How do They Expect me to Support Myself Without a Driver’s License?

In our roles as Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, my team and I understand how difficult it is to get by without a license. Everyone who calls us for a license appeal needs to be able to drive again. The catch, however, is that “needing” a license has absolutely nothing to do with being able to get it back. In order to win a driver’s license appeal, a person must first be genuinely sober. Then, we have to prove it, as required by the laws governing the license restoration process.

I need a driver's license to support myselfIt is incredibly frustrating to be unable to legally drive. Plenty of people, therefore, choose to take their chances and drive even without a valid license. Some of them get caught and, in doing so, push back their the date they’ll ever be eligible to file a license appeal. One question we are asked all the time goes something like this: “How do they expect me to support [myself] or [my family] if I can’t drive?” There is no real answer to this question, precisely because there is no “they” who expects anything. There is only the law, and that’s what we’ll be looking at in this article.

Let’s begin by trying to clear up the whole “they” thing. As we just noted, there is no “they” who passes out license penalties. To the extent that there ever was anything like a “they,” it was the legislature in place at the time the governing law(s) were passed. And whatever else, it’s not likely that much thought was given to the ultimate ramifications of any of those laws beyond their political value at the time. Sure, drunk driving is bad, and it is good we have laws against it. However, the impact to peoples’ livelihoods as a result of the attendant driver’s license penalties was not at the forefront of any legislative “thought” process.

No matter how much anyone may disagree with or dislike the laws regarding driver’s license restoration, they are what they are. They exist, and anyone revoked for multiple DUI’s must work with and around them. Thus, when a person has his or her license revoked for a 2nd DUI within 7 years, it’s pointless to ask, “How do they expect me to hold a job if I can’t drive?” This bottom line is that everyone is expected to know (or at least accept) the consequences of his or her actions. Moreover, it’s not like anyone has a choice in the matter.

The simple truth is that, instead of asking “How do they expect me to support my family without a driver’s license,” the question really should be “How did I ever expect to keep my driver’s license if I racked up 2 DUI’s and triggered its mandatory revocation?” That may sound cold, but the first thing a person is going to have to do get ahead is to get un-stuck from the blame game. The idea of looking to anyone else, or to some non-existent “they” as the reason for one’s predicament misdirects the focus from what a person has to do to get back on the road.

The “how do they expect me to…” questions usually start at when a person is going through a DUI and learning about the driver’s license penalties he or she is facing. Our firm concentrates in DUI and driver’s license appeal cases, so we’re used to getting these questions in both contexts. When asked something like “how do they expect me to…,” we will politely respond by trying to reframe the question:

First, we’ll explain that there is no “they.” The law exists on its own. Certain actions (or inactions, like failing to pay taxes or renew license tabs) trigger legal consequences. In DUI cases, among of the most important of those consequences are the driver’s license penalties. By law, they are automatically imposed by the Michigan Secretary of State. A Judge has no legal authority whatsoever to modify them in any way. Thus, there is no one, anywhere, who somehow “considers” how those penalties will impact someone. They are set in stone, and then set in motion by a DUI.

As we noted above, if there ever was anyone who ever could have “thought” about the impact of something like driver’s license penalties, it would have been the legislators who originally passed the laws. In a perfect world, our lawmakers would think through the full impact of their decisions, especially as it relates to how people in Michigan, a state with absolutely NO effective mass transportation, are supposed to get around and survive.

To some extent, there was a little thought that went into the current DUI driver’s license penalties. Prior to 1998, Judges had some discretion as far as granting restricted driving privileges in 1st offense DUI cases. Unfortunately, that created a very unequal system. Some Judges would allow people to drive as much as needed for their employment, while other would not. One now-retired local Judge would only give people restricted driving privileges for 12 hours per day, 6 days per week. That didn’t cut it for anyone who worked a 12-hour shift, or who even worked a 10 hour shift, and had a long drive.

People in some communities could pretty much drive whenever and wherever, while others were severely limited.

To make things uniform, the law was changed in 1998 and the penalties made identical for everyone. Driver’s license penalties were changed to “one-size-fits-all,” and allow for unlimited driving for work and medical reasons. The sole responsibility for imposing sanctions was transferred from the courts to the Michigan Secretary of State.

