Michigan Driver’s License Restoration and the Hearing Officer who will Decide your Case

My team and I succeed as Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers because we use our comprehensive knowledge of the law and rules regarding license appeals. When filed, each case is randomly assigned to and ultimately decided by 1 of 9 hearing officers from the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office of Hearings and Administrative Oversight (OHAO), each of whom, at least to some extent, interprets and applies those rules in his or her own way.

J2-300x287Accordingly, when we prepare a case, we have to make sure that it will satisfy each and every one of them, and that requires managing a lot of little details. It also means that we need to know, among the 9 hearing officers, who likes what, and the kinds of things that will work with one, but not with another. If a lawyer (or someone trying a license appeal on their own) can’t look at the evidence in a case before it’s filed and think, “This isn’t going to cut it with hearing officer so-and-so,” then he or she is basically flying blind, and is essentially leaving the outcome of his or her case to chance.

Chance isn’t good; anyone who has had his or her license revoked for 2 or more DUI’s certainly isn’t on any kind of “roll,” and needs a winning strategy to get it back, rather than just hoping for a lucky shot in the dark. To be clear, though, any such strategy needs to be built upon a foundation of genuine sobriety. Our firm guarantees to win every restoration and clearance appeal case we take, but underlying that is the the fact that we carefully screen every potential client to make sure they really have quit drinking, and otherwise possess what it takes in order for us to make his or her case into a winner.

Unless a person has actually made the transition from drinker to non-drinker, then all the legal knowledge and skill in the world is useless, because although the Michigan driver’s license restoration process is based upon real sobriety, winning an appeal case requires actually proving it.

Beyond that, and in a very real way, a person trying a “do-it-yourself” license appeal is just rolling the dice. Consider these 3 questions about some of the 9 hearing officers:

1. Which hearing officer is most likely to ask about AA (if you currently attend, or if not, why you stopped, or you never went in the first place? )

2. Which one of them, above all the others, will go over every line of your substance abuse evaluation with a fine-tooth comb?

3. Which hearing officer is most nit-picky about the letters of support, and has most stringent “requirements” about the letter writers?

Anyone who can’t answer these questions is handicapped from the get-go, and, accordingly, will be unable to properly prepare a case in such a way as to be satisfactory to the 3 of the hearing officers referenced above, much less the other 6.

It takes a lot of experience to be able to guarantee to win every case we take, as our firm does.

That said, although my team and I really do know our stuff, it would be BS for us to pretend that, over the course of 30-plus years, we didn’t have to learn plenty of it the hard way.

Look back up at the 3 questions above; how do you think we learned the answers?

Through experience.

Fortunately, we’ve also had the opportunity to learn even more from other people’s mistakes, and that’s a good thing, at least for us, and our clients.

This is because many of the people who ultimately hire us have either tried and lost a “do-it-yourself” license restoration or clearance appeal, or gambled away their money with some other lawyer who DID NOT guarantee to win their case, like we do.

Through that, my team and I have, quite literally, read thousands of opinions denying their cases. And to be clear, when I say thousands, I mean thousands, NOT hundreds.

In any given year, our firm handles and wins WAY more license appeal cases that most other lawyers will ever see in an entire career.

I point this out for the reader who may be drawn to any of the flashy “McLicense” websites that seem to be popping up everywhere online. Compare any of them to the archive of driver’s license restoration articles on this blog, which, as of this writing, is more than 600 deep, and still growing. There is more information to be found on this blog than can be obtained from any and every other website combined.

And this is just our blog: Check out our website, and its driver’s license restoration section.

My point (beyond a lot of self-praise), is that my team and I eat, sleep, and drink license appeal matters all day, every day, and we handle more than 200 of them each year. When you add up all that experience over the course of year upon year, and decade after decade, It only makes sense that we’d learn the idiosyncrasies of the 9 hearing officers, and develop a sense of how to prepare a case to win in front of any one of them.

Indeed, a lot of what we do, given that we are so often hired after someone has previously tried and lost, is fix what they (or their first lawyer) didn’t get right.

At the outset of this article, I talked about the sobriety requirement, and how a person can’t win a license appeal unless he or she really has quit drinking. I then noted that he or she also has to prove it.

That’s huge. A lot of people come to us very frustrated about having lost before because they are (and were) really sober. It’s then falls to us to explain that being sober is a first requirement, but that a person must also satisfactorily prove it, and do so within the requirements established by law.

Rule 13, the main rule governing license appeals, starts out this way:

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…

The rule makes very clear that a person must prove his or her case by “clear and convincing evidence.” Of course, that begs the question, if you can’t clearly explain what that legal standard means, then how will you know if you’ve met it?

My team and I not only have to have a strong working knowledge of what will constitute “clear and convincing evidence” in any given case, but also how different hearing officers interpret that standard, at least when it comes to things like the substance use evaluation, the letters of support, and a person’s testimony.

Look back at that opening sentence of Rule 13 and note how it starts out by directing the hearing officer to NOT grant the appeal unless the person meets his or her legal burden. Almost every person who tries this on their own, and just about every “McLicense” lawyer, misses the absolutely critical meaning of those words.

In fact, I am not aware of any other rule or law that requires the ultimate decision to start out at “no,” and then only change if and only if the person presenting proofs can tip the scales from “no”, up to and then past the mid-point, and then all the way fully over to the “yes” side.

Absent pure luck, understanding all of this is necessary to win.

Over time, my team and I have learned the idiosyncrasies of the Michigan Secretary of State hearing officers, and we take all of them into account in order to make sure any case we file is good enough for each one of them. There is no point in working up a case that will win in front of 8 hearing officers, but won’t be good enough for the 9th.

This also affects how we prepare our clients for their hearings. There isn’t a “generic” way to do this, because while all of the hearing officers will ask some of the same questions, there are also certain inquiries that will be unique to each. A person should never be surprised at a question he or she is asked.

In the context of license appeal hearings, there is no such thing as a pleasant surprise. In fact, one of the main goals of all that preparation is specifically to avoid any kind of surprise.

That’s really the grand takeaway here: In order to properly handle a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal, or even an ignition interlock violation, for that matter, we have to prepare it for every one of the hearing officers, knowing that we might get any of them.

Even then, though, we have to be ready to adapt, because over the course of the thousands of hearings we’ve conducted, my team and I have arrived (or, now, “logged on”) to find that the assigned hearing officer took a sick day or had a family emergency, and that a different one would be conducting the hearing.

Because of the careful way my team and I do things, we’re always ready for something like that, and when it happens to us, it’s not a surprise.

However, this could be a real problem for anyone whose case isn’t good enough for each and all of the hearing officers.

If you are looking for a lawyer to win back your driver’s license or obtain the clearance of a Michigan hold on your driving record so that you can get a license in another state, be a smart consumer and read around. As you do so, pay attention to how different lawyers break down and analyze the license appeal process, and how they explain their various approaches to it.

When you’ve done enough of that, 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. 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.

Contact Information