Michigan Driver’s License Restoration – Who is your Substance Use Evaluator?

One thing that defines our practice, as Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, is the way we manage every facet of the license appeal process that we handle. We do this as a quality control measure, because we guarantee to win every restoration and clearance case we take. The fact is that our firm makes its money winning our cases the first time around, not having to come back and do everything all over again, for free, as warranty work. The key to our success is rather simple: We make sure everything is done right before an appeal is ever filed.

Carrie-300x294This is particularly true with regards to the substance use evaluation (SUE), which, in many ways, is really the foundation of a license appeal. A problem with the evaluation can completely derail what would have otherwise been a winning case. Often overlooked is the fact that an evaluation is really only as good as the evaluator who completes it. This is why we send all of our clients OUR evaluator. No matter what, anyone who hires us is going to have his or her SUE completed by that evaluator, so we know that everything will be done properly, and to our standards.

Our office works extensively with one primary evaluator. Within the 7 days preceding the writing of this article, we exchanged 24 separate emails with her, many with multiple replies back and forth. In that same week, we’ve also had countless phone conversations with her, including one she and I had well after 10 p.m., while I was out for a late-night dinner run. It’s these regular exchanges that helps my team and I learn about relevant clinical issues, and our evaluator to keep up with the ever-changing legal requirements involved in license appeals.

And while that all sounds nice and warm and fuzzy, there is more to it than just talk: We sometimes bring our evaluator to driver’s license restoration appeal hearings to observe, in-person, how the information provided within the evaluation form provided by the Michigan Secretary of State is interpreted and used by hearing officers when deciding these cases.

This is significant. I’ll suggest, at the end of this article, as I do in every article I put up, that the reader should explore his or her options when looking for a driver’s license restoration lawyer. Here, I’ll suggest that, as the reader does check around, he or she should specifically ask any lawyer he or she is considering the following 7 questions:

1. Do you have have a specific evaluator with whom you work?

2 Do you know your evaluator’s preferred clinical approach to substance abuse treatment?

3. Are you, as the lawyer, familiar with at least some of the more well known recovery processes and treatment modalities, and in particular, any favored by your evaluator?

4. Do you understand how your evaluator’s approach fits in to the larger spectrum of recovery processes?

5. Do you discuss each and every client with that evaluator?

6. Have you ever taken your evaluator to live hearings, not as a witness, but to observe the proceedings?

7. When is the last time you have directly communicated with your evaluator?

To be honest, I have to admit that those questions are a kind of a setup, because I highly doubt any lawyer could answer “yes” to #2, much less any of the others that follow.

However, our firm can answer yes to the first 6 of those questions, and with respect to #7, our response would be that we have spoken with our evaluator today (meaning the day it was published). In fact, I can honestly say that I had direct communication with our evaluator AS this article was being written; she just emailed my about a client.

We also exchanged 3 other emails earlier today, as well.

This goes deeper than just “communicating” with our evaluator, though.

The simple fact is that almost any substance abuse counselor who looks over the Michigan Secretary of State’s evaluation form will think, “I can do that.”

The form itself looks straightforward, but the hearing officers who decide license appeal cases have certain expectations about the information to be included within it (as well as what should be left out) that are NOT obvious, no matter how long one studies it.

This is why we sometimes bring our evaluator to hearings, and, for that matter, why our evaluator wants to keep attending them.

No matter how good a counselor someone may be, the ONLY way to learn how to complete the substance use evaluation form in the way the hearing officers expect and prefer is to have been specifically taught how to do that.

In fact, the ONLY way a lawyer gets to know some of those same things is to first get them wrong, thereby learning them “the hard way.”

This is normal. Every professional athlete started out sucking at what he or she now does so well.

Think about it: every champion figure skater started out by falling down a lot at first, every professional baseball player had to learn how to catch (and not drop) a ball, and every professional boxer had to learn how not to get beaten into a loss.

Of course, part of my job, having paid my dues decades ago, is to teach my team so that they learn from my mistakes. It’s great to learn from your own mistakes, but it’s even better to learn from someone else’s.

Years ago, I realized how important it was to have a fundamental and thorough understanding of the development, diagnosis and treatment of, as well as the recovery from alcohol and substance abuse issues, so I made my way back to the University campus and completed a formal post-graduate program of addiction studies.

It’s important for me, as a driver’s license restoration attorney, to have a fundamental understanding of the language that clinicians speak. How could I, as a lawyer, advocate for a client whose recovery is not based in AA, if I cannot clearly explain his or her chosen recovery process, as well as how why it works?

As a quick side note, let me be clear: You do NOT have to be in AA to win a driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal case.

As I stated before, my team and I know our stuff well enough to have a win guarantee in place.

In reality, this is really a double-sided proposition, because as much as it protects the client so that he or she knows they’ll only pay us once to get their license back, it also protects our firm from being tempted to take a case that can’t be made into a winner just for a payday.

Our guarantee means that if we do lose, we have to stick with a case until it does win.

Yet for as honest and nice as we are, we’re also in business to make money, and we do that by winning our cases the first time around, not having to come back and do them all over again, for free, as “warranty work.”

This motivates us to make sure that our control over every step of the license appeal process is really about quality control.

In our office, that starts by meeting with each and every client beforehand, specifically to prepare for his or her evaluation.

During our first meeting with the client before he or she ever goes to the evaluator, we complete a special form of our own creation called a “Substance Use Evaluation Checklist” that covers, line-by-line, every single bit of information that needs to be included in the state’s evaluation form.

We make sure to provide our evaluator with every important detail about our client’s conviction history, alcohol and drug use history, and, ultimately, his or her recovery.

In addition, we make a copy of the client’s driving record, marking it up (and even color-coding it) so that every relevant entry is clear, and the evaluator knows to include it within the SUE form.

We send our checklist, the highlighted driving record, and all other necessary documents along with our client, to give to our evaluator (although right now, during Covid, we’re sending those documents via email, as most things are being done remotely).

Once in a while, we’ll use one of a few other evaluators (often, for geographic reasons; our evaluator’s office is about 3 minutes away from ours but it’s sometimes a lot more convenient for a person to go elsewhere), all of whom are professionals with whom we work closely, and to whom we provide the same documentation.

In other words, we never let our clients just go to “some evaluator.” We make sure they’re seen by someone with whom we have an ongoing relationship, and who we KNOW can and will do a good job.

But we’ll still check the evaluation before it’s ever filed with the state.

Everything in our office is checked over, and then double-checked again.

Human beings can miss things, and that includes us, so we make sure every document we file has, in fact, been double checked, even within our office.

Personally, I am astounded that any lawyer would ever just tell a client to go and get an evaluation, but it happens. I actually have to restrain myself here and be diplomatic, because that is without a doubt the dumbest idea I have ever heard, and is the very definition of “flying blind.”

That will never happen in our office.

But don’t take my word for it. If you’re looking for a lawyer to win back your Michigan driver’s license, or to obtain the clearance of a Michigan hold on your driving record so that you can get a license in another state, be a good consumer and do your homework. Read around, and see how each lawyer explains the license appeal process, and how he or she explains his or her approach to it.

When you’ve done enough of that, start checking around. You can learn a lot by talking to a live person.

Our firm can handle any Michigan license matter no matter where you live. We have clients all over the state, all over the country, and even some who live outside of the USA.

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 248-986-9700 or 586-465-1980.