The Secretary of State also has exclusive jurisdiction over driver’s license restoration appeals. Unlike the penalties, which are automatic, there are hearing officers who decide if a person meets the requirements to win a license appeal. Let’s quickly look at the most relevant part of the main rule (Rule 13) governing license appeals, then we’ll summarize what it really means in simple terms:

The hearing officer shall not order that a license be issued to the petitioner unless the petitioner proves, by clear and convincing evidence, all of the following:

i.   That the petitioner’s alcohol or substance abuse problems, if any, are under control and likely to remain under control.

ii.  That the risk of the petitioner repeating his or her past abusive behavior is a low or minimal risk.

iii. That the risk of the petitioner repeating the act of operating a motor vehicle while impaired by, or under the influence of, alcohol or controlled substances or a combination of alcohol and a controlled substance or repeating any other offense listed in section 303(1)(d), (e), or (f) or (2)(c), (d), (e), or (f) of the act is a low or minimal risk.

iv.  That the petitioner has the ability and motivation to drive safely and within the law.

v.   Other showings that are relevant to the issues identified in paragraphs (i) to (iv) of this subdivision.

Okay, so that’s the rule. Before we break it down in simple terms, the reader needs to understand something first: Back when the drunk driving laws were changed in 1998 (they took effect in 1999), a whole lot of other things changed, as well. We’ll skip the law school lesson and just note that from that point forward, anyone who racked up 2 alcohol-related traffic offenses within 7 years, or 3 within 10 years, would be categorized as a “habitual alcohol offender,” and would be presumed, by law, to have an alcohol problem.

In other words, anyone whose license gets revoked for multiple DUI’s is legally presumed to have a drinking problem.  That’s the starting point for every DUI-related license appeal.

Now turning to the rule itself, notice the opening sentence – “The hearing officer shall NOT order that a license be issued unless the petitioner proves, by clear and convincing evidence, all of the following.” (Emphasis added).

That’s a negative mandate. The hearing officer is instructed to DENY an appeal unless the person proves his or her case by what is next defined as “clear and convincing evidence.” The easiest way to understand that is to think of it as the equivalent of hitting a home run. In other words, you have to “knock it out of the park,” so to speak, to win a driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal case.

This means, then, that the hearing officer is required to say “no” to any license appeal unless the person meets that “clear and convincing evidence” standard and makes the proofs required by the rest of the rule. For as much language as there is to all of that, there are really 2 things a person must prove:

First, that his or her alcohol and/or substance abuse problem (remember, a person is presumed o have an alcohol problem by virtue of racking up 2 DUI’s within 7 years, or 3 within 10 years) is “under control.”

What does “under control” mean?

To the Secretary of State, it means that a person must show complete and total abstinence from alcohol and all drugs (including recreational marijuana) for a legally sufficient period of time. The precise amount varies; someone with just 2 DUI’s will need less clean time than a person with 5 or more DUI’s. As a general rule, our firm requires a person to have been abstinent for at least 18 months before we’ll move forward with a license appeal.

Second, that his or her alcohol and/or substance abuse problem is “likely to remain under control.” Essentially, this makes it necessary for a person to demonstrate both the ability and commitment to remain alcohol and drug-free permanently. Put another way, the hearing officer must be convinced that he or she is a safe bet to remain sober – as in completely clean and sober – for life.

Thus, if a person doesn’t make it crystal clear that he or she has completely quit drinking and understands that he or she must remain totally alcohol and drug-free for life, then the case must be denied. If a person so much as hints that he or she even thinks they can ever drink again, it’s game over.

Those are the rules. The bottom line is that there are legal consequences for multiple DUI’s, and those include losing one’s driver’s license. There are also legal requirements that must be met in order to get it back. Either a person will be able to satisfy them, or not.

As we’ve seen there is no “they” to any of this.

Of course, my team and I can help anyone who has quit drinking get back on the road. We guarantee to win every driver’s license restoration and clearance appeal case we take. And for what it’s worth, we’re always ready to respond to any “how do they expect me to…” questions.

If you’re looking for a lawyer to win back your driving privileges, or obtain the clearance of a Michigan hold on your driving record so that you can obtain a license in another state, be a wise 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. It’s fully searchable and updated weekly with new, original content. To date, I have written and published over 675 articles in the driver’s license restoration section. The reader can find more useful information here than anywhere, but don’t take my word for it – explore for yourself.

When you’ve done enough reading, start checking around. You can learn a lot by speaking with a live person. Our firm can handle your case no matter where you live, so make sure you give our office a ring as you consider your options.

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 and explain things. We’ll also be happy to 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.

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