There is a lot to a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal case. The whole process is complex, time-consuming, and can be very demanding. Once in a while, when we’re explaining how it all works, a person will get frustrated and say, “This is bull$hit!” Such feelings are understandable, but they’re not going to help someone get back on the road. Anyone who has lost his or her license for multiple DUI’s has no choice: Either follow the Michigan Secretary of State’s driver’s license restoration rules, or else DON’T get your license back.
Another common misnomer is that the license appeal process is some kind of money grab. It’s not. Except for attorney fees and the cost of a substance use evaluation, there is no charge to file a driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal case. The Michigan Secretary of State makes no money on these cases. The process for Michigan driver’s license restoration is set by law. To win back a revoked driver’s license, a person must follow it precisely.
To be sure, there is a cost for all of the services related to license appeals. Our firm charges legal fess, and there will be more money required for the services rendered by the lab that evaluates the required urine sample. Anyone who lives in Michigan will have to start out with an ignition interlock unit in his or her vehicle, and there is a charge for that, too. Like it or not, this is how things work, and no amount of complaining is going to change it, or otherwise help someone win a license appeal.
To be sure, the driver’s license appeal system is certainly far from perfect. My team and I could suggest a lot of changes to driver’s license restoration rules, that, at least to us, would vastly improve it. However, one thing we understand, and that many people on the outside don’t, is why things are the way they are. The Michigan Secretary of State does not (and cannot) just arbitrarily decide who wins their license back and who doesn’t.
Instead, the hearing officers must follow and apply the law, meaning the driver’s license restoration rules. And one critical aspect of that law is that “needing” a license is NOT a factor in determining who can and cannot win a license appeal case. The entire process is about making sure anyone who has been revoked for multiple DUI’s has honestly quit drinking, and is a safe bet to never drive drunk again because he or she can prove themselves to be a safe bet to NEVER DRINK AGAIN. That’s what the rules try to ensure, although, as with every system, it has its flaws.
To understand this better, it’s helpful to look at the main rule governing license appeals. I’ll set forth the relevant part below, and then we’ll summarize it in plain English. The language that governs how driver’s license restoration and clearance appeal cases are decided reads as follows:
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:
i. That the petitioner’s alcohol or substance abuse problems, if any, are under control and likely to remain under control.
ii. That the risk of the petitioner repeating his or her past abusive behavior is a low or minimal risk.
iii. That the risk of the petitioner repeating the act of operating a motor vehicle while impaired by, or under the influence of, alcohol or controlled substances or a combination of alcohol and a controlled substance or repeating any other offense listed in section 303(1)(d), (e), or (f) or (2)(c), (d), (e), or (f) of the act is a low or minimal risk.
iv. That the petitioner has the ability and motivation to drive safely and within the law.
v. Other showings that are relevant to the issues identified in paragraphs (i) to (iv) of this subdivision.
What does all that really mean? Actually, it’s rather simple. Before we explain it, however, it will be helpful to take a step back and learn why it’s written the way it is. Understanding that larger context helps everything make sense.
Under Michigan law, if a person is convicted of 2 alcohol-related traffic offenses (DUI’s) within 7 years, or 3 within 10 years, he or she becomes legally categorized as a “habitual alcohol offender.” As a result, his or her driver’s license gets revoked.
Another key consequence is that, by virtue of being a “habitual alcohol offender,” he or she is presumed, by law, to have an alcohol problem.
In other words, the driver’s license restoration rules require the Secretary of State to presume that anyone who has to file a license appeal after multiple DUI’s has a drinking problem. This means that there really is no way for someone to win back a license if he or she still drinks, or even thinks he or she can ever drink again.
Once it has been concluded that someone has an alcohol and/or substance abuse problem, the only “fix” that the license restoration law accepts is that he or she has quit drinking and/or using drugs for good.
This become clear as we analyze the key part of the rule set forth above.
The first thing to note is that the hearing officer is mandated to NOT issue a license (in other words, to deny an appeal) unless the person who filed the case proves several things by what is next defined as “clear and convincing evidence.”
The simplest way to explain what “clear and convincing evidence” means is this: When a person’s case is over, the hearing officer can’t be left with any reasonable but unanswered questions. The person presenting the case must do an excellent job of proving things.
To use a baseball analogy, he or she has to hit a home run.
Specifically, there are 2 things that must always be proven to win a driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal case:
First, that the person’s PRESUMED alcohol (and/or substance abuse) problem is “under control.” This requires demonstrating, by that “clear and convincing evidence” standard, that one has remained completely abstinent from alcohol (and drugs, including recreational marijuana) for a legally sufficient period of time. The exact amount necessary will vary from case to case, but as a general rule, our firm won’t move forward until a person has been totally clean and sober for at least 18 months.
