ll say things like, “I thought I did everything I had to do – I went to the classes, paid the fines and went through probation” when they learn they have to file an appeal to even be considered for the return of driving privileges.

Winning a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case requires proving 2 main things by what is defined as “clear and convincing evidence.” First, you must show that your alcohol (and/or substance abuse) problem is “under control,” meaning you have been alcohol and/or drug-free for a sufficient period of time, and second, that it (after 2 alcohol and/or drug-related driving convictions, you are presumed to have some kind of substance abuse problem) is “likely to remain under control,” meaning that you are a safe bet to never drink or use drugs again.

66b1d-scales-3-300x278In this article, I want to do a brief overview of what “clear and convincing” means in the real world, because it’s not only the very key to success, but is also dreadfully overlooked by just about everyone except the hearing officers who decide this cases, and anyone who finds him or herself reading an order denying their appeal. “Clear and convincing evidence” is the legal standard of proof required to win a license appeal, and it is specifically required by the rules that govern all such cases. You either meet this standard, or you lose.

As a starting point, we can begin by saying that “clear and convincing” is close to – but not quite as strong as – proof “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the legal burden of proof for finding someone guilty of a crime. A colleague of mine once used a baseball analogy and said that if “beyond a reasonable doubt” is like a home run, then “clear and convincing” equals a triple. If you understand baseball, then that’s a good comparison. If not, then the following analyses will help.

As Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, we handle hundreds of license appeal cases every year. Many of those are for people who now live out of state, but have a Michigan hold on their driving record that prevents them from obtaining (or, in some cases, renewing) a license in their new state. This release is called a “clearance,” and getting it requires submitting the same documentation and proof as a regular driver’s restoration appeal.

2112-300x285The most important part of a license appeal, whether you’re seeking a clearance or the restoration of your Michigan driving privileges, is proving that you have quit drinking for good. Beyond proving your sobriety, one key difference is that a restoration appeal requires a person to show up for an actual appeal hearing, while a clearance can be requested by just filing the documents alone and waiving the hearing. This is called an “administrative review,” and is essentially an appeal by mail. It may sound like a good idea, but in practice, it’s not.

In terms of the “chances,” with an administrative appeal, it’s worth noting that from year to year, 3 out of every 4 of them are denied. In this article, I want to explain why I never do this shortcut method, and why I firmly believe that a person should come back for a live, in-person hearing. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of that, let me answer anyone who is (understandably) thinking, “Of course you want people to come back so they can hire you; this is how you make your money.”

In order to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case, a person has to be genuinely clean and sober. I have to raise this subject rather frequently, because my office gets contacted all the time by people who don’t really understand what sobriety means, and want to plow ahead with a license appeal even though they still drink or use marijuana. They miss that the first requirement, and key to winning, is proving that you have quit drinking and/or getting high for good. In this article, I want to take a quick look at how that applies to drinking, and using marijuana.

1-marijuana-alcohol-ma-cabr-min-2-300x195The rule governing license appeals necessitates that a person show that he or she has been alcohol and/or drug free for a sufficient period of time (at least 1 year, although longer is always better) and that he or she has the commitment and the ability to remain clean and sober for life. That leaves no room for any drinking, nor the recreational use of marijuana – ever. We’ll skip any discussion of medical marijuana in this piece, because whether or not its use will prevent someone from winning back their license can only be determined on an individual, case-by-case basis.

As much as I try to explain this every way possible within these blog articles, and although I always try to be diplomatic about it, the simple, cold truth is that only a minority of people truly “get it” when it comes to sobriety. That’s a problem, because only those who do get it have any chance of getting back on the road. Indeed, the main job of the Michigan Secretary of State hearing officers who decide license appeals it to screen out those few people who do get it from all the rest who don’t.

One of the best parts of my job as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer is actually winning licenses back for people. As much as I have written about how my team and I guarantee to win every case we take, and why we can do that, I want this article to shift the focus to how awesome it is to actually be the person, and be with the person, who wins.

preview-300x169Over the course of my years, I have been rewarded with a heartfelt “thank you” countless times. For everything we do, nothing beats the satisfaction of actually helping someone who genuinely deserves to be able to drive again win back a valid license. I feel good about my driver’s license restoration work. I help honest, sober people get back on the road, not risky drinkers.

The simple truth is that the work that most lawyers do is miserable. Almost nobody comes into a lawyer’s office on a roll. This is certainly true for anyone facing a DUI or criminal charge. Although I have never handled a divorce case, I’d be hard-pressed to imagine a situation much more unpleasant than that.