As full-time driver’s license restoration lawyers, my team and I can clear a Michigan hold off of your driving record. We handle A LOT of cases for people who can’t get a license in another state because of a Michigan hold. In a typical year, our firm handles over 200 license matters, with more than 1/3 of those being for people who live don’t live here. When someone who lives out of state has a Michigan hold on his or her driving record, the only way to get it released is by obtaining what’s called a “clearance” from the Michigan Secretary of State. In this article, we’ll examine the clearance process and see how that gets done.
A driver’s license clearance appeal is, in almost every way, the same thing as a regular driver’s license restoration appeal. The primary difference is in the final result: When you win a driver’s license restoration case, you back a Michigan driver’s license. When you win a clearance appeal, which requires proving your residency in another state, the Secretary of State will simply clear the Michigan hold off of your driving record. This will allow the state where you now resides to issue a license. A state can only issue a driver’s license to someone who legally resides within it.
There is one other potential difference between a restoration and a clearance case: Every Michigan resident seeking the reinstatement of his or her driving privileges must attend a formal appeal hearing (this is done virtually now), whereas people who live out of state and just want to clear a Michigan hold can elect NOT to do that. Instead, they can waive the hearing, and have their case decided based entirely on the documents they submit. This is called an “administrative review,” and, in practice, it is a fast track to losing. Statistically, only about 1 in every 4 of such appeals ever wins, meaning that 3 out of 4 are denied.
Unfortunately, there are no statistics indicating how many times those 1 out of 4 who eventually do win have tried before, so the odds may be far worse than just a 3 out of 4 chance of losing. From our point of view as a Michigan driver’s license restoration law firm that guarantees to win every clearance (and first time restoration) appeal case we take, we see administrative reviews as nothing more than a losing proposition. We do not get involved with them, nor is there really any compelling reason to do so, since the hearings are now conducted online, anyway.
My team and I believe very strongly in presenting a live case to the hearing officer who will decide it. All license appeals are decided by a hearing officer, including administrative reviews. That’s an important part of the reason we guarantee to win every case we take. Over the years, before remote hearings came into being, we were frequently offered our full fee to take a case, prepare it, and then file it administratively, so the client could skip having to come back to Michigan for a hearing, but we (almost) always declined.
As noted, coming back to Michigan to clear a hold is not an issue now, since the hearings are done remotely, via the Microsoft Teams platform, and we can arrange for everything else to be done remotely, as well, except that a person will have to provide a urine sample to a local lab for analysis.
Anyway, against our better judgement, and on one single occasion, we made an exception and filed an administrative review for an out-of-state client. We won it, of course, but it was a HUGE pain in the a$$ for us. Because of the strict quality control we exercise over every step of a case (and that is precisely why we guarantee to win every one we take), it was decided we’d never do it again.
As far as quality control, one of the most important aspects of putting together a winning license appeal is obtaining a good substance use evaluation (SUE). In order to be “good enough,” meaning legally sufficient, an evaluation has to be factually accurate, and have a favorable prognosis.
The subject of evaluations is rather deep, and I would encourage any reader interested in a more detailed discussion to check out the linked articles. For our purposes here, what matters is that the evaluation is critically important – and therefore needs to be done right.
Unfortunately, getting it done right is kind of hard. This is why our firm only uses 2 evaluators: Our main evaluator, with whom we’ve had a very long-term relationship, and another, top notch evaluator, who we came to know about 10 years ago. Both are highly experienced at doing these for Michigan Secretary of State license appeals, and both are extremely qualified.
Many of our clients come to us after having previously filed and lost either a “do-it-yourself” license appeal, or after having hired some lawyer who didn’t concentrate in driver’s license restoration cases, like our firm does. As a result, we are constantly reading the denial orders they received. What we see again and again is that one of the key reasons people lose is because their evaluation wasn’t accurate, or favorable, or didn’t otherwise provide the specific information the Michigan Secretary of State hearing officers look for within it.
Truth be told, some of this is the fault of the Secretary of State, because what is needed to actually win a license appeal is NOT clear from either the rules governing these matters, nor the official SUE form. In fact, just about every substance abuse counselor could be given the evaluation form, look it over and think, “I can do this.”
In the context of filling it out as it appears, they’d be right, but that’s where the practical requirements the Secretary of State differ from what’s in black and white.
Rather than detour into a long and somewhat off-topic explanation of all this, I’ll just note that, as lawyers who work on license appeal matters full-time, my team and I know what’s needed on the SUE form, and we work closely with our evaluators to make sure they do, as well.
But that’s not even the half of it….
For example, part and parcel of the way we do license appeals is to meet with each client before he or she undergoes an evaluation – specifically to prepare him or her for it. We don’t just do some generic “once over” of what the person should expect, but rather take him or through a comprehensive, line-by-line preparation to have it completed. This includes completing a special form of our own we call a “Substance Use Evaluation Checklist.”
We forward that checklist to the evaluator, along with a clearly marked-up copy of the client’s driving record, and any other information that’s necessary to make sure that everything that needs to be covered in the evaluation does, in fact, get covered.
Once the evaluation is complete, we go over it with a fine-tooth comb to make sure that everything was covered, and that it’s also legally sufficient, meaning, both accurate and favorable.
Remember, we have a guarantee on the line (or else we wind up doing the whole case all over agains as warranty-work, meaning twice the effort for half the pay), so for my team and I, this is basic quality control.
That said, anything less is simply not good enough.
