As Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, we deal with people wanting their licenses back every day. A recent email exchange and phone consultation with such a guy provides a great example of what’s really needed to win a license appeal case. I’ll reprint the email exchange exactly as it was written (with the exception of the person’s name, of course) a bit later, but the main takeaway from our interaction was that the guy had NOT stopped drinking and had no interest in any kind of sobriety, but still thought he should be able to get his license back, anyway.
In the previous article (like so many I put up), I tried to make clear that the single most important – and absolutely necessary qualification – for winning a license appeal is that a person must be genuinely sober. Legally speaking, to win a license appeal before the Michigan Secretary of State, a person must prove 2 things by what is specified in the law as clear and convincing evidence: first, that his or her alcohol problem is “under control,” and second, that his or her alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control.” Let’s break that down in the next few paragraphs.
A person’s alcohol problem is considered “under control” when he or she has been completely abstinent from alcohol for a “legally sufficient” period of time. The exact amount since required since a person’s last drink varies from case to case, depending on any number of factors. In our office, though, my team and I generally want a person to have at least 18 months of abstinence before we’ll even consider filing a restoration or clearance case for him or her.
A person’s alcohol problem is deemed “likely to remain under control” when he or she can demonstrate both the ability and commitment to never drink again. Specifically, this means a person can look the hearing officer (and anyone else) in the eye and really mean that they have a firm intention to never consume another drop of alcohol.
Proving this requires the person to convince the hearing officer that he or she is a safe bet to remain alcohol-free. This is usually done by demonstrating how he or she now lives a sober lifestyle.
This next part is important, but it’s a two-part deal:
First, my team and I guarantee to win every driver’s license restoration and clearance case we take.
Second, our guarantee to win, however, means that we’re stuck with a case until it does win, and that, in turn, means we have to make sure we don’t any cases that can’t win.
Therefore, we have to carefully screen a potential client to confirm that they have, in fact quit drinking.
And to be clear, WE HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO INTEREST IN TAKING ANY CASE WHERE A PERSON HAS NOT HONESTLY QUIT DRINKING.
I mean that, too; there is no “nod-nod, wink-wink” thing at play here.
Anyone who misunderstands this and says something like “you tell me what I need to say” is barking up the wrong tree with us…
We don’t play those games. If we can’t make a case a winner by sticking with the truth, then we don’t want it – period.
Whatever else, my team and I are honest, and we play fair and square.
For all the license appeal cases we file, I NEVER want anyone at the Michigan Secretary of State to doubt our integrity. As an old boss of mine once taught me, it takes a lifetime to build and maintain a good reputation, but it only takes one stupid thing to tear it down.
The upshot of our guarantee is twofold: every client is protected, knowing that when he or she pays us (and they’ll only pay us once), they WILL get their license back.
On the flip side, because we have to stick with a case until it does win, we have to make sure we don’t take any case that can’t be made into a winner, and we make our money doing that the first time around.
Thus, if someone needs to wait a bit longer before he or she can win a license appeal, we’ll be clear about that. If we take a case and file it too soon, only to lose it, our guarantee means that we’ll have to do the whole thing all over again next year, for free, as what is essentially “warranty work.”
Whatever else, I could not imagine, nor would I ever want to do a case all over again because someone tried to BS the hearing officer about being sober when he or she was not.
In fact, lying is a specific exclusion to our guarantee. If, at any point, we learn someone is or has been lying about their sobriety, it’s game over, we withdraw, and our guarantee is off the table.
My team and I pour our hearts and souls into helping people who have gotten sober win their driver’s licenses back because we truly believe they have earned the right to drive again and deserve to be allowed back on the road.
We could just never feel that way about some scammer who tried to “fake” being sober, and lied about giving up drinking (not that we’d ever get involved with that in the first place).
So, with that as the background setup, here is the entire email exchange I referenced above, starting with the very first contact. Please note that I have copied the person’s emails exactly as they were written, only striking out his name:
I had a DUI in 2001 and another in 2002 – its been 18 years with no convictions and i dont drink and drive anymore – how much would it cost to get this fixed and please communicate thru eMail
I replied with the following:
On Wednesday, August 19, 2020, 01:48:40 PM EDT, Jeffrey Randa <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
To have any chance of winning a license appeal, you must be able to prove that you don’t drink, just not that you don’t drink and drive [I included links to the following 2 articles]:
We guarantee to win every restoration case we take, but that’s predicated on a person having given up alcohol.
Our fee is $4200, broken into 3 payments of $1400.
We’d certainly be happy to talk with you about your situation.
The fellow then called our office and spoke with us. He said that he needed a license, and insisted that he had learned his lesson about drunk driving. When questioned, he answered that, although he still drinks (he didn’t feel drinking was a problem for him), he would NEVER drink and drive.
