Articles Posted in Driver’s License Restoration

To win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case, a person must satisfy certain legal requirements, most of which are set out in the main rule governing license appeals. As Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, we know that a lot of people, including lawyers who hold themselves out to “do” license restorations, miss a critical part of the written law that’s spelled out before any of the legal issues or requirements are specified. As we’ll see, this language is so simple that it’s easily overlooked, but missing it will (and, in fact, must) result in a license appeal case being denied.

https://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2021/05/Win-1.2-300x273.jpgThe main rule that really controls the whole license appeal process begins with this critical sentence: “The hearing officer shall not order that a license be issued to the petitioner unless the petitioner proves, by clear and convincing evidence, all of the following…” Notice the 5th word in that sentence: it’s “not.” This means that the rule begins by instructing the hearing officer to NOT grant a license appeal unless, as it goes on to say, the person proves his or her case by what is specified as “clear and convincing evidence.”

In other words, the hearing officer is essentially supposed to begin considering a case with “no” as the answer, and can only change his or her mind if the person presents favorable evidence that is both “clear and convincing.” To put this in perspective, it’s important to note that there is no other legal rule (at least none of which I’m aware) that begins with a negative mandate like this, and that’s huge. Unfortunately, the significance of this one little word (“not”) is often missed.

In part 1 of this article, we began an examination of how remote meetings and remote license appeal hearings have made it much easier for people who live elsewhere to get a Michigan hold off of their driving record so that they can obtain a license in their new state. In our practice as Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, we have been able to things set up so that our clients can do everything with us, from the first meeting to the last – and have the required substance use evaluation completed with our evaluator – all from home.

vectorstock_11509240-274x300I also pointed out that the way the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) now conducts license appeal hearings – over a secure remote platform – is much different (and better) than how they used to be done when they were called “video hearings.”  That method sucked, and I have long been critical of them. I only ever did one such hearing, and refused to do any more that way. In fact, my team and I had always been eligible to do the old-style “video hearings” at a certain Secretary of State branch office less than 5 minutes from our office, but chose, instead, to drive nearly an hour away, just to appear for a live hearing. That should say something.

Now, a remote hearing can be done over a cell phone, and the sound and picture quality are a million times better than how they used to be when using the clunky old equipment in some side room at an SOS branch office for what was then called a “video hearing.” Given how much better remote hearings are than the old “video” hearings, I genuinely like them, and that means a lot, because our firm guarantees to win every driver’s license restoration and clearance appeal case we take.  Because our guarantee is on the line, you can be sure my team and I wouldn’t do anything that could or would compromise a client’s case or chances of success.

If you live elsewhere but have a Michigan hold on your driving record after 2 or more DUI convictions, then you need to clear (meaning release) it so you can get a license in your new state. This is called a “clearance,” and getting it requires a person to file the exact same documentation and evidence that he or she would submit for a Michigan driver’s license restoration appeal. The really good news is that now, as Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, my team and I can handle these matters entirely remotely so that a person doesn’t even have to leave the comfort of his or her home to get it done.

Clear-3-250x300This is a huge change from how things were done before the Coronavirus pandemic. For years, license appeal hearings were either held in person, or through the Michigan Secretary of State’s (SOS) closed-circuit video system, both of which required a person to come back to Michigan. Now, hearings are done over a secure remote meeting platform, allowing every participant to be in a different physical location, while all being the same virtual hearing room. This saves the time and money previously required to come back to Michigan, and has really made things convenient for those who no longer live here, but have an SOS hold on their driving record and still want to get this done the right way.

Up until recently, I had always believed in holding live license appeal hearings, rather than going with the alternative, which is to file an appeal by mail, called an “administrative review.” Statistically speaking, only 1 out of every 4 administrative reviews actually wins, meaning that 3 out of 4 of them are denied, and these numbers have always remained consistent from year to year. Moreover, nobody knows how many times those who eventually do win an administrative review have tried before and lost. Put bluntly, the odds of success for any appeal by mail just plain suck.

