As a Michigan driver’s license restoration law firm that guarantees to win every restoration and clearance appeal case we take, my team and I have to ask each and every potential client some tough questions as part of our initial screening. Because the key goal of every license appeal is proving that a person has given up alcohol (and drugs) for good, we must ask any potential client some very direct questions about his or her relationship to alcohol, and specifically, when he or she last consumed any.
Make no mistake, our firm is in business to make money. We get no pleasure from turning away people who are ready to pay our fees. However, our guarantee means that when we take on a driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal, we are obligated to stick with it until our client does win, and the last thing we want to do is hitch ourselves to some case that cannot succeed. If we did that, then we’d wind up eating a loss and then getting stuck having to do the whole case all over again the following year – for free.
The simple truth is that we earn our livings winning these cases the first time around. Although we seldom lose a restoration or clearance appeal, on the very few occasions that we haven’t won the first time, we have never hesitated to honor our guarantee. Nevertheless, our whole screening process is designed to make sure we don’t wind up taking on a case that cannot or is otherwise not yet ready to win. This helps prevent us from having to do everything a second time, at our expense, as “warranty work.”
The reason why this matters will make more sense if we first clarify a few basic things about Michigan’s DUI laws:
As the reader no doubt knows from first-hand experience, racking up 2 DUI’s within 7 years or 3 within 10 years results in the automatic revocation of his or her license.
What he or she may not know, however, is that when either of those things happen, a person is legally categorized as a “habitual alcohol offender.”
This is important, because once a person is categorized as a habitual alcohol offender, he or she is also presumed to have an alcohol problem.
Some people get upset because they take this to mean that the state “thinks” they’re an alcoholic; that’s not what we’re talking about here.
Although any person categorized as a habitual alcohol offender is presumed to have some kind of risky and/or troubled relationship to alcohol, the presumption itself does not define either its nature or extent of that.
Instead, it simply means that any person who has lost his or her license for multiple DUI’s has established him or her self to be a potential hazard when it comes to drinking (and driving).
This ties directly into the rules governing license restoration and clearance cases. In order to win a Michigan license appeal, a person must prove at least the following 2 things, by what the law specifies as clear and convincing evidence:
First, that his or her alcohol problem is “under control,” meaning that he or she has been completely alcohol-free for a legally sufficient period of time (in our office, we won’t even consider filing a case until a person has been abstinent from alcohol for at least 18 months), and
Second, that the person’s alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control.” This requires demonstrating both the ability and commitment to remain alcohol-free. Put another way, this requires that the person prove him or her self to be a safe bet to never drink again.
The simplest way to look at this is that the Secretary of State (correctly) interprets the law as making clear that the ONLY people who can win a license appeal are those who can prove these 3 things:
1. That they have quit drinking,
2. That they have been abstinent from alcohol for that “legally sufficient” period of time, and,
3. That have the commitment and tools to never drink again.
And to be clear, the whole abstinence thing includes marijuana. Under no circumstances whatsoever can a person who uses recreational marijuana – no matter how infrequently – win a license appeal. It’s even hard to win with a medical marijuana card, but that’s another subject in its own right, and the reader can click any of the linked articles to learn more.
Every day, our office gets loads of emails and phone calls from people who have found us online, seen the sheer volume of information I have put up, see our guarantee to win every driver’s license restoration and clearance appeal case we accept, and are ready to hire us on the spot.
They usually start out by telling us things like:
- How much they need a license;
- How many years it has been since they’ve had one;
- The difficulties they face getting by without being able to drive;
- The employment opportunities that await them if they can drive again, and/or
- That they haven’t been in any kind of trouble for a long time.
I don’t want to seem callous, but we’ve heard these things before – a million times over. We know how much it sucks to be unable to drive. Unfortunately, absolutely none of it matters in the context of a license appeal.
Remember, we’re in business to make money. There is no profit to be made by turning away someone who stands ready to hire us.
However, my team and I have certain standards, and the very first of them is to do the right thing.
Even if we didn’t have our guarantee in place, it would just be plain WRONG to take someone’s money and file a license appeal that can’t win.
Frankly, I’d be embarrassed to do that. It takes a lifetime to build and maintain a good reputation, but it only takes one stupid thing to call it into question. I would NEVER want the hearing officers from the Michigan Secretary of State to think that our office took a case just to get paid.
Our integrity is not for sale.
Yet for all the self-praise I could heap upon my team and myself, the simple fact is that our guarantee stands as a firm safeguard, because as much as it protects the client from risking his or her money on a license appeal that can’t win, it also prevents us from ever being tempted to take any such case in the first place, lest we get stuck with a losing matter that will obligate us to do “warranty work.”
This brings us back to why we need to be tough in our screenings. Ann, our senior assistant, likes to say that if you think we’re being tough, how do you expect to get though the license appeal process with the Secretary of State?
We’ve already seen how the law works, but the hearing officers who apply it in real-life license appeal cases bring a wealth of experience to their jobs.
I honestly believe that even if the most naive person on the planet was somehow made a hearing officer, it would take less than a week for him or her to realize that a substantial portion of the job involves listening to BS and lies from people, and having to filter through all of it to find that small minority of people who really are clean and sober.
The hearing officers are licensed attorneys, and each is technically called an “administrative law examiner,” which is basically another way of saying “administrative law judge.” In the real world, they spend all day, every day, deciding cases for people who try every trick in the book to win back their drivers licenses.
Their job is to apply the law and make sure that the only people who do win their licenses back are those who have proven, by that legal standard of “clear and convincing evidence,” that they have been completely abstinent from alcohol (and drugs – including marijuana) for a long enough period of time, and who are otherwise a safe bet to remain abstinent for life.
To do that, they have to look at the facts of a person’s case and then ask some very probing and tough questions. They KNOW that they’re going to get lied to every day, and that people are going to do everything possible to figure out what they “should” say, and then try to say those very things.
This really underscores how spot-on our senior assistant’s take on this really is; if you think we’re tough, how do expect to get through the Secretary of State?
If you call our office, we’re going to want to know about your drinking, when you quit, and why.
We’re going to ask about your marijuana used, including the last time you indulged.
And let me be clear, upfront: We are 100% NOT interested in taking a case for anyone who wants to BS about this. There is no “nod-nod, wink-wink” here.
We screen to make sure that anyone whose case we take has GENUINELY quit drinking.
We won’t have any part of that “you tell me what I need to say” stuff. If we can’t win your case by telling the truth, then we’ll pass.
However, and as I often point out, we’ll gladly speak to anyone, even if just in the hope that we can say something that will help him or her decide to finally quit drinking so that, eventually, they can tell the truth and be eligible to win a driver’s license appeal.
If you’re looking for a lawyer to either win back your Michigan driver’s license or obtain a clearance of a Michigan hold on your driving record so that you can get (or renew) a license in another state, be a good consumer. Do your homework and read around to see how other lawyers explain the license appeal process, and how they explain the way they handle these cases.
When you’ve done enough of that, start checking around. You can learn a lot by actually talking to a live person.
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, 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.