[Author’s note – On July 13, 2011, we received notice that the DAAD Approved a License for the Client mentioned in this article, meaning we won his Appeal.]
In my Practice as a Driver’s License Restoration Lawyer, I have seen just about every kind of case there is. In the Driver’s License Restoration section of this blog, I have tried to cover all aspects of this subject. One kind of case that comes up from time to time, and which I handled last week, involves a situation where someone has previously won their License back, only to lose it again because they thereafter picked up another DUI. Admittedly, this doesn’t happen too often, but it does occur frequently enough for me to have to watch out for it.
While every case is truly unique, it is paramount for me, as a License Restoration Lawyer, to look deeply at the facts surrounding a License Client’s “slip” (aka Relapse) that resulted in this predicament. In that regard, there are certain similarities in all of these cases that can prove enlightening.
In several other articles, I have pointed out that I am only interested in representing someone in a License Appeal who is really and truly Sober. I think there is something that simply “rings true” about someone who has made the decision to permanently give up drinking, remain alcohol-free and live Sober. This is equally true whether or not the person is involved in AA, never went to AA, or just no longer attends AA.
The problem, of course, is that the State will basically say “you convinced us once before that you were sober, that you ‘got it,’ and that you were committed to remaining sober. We misjudged, gave you a License, and you not only drank again, but you drank and drove. So how can we begin to believe that this time, you really ‘get it,’ and won’t do the same thing all over again?”
This is a tough question. At first blush, it seems that about the only thing a person can do is to emphatically profess the sincerity of their commitment to remain sober.
In a way, that’s true, but there is more to it than that.
In a License Appeal I handled last week, my Client, when asked that general question by the Hearing Officer, began to explain that at the time of his prior Hearing, he certainly had made all of the “external” changes anyone might as they try to quit drinking. Those changes included things like going to meetings, keeping alcohol out of his home, and hanging around with non-drinkers (at least initially).
My Client went on to explain that, no matter what “external” changes a person makes, however, there are certain “internal” changes that must be made, as well. He went on to describe his DUI record of Drunk Driving charges as being more about “Operating Under the Influence of Lies” than about “Operating Under the Influence of Liquor.”
[Author’s note – On July 17, 2011, I received an email from this Client. After reading the article, he pointed out that I omitted this very important element from his testimony: “Any recovered alcoholic knows its not what happens to us nor what happens around us that determines our happiness, rather how we perceive those things.”]
In other words, all the “outside” changes in the world don’t matter if the person does not, within the fiber of their soul, become honest with themselves and truly admit they have a drinking problem and cannot safely use alcohol. Those changes are internal, and they are profound.
I think that whoever granted him that first License was too caught up on external things such as AA attendance, which he had in abundance. For what it’s worth, my Client’s prior Appeal, which I did not handle, was NOT heard in the Livonia Office of the DAAD (Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division), where I have all my cases heard.
Anyway, there is no hard and fast conclusion to be drawn here. I can only wonder, if I had met my Client back at the time of his first Appeal, whether or not he would have fooled me. Would I have bought his “Recovery Story?”
I like to think not, but then so would anyone in my position.
Moving past the explanation of “external” versus “internal” changes, it is important to examine what was going on in the person’s life at the time of that prior Appeal. After all, some people, like my Client, were NOT drinking at the time they won a prior License Appeal, and may have truly believed that they would never drink again. It’s not as if they were lying; it’s more like what they said was true at the time, but became untrue later.
And in that same way, it’s not as if the person was intent on lying to anyone. Instead, they had failed to get truly honest with themselves, and were thus incapable of anything more with anyone else.
Usually, anyone who has had this kind of past “brush” with Sobriety, and whether or not they ever had or even tried for a License before, can speak volumes about what is so different now, if “now” is the real thing.
In fact, and as anyone who has gone through this will tell you (in as much detail as you care to hear), the differences between a previous “brush” with Sobriety and thereafter getting the real thing is a lot like having a fake Rolex watch, and then getting the genuine article. It is a difference of quality, and a huge one, at that.
The personal insights gained as a result of having thought you were “Sober” before, only to relapse, and then finding real Sobriety thereafter are tremendous. It’s almost as if the person could say to the Hearing Officer “I may have fooled you guys before, but the story I told then wasn’t anything like the story I have now.”
And that’s very true.
Yet the Hearing Officer will, and must, in all practicality, remain skeptical.
For all of that, however, I think that the genuineness and intensity that someone like my recent Client has about their “real” Sobriety is unmistakable. My job becomes helping them frame that metamorphosis in words, so that they can relate to the Hearing Officer why it really is different this time.
It is a tough job, but anyone in this situation will never get back on the road unless they start doing the work and crafting that story. And as one of my favorite lines goes “good work is the key to good fortune; winners take that praise, but losers seldom take that blame.”