Second, that the person’s PRESUMED alcohol (and/or substance abuse) problem is “likely to remain under control.” To prove this, a person must show (again, by “clear and convincing evidence), that he or she has both the ability and the commitment to remain alcohol (and drug) free permanently. Put another way, he or she must demonstrate themselves to be a safe bet to remain sober for life.
As the old saying goes, “them’s the rules.” The reasoning behind this is that it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to putting people back on the road. Remember, the safest bet is that people who don’t drink pose zero risk to ever drive drunk.
Of course, a lot of people disagree with that. We’ve heard every argument, including (but definitely not limited to) the following:
- “I’ve learned my lesson; I won’t ever drive drunk again.”
- “I only have the occasional glass of wine with dinner.”
- “I’d never consume alcohol outside of my home, or if I’m going to be driving.”
- “I only drink on special occasions.”
- “Beyond a beer here and there, I really don’t drink anymore.”
None of that will fly. In fact, if the Secretary of State suspects that a person even thinks any of those things, it’s game over.
It doesn’t matter whether someone likes this or not. There are certain things in life that carry long-term consequences, and racking up multiple DUI convictions is one of them. Driving is a privilege, and not a right. Once the state revokes that privilege, a person must follow the driver’s license restoration rules it has established to get back on the road.
This is where those who don’t really get it will say something like, “This is bull$hit. Drinking is legal. They can’t tell me I can’t enjoy a glass of wine in my own home.”
To some extent, that is true; the state can’t stop anyone from drinking. However, what the state IS “saying,” through the law, is that anyone who loses his or her license after racking up multiple DUI’s can only get it back by proving they’ve quit drinking or good, and have been completely abstinent for that legally sufficient period of time mentioned above.
Again, “them’s the rules…”
Think of it like this: Anyone who wants to get a builder’s license, or a real estate license, or any license, for that matter, must meet the legally established criteria to do so. To get a driver’s license, a person must pass a written and road test.
To get that license back after losing it for multiple DUI’s, the driver’s license restoration rules require that a person prove, by “clear and convincing evidence,” that his or her PRESUMED alcohol problem is under control, and likely to remain under control.
Here’s another important factor to consider: The rules don’t contemplate how much or how often a person drank. In other words, it doesn’t matter if someone racked up 7 DUI’s and was a heavy, daily drinker, or instead was only convicted of just 2 DUI’s and was very occasional drinker. The underlying reality is that for anyone who gets caught driving drunk more than once, drinking presents a risk, and as we’ve noted, the whole license appeal process is about minimizing that risk and taking the safe bet. The Secretary of State is concerned about public safety.
There is no money grab in this, at least as far as the state goes. Also, there is no “they” who demands or expects anything. We hear this all the time when people say things like “How do they expect me to support my family if I can’t drive?” There is nothing to this beyond the law that establishes how a person first gets a license, what actions will result in its revocation, and the driver’s license restoration rules that must be followed to get it back.
As Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, my team and I understand the system. We guarantee to win every driver’s license restoration and out-of-state clearance appeal case we take because we know what it takes to do that. That’s precisely why we only take cases for people who really have quit drinking.
What’s the takeaway from all this? Ultimately, I’d hope the reader will simply accept that that regaining driving privileges takes some work. To win a back driving privileges, a person MUST follow the driver’s license restoration rules. Of course life is difficult without a license, but it only gets taken away by a person’s own actions, not by some grand conspiracy to screw him or her over, or to make their life hard.
While nobody is thrilled about having to go through the license appeal process to get back on the road, plenty of people understand that it is what it is. Not surprisingly, those who are the most vocal about it being “bull$hit,” or a “money grab” are usually the farthest away from being able to win in the first place. Real sobriety is usually accompanied by an acceptance that one has to rebuild his or her life, that it’s done in steps, and that getting one’s driving privileges back is part of that larger and longer process.
If you’re looking for a lawyer to win back your driver’s license, or to 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. It is fully searchable and updated weekly with new, original content. To-date, I have written and published over 675 (this is actually number 682) articles in the driver’s license restoration section. The reader can find more information here than anywhere, but don’t take my word for it – check around for yourself.
Once you’ve done enough reading, start calling around. You can learn a lot by speaking with a live person. Our firm can handle your case no matter where you live, so make sure you give our office a ring as you explore your options.
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 all of your questions and explain things. We’ll even be happy to 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.