He wasn’t happy to hear about the sobriety requirement and how we insist upon it, and seemed a bit surprised that our office really only does take cases for people who have genuinely stopped drinking.
His take on being sober was to say something like, “maybe I should have just told you that I have quit drinking.”
Ann, our senior assistant, quickly replied that even if he did that, she would have followed up with questions to verify and get a measure of his sobriety. We have to be tough when we screen people, because our guarantee isn’t based upon a person merely saying they’re sober, it’s based upon them actually being sober.
The guy left the conversation practically telling us he was going to call the next lawyer and pretty much lie about having quit drinking. The idea that someone would do that isn’t exactly new to us, but what happened next sure was different. A few minutes later, I received a final email from him:
Aug 19, 2020, 2:05 PM
NO THANKS !!!!!!!!!
We got a laugh out of that, because, for a hard-head, the guy sure was polite!
But there is a serious issue here, and it has everything to do with drinking. For as much as I emphasize the sobriety requirement in my writings, I do try to avoid being “preachy” about it
Here, though, a little bit of soul-searching seems in order…
I remember a client once explaining to me that his “epiphany” moment came some time after he had contacted our office to get his driver’s license, and, like the emailer guy we’re talking about in this article, wasn’t pleased to discover we wouldn’t take his case because he was still drinking.
He recalled being unhappy with what we told him then, and said that he had actually hung up on us.
He then went on to explain that, a few years later, while at home one night, he suddenly had his “a-ha” moment. He realized, there he was, having lost his license because of his drinking, unable to get it back because of his drinking, and that, as he thought about it, all the bad $hit that had happened to him in his life was – drumroll, please – because of his drinking.
In other words, he saw that the common denominator to all the problems in his life was his relationship to alcohol. It was in that flash of insight that he just knew that he had been fooling himself about being able to “control” his drinking, (in reality, the moment a person even has to think about limiting or otherwise trying to manage his or her drinking, it means they have a problem), and that the only way for him to reclaim a full life was to finally quit.
That brings us to where some people are right now – having lost their license because of drinking, and unable to get it back because they’re still drinking.
This isn’t to suggest that anyone should quit drinking just to try and get his or her license back, because real sobriety follows when a person decides to give up alcohol after hitting bottom, and then choosing a life without it.
In other words, a person can only get sober for themselves; not for anyone else, and not for some external reason, either.
It makes one wonder, though, how much worse do things need to get for someone who can’t drive because of drinking, and is still drinking, and therefore keeping themselves ineligible to file a license appeal?
At what point does such a person have that lightbulb go off in their heads and think, maybe drinking isn’t as much fun as it was years ago, and maybe my life would be better off without it?
Plenty of people just keep drinking.
And if we know one thing from the kind of work we do, there is NOTHING you can try and pound into a person that will change their mind. People “get it” when they get it.
The whole point of the license appeal process is for the Michigan Secretary of State hearing officers to screen out those people who really do “get it,” and who are genuinely sober, from everyone else.
The hearing officers know that they’re going to be lied to every single day. They expect that most people will try and BS their way through the process.
Therefore, the Secretary of State operates on a bright line rule: the only people eligible to win a license appeal are those who can prove they have been abstinent from alcohol for a “legally sufficient” period of time and who also can prove themselves to be a safe bet to never drink again.
The SOS has absolutely no interest in listening to anyone try and explain that, even though they lost their license for multiple DUI’s, things are somehow different now when it comes to their drinking, and they won’t ever drive drunk again because they don’t drink very much, or very often, or they only drink when somebody else drives, or that they only drink on special occasions.
This is the reality: You must be done with drinking to win a driver’s license restoration appeal.
The state operates on the simple principle that people who don’t drink are zero risk to drink and drive, and those are the only people who have a chance of winning a driver’s license restoration or clearance case.
This means that all the stuff about sobriety being required to win a license restoration or clearance case is very real.
At the end of the day, my team and I are in business to make money, and we don’t make any by NOT taking cases. If we could take every case that comes our way we’d be rolling in dough…
Unfortunately, less than half the people who contact us are genuinely sober.
In fact, I mentioned this to a hearing officer one day, and he just shook his head and told me that such people will move on and call some other lawyer who will take their money (with no guarantee, of course) and run them, head-first, into a license appeal that will be denied.
That doesn’t happen in our office.
If you’re looking to win back your Michigan driver’s license, or clear a Michigan hold on your driving record so that you can get a license in another state, be a smart consumer and do your homework. Read around, and see how other lawyers explain the license appeal process, and how they explain their approach to it.
When you’ve done enough of that, start checking around. 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, explain things, and even 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.