There is s big difference between being legally eligible to file a Michigan license restoration or clearance case and having a good chance of winning it. Unfortunately, the Michigan Secretary of State does not explain this anywhere, so most people learn the difference when they try, only to lose, and then read why the hearing officer denied their appeal. Here, I fault the state entirely, both because the rules allowing a person to file an appeal after either a 1 or 5 year revocation seem to suggest that eligibility is enough to win, and then for utterly failing to provide any clarification or explanation of why this is not the case. If the reader senses some anger on my part, you’re not wrong. I spend (or waste, more accurately) more time than I’d like having to explain this again and again to prospective license restoration clients who contact me about winning back their license, who, although eligible, are not yet ready. In this article, I want to examine the question of how long you should wait (or, to put it another way, how much sober time you need) before trying a license appeal.
There is no clear, simple answer to that question other than the age old, “it depends,” and that really provides a good starting place for this examination, because we’ll being by looking at what it depends upon. As a preliminary matter, and although it kind of goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway), you can’t file a license restoration or clearance appeal until you are legally eligible. If you have 2 DUI convictions within a 7-year period, you will be ineligible to file for 1 year. If you rack up 3 or more convictions within 10 years, then you cannot file for at least 5 years. This is a long time, and I get many inquiries want to know if there’s anything that can be done to shorten that time frame, or some way to get a restricted license. Although a bit off subject for this article, the answer here is easy: no. There is no way to shorten your period of revocation, and no way to even file a license appeal of any kind until you reach your eligibility date. The only possible exception to this applies some people whose licenses have been continuously revoked since before 1998. Everybody else has to wait. Now let’s turn our attention back to those who are eligible.
You have to understand that the key to winning your license back is proving sobriety. The Secretary of State hearing officers who decide these cases are legally given wide discretion to decide these cases, and decide who has been sober long enough and seems like a safe bet to not drink anymore. They have the legal authority to require a period of sobriety of “not less than 12 consecutive months” and that is not otherwise arbitrary or capricious (essentially, that means ridiculous to the point of being illegal). Thus, while legal eligibility opens the door, it’s sobriety that wins the case. The real “meat and potatoes” of any license appeal is that you have quit drinking, and have the ability and commitment to remain sober for life. This all means that you have to accumulate a certain amount of abstinence to be considered a serious candidate to win your license back. Although there is no specific formula as to how long, it’s kind of intuitive that the more serious your drinking was, the more sober time you’ll need under your belt before moving forward.