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

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.

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.

As 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.

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