In my capacity as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I have written extensively about clearing a Michigan “hold” on your driving record. Instead of yet another installment explaining the actual license clearance process (I’ve put up ample information about that), we’ll use this 2-part article to shift the focus to why a person should come back to Michigan and see me to get this whole clearance thing done once and for all. Some readers may not have yet attempted a “do-it-yourself” appeal to the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS), but many will have already tried mailing in what’s called an “administrative review,” only to have lost. What we’ll cover here applies whether you’ve tried before, or not. An administrative review is pretty much a sure loser. Statistically speaking, 3 out of 4 get denied, and there’s no telling how many times any of those who eventually do win have tried before. In fact, it is not uncommon for many of my out-of-state clients to have tried at least twice on their own before finally getting serious about winning and then hiring me.
An administrative review does have a strong appeal in terms of both convenience and cost. You’d have to be crazy to WANT to take the time to come back to Michigan and blow money on a lawyer and travel if you could simply skip all of that and win your license back from the kitchen table, but, as experience (and statistics show,) it doesn’t work like that. That said, it’s not like coming back to Michigan, by itself, is of any kind of magic solution. Instead, it’s the plan you come back to execute that holds the key to winning, and I have a proven and guaranteed plan for Michigan clearance cases. In any given week, it’s not unusual for me to handle 3 out-of-state license appeals. and over the years, I have developed and follow a very clear procedure to handle and win them. And I do win. In fact, if I take your case, I guarantee to win it. I won’t waste your time here with uncommitted language like “trying,” or “improving your chances” of success. With me, it’s about actually getting your clearance now. This means that if I’m your lawyer, you’ll get your clearance, guaranteed. It can’t really get any better or simpler than that.
If I had to boil everything down into one word for why you should come back to Michigan and hire me to win your clearance, it would be “control.” I guarantee to win every case I take because I know what to do, and I exercise control over every step of the process. It is, in the big picture, the my control over process having a client come back to win that differs so substantially from the process of someone merely sending in a “do-it-yourself” appeal by mail. The process, as I do it, requires an initial, 3-hour meeting to prepare you for your substance use evaluation, then sending you a few blocks from my office to have the evaluation completed. At that meeting, we’ll go over how you should do the letters of support (I include a sample letter in the folder of info provided to a new client), and instruct you to forward them all to me, in draft form, for correction and editing. Once I have your completed evaluation and draft letters, I can get to work. Beyond just fixing the letters, I need to CAREFULLY review your evaluation, and then make sure everything is consistent within the evaluation and letters. Only then will the documents be filed, and the case set for a live hearing. My control over the process extends to the hearing, as well. All my cases are set for a hearing in the Livonia Office of Hearings and Appeals. I am very familiar with the 5 hearing officers there, so I’ll know how to prepare you, based upon the facts of your case, for the questions that will be asked. Key here are the questions. There will always be questions, so it’s more about whether you’ll be here to answer them, or not.
Obviously, since there is no hearing in an administrative review, there cannot be any questions. Except that there are always questions about every case. You’re kidding yourself if you think otherwise. In large part, helps explain why at least 3 out of 4 administrative reviews lose. It wouldn’t be far off the mark to think of it this way: no hearing – no questions. No questions – no answers. No answers – no license. Yet none of this matters a bit if you honestly haven’t quit drinking.
The first, and most important aspect of the driver’s license clearance appeal process is that you must be genuinely sober. I require that a person have honestly quit drinking for me to take his or her case. The real meat and potatoes of a license appeal is that you are a safe bet to never drink again. There is no room here for anything less than complete and total abstinence. This calls up a point that I have to repeat over and over, because many people who still drink are in a kind of denial that somehow causes them to misunderstand the true meaning of “sober.” Sober means you quit drinking and are committed to abstinence for life. In the course of my work, I have heard just about every story and excuse you could imagine, and have had countless people tell me things like they hardly drink anymore, but may have a glass of wine or something on a special occasion, or share in the rare toast, or whatever. Let me be clear – sober means no alcohol whatsoever – not a sip, a toast, not even a drop – now – or ever again. Anyone who really is sober just “gets” this. And to be clearer still, I am not, nor do I ever want to be “in” on any secret that you think you know how all this works, and will say whatever you need to say to win your license back, but still think you can drink again. I’ll gladly speak with you to help you get to the point of not drinking anymore, but I only take cases for people who have honestly and permanently quit. Real sobriety is the first requirement for a successful license appeal, and the first thing I need to in order to have control over the case. Without that, everything that follows would be a lie, and I have no interest in that.
The actual process of getting your clearance typically starts with getting an evaluation. In the world of license appeals, the substance use evaluation is really foundational to your case, and I exercise complete control over it by sending all of my clients to MY evaluator. Before that ever happens, though, the client and I will meet for 3 hours just to prepare for the evaluation. We’ll go over the state’s evaluation form line-by-line, and as we do so, I will complete a form of my own called a “substance abuse evaluation checklist” to make doubly sure all the correct information is taken down and gets provided to the evaluator. Afterwards, I’ll send you to the evaluator with the evaluation checklist and a copy of your driving record, with every relevant entry circled and color-coded, all to ensure we do this right.
If a client was to go to an evaluator other than mine, then I’d have no control over how the evaluation gets done. Truth be told, over the course of my career, I have only seen a handful of outside evaluations that have ever met my standards. The thing about doing license appeal evaluations well is that you have to do a lot of them, and there is a pretty steep learning curve to get there. It’s really a very niche and specialty field. For out of state cases, I send my clients to one particular evaluator whose office is just a few blocks from mine. Part and parcel of handling out of state clients requires scheduling everything so that the client comes to see me for about 3 hours, and then goes directly from my office to have the evaluation completed. It’s a short walk, making the convenience factor impossible to beat, even in bad weather.
I have worked extensively with my evaluator on, quite literally, hundreds and hundreds of cases. I know that each and every evaluation will be done carefully and correctly. And to be clear, this isn’t about sending my client to some “sellout” artist who will give any and everybody a favorable evaluation as long as they pay. Quite the opposite; my evaluator’s integrity is never for sale, so that the state knows when one of my clients comes in with a favorable prognosis, it’s the real deal. The hearing officers are always on guard for that kind of overhyped BS, anyway, and can smell it a mile away. Indeed, part of what they consider in deciding a license appeal case is the depth and thoroughness of the evaluation itself. Believe me, if these details weren’t that important, I could find plenty of other things to do rather than spend 3 hours with a new client just to make sure he or she is prepped for the evaluation, and that the evaluator gets all of the relevant information to include within it.
Since so many of my clients, especially out of state clients, have tried to appeal either on their own or with some other lawyer, and then lost before hiring me, I get to read a lot of evaluations. One thing they have in common, of course, is that they were part of losing cases. Beyond that, and as I noted, in all my years, and of the thousands of cases I have done, almost every evaluation done by someone beyond the small circle of evaluators I use falls short of being “good enough,” and certainly enough so for me to use and guarantee to win the case. This is not a knock against any evaluator; you don’t get good at these until you’ve done boatloads of them, and that will not happen for any but a small handful of counselors here in Michigan, and certainly never for any clinician located outside of the state who has no reason to learn the many nuanced ways that the Michigan Secretary of State interprets the information requested and provided on this form.
We’ll stop here for now, and come back in part 2 by picking up with the letters of support and the hearing itself.