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Articles Posted in Driver’s License Restoration

Sobriety – in our roles as a Michigan driver’s license restoration attorneys, this is THE most important things we look for in every potential client. In our day-to-day conversations with callers, we find that the notion of sobriety is widely misunderstood. The point of this article is to try and make clear (in my case, by sheer repetition) that sobriety is a non-negotiable requirement to succeed in a license appeal case, and that, without it, a person simply cannot win.

License restoration cases are complex, and governed by what I call “a million little rules,” but absolutely none of that matters unless a person has first given up drinking for good. The reader should take note that the main rule governing license appeals requires that the hearing officer deny an appeal unless the person filing it proves, by what the law defines as “clear and convincing evidence,” that his or her alcohol problem is “under control,” and that it is “likely to remain under control.” Lets see what those things really mean in the next 2 paragraphs:

The other day, I had the pleasure of speaking with one of the few other “big time” Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers. This attorney has been in the field for well over 30 years, and, like me, she has a website with a name that predates any slick idea of using target words like “driver’s license restoration” in the title. This stands in rather stark contrast to the new crop of “McLicense” lawyers and websites I wrote about in a recent article. In this piece, I want to look at at the very foundation of driver’s license appeals the other lawyer and I discussed – the required documents – and why experience is so important when it comes to those things.

image-2-277x300Even the most superficial examination of the documentation necessary to win a license restoration appeal could fill a library, so our mission here will be, in a play on words, to look at how we look at those documents. What I find most troubling is that the discussion I had with the other lawyer was largely beyond the experience and grasp of all those “McLicense” lawyers. Anyone can file a “do-it-yourself” license appeal, or even hire some lawyer to just “file” one for them. What matters, though, is whether that person or lawyer really knows what they’re looking at, and what to look for within the required documents.

In other words, does the person filing the appeal really know how to properly check over the substance use evaluation, letters of support, and request for administrative review before filing? My driver’s license restoration lawyer colleague observed, in a “shop talk” kind of way, that it takes a lot of work to prepare, assemble, review and file these things. Each of these documents must be done correctly in the first place, and that alone requires a lot of effort. Then, before they are filed, each must be checked and re-checked – not just for typos and such – but also to make sure the information contained in each is consistent, both with itself, and with the others.

We began part 1 of this article by noting that it is not a “cheat sheet” to learn all the things a person needs to say in order to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case. There is no way to do that, because the one thing that the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) looks for in every license appeal is real sobriety. A person basically has to prove that he or she is a safe bet to never drink again. Thus, anyone just trying to say the “right” things to win a license restoration case is really just trying to fake being sober, and that won’t fly.

1-Hero-mobile_1545325955-1-300x286I noted that the SOS hearing officers have learned to filter through all the BS that comes their way in order to verify that a person seeking to win back his or her license has, in fact, quit drinking. Using an old turn of phrase, we saw that the license appeal process was about making sure that, beyond just being able to “talk the talk,” a person can also “walk the walk.” I went on to point out that nobody quits drinking because it’s working out so well; instead, people quit when their drinking has caused too many problems for them, and they’ve just had enough.

This means that there really is no way to win a license appeal by just repeating certain “buzzwords” and having a rudimentary grasp of the language of recovery. The hearing officer is going to expect a person to talk about the struggles he or she went through that finally led to him or her deciding that they couldn’t drink anymore. The decision to quit drinking involves what is clinically described as a “tipping of the decisional balance,” and it describes how a person will be okay with drinking for years, but then, one day, simply decide that they’re done.

