In the course of having written more than 500 articles about driver’s license restoration, I have consistently made clear that a person must be genuinely sober to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case. Because this is so fundamental to the whole license appeal process, it is worth repeating that there are 2 facets to being “sober,” in the way that qualifies someone to win a license appeal: First, that you have given up drinking and remained completely abstinent for a “sufficient” period of time (in my office, we generally want our clients to have a minimum of 18 months’ alcohol-free), and second, that you have the commitment to remain sober for life.
Being able to win a license appeal and drinking alcohol are mutually exclusive things. The Michigan Secretary of State has drawn a line in the sand: after 2 or more DUI’s, the only people who will ever be allowed back on the road are those who can prove they have quit drinking for good. The state sees anyone who has had his or her license revoked after multiple DUI’s as too much of a risk when it comes to alcohol. It may not be able to stop such a person from drinking anymore, but it’s not going to let them drive as long as they do. You can’t get past the fact that people who don’t drink are exactly zero risk to drink and drive.
Even though I try and explain the requirement that a person must be sober to win a license appeal quite regularly, and probably because of the sheer volume of information I put out (not everyone is a big reader, after all), as well as the fact that my team and I guarantee to win every first time driver’s license restoration or clearance case we take, people find me online and think “he’s the guy.” While that’s flattering (and for anyone who’s has honestly quit drinking, I certainly AM the guy), the sobriety requirement is set in stone, and is the key issue in every Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal.
Lately, within my articles, I’ve taken to using emails, or passage from emails I have received and/or exchanged, as real-life examples of what people encounter in the context of driver’s license restoration and clearance issues. For as much as people will say in an email, sometimes, what they don’t say is often equally, if not more important, in trying to figure out where they are in all of this. The day before this article was started, I receive an email inquiring about a license appeal, and I knew it would serve as a great tool to help explain a few important aspects of the license appeal process, especially the sobriety part.
As always, I have redacted anything that could personally or professionally identify the writer, and have substituted [generic terms] in those places so that the email otherwise appears exactly as I received it:
Message: Hello, Back in 2005 my DL was suspended for 5 yrs due to 3 DUI’s. At the time, I didn’t bother re-instating it because I didn’t really have a need for it. Since 2005 until 2019 I haven’t had been in trouble with the law, until May of 2019 where I caught a DUI in [a state other than Michigan] – which of course, was very stupid of me. Due to various [military-related] medical appointments and the fact that I am on the verge of graduating from [name of program] school at [name of school] – I do have a need for a DL – whether restricted or hardship, or simply…if Michigan State were to release the block on my DL. As explained to the Michigan SOS – I am not applying for a Michigan DL, as I haven’t resided in Michigan since 2006. What I need is for them to release the block on my license so I may apply for one here in [a state other than Michigan]. At this point, not sure if it is better I retain you? It’s absurd that as a disabled military veteran – I not be allowed to have a valid driver’s license over a suspension from nearly 15 yrs ago. Seek advice and possible attorney services. [Name] [111-111-1111] [Last name], [First name], [Rank], US [Military branch] retired [Military occupation]
The first thing jumped out to me, as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, is that the writer just picked up a DUI – his/her 4th, overall – about 6 months ago. If he/she was a Michigan resident, he/she would have been given what is called a “mandatory like additional” revocation, meaning his/her license would have been revoked all over again, thus making him/her ineligible to even file a license appeal for another 5 years from around the time of his/her conviction for this most recent offense.
Of course, the email makes clear that he/she does not live in Michigan, so if he/she is no longer a legal Michigan resident, then the state cannot impose any kind of license sanction on him/her.
Still, even if this person does legally reside elsewhere, the Michigan Secretary of State cannot legally consider him/her for any kind of license appeal until he or she has at least a year of sobriety, and, with the kind of record he/she has, even if he/she will be eligible to file after a year, I wouldn’t consider touching the case until he/she has at least 2 years of sobriety, and I’d much prefer that he or she be closer to 3 years alcohol-free before starting work on it. The more abstinence a person has, the better.
The second thing that jumped out at me is how the writer, on the heels of his/her 4th DUI, makes no mention whatsoever of his or her drinking, relationship to alcohol, or sobriety. Thus, we are left to wonder: did he/she quit drinking at any time after his/her 3rd DUI in 2005, and then relapse at some point, or has he/she continued to drink this whole time?
Neither situation paints a very promising picture of his/her long-term commitment to sobriety, at least within the framework of a license appeal. My next reaction – and it is a gut reaction based upon having won thousands of cases and guaranteeing to win every first time driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal case we take – is that this person needs some time to get sober, and then establish a sober lifestyle, if he or she had even thought of giving up drinking.
My “gut,” in that respect, is that he or she would be best off with a minimum of 3 years of sobriety before undertaking a license appeal.