As Michigan DUI lawyers who concentrate in DUI and driver’s license restoration cases, my team and I have to pay close attention to details. Of course, there can be big and obvious differences between various kinds of cases, but often enough, what matter most in a DUI or driver’s license restoration case comes down to something very small. The idea for this article came from this line used several times in a great book I just finished, called “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig: “Never underestimate the big importance of small things.”

https://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2021/05/Important-1.2-300x265.jpgUnlike most of my other articles that tend to examine some particular aspect of either the court or the driver’s license appeal process, this piece will be more of a survey about how little things, like a few seconds one way or another, and even a person’s attitude, can dramatically affect a DUI or driver’s license restoration case. Although the idea that small things can have big importance applies to just about every possible situation in life, it really hits home in drunk driving and driver’s license appeal cases, where it can make all the difference to the outcome.

For example, a person cannot be charged with a 2nd offense DUI unless he or she has a prior conviction for another DUI within 7 years from the date of his or her arrest for the subsequent charge. My team and I have literally had cases involving a person being arrested just after midnight the very day that 7 year window had closed, sparing him or her from being charged as a 2nd offender, and plenty of other cases where the arrest took place a mere day or two inside – or outside – of that 7-year window. Thus, never underestimate the big importance of small things.

In part 1 of this article, we began an overview of the potentially dire consequence of lying (or mischaracterizing something) to a hearing officer in the context of a Michigan driver’s license restoration appeal hearing. Over the course of my 30-plus years as a license appeal lawyer, my team and I have seen and heard just about everything. For all of that, however, there is one directive we give to our clients that never changes: tell the truth. In this 2nd part, we’re going to look at how admitting to something “unhelpful” in a license hearing is a lot better than ever being found to have lied.

https://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2021/04/avaBSG1.-300x300.jpgAll the legal issues aside, the reality is that pretty much everyone “needs” a license, and most people who have it revoked for multiple DUI’s will try, at some point or another, to get it back. Some people will just plow ahead without a clue about how to do a license appeal, only to find out that accuracy, consistency and honesty are critical to winning. A lack of accuracy or consistency is bad enough, but if it comes as the result of someone outright lying, or otherwise trying to “BS” the hearing officer, not only will the person’s current appeal be denied, the label “liar” will remain attached to and follow him or her to any subsequent appeals, as well.

That can be a long-term deal-breaker. For as much as my team and I have “heard it all,” we ultimately get to decide which cases we are going to accept. Because we guarantee to win every license restoration and clearance appeal case we take, we will only undertake representation for people who are honest about having quit drinking, lest we get stuck with some case that is doomed to fail. The hearing officers, by contrast, don’t have that luxury, and have to sit through endless cases for people who don’t understand or really care about the license appeal rules, and only know that they “need” to be able to drive again.

In our roles as Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, my team and I have sat through thousands of license appeal hearings. Although we have certainly learned many things from our extensive experience, one lesson really stands out: A person should never try to BS a hearing officer. In this 2-part article, we’ll examine why, and how, a lie (or even a “mischaracterization,” to put in nicely) will not only kill a pending license appeal, but can also haunt someone and negatively affect any future license appeals he or she may file later on.

ava3Original-300x300Speaking as a driver’s license reinstatement attorney, I would much rather find myself representing a client who admitted to something that derailed his or her current appeal rather than a client who lied about it. This applies even if the person could somehow get away with being untruthful at that moment and win. Although it’s just plain wrong to lie, I’m not going to moralize here; instead, we’ll proceed on the basis that “things come out in the wash.” As it turns out, that old saying has a way of becoming reality in license appeal cases more than in any other setting I’ve ever seen.

One of the problems with lying in general is that a person has to keep track of his or her fibs. In a license appeal, the hearing officer listens critically and skeptically to everything a person says, and is on an active lookout for any inconsistencies. Moreover, anyone who files and wins the restoration of his or her Michigan driver’s license will have to come back at some point down the road for a second hearing to “upgrade” his or her initial restricted license with an ignition interlock to a “full,” unrestricted license without the interlock.

As Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, we carefully screen potential clients to make sure that we can win their cases while also ensuring that the information we present is both accurate and honest. Even though my team and I handle over 200 license appeal matters each year (more than any firm I know), we are still just one spoke in a much larger wheel. The Michigan Secretary of State Hearing officers who decide these cases easily handle over more than 7 times as many cases than we do, and in that capacity, they have quite literally “heard it all” many times over.

HO2-275x300Unfortunately, a lot of what is presented in license restoration or clearance appeal hearings is misguided at best, and, at worst, outright BS. Thankfully, our firm does so such thing, but lawyers who don’t concentrate in these cases and people trying to do this on their own don’t really know the driver’s license rules, and are therefore often take what amounts to a “shot in the dark.” Ultimately, driver’ license appeal cases are decided based upon the the law and the evidence presented. This means a person who might otherwise be qualified to win can lose his or her case if the evidence they present doesn’t meet the legally required burden of proof.

