In my Michigan driver’s license restoration practice, I handle a lot of out-of-state clearance cases. In fact, so many of my clients come from outside of Michigan that I’d like to identify myself as a Michigan clearance and driver’s license restoration lawyer, but that sounds so cumbersome, and, with a little digging, most people learn that “driver’s license restoration” encompasses clearances anyway, that I just take the opportunity here and there to mention clearances as an integral part of what I do. In this article, we are going to focus on clearances for those who no longer (or never did) live in Michigan. In particular, I want to address those folks who previously tried and lost a “do it yourself” appeal by mail, known as an administrative review. Given that 3 out of 4 administrative review appeals are denied, it’s no wonder that so many of my out of state clients have tried this route, at least once, before hiring me. Because my services come with a guarantee, anyone hiring me can take comfort in knowing that he or she will only pay me once to finally get that long-awaited clearance. And to be blunt about it, I make my money winning these cases the first time, so I am every bit as invested as my client in a prompt and successful outcome.
First, in terms of the evidence that is submitted, there is absolutely no difference between a driver’s license restoration appeal for someone who lives in Michigan and an out of state administrative review. Second, license appeals are simply hard. They are designed to be hard because, as far as the numbers go, only a minority of people who try to win their license back will actually remain sober for good. The point of the law is to keep everyone off the road who presents as a risk to ever drink again, so that means only a select few will ever prove a low enough risk to put back behind the wheel. Think about that; how many people do you think are going to present sufficient evidence to the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS, and not that long ago known as the “DAAD”) that shows, by “clear and convincing evidence,” that they are a safe bet to remain alcohol-free for life? Skipping over all the relevant science for a moment, it’s actually incredible that only 3 out of 4 administrative appeals lose. And for your part, how anxious are you to place a bet that gives you a 75% chance of losing?
The big problem here is that if you lose your administrative review with the Secretary of State, you can’t file a new one for at least another year, and even then, you’re stuck having to fix, if possible, whatever you screwed up the first time. Like all good things, winning a clearance doesn’t come easy. My clients have to come back to Michigan twice; the first time to meet with me for about 3 hours and then go a few blocks from my office to the clinic I use to have their substance abuse evaluation completed. The next (and last) required trip back is for the actual license appeal hearing, and that’s usually months later (it takes about 12 weeks from the time a hearing is requested until you even get notice of it). In the meantime, I’ll be at work on the letters of support and the rest of the case. Sure, in an appeal by mail you can skip having to come back for the hearing, but as the numbers show, you pretty much skip any chance of winning your clearance, as well. I have this process down to a science, but there are 2 things that are absolutes in my practice: First, you must be genuinely sober to win your license back (I won’t take a case for anyone who has not truly quit drinking), and second, you have to come back to Michigan to do this. With those 2 things in hand, I will win your license back, guaranteed.
Just the other day, I was exchanging emails with a person from out of state who basically (but respectfully) asked “why hire a lawyer?” He figured he could put together the letters of support and fill out the administrative appeal forms on his own. He didn’t mention the substance abuse evaluation, so I don’t know if he understood that one must be filed with every license appeal. I do think his question is important, so let’s look at the kind of license clearance appeal I’d put together for a client.
As far as the substance abuse evaluation goes, I don’t think I have ever seen one done out of state that has been any good. Of course, it is important to remember that every one I’ve seen has been filed in a case someone tried on their own and lost, but even with that in mind, the truth is that the overwhelming majority of evaluations I’ve seen, including those done in Michigan, fall far short of being good enough. This is no knock against the person doing it; the requirements and rules governing license appeals are not that clear, so unless an evaluator has extensive experience (and that includes getting regular feedback) preparing license appeal evaluations, there is just no way he or she is going to get it right. I could explain this all day long, but it boils down to me limiting who I use to a small circle of evaluators and sending almost all of my clients to just one, in particular, because of her expertise, and, equally as important, her integrity.
The letters of support serve a very specific evidentiary purpose. “Good guy” (or “good gal”) letters aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on, and miss the point of that. Often, when someone has moved out of state, it is impossible to get the whole picture of his or her sobriety from just the letters written by folks who live in the new state, in the same way as it is impossible to get the whole picture from letters written by those who remain where the person no longer lives. Beyond that, I have to do extensive editing on virtually every (at least 98%) of the letters I see. This means almost all the letters submitted in the cases I file have been extensively revised. Whatever else, I won’t file a case until I have checked, double-checked and then re-checked the substance abuse evaluation and the letters of support and my substance abuse evaluation checklist.
None of this matters if the all the paperwork to be filed isn’t equally helpful and entirely consistent with everything else. While this can almost seem like it devolves into a lot of detail work (and there certainly is a lot of detail to be looked after), you must keep your eye on the big picture, and in a license appeal, the big picture is the theme of your case. As I have noted in many of my other articles, a person’s transition from drinker to non-drinker is his or her recovery story, and that story really becomes the theme of his or her case. If that isn’t at the very center of the case and doesn’t guide everything else, then the whole case is being done all wrong.
Truth be told, most lawyers don’t get this, so it’s a lot to expect a person who has never done this before (unless it was for a prior, and obviously losing appeal) to correctly figure all this out, much less get it right. Amongst those things that I think differentiate me from those lawyers who simply “do” license appeals, whatever the catchy URL or website name they may have, is that I have a published GUARANTEE to win every case I take. As the saying goes, talk is cheap, at least until you put your money where your mouth is, and I certainly back up what I say with my win guarantee.
At the end of the day, I don’t try and hard sell anyone to hire me. For those inclined to try a do-it-yourself license appeal, I say go for it. If it works out, then good for you. If it doesn’t, call me next year, at least if you’re genuinely sober and really serious about putting a valid license back into your wallet. When you’re ready to get my analysis on your situation, you can call my office anytime Monday through Friday, from 8:30 am until 5:00 pm eastern standard time (EST), at 586-465-1980. We’re here to help.