It’s similar for the letters of support that must be filed with each case. We provide a template for our clients to follow, bearing in mind the specific preferences that each of the hearing officers has for this kind of testimonial support.
This is because letters that would be good enough for almost every hearing officer won’t fly with one or another of them, so we need to make sure we cover ALL of the bases, and edit the letters so that they include the specific information sought by each.
The whole subject of letters is also rather deep, and it also goes well beyond the scope of this article, but what’s most relevant for our discussion is that my team and I not only make sure our clients know what to have written in them, we also carefully review each and every one in draft form, making the necessary edits and sending them back for revision in order to ensure they are done right.
For what it’s worth, it would be fair to say that we wind up substantially editing 99% of all the letters we review, so this for us, this involves a lot more than just looking them over, or making a few suggestions here and there.
Tying into what was pointed out at the beginning of this piece, the process of obtaining a good evaluation and helpful letters of support is identical, no matter whether you are seeking t0 restore your Michigan driver’s license, or clear a Michigan hold off of your driving record order to obtain a license in another state.
Beyond the simple numbers (3 out of 4 administrative, or “document” reviews are denied), there is a far more compelling reason to hold a hearing. When a case is being put together through the evaluation and the letters of support, the outline of a “story” begins to emerge.
The transition a person makes, going from drinker to non-drinker is usually a huge deal, and, to put it mildly, is often one hell of a story.
No matter what, when a person makes a decision as important as getting and staying sober, it becomes the pivotal chapter in his or her life. It becomes their recover story. There is always a lot of background to this, since nobody ever quits drinking because it’s so much fun and working out so well.
Before we go further, we actually need to back up a bit and cover some legal ground: Under Michigan law, anyone convicted of 2 DUI’s within 7 years, or 3 DUI’s within 10 years is legally (and automatically) categorized as a “habitual alcohol offender.” A consequence of this is that the person is also legally (and automatically) presumed to have some kind of drinking problem.
In other words, any person who has to file a license appeal after having lost his or her driving privileges for multiple DUI’s is assumed, by law, to have a drinking problem.
To win a restoration or clear a Michigan hold off of your driving record, the main rule (Rule 13) governing these matters requires that you prove, by what is specified as “clear and convincing evidence,” that, among other things, your alcohol problem (remember, it’s existence is presumed by operation of law) is both “under control” and that it is “likely to remain under control.”
A drinking problem is considered “under control” when a person can show that he or she has been COMPLETELY abstinent from the consumption of any alcohol whatsoever (as well as any and all other substances, including recreational marijuana) for a legally sufficient period of time. While the precise amount of time necessary can vary from case to case, our firm usually requires someone to have been completely clean and sober for at least 18 months before we’ll move ahead with an appeal.
A drinking problem is deemed “likely to remain under control” when a person can show that he or she has both the ability and the commitment to remain abstinent for good. In other words, a person must demonstrate him or herself to be a safe bet to never consume alcohol (or use any other drugs, including recreational marijuana) again – ever.
Essentially, this all boils down to a person explaining why and how he or she got sober, and proving themselves a safe bet to remain sober.
The bottom line is that being sober is a prerequisite to being able to succeed in a license appeal, while proving it is the key to actually winning it.
The events in a person’s life – the drinking, the DUI’s and all the other trouble – are the background to his or her recovery story. Many people try everything under the sun to reign in their drinking before they finally accept that the only way to fix things is to quit, and from that point forward, another whole and separate journey takes place.
As noted, this is often one hell of a story.
The job for my team and I is to draw out the details of that story, because it is an important part of what makes up a hearing.
People who have gone to AA are a lot more familiar with talking about their drinking days and their recovery as a story, but given that most of our clients are NOT in AA, our task is to make sure the hearing officer who decides the case does, in fact, hear the relevant details of what led a person to decide enough is enough, and get sober, as well as how their life has changed for the better since then.
At their most basic, hearings are question and answer sessions. If you’re not there, then the inability to answer any of the hearing officer’s questions can be a complete deal-killer. It’s simple, but given the fact that hearings are all about answering questions, the choice to skip it is a profoundly stupid move.
Whatever else, we can be certain that the 3 out of 4 people who lose their administrative appeals each year would probably agree with that – at least in retrospect.
For everything else we could say about this, the fact that our firm guarantees to win every clearance appeal case we take, yet won’t do an administrative review, even for the same legal fee (meaning less work for the same money), pretty much says it all. We believe in live hearings that much, because if we take your case, we WILL clear a Michigan hold off of your driving record.
There is, of course, a lot more to all of this, but as an overview of the clearance process, this article has covered the major issues, and that’s a good starting point.
If you’re looking for a lawyer to clear a Michigan hold off of your driving record, or, even if you live here and are looking to restore your driver’s license, be a savvy consumer and read around. Pay attention to how different lawyers break down the license appeal process, and how they explain their various approaches to it.
This blog is a great place to start; with over 650 detailed and fully searchable articles in the driver’s license restoration section (and 2 new articles added each week), it has more useful information than can be found any and everywhere else combined.
When you’ve done enough reading, start checking around. You can learn a lot by speaking to a live person.
Our firm can handle your case no matter where you live, so make sure you give our office a ring, as well. All of our consultations are free, confidential, and done over the phone, right when you call. My team and I are very friendly people who will be glad to answer your questions, explain things, and even compare notes with anything some other lawyer has told you.
We can be reached Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (EST), at either 248-986-9700, or 586-465-1980.