My office is contacted daily by people who can’t get a license in another state because Michigan has a “hold.” As a result, a huge part of my driver’s license restoration practice involves winning clearances of Michigan holds on driving records for people who now live out of state. In this article, I want to skip over much of the actual license appeal process (I’ve covered that in plenty of my other articles) and simply explain why you should come back to Michigan in order to do this correctly.
As a matter of policy, my office will ONLY handle clearance cases for someone who comes back to meet with us. This isn’t nearly as bad or inconvenient as it sounds (especially compared to the inconvenience of not driving). My clients only have to come back to Michigan twice. The first visit is to meet with us (for about 3 hours) and then our clients go from our office to the counselor’s office to have the substance abuse evaluation completed. This is essentially a “one and done” kind of deal, because we’ll work on the letters of support and anything else that needs to be done via email or the like.
The second trip back Michigan is for the license appeal hearing itself. Hearings last about a half hour, and they are scheduled every hour on the hour, so a person can rely on being in and out of that proceeding in less than 60 minutes, no matter what. Thus, a person who comes in from another state for something like a 1:00 p.m. hearing can plan on being able to head back home before 2:00 p.m. that same day, unless he or she wants to stick around for a while afterward. What I’m driving at is that doing it this way – the right way – isn’t nearly as difficult or involved as it may at first seem.
Over the years, I have had endless offers to engage my services to handle a clearance case through what is called an “administrative review.” This is an appeal by mail, and it takes place without the person ever having to come back to Michigan. If these things weren’t sure losers, I would be crazy to NOT do them, given that they take much less time and effort than what we put into regular clearance appeals.
They are, however, sure losers. Each year, 3 out of 4 administrative reviews are denied, and no one knows how many times those lucky 1 out of 4 who do win have tried before.
Worse yet, the most important component of a winning case is completely missing in an administrative review – my control over the process. It’s precisely the control that I exercise in each driver’s license restoration or clearance case that allows me to guarantee a win in every case I take. On the flip side, it’s the utter lack of control that keeps me from even considering wasting my time (or a client’s money) on an administrative review.
As a first order of business, the most important thing about any license appeal is that you must have honestly quit drinking. The entire focus of the license appeal process is about showing that you haven’t had a drink for a sufficient period of time and are a safe bet to never drink again. With that as a starting point, though, I guarantee to win any and every case I take.
Having control over the process is the reason why I meet, in-person, with every client for about 3 hours before he or she goes to have the substance use evaluation completed. We have stuff to go over. I need to make sure your evaluation is done properly, and that means that it is accurate, complete, and favorable. When you leave my office, you’ll have a packet of documents to give to the evaluator.
It’s also the reason why the client goes to see a specific evaluator, whose office happens to be close to mine. I make sure that our case has the right kind of evidence and that it’s presented in a way that will allow me to guarantee a win.
All of this is missing when someone goes to see some other substance abuse counselor for an evaluation. My evaluator has done, quite literally, thousands of these for the Michigan Secretary of State, and has, on numerous occasions, accompanied me to actual license appeal hearings to observe how things are done. Because the substance use evaluation form looks deceptively simple, many substance abuse counselors might look at it and think, “I can do that.”
How about betting your whole license appeal?
The Secretary of State has very specific ways that it interprets things, and many of them can only be learned by experience. Lots of experience. For that matter, it’s the same thing with being a driver’s license restoration lawyer. Look, I think I’m a smart-enough guy, but the only way to learn all the nuances of the license appeal process is the hard way – by getting things wrong at first. There is no handbook for this stuff.
How do you think pilots learned how to land airplanes? By learning how to NOT crash airplanes! How did Edison learn to make a lightbulb that worked? By learning what didn’t work. Practice makes perfect, and when you do the same thing all day, every day, for year after year and that rolls into decade after decade, you get good at it. Real good. In my case, good enough to guarantee the result.
To make this point even clearer, I can honestly say that almost every evaluation that I have seen as part of someone’s previous case, completed by an evaluator other than mine (or one from the very tight circle of other evaluators I use from time to time), has fallen far short of what is needed to win.
A certain counselor might be the very best therapist out there, but that has NOTHING to do with knowing how to properly prepare a substance use evaluation for a driver’s license appeal before the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS).
In that same way, not all great professional athletes make great coaches.
Still, I understand the lure of what seems like a free try by sending in an appeal by mail. After all, if you lose an administrative review, you can simply file a regular appeal right away. While that’s true, it misses one VERY important point; when you do appeal, you’re stuck with the information you provided in your administrative review. Moreover, when you sign your documents, you are essentially “testifying” to their truth and accuracy.
It’s not that you’re going to lie in some big way, but rather, if you’re not asked the proper questions and/or you leave out something important, then it can look like you held something back or lied if and when you say something different later on. I see this all the time.
Most evaluators don’t know how deep to dig (and, in some cases, NOT to dig) when asking questions because they don’t understand exactly how the Secretary of State’s AHS hearing officers interpret things. An evaluation is (or at least should be) a one-shot deal, but if you don’t win your case the first time, you have to be consistent with the information you provide in the next one, or be able to explain any inconsistencies between them.
To be sure, most of the time, even when someone has lost a “do-it-yourself” mail-in appeal, I can fix these things. This is why I don’t jump up and down and scream that people never try an administrative review. Instead, I say if you’re inclined to give it a whirl, go for it.
Then call me when that doesn’t’ work out. I’ll be here.
The bottom line, though, is that it is just better to do it right the first time. Forget the shortcuts. For all the money you may hope to save doing this yourself, weigh that against the inconvenience of losing and the potential complications you can create for yourself in trying to fix things.
Whatever else, 3 out of 4 cases don’t lose because things have been done right. Think about my position: I won’t do an administrative review even if someone offers to pay my full fee. For that matter, I wouldn’t do one even if someone told me they would pay the full fee and NOT hold me to my guarantee. That should tell you 2 things: one, that I’m not out for easy money, and two, that administrative reviews suck.
Besides, I have a reputation to uphold. I always file quality cases, with accurate and favorable evidence. My ability to do that would be seriously compromised if I gave up control of how I do things and started handling administrative reviews. I simply won’t do that. Instead, I do things the right way, and I guarantee the result.
Coming back to Michigan twice is not much to ask in order to clear up your license hold and be able to drive again legally. However, as I noted, however, if you really want to try doing it yourself first, then take your best shot, and call me later.
If you need to obtain a clearance of a Michigan hold on your driving record, I can do that. If you’ve honestly quit drinking and you become my client, you’ll only pay me once to get back on the road. If you haven’t yet quit drinking, don’t be afraid to call my office, anyway. We’re always willing to talk and help you tip the scales in favor of not drinking anymore so that you can become eligible, down the road, to win a license appeal.
We’re really nice people who will be glad to answer your questions and explain things. As you look for a lawyer, do your homework. Read around, then check around. All of my consultations are confidential and done over the phone, right when you call. You can reach my office Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (EST), at 586-465-1980. We’re here to help.