Articles Posted in Driver’s License Restoration

We are socialized to think of having drinks as something celebratory, and social. To younger people, the idea of “partying” and having a good time is often synonymous with drinking. For most people (but certainly not everyone, because some people have problems right out of the gate), their youthful drinking experiences are usually associated with things that are and/or were fun. For some, however, as youth fades, the drinking continues, but the good times don’t necessarily follow, sometimes ending up in things like DUI’s, and even loss of one’s driver’s license.

Bulbbbbb-300x253The idea that there might be something “off” with a person’s relationship to alcohol usually starts with an initial thought that his or her drinking needs to be reigned in a bit. By the time somebody starts thinking that way, or otherwise considering the possibility that his or her drinking has grown troublesome, it almost certainly has. This kind of thinking follows a process, because nobody goes from believing everything is fine one day to suddenly concluding that they have a major drinking problem the next.

In the real world, this usually starts off when a person begins to get a kind of nagging feeling that maybe he or she ought to slow down a bit, and/or not drink as much, or as often. This almost always comes about as a result of some kind of problem or problems. Whatever else, nobody thinks about trying to control their drinking because it’s working out so well. Instead, these thoughts come to mind after a person has been experiencing trouble of some sort.

This article will focus on and be relevant to anyone who has tried a “do-it-yourself” driver’s license restoration appeal and lost. In some of my driver’s license restoration articles, I point out the potential pitfalls of trying a license appeal on your own, or even with some lawyer who doesn’t really concentrate his or her practice in this area. I also make clear that anyone who is inclined to try a “do-it-yourself” driver’s license restoration appeal should give it a shot, but should at least also understand that chances are, it won’t work out.

1_pPxh12fYgugriRXtGMXHoQ-300x264Here, I’ll make 3 important points: First, it’s far easier for me to deal with people who have already tried and lost than it is to waste time attempting to talk someone out of it in the first place. Second, if someone does win on their own, then good for them, and they can never say I tried to discourage them out of my own financial self-interest. Third, when my team and I take a case, we guarantee to win it, so whether you come to us first, or after you’ve tried on your own, we’ll make sure that win your license back and can drive again.

I’d estimate that about half of our clients are people who have previously tried and lost a license appeal. Some of them contact us right after they find out they’ve lost, and inquire about going to court to appeal. The reality is that, because of our guarantee, my team and I don’t accept cases we don’t win, and therefore, we rarely wind up losing. As a result, we almost never have to contemplate a circuit court appeal for our own work. Accordingly, we have absolutely no interest in taking any such appeal for a case we didn’t handle from the start.

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.

As Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, we deal with the consequences of failed and missed ignition interlock breath tests on a daily basis. In this article, I want to explain why a startup failure is such a big deal, especially because, it won’t, by itself, result in a formal ignition interlock violation, but will cause problems later on. The main point I want to make is that even a single startup test failure will present an obstacle down the road, when a person goes back to get his or her full license.

https://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2020/01/450.1-258x300.jpgThis whole startup failure issue is “contemplated” within the notice of proper ignition interlock use contained in every order that’s issued after a successful driver’s license restoration appeal. The Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) provides rather detailed instructions about how to avoid any kind of violation in the first place, and then what to do if a person misses or fails a test. Unfortunately, the SOS drops the ball on this issue because the notice of interlock use “strongly suggests” that a person who fails a startup test obtain a timely PBT or EtG test, when, in fact, it generally EXPECTS a person to get one of these tests, and often penalizes those who don’t do so.

Whatever one can say about all this, as the saying goes, “it is what it is,” and we have to deal with things as they are, not how we’d like them to be. The reality is that if you are required to use an ignition interlock after a driver’s license restoration appeal, or while on a Sobriety Court license, either you take the steps necessary to protect yourself, or you’ll regret not having done so later on. The day before this article was written (I write them about 2 months ahead of publication), I received an email from a previous client of mine, and the exchange of messages between us explains this whole issue better than anything else I could ever write. For reasons of confidentiality, I have redacted the client’s name and replaced it with [Previous Client], or [Previous]. Otherwise, I have copied and reprinted our emails below, exactly as they were written:

There is an old saying that, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” and while it has almost universal application, it is especially relevant when someone tries to “play lawyer” and handle his or her own driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal. You can learn can get a lot of information from it, but Google can’t give you a law degree. People often confuse, or incorrectly equate information with knowledge and experience. A person can acquire information about a particular subject, but that’s very different from having a systematic understanding of it, especially from having actually done it (successfully, no less).

you-dont-know-222-287x300The dictionary defines systemic as follows: “relating to a system, especially as opposed to a particular part.” In terms of driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals, this means that understanding the individual parts of the license appeal process isn’t enough; one has to understand how they flow and interact, as a system. For example, most people know that to win a license appeal, you have to submit a “favorable” substance use evaluation (SUE), but they don’t really understand what the various course specifiers on the front page mean, nor what the differences are between them.