That’s a cold reality, but it’s also what a lot of people find out the hard way after having tried some “do-it-yourself” appeal, or otherwise having hired some lawyer whose practice doesn’t specifically focus upon driver’s license restoration cases. Regrettably, the license appeal process gets clogged up with people who simply don’t understand (or don’t care) that genuine sobriety is THE foundational requirement to win. This is the kind of stuff that the hearing officers have to slog through each and every day.

As a Michigan driver’s license restoration law firm that guarantees to win every restoration and clearance appeal case we take, my team and I have to ask each and every potential client some tough questions as part of our initial screening. Because the key goal of every license appeal is proving that a person has given up alcohol (and drugs) for good, we must ask any potential client some very direct questions about his or her relationship to alcohol, and specifically, when he or she last consumed any.

Q2-300x261Make no mistake, our firm is in business to make money. We get no pleasure from turning away people who are ready to pay our fees. However, our guarantee means that when we take on a driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal, we are obligated to stick with it until our client does win, and the last thing we want to do is hitch ourselves to some case that cannot succeed. If we did that, then we’d wind up eating a loss and then getting stuck having to do the whole case all over again the following year – for free.

The simple truth is that we earn our livings winning these cases the first time around. Although we seldom lose a restoration or clearance appeal, on the very few occasions that we haven’t won the first time, we have never hesitated to honor our guarantee. Nevertheless, our whole screening process is designed to make sure we don’t wind up taking on a case that cannot or is otherwise not yet ready to win. This helps prevent us from having to do everything a second time, at our expense, as “warranty work.”

As a law firm that concentrates in Michigan driver’s license restoration and DUI cases, my team and I have a rather unique skill set that give us a better understanding of how an OWI charge (and especially in 2nd and 3rd offense DUI’s) can and/or will affect a person’s driver’s license. Indeed, precisely because of our knowledge and daily experience with driver’s license law, we are often specially able a develop an effective strategy to help “save” the license for a client who might otherwise lose it in a DUI case.

vectorstock_21799652-300x300Of course, this really works both ways: our experience as DUI lawyers is also very helpful to us in our handling of driver’s license restoration cases, as well. I have always described our practice as looking like a Q-tip – with DUI cases on one side, driver’s license restoration cases on the other, and the “stick” in the middle joining them together being alcohol. While some of the specific laws governing DUI cases and driver’s license restoration appeals are distinct, the 2 legal areas are also very much inter-related, and experience with each one  provides a distinct advantage when dealing with the other.

To be sure, there is a lot that goes into properly handling a DUI case. Some of these things are more obvious, like knowing how to appropriately analyze and challenge evidence, utilizing the right legal strategy to produce the best case outcome, and understanding the development, diagnosis and treatment of alcohol problems. Less obvious is how a working knowledge of driver’s license restoration law should be part of the legal strategy in any DUI case, and how this can all come full circle, so that what’s done (and not done) in the matter can be helpful to person’s driver’s license situation.

One thing that defines our practice, as Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, is the way we manage every facet of the license appeal process that we handle. We do this as a quality control measure, because we guarantee to win every restoration and clearance case we take. The fact is that our firm makes its money winning our cases the first time around, not having to come back and do everything all over again, for free, as warranty work. The key to our success is rather simple: We make sure everything is done right before an appeal is ever filed.

Carrie-300x294This is particularly true with regards to the substance use evaluation (SUE), which, in many ways, is really the foundation of a license appeal. A problem with the evaluation can completely derail what would have otherwise been a winning case. Often overlooked is the fact that an evaluation is really only as good as the evaluator who completes it. This is why we send all of our clients OUR evaluator. No matter what, anyone who hires us is going to have his or her SUE completed by that evaluator, so we know that everything will be done properly, and to our standards.

Our office works extensively with one primary evaluator. Within the 7 days preceding the writing of this article, we exchanged 24 separate emails with her, many with multiple replies back and forth. In that same week, we’ve also had countless phone conversations with her, including one she and I had well after 10 p.m., while I was out for a late-night dinner run. It’s these regular exchanges that helps my team and I learn about relevant clinical issues, and our evaluator to keep up with the ever-changing legal requirements involved in license appeals.

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