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Articles Posted in Driver’s License Restoration

As a Michigan Driver’s license Restoration lawyer whose practice guarantees to win every restoration and clearance appeal case his firm takes, I have written and published more articles on this subject than you can find any and everywhere else combined – more than 560 as of this writing. Yet for all of them, and everything they cover, there is one topic I have to come back to all the time; sobriety. Without being able to prove that he or she has given up drinking for good, a person simply has NO chance to win a restoration or clearance case.

SOB3-283x300It is simply not possible to over-emphasize the central, critical, and foundational role of sobriety in a driver’s license appeal. Think of a license restoration case as a wheel, like on a bicycle: Assume that the outer part – the tire- is the equivalent of the actual driver’s license. Next, think of every piece of evidence – from the substance use evaluation (SUE), to each letter of support, to the request for administrative review – as a spoke, and then think of every other part of the process as additional spokes. What do they all connect to? The hub. In the case of a license reinstatement case, the hub IS sobriety, because without it, nothing holds together, and there is no wheel.

Beyond working on more driver’s license matters than anyone else I know of (more than 200 per year), my blog has more information about the license appeal process that can be found everywhere else online combined. When you speak with some other lawyer about a license restoration (and you absolutely should – we HIGHLY recommend that you comparison shop – something no other lawyer does), you can be sure he or she has come to this place any number of times to do research. While some lawyers claim to have written “the book” on some legal subject or other, I have written the still-growing equivalent of a library of books on license appeals.

In a somewhat recent 2-part article about the proliferation of what I call “McLicense” lawyers, I noted that our firm – a genuine DUI and driver’s license restoration law firm – charges more than most others. I also pointed out that we have zero interest in “competing” with anyone on price, because, as I put it, nobody can compete with us in terms of service and results. We guarantee to win every driver’s license restoration and clearance case we take because we control every single part of the appeal process, including completion of the required substance use evaluation that must be filed with every case.

2q-274x300We recently were hired by someone who indicated that they had found some other lawyer who was charging less than us (not a surprise), and who also had some kind of guarantee. What made the client go with us, however, is that the other attorney did NOT recommend a specific substance use evaluator for her to see. Neither did that lawyer require require a meeting with the client before the evaluation to prepare her for it, something we do in every case. We also give specific documents to our clients to provide to the evaluator (although now, given the virtual nature of how things are being done, we email them directly to her).

These documents includes a marked-up, color-coded copy of the driving record highlighting all the relevant information that needs to be included within the evaluation, along with a special form of our own creation, called a “Substance Use Evaluation Checklist.” Although it is critically important to review every document, including the substance use evaluation, before it’s ever filed with the Michigan Secretary of State, it’s far better to take the time to make sure it’s done right in the first place, and we do. Precisely because we control all the information that goes into the evaluation, though, it’s far less likely to need “fixing” when we get it back for review.

As Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, if we had a nickel for every time someone contacts us and says “I haven’t had a license in [X number of] years,” or “I haven’t had a license for a long time,” we’d be rich beyond measure. In this article, I want to explain why it doesn’t matter how long a person has gone without a license, and then turn to the single thing that does matter more than anything else when it comes to getting it back – that he or she has given up drinking.

4-300x291The fact that a person hasn’t had a license for a long time is a complete non-issue as far as license appeals go. There are exactly 2 temporal elements that matter in the context of a license restoration or clearance case: first, that the person’s period of revocation has run, and second, that the person has been sober for a “legally sufficient” period of time. Although the length of required sobriety can vary from case to case, in our practice, we generally require our client’s to have a minimum of 18 months’ clean time before we’ll move ahead with a driver’s license restoration or clearance case.

To win a Michigan license appeal, a person must prove 2 things, by what the law defines as clear and convincing evidence: first, that his or her alcohol problem is “under control,” meaning he or she has been completely abstinent for that legally sufficient period of time mentioned above, and second, that his or her alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control,” which requires showing that he or she has both the commitment and ability to remain alcohol-free for life.

As Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, we deal with people wanting their licenses back every day. A recent email exchange and phone consultation with such a guy provides a great example of what’s really needed to win a license appeal case. I’ll reprint the email exchange exactly as it was written (with the exception of the person’s name, of course) a bit later, but the main takeaway from our interaction was that the guy had NOT stopped drinking and had no interest in any kind of sobriety, but still thought he should be able to get his license back, anyway.

HKJHKJHKJHKIn the previous article (like so many I put up), I tried to make clear that the single most important – and absolutely necessary qualification – for winning a license appeal is that a person must be genuinely sober. Legally speaking, to win a license appeal before the Michigan Secretary of State, a person must prove 2 things by what is specified in the law as clear and convincing evidence: first, that his or her alcohol problem is “under control,” and second, that his or her alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control.” Let’s break that down in the next few paragraphs.

A person’s alcohol problem is considered “under control” when he or she has been completely abstinent from alcohol for a “legally sufficient” period of time. The exact amount since required since a person’s last drink varies from case to case, depending on any number of factors. In our office, though, my team and I generally want a person to have at least 18 months of abstinence before we’ll even consider filing a restoration or clearance case for him or her.

In many of my license restoration articles, I try to make clear that the single most important, non-negotiable requirement to win a Michigan driver’s license reinstatement case is that a person must be sober, and have given up drinking. Legally speaking, a person must demonstrate to the Michigan Secretary of State that he or she has been alcohol-free for a legally “sufficient” period of time (in our practice, we generally require at least 18 months’ of clean time) and that he or she has both the ability and commitment to remain alcohol-free for life.

6a00d8341c39e853ef014e8611b33f970d-320wi-300x300This doesn’t go over too well with people who still drink. My team and I are regularly treated to the frustrated responses of callers who think they need to remind us that drinking is legal, and no matter what the state says, it’s “bull$hit” to make not drinking a requirement to get their license back. Some will say that they understand the state’s reasoning for not restoring driving privileges to someone who has lost his or her license for multiple DUI’s and is therefore considered too risky when it comes to alcohol, but that they’re different. This article will be about that kind of bad attitude.

We have been told by callers, countless times over, that they are perfectly capable of telling the Secretary of State whatever we suggest they need to say. We have also been called various unkind names after we tell such callers that we really do ONLY take cases for people who have honestly quit drinking. Sometimes, it’s suggested that, now armed with the knowledge that they have to say they no longer drink in order to win a license appeal, the person will call another lawyer who will gladly take their business, implying that we’re not smart enough to take a payday when we’re offered one.

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.

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.

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