In my role as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I often hear some say that he or she hasn’t driven for years and years, as if that might help win his or her license back. While I completely understand the frustration behind such a statement, the cold, hard truth is that it couldn’t matter less how long someone has been without a license. My job is to help people win back their driver’s license, and a part of that (the part that has me spending as much time as I do writing these articles) is to help them understand how things work, and why. Part of that, in turn, is not wasting time on those things that don’t work. Driver’s license appeals have nothing to do with how long you haven’t driven, and raising this issue amounts to nothing more than a waste of breath.
This is a bitter pill to swallow, and it seems unfair. It is normal to wonder, “Haven’t I been punished enough?” as you struggle to get around without a license. It may help you understand this situation a little better by thinking of the revocation of your license not as a pure punishment, but rather as a consequence of that 2nd or 3rd DUI. Jail, fines and probation with its various conditions are really the punishments for driving drunk. The license revocation is imposed not so much to punish the offender, but rather with the thought of protecting the public from the offender. In lots of cases, including 1st offense DUI cases, there is a suspension of the driver’s license that is punitive in nature. A suspension proscribes a specific period when a person cannot drive. In a sense, having your driver’s license suspended is like being suspended from school for a certain period of time.
A revocation is meant to keep someone off the road completely, and is imposed for life, or at least until the person appeals to the Secretary of State (through its Administrative Hearing Section, or AHS) and wins back the privilege to drive by proving that he or she has not, does not and will not drink alcohol anymore. Being revoked is like being expelled from school; you’re out for good, plain and simple. The idea here is that the driver and alcohol don’t mix, and that the driver didn’t figure that out well enough the first time, so rather than screw around with a punishment, like a license suspension, it’s time to get this person off the road permanently and eliminate the risk. And right here is where we get to the heart of the matter. From the point of view of the overall good of society, the difficulty and inconvenience caused to the offending driver, and perhaps his or her immediate circle, by not being able to drive is far outweighed by eliminating the larger risk to everyone that he or she presents by being on the road and demonstrably unable to refrain from drinking and driving. This makes sense, but it really sucks when you’re the offender. And this isn’t even the half of it…
For as much as I have written and as much as could be written about the license clearance and appeal process, the bottom line is that you must prove to the state that you quit drinking because you realized it was a problem, and that you understand you cannot ever pick up another drink again. This means that a person cannot and will never win a license back without explicitly describing his or her past drinking as problematic (one does not have to have been alcohol dependent, but just have had an admittedly troublesome relationship to alcohol) and being able to reassure the state that he or she has the commitment and tools to never drink again. Obviously, this kills any idea of a person trying to argue that he or she can have a beer or a glass of wine every once in a while. From the state’s point of view, in order to even be a candidate to win your license back, you’re going to have to show that not only don’t and won’t you drink, but that there is no alcohol anywhere in your life. You must, in other words, show that you and alcohol exist in entirely separate galaxies.
Accordingly, the state sees that your relationship to alcohol is problematic and risky as a consequence of multiple DUI’s. By extension, the revocation of your driver’s license is a consequence of those multiple DUI’s as well, far more so than merely a punishment for them. Thus, when someone asks, “Haven’t I been punished enough?” the answer is not “yes” or “no,” but rather, “Wrong question; you’re missing the point.”
The upshot here is that to even have a chance of winning your license back, you have to get with the program. In an article I wrote just about a year ago, I pointed out that for all the complaining you can do, and all the “It’s not fair!” stuff you can spout, you REALLY need to pick your battle. Specifically, you can either follow the rules and fight within the system to win your license back, or you can get mad, stomp your feet and try to fight the system itself while getting nowhere. The state does not “care” how tough it is without a license because there is no mechanism for “caring.” This is a legal process and it involves proving, by the established legal standard of “clear and convincing evidence,” that your alcohol problem is “under control,” (meaning you have a sobriety date) and that it is “likely to remain under control” (meaning that you’re a safe bet to never drink again). To get your license back, you can either play the game according the rules that exist, or you can squawk about it all you want, but you won’t get anywhere doing that. The process has no capacity to consider your “situation,” or how not having a license has held you back. You don’t have a license, and it is what it is; the question is, what are you going to do about it?
For anyone who really has accepted that his or her drinking was problematic and who has genuinely quit, the good news is that I can win your license back for you, and I guarantee it. While losing your license may not be punishment for multiple DUI’s winning it back is certainly an earned reward for having adopted a sober lifestyle. If you’re ready to move forward and get back on the road, telephone my office. We’re in Monday through Friday, from 8:30 am until 5:00 pm eastern standard time, and can be reached at 586-465-1980. We’ll answer your questions and explain the process in as much detail as you’d like, right when you call.