This article is actually NOT a tutorial covering all the right buzzwords a person needs to say in order to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal. Instead, I chose the title as a satirical way to point out that you can’t do that, and to make clear that there are no shortcuts on the path to winning your license back. While a person does have to say some of the “right” things in order to win a license appeal case, what matters more is that he or she really means them, and that they are true.

unnamed-42-296x300Let’s begin by taking note that, in order to win a driver’s license restoration or clearance case, a person must prove 2 things, by what is legally defined as clear and convincing evidence: First, that his or her alcohol problem is “under control,” which requires showing he or she has been completely abstinent from alcohol for a legally “sufficient” period of time (our office generally prefers a minimum of 18 months before we’ll file a case), and second, that his or her alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control,” which requires demonstrating that he or she is a safe bet to never drink again.

The key to winning a restoration or clearance case, therefore, is proving sobriety. The Michigan Secretary of State has no interest in listening to anyone who lost his or her license for multiple DUI’s now argue that he or she can somehow safely drink alcohol once in a while, on “special occasions,” or anything like that. The line in the sand has been drawn by the law: Only those who can prove that they haven’t had a drink for a legally “sufficient” period of time and have both the ability and commitment to remain alcohol-free for good can win a license appeal.

In part 1 of this article about Michigan driver’s license restoration and clearance cases, I somewhat sarcastically called the growing number of legal websites with names that use some play on the words “driver’s license restoration” as “McLicense” operations. I began explaining that, instead of having some kind of cutesy name, my team and I are busy actually handling more than 200 of these cases each year, and guarantee to win every first time restoration and clearance appeal we take.

okhlkhlkhlklklkjlklkjlkjI then pointed out how my specific, post-graduate clinical training in addiction studies gives me and my team a significant advantage that helps us win our license appeal cases. I noted that ours is the only recovery-oriented practice I know, and that we believe the most important thing we do is to actually help people. I ended part 1 by making clear that, beyond just having a guarantee, I strongly suggest and wholeheartedly recommend that anyone considering hiring a lawyer for a license appeal check around and compare us to as many other attorneys as he or she possibly can.

To anyone who does follow my advice and calls around, I can say this with absolute certainty: You won’t find another office that is as helpful as ours. Ann, our senior legal assistant, who often answers the phone, knows more about addiction and recovery than 99.9% of all the attorneys I have ever met in my life. Anyone checking out lawyers will learn more about license appeals from a call to our office than anywhere else. This is exactly why I strongly suggest and wholeheartedly recommend that any potential client look around and comparison shop.

Although they can seem easy, driver’s license restoration appeals are, in fact, quite complicated. I’m not suggesting that you need to be a genius to do this work, but rather that there is a lot to them, and that overlooking even one small detail can completely derail a case. A person could memorize all of the written laws and every rule concerning license appeals, but he or she wouldn’t really “know” how they work until observing how they’re applied in the real world by Michigan Secretary of State.

8897-98yhpin--300x283Thus, properly handling license appeals goes beyond just details and rules, and requires understanding how they interact with each other, and how each of the Secretary of State hearing officers interprets them. Over 11 years ago, I began this blog. Back then, I was filing and winning a lot of driver’s license restoration cases. Today, I don’t think any other lawyer or law firm comes close to the more than 200 cases we my team and I handle each year. Another thing that sets us apart, of course, is our guarantee to win every first time restoration and clearance case we take.

Over the last several years, I have noticed a lot of websites popping up using slick names that involve some play or variation of the words “Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer” or something similar. I call these operations “McLicense” lawyers because, to the best of my knowledge, there is no practice that focuses nearly as much on license appeals as ours, nor is as recovery-conscious as ours. Because of our guarantee, we carefully screen every potential client to make sure that his or her case can be made into a winner.

This article will examine the 3rd legal issue present in every Michigan driver’s license restoration and clearance appeal case. To win, a person must initially prove 2 things: first, that a his order her alcohol problem is “under control,” meaning that he or she hasn’t had a drink for a legally sufficient period of time, and second, that his or her alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control,” meaning that he or she has both the ability and commitment to remain alcohol-free for good. The 3rd issue, while ever present, is easy to ignore because it usually “flies below the radar.”