The fact that the person doesn’t say anything about sobriety is telling. If this person had ever quit drinking for any period of time, and then gone back to it, only to get his/her 4th DUI then he or she would almost certainly have said something about his/her relationship to alcohol, rather than just mentioning the DUI itself, and calling it “stupid.”
I would have expected, for example, the writer to say something like “I had X number of years of sobriety, but then went back to drinking. This last DUI was my wake-up call….”
Likewise, even if the person has continued to drink over all these years, and finally had an epiphany moment as the result of this last DUI, you’d expect him or her to be all over that, noting how this last offense helped him/her see alcohol as the reason for all the legal and other problems he/she had been experiencing.
This seems all the more true, especially because I make clear, both in my blog articles and on my website, exactly how foundational sobriety is to the license appeal process.
Instead, the person doesn’t even mention drinking at all, even though he or she has been through 4 DUI’s and hasn’t had a license for over 14 years.
To be sure, I’ve had clients who have had 13 DUI’s before “getting it” and getting sober. There is no magic number, but whether it takes 4, 5, or 13, the point is that, in order to be eligible to win a driver’s license appeal, a person must have really have had enough, and made the profound and life-altering decision to give up drinking.
While it’s possible that this person just didn’t feel the need to mention anything about quitting drinking out o the gate, I can say, with a high degree of confidence, because of my “gut,” and as a driver’s license restoration lawyer who has won thousands of license appeal cases, and read, quite literally, tens of thousands of emails, that this person just doesn’t see his or her drinking as a problem, at least yet.
My office has received countless emails where the writer couldn’t disguise how profoundly their most recent DUI was the wake-up call they needed to get sober. By the same token, my team and I have won cases for lots of people who once had a period of abstinence, then went back to drinking, only to realize, in just a single, lucid moment (the proverbial “a-ha” or “epiphany” moment), that they could never drink again.
For those people who never had any prior period of abstinence, the decision to give up drinking usually follows some emotionally significant event, like that last DUI (whether it’s their 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 12th) that finally drives home the reality that alcohol has been the common denominator to everything that has gone wrong in their lives. Sometimes, it’s not a DUI that tips the scales in favor of finally quitting drinking, but rather something else that “hurts,” like the loss of someone or something that matters.
Whatever it is that leads up to this kind of moment, it almost always hits like the proverbial “ton of bricks.”
If we circle back to the email we’re examining here, we see that, instead of mentioning anything like that, the writer instead focuses on why he/she needs a license, while completely ignoring why he/she doesn’t have one (drinking), stating that “It’s absurd that as a disabled military veteran – I not be allowed to have a valid driver’s license over a suspension from nearly 15 yrs ago.”
As I have made clear in both articles and on my site, “needing” a license has nothing to do with being able to win it back. As one veteran hearing officer says, “everybody needs a license.” Everyone needs more money, too, but needing a license, or more money, has nothing to do with being able to get either.
The rules governing license appeals require the Secretary of State hearing officers to decide these cases based upon a person’s sobriety, or lack of it. It doesn’t matter a bit how much a person needs or wants a license. Someone might have no actual need to drive, but simply want to cruise around the block for pleasure; if that person can prove that he or she has quit drinking, and are a safe bet to never drink again, then that’s good enough to win.
By contrast, if a person needs a license to get or keep a job, and no matter how urgent that “need” may be, unless he or she can prove that they’ve been alcohol-free long enough, and that they have the commitment and ability to stay sober for good, then he or she has no chance of winning a license appeal.
In terms of residency, it does not matter that a person has no intention to return to Michigan, and is only interested in being able to drive elsewhere. The rules governing a clearance appeal are identical, in every respect, to a full restoration appeal. The ONLY difference is that to win a clearance, a person must first prove the 2 main legal issues – that his or her alcohol problem is “under control,” meaning he or she has remained alcohol-free for a “sufficient” period of time, and that his or her alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control,” meaning that he or she can prove themselves to be a safe bet to never drink again – and then also prove that he or she is a legal resident of another state.
It’s not like the hearing officers would hear a case, and, even though the person hadn’t sufficiently proved themselves a safe bet to remain alcohol-free for life, think, well, he/she isn’t coming back here to Michigan, so let the other state worry about him/her.
Flip that around for a moment: how would you feel if some multi-offense drunk driver from Ohio (or any other state) had his or her license revoked, and couldn’t get it back there, but was cleared by the DMV in that state to get a license here, just because he or she proved they were moving away?
Proving non-residency does as much for a license appeal as showing how much you “need” a license: exactly nothing.
There is even more that we could mine from this email, but I think we’ve squeezed the main points out of it, the most important of which is that you must have quit drinking for a “sufficient” period of time and have the commitment and ability to remain sober for life in order to have what’s required to win a Michigan driver’s license or restoration appeal.
If you are looking for a lawyer to help you get back on the road, do your homework. Read around, and see how lawyers explain the license appeal process. When you’ve done enough reading, start checking around.
All of our consultations are free, confidential, and, best of all, 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 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.