As Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers who guarantee to win every license appeal case we take, my team and DON’T have a lot of experience losing. However, because many of our clients hire us after having either lost a “do-it-yourself” case, or having used some lawyer who didn’t concentrate in license restorations, like we do, we also get to read a lot of losing decisions, and see why their cases failed. Over the course of more than 30 years, we’ve noticed a few patterns, and, 2, in particular, that are at the heart of almost every denial. That’s what we’ll examine in this article.
After having quite literally read more denial orders than we could ever count, we have seen how one of these 2 reasons underlies virtually every lost appeal. The first issue, and the absolute key to winning a license appeal, is that a person must have honestly quit drinking and has to be genuinely sober. In addition, he or she must also have the ability and commitment to remain sober for good. To be clear, this isn’t about merely saying that one no longer drinks, but rather about actually having quit and having a bona fide intention to remain abstinent forever.
The second issue, which is every bit as important as the first, but is also entirely dependent upon and flows from it, is that a person must prove that he or she has given up alcohol (and all other substances, including recreational marijuana) and has the resolve and tools necessary to remain sober permanently. As we’ll see, the whole purpose of Michigan driver’s license appeal process is to verify that a person has, in fact, quit drinking, and is a safe bet to never drink again. This, as noted, requires more than just saying so….
A lot of people (including many lawyers) don’t fully understand this, and therefore aren’t able to present a winning case, even when the person is truly sober. Of course, proving sobriety requires that a person actually be sober. Although it is impossible to “prove” something that doesn’t exist, plenty of people will still try and BS their way through the license appeal process. Our firm doesn’t handle such cases, because we screen all potential clients to make sure they actually have quit drinking, as we have absolutely no interest in taking a case for anyone who isn’t genuinely sober.
Our guarantee to win every restoration case we take binds us to a client until he or she does win. If we lose, then we have to do the whole appeal all over again, without legal further legal fees, as “warranty work.” In other words, we are every bit as invested in winning as our clients.
We have no desire to undertake an appeal for someone who hasn’t completely given up drinking. My team and I pour our hearts and souls into each and every case we take. That enthusiasm is predicated upon helping someone who really has made the profound transition to non-drinker win back the ability to drive because he or she has actually earned it, and honestly deserves to win.
To be fair, some people don’t fully understand what “sober” really means. For every misunderstanding that there could ever be, sober, at least in the context of a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal, means that a person has completely quit drinking and using all other substances (including recreational marijuana), and is fully committed to never drinking or using again – ever.
Under Michigan law a person will be legally categorized as a “habitual alcohol offender” if he or she racks up 2 DUI’s within 7 years, or 3 DUI’s within 10 years.
As a consequence of of that, he or she will also be legally presumed to have an alcohol problem.
Put another way, anyone who has to file a license appeal after losing his or her driving privileges for multiple DUI’s starts out under the assumption that he or she is a problem drinker. The point of the appeal isn’t to argue that point, but rather to show what he or she has done to “fix” that problem.
The main rule (Rule 13) governing license restoration and clearance cases starts out by directing the Michigan Secretary of State hearing officer to NOT grant the appeal unless the person proves, by what it goes on to define as “clear and convincing evidence,” 2 key things:
First, that the person’s alcohol (and/or substance abuse) problem is under control. A problem is deemed to be “under control” when the person can demonstrate complete and total abstinence for a legally sufficient period of time. Although the precise amount required can vary from case to case, as a general rule, our firm will never move forward with a case until a person has been totally alcohol and substance free for at least 18 months.
Second, that the person’s alcohol (and/or substance abuse) problem is likely to remain under control. Proving that it is “likely to remain under control” requires demonstrating that one has both the ability and the commitment to remain sober for life. In other words, a person has to show that he or she has not only been abstinent, but is also a safe bet to never drink, or use any other substances, ever again.
These requirements are absolute. They leave no room whatsoever for any drinking, even in the distant future. Abstinent means just that – abstinent. It does NOT contemplate that a person can have the occasional beer, or a glass of wine with dinner, or even a sip of a wedding toast.
People who are genuinely sober “get” this, and understand that part of recovery is doing things like “avoiding wet faces and wet places.” Whatever else, if a person so much as even thinks that he or she can ever drink again, then he or she isn’t sober within the meaning of the license appeal rules (or by any mainstream recovery standards, either).