Fatty-268x300The first 2 are non-negotiable, preliminary requirements. To begin, if a person has consumed any alcohol, or used any drugs too recently (normally, we want a minimum of 18 months’ clean time before filing a license appeal, but longer is always better), it’s game over. The Michigan Secretary of State’s rules clearly require a person to prove that he or she has been completely abstinent from alcohol (and/or drugs) for that “legally sufficient” period of time. The exact amount of time required varies from case to case, and can  be affected by a lot of things, including the experience and temperament of the hearing officer deciding it.

The second issue essentially “grows,” or extends from the first, and is a continuation of the idea that a person hasn’t had a drink, and affirmatively intends NOT to ever drink again. Lots of people “stop” drinking for various periods of time, but the Secretary of State’s concern is that a person has made the decision to remain alcohol-free for life. Sticking to that requires making sweeping changes that affect every part of a person’s life, from who he or she hangs out with to the kinds of activities in which they engage, and those that get left behind.

As Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, one of the most frustrating things we deal with is the mistaken belief that needing a license has anything to do with actually being able to win it back after having it revoked for multiple DUI’s. In this article, I want to make clear that being able to win the restoration of one’s driver’s license or obtain the clearance of a Michigan hold on a person’s driving record has nothing to do with a person’s need to drive.

Let’s begin with the candid reality that our practice is in business to make money. Every license case we don’t take is money out the window, and we certainly don’t earn our livings by NOT taking cases. I point this out so that the reader understands our firm has every reason to pursue a viable license appeal case. However, because we guarantee to win each one we take – meaning that we’re stuck with it until it does, in fact, win – we also have every reason to pass on a case that isn’t yet ready to be a winner.

In part 1 of this article, we began discussing why it’s so important that an evaluator have specific experience completing the Michigan Secretary of State’s substance use evaluation (SUE) form in driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals. In part 2, we continued our examination of that subject, pointing out that an integral component of an evaluator learning from experience is getting direct feedback by a driver’s license restoration lawyer about how he or she should be doing evaluations in order to meet the expectations of the Secretary of State.

learn-300x232-1Here, in part 3, we’ll wrap things up, first by concluding our examination of why it’s important that an evaluator get feedback about how to properly complete the substance use evaluation for use in a license appeal, and then, by seeing how the lack of such feedback directly affects out of state license appeals cases, called “clearances.” This will help the reader understand why our firm, which guarantees to win every case we take, always requires that the evaluation be completed by the very experienced evaluator we use.

Feedback is an important component of experience, because unless a person can see what he or she is doing correctly – and what he or she is doing that needs correcting – there is no context or direction to make the appropriate adjustments. As much as there is to the saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” the flip side is that you can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. Often enough, when we take on a client who has lost a previous appeal and then hired us to win their case next time, they have no idea of what should have been done differently.

In part 1 of this article about Michigan driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals, we began examining the substance use evaluation (SUE) that must be filed with all cases, and the critical importance of the evaluator’s experience in doing them. I said that to gain enough experience, an evaluator should work closely with a lawyer who concentrates in license appeals, and noted that our evaluator often accompanies us to hearings just to see how SUE’s are used by Michigan Secretary of State hearing officers who decide these cases.

21q2-300x288The Secretary of State (SOS) has some very specific expectations and requirements about what kind of information should be provided within the substance use evaluation. Unfortunately, many of these nuances can’t be found in the written rules, and the SOS doesn’t provide any other guidance about them, either. That means that the only way to find out about some tricky issue or other is to run head-first into one of them and learn the hard way, or, in the case of the evaluator, have that knowledge passed on by an experienced driver’s license restoration lawyer.

For example, it is pretty well established that a person generally cannot win a license appeal while he or she is on probation. This is because a person has to prove that his or her abstinence from alcohol (and drugs) is entirely voluntary, and not merely because he or she is forbidden from drinking under threat of penalty. It is a universal condition of probation that a person abstain from drinking alcohol, and violating that term can, potentially, result in being sent to jail.

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