The license restoration process is, in every sense of the word, a system, and it is based on certain, well established principles of law. The whole “burden of proof” requirement serves as another example; the law mandates that, in a license appeal, a person prove his or her case by what is defined as “clear and convincing evidence.” Anyone handling a license appeal needs to know exactly what that means, and how that standard compares with, and is different from, the other legal standards of proof, like “preponderance of the evidence,” “probable cause” and “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”.

In our roles as Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, we hear a lot about other lawyers with whom our clients have spoken regarding license appeals before calling us. We are often told how much our guarantee mattered to some of the people who ultimately become our clients. More than just assuring a winning result, though, our guarantee is symbolic of the higher level of service we provide throughout the entire license appeal process that sets us apart from those other lawyers. At a minimum, I couldn’t imagine not standing behind our work and guaranteeing to win every initial license restoration and clearance case we accept.

df9d13c3012d61dfa1349b8e9d06ec79-300x300Why should anyone risk their money on some lawyer or firm without enough confidence to assure success? Driver’s license restoration and clearance cases are very different from other areas of law, where there can be no guarantees. In a perfect world, a guarantee such as ours wouldn’t be anything special. Instead, it would be a “given,” and serve as a starting point from which a potential client could begin to compare lawyers, Rather than standing out for having a guarantee, like we do, attorneys taking license restoration cases would stand out for NOT having one. That’s not how things, are however, and our guarantee does stand out.

At the end of the day, our guarantee also serves as a quality control measure. It means that it goes against our interests to simply tell people what they want to hear and take any old case. In fact, having a guarantee means we often have to tell people exactly what they don’t want to hear; that we won’t take their case because they’re not yet eligible or otherwise ready to win a license appeal case. Having a guarantee not only protects the client from risking his or her money on merely taking a “shot” at winning a driver’s license appeal, but it also gives us reason to avoid taking any cases that we aren’t sure we can make into a winner. And to be clear, we earn our living by winning these cases the first time around, not doing warranty work.

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.

In part 1 of this article, we began looking at how every person who manages to get sober has a “recovery story,” and, even if they’ve never thought of their experiences in that way, it’s that story that is really fundamental to winning a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal. The 2 things a person must prove, in order to win his or her license back, is that he or she has quit drinking and been alcohol-free for a “sufficient” period of time, and that he or she is a safe bet to never drink again. How a person goes about staying sober is always unique to him or her, because the path of everyone’s recovery is different.

1547681302-artwork-aaa-300x287Some people go to counseling, some go to AA, some go to both, and a few go to neither. For some people, AA is a perfect fit. Plenty of others go for a while, but then stop, having gotten what they needed from the program. And for everyone who finds some benefit in AA, there are also lots of people who know that it just isn’t for them after a few meetings, or even after their first. Many sober people report having gone to counseling and/or AA in the past, well before they were ready to quit drinking. Then, something happened that suddenly made them realize they couldn’t drink anymore, and they decided to quit.

Some of these people manage to quit drinking without ever going back to counseling or AA. Lots of these people make clear that, even years later, they could recall the messages, if not the exact words, from their time in counseling and/or AA – the biggest and most important of which is that once you know you have to quit, you have to “stay quit” and can never pick up another drink again. Although there are common elements to everyone’s recovery, like the idea you simply can’t drink again, there are also plenty of things about each person’s recovery that are as unique to him or her as their fingerprints.

One of the most important yet frequently overlooked things in a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case is a person’s recovery story. Some people never think about getting sober in this way, and go on to win their cases without ever being aware of the “story” element that underlies it. Nevertheless, it’s always there, in every winning case, just like breathing is “there” for every living person. In this article, I want to bring this ever-present aspect of license appeals into plain view, because by doing that, we’ll see what really makes a winning case “tick.”

tell-your-business-story-xx-300x283The first thing we need to spell out is the actual, legal objective of a license appeal. A person wins a race by being the first to cross the finish line; likewise, he or she wins a hot dog eating competition by eating the most hot dogs. In almost every endeavor, a person begins the process knowing exactly what he or she must do to succeed. One of the strange realities is that often enough, people jump into a license appeal without understanding the rules, figuring that the fact that they “need” a license and/or haven’t been in any trouble for a while is enough to win.

It’s not. To have any chance at winning a driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal, a person must prove 2 things, by what the Michigan Secretary of State defines as “clear and convincing evidence”: First, that his or her alcohol problem is “under control,” meaning that he or she can prove they haven’t had a drink for a “sufficient” period of time, and second, that his or her alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control,” meaning that he or she has the commitment and ability to remain alcohol-free for good.