In part 1 of this article, I began my examination of the role of alcohol and substance abuse related issues in Michigan criminal, DUI and driver’s license restoration cases, and how my specialized background, which includes having completed a post-graduate program of addictions studies, makes my office different. I pointed out that I balance my overriding mission to help people at all phases of their relationship to substances, but to never become “preachy” or seemingly fixated. We looked at how alcohol and drug issues are interwoven into the vast majority of criminal cases, and of course, all DUI charges and possession cases. I cautioned that, as much as I want to help people recognize and deal with substance abuse related issues, there are plenty of situations where I use my clinical knowledge to prevent a person from being perceived as having an alcohol or drug problem they don’t. This is especially relevant in 1st offense DUI cases, where a drunk driving incident that just happens runs up against the court’s inherent “alcohol bias.” In this second installment, we’ll turn our focus more to recovery, and how a deep knowledge of recovery and recovery processes is important to the win I guarantee in every driver’s license restoration case I take, and how all of these considerations kind of coalesce in criminal cases.
In the context of a Michigan driver’s license restoration case, understanding recovery is everything. A person must prove his or her case by what is called “clear and convincing evidence” (this is a high standard of proof; think of it as requiring, in part, that after the evidence in a case is presented, the hearing officer deciding it will not be left with any lingering or unanswered questions). There are 2 primary things a person must show: First, the person must demonstrate that his or her alcohol (and/or substance abuse) problem is “under control,” meaning that he or she can fix a sobriety date (this doesn’t have to be an exact date; someone might say, for example, “early fall of 2009,” or something like that), and second, that his or her alcohol (and/or substance abuse) problem is “likely to remain under control.” This means that the person can show that he or she is a safe bet to never drink (and/or use) again, and has cultivated the commitment and the tools to remain sober. This is complicated stuff, as anyone who has tried a license appeal before and lost knows all too well, particularly if the person was genuinely sober.
That I really understand recovery from the inside-out, the outside-in, and from all the clinical perspectives, as well, provides me with a huge advantage as a license restoration lawyer. So much so, in fact, that I guarantee to win every case I take. The catch? I will only take a case for someone who is truly sober. As far as I know, I’m the only lawyer who writes anything at all about sobriety, and I am completely certain that amongst every other lawyer out there, I have written more about sobriety than all of them combined – and HUNDREDS of times over, at that. The job of the Michigan Secretary of State Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) hearing officers is more or less to “test” whether a person is sober or not, and they are very knowledgeable and do their best to examine the clinical information provided in a license appeal case through the lens of the legal requirements that must be met in order to win. It is the lawyer’s job to make sure that the clinical evidence submitted meets those legal standards. That task is a HELL of a lot easier when, as the lawyer, I fully grasp the clinical and practical realities involved in getting sober. For everything that could be said here, the bottom line is this: If you’re sober, then you know that sobriety is a journey, and not a destination.