Almost without exception, people quit drinking because they’ve simply “had enough” of the trouble it has caused in their lives. AA people sometimes describe this as “being sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
For some, it’s that last DUI that was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Others have some kind of “light bulb” moment when it just hits them that drinking has been holding them back, and the only way forward is without alcohol.
Whatever the catalyst, the simple fact is that nobody quits drinking because it’s working out so well.
Some people expend a lot of time and effort trying to control, cut down, or otherwise manage their drinking until they finally learn that those tricks don’t work.
Others just never “get it,” and remain stuck with an alcohol problem, and with all the drama that brings.
By the time a person really does decide to quit, and get sober, they’ll have a story to tell. Sobriety is often equated with many things, like a journey, or a state of mind, or even a higher state of being. Whatever else, it is something very real, and no matter how much one may think he or she “knows” about it, it is incapable of being faked.
While real sobriety is the first requirement to win license appeal, the second is actually proving it as required by the governing rules.
This, as stated above, goes way beyond just saying that one has quit drinking. Remember, Rule 13 instructs the hearing officer to NOT grant the appeal unless the person who files it proves, by “clear and convincing evidence,” that his or her alcohol (and/or substance abuse) problem is both under control, and likely to remain under control.
Logistically speaking, to start an appeal, a person must file an accurate, clinically sound and legally sufficient substance use evaluation, along with at least 3 corroborating letters of support. There is a lot to all of that, and we could detour forever into the nuances of each of them, but the bottom line is that the evidence a person submits and the testimony that he or she gives has be “clear and convincing,” enough to cause the hearing officer to rule in his or her favor.
Because they consider and decide license appeal cases all day, every day, the hearing officers have, quite literally, “heard it all.” They know that they are going to be lied to constantly, and to survive in their role, they have to learn to differentiate BS from the straight truth.
To be sure, they are expert BS detectors; they are not only directed by the governing rule to be skeptical, but their day-to-day experience reinforces that skepticism beyond what the reader could probably ever imagine.
The mandate of the rule helps, because it doesn’t put the burden on the hearing officer to be some kind of super-accurate truth detector; instead, it specifies that he or she cannot grant a license appeal unless the person’s evidence is “clear and convincing.”
Accordingly, any kind of “close call” isn’t good enough, and this really goes to the point of this article; just being sober isn’t enough to win. To prevail in a license appeal, a person has to prove his or her sobriety, and basically hit what amounts to a home run.
It’s important to put this in perspective: The hearing officers don’t have to prove anything – that’s the lawyer’s job. The hearing officer’s questions are not designed to “help” someone win an appeal, but rather to test the soundness of his or her claims of sobriety and make sure their evidence does, in fact, measure up to that “clear and convincing” standard.
In practice, this means that plenty of people who are genuinely sober will lose, not necessarily because the hearing officer thinks they’re lying, but rather because the evidence in their case just wasn’t strong enough to meet that “clear and convincing” threshold. This is really the most common story among the clients who hire us after having tried and lost a “do-it-yourself” appeal, or who hired some lawyer who couldn’t get it right the first time.
The whole point of having to prove a case by “clear and convincing evidence” is to make sure that anyone who is allowed back on the road has demonstrated themselves to be as minimal a risk as possible to ever drink and drive again, and that’s done by making sure they show that they are essentially no kind of risk to ever drink again.
In that regard, it’s thought to be far better to deny someone who is really sober, but whose proofs just weren’t strong enough than it would ever be to put someone back on the road who can’t prove themselves a safe bet to never drink again.
Remember, non-drinkers pose zero chance of ever driving drunk They are the safe bet, and the only bet the law allows, and, therefore, the only one the Secretary of State will ever take.
This all comes full circle: A person must first be genuinely sober, and then must prove it, in order to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal case.
In the real world, it’s the client’s job to get sober, and our job, as Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, to make sure he or she proves it.
If you’re looking for a lawyer to win back your license, or clear a Michigan hold on your driving record so that you can get a license in another state, be a savvy consumer and read around. Pay attention to how different lawyers break down the license appeal process, and how they explain their various approaches to it.
This blog is a great place to start; with over 650 fully searchable articles to-date in the driver’s license restoration section (and 2 new articles added each week), it as more useful information than can be found any and everywhere else combined.
When you’ve done enough reading, start checking around. You can learn a lot by speaking with a live person.
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 handle your Michigan license appeal case no matter where you live. You can reach us Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (EST), at either 248-986-9700, or 586-465-1980.