If you used to live in Michigan and left the state with a revoked license because of 2 or more DUI convictions, you have probably learned that in your new state (and in most states), you cannot get a new license until you clear up Michigan’s hold on your driving record. Even in those few states that did, in the past, allow you to get a license despite a Michigan revocation (seen everywhere else as a “hold”) on your record, it is now impossible to renew that license because of the Michigan hold. This means that cannot legally drive until you formally obtain what’s called a “clearance.”
Getting a “clearance” is exactly the same as having your Michigan driver’s license restored, except that instead of giving you a license back, the Michigan Secretary of State will remove its hold on your driving record, thereby allowing you to obtain (or, in certain cases, renew) an out-of-state license. As a Michigan driver’s license restoration attorney, I have to explain that winning a Michigan driver’s license restoration case, at it’s most basic, requires proving that you are sober. This means that even if you’ve moved out of Michigan, you’ll have to prove to the Secretary of State that you’ve done a lot more than just change your address – you’ll have to prove that you’ve changed your life, and that alcohol is no longer any part of it. There is no consideration or exception made just because you’ve left the state.
It is at this point that you must honestly place yourself into one of two categories: Either you have really, truly quit drinking, or you have not. If you have quit, then exploring a clearance is a worthwhile investment of your time and money. If you haven’t completely eliminated alcohol from your life, then you’re not ready to move forward with the Secretary of State’s Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, known as the DAAD. In a license restoration or clearance case, the whole focus of the DAAD is making sure that only those people who have given up alcohol and have the tools and commitment to remain alcohol free (forever, and not just for the next year or two) win their appeals. If you’ve previously tried your own “administrative review” and lost, particularly if you really have quit drinking, then you know the bar is set rather high to prove this.
I like to summarize the complexity of license appeal cases by simply observing that they are governed by a million little rules. Yet amidst all the details and technicalities, there are 2 key legal issues that control the process. In order to win a Michigan license appeal, you have to prove:
1. That your alcohol problem is under control, and 2. That your alcohol problem is likely to remain under control.
For the most part, it’s the second issue that trips most people when they try an appeal on their own, or with some lawyer for whom license appeals is not the basis of his or her practice.
Beyond that, those 2 legal issues are governed by the written language of the rule that explicitly states that, “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…” (emphasis added). This means that not only do you have to prove your case by “clear and convincing evidence,” but that the hearing officer is instructed to deny your appeal unless you do. We could spend pages explaining this, but a simple rule of thumb is this: If the hearing officer, in your case, has an unanswered question or an unresolved doubt about any part of it, your evidence isn’t clear. And even if it’s clear, if it doesn’t absolutely convince him or her that you’ve not only remained alcohol-free for a given minimum period of time, but are also committed, from your very heart and soul, to remain alcohol-free for the rest of your life, and that you also have the resources and tools to do so, then your appeal must to be denied.
Many people think they understand all of this, and move ahead and file an administrative review without a lawyer. Not surprisingly, about 3 out of 4 administrative reviews are denied by the state. Flipping that around, only about 1 out of 4 win. While the “do it yourself” approach doesn’t require paying any legal fees, the real cost is that once you lose, you’re stuck with exactly the evidence you submitted and cannot file a new appeal, or any new evidence, for a whole year. With my help, that won’t happen next time, and I guarantee it.
I eliminate the risk of “gambling” your legal fees by providing a first time win guarantee. I guarantee that if I take your case, I’ll win it the first time. If not, I will continue to represent you in front of the DAAD without further legal fee until you do win. Obviously, I make my money by winning these cases the first time, and, with the exception of a handful of cases, I’ve only ever had to go back for a second try a few times. Thankfully, I’ve never had to go back a third time.
Yet that’s not luck, nor is it bragging. That kind of record, backed up by a guarantee, is the result of only taking cases for people who are genuinely sober and then spending all the hours necessary to take the raw materials of a successful case and shaping them into a winning appeal.
These requirements cannot be overlooked. The state does not care how long you’ve been gone, how long you’ve gone without a license, or that you never intend to move back to Michigan. Either you prove your sobriety, or you go without a license. In a certain way you could almost say that, especially because you’re gone, the state couldn’t care less how long it’s been and/or how much you need to drive.
In terms of the clearance process, it is, as I noted, identical to the license restoration process. It begins by having a substance abuse evaluation completed. I meet with my clients for 3 hours before this is done, and then refer them to a highly competent local clinic a few blocks from my office to undergo the evaluation. Letter of support also need to be submitted, as well, along with a “petitioner’s affidavit” that misleadingly uses the term “administrative review” upon it. All of this is filed with the state, and then a hearing is scheduled and eventually my client and I wind up sitting in front of a DAAD hearing officer on that date.
I truly believe that nothing compares to a live hearing. Therefore, I don’t do video hearings. I think that, when you’re telling the truth, subtle things like eye contact and body language are important, albeit intangible cues that get lost by anything less than a live, in-person hearing.
In my case, that means we’ll be presenting our winning case live, and without any troublesome witnesses. Witnesses bring nothing but the potential to screw things up. Calling witnesses is a first rate amateur mistake. Remember how we clarified that the “clear” part of clear and convincing evidence requires that the hearing officer have no unanswered questions about your appeal. One of the key benefits of a live, in-person hearing is that if the hearing officer does have any questions, we’ll be right there to answer them. We won’t have to worry about how someone else does. Obviously, if you’ve sent in your paperwork for an administrative review, sometimes called an “appeal by mail,” and the hearing officer does have a question, there is no way for you to answer it, meaning you’ll lose.
Getting a clearance requires the same evidence and involves the same process as a regular Michigan driver’s license restoration appeal. There are no shortcuts to this process, nor does the state care that you’ve moved away for good. If you need a clearance, you’re going to have to prove that you’re sober. If you’re sober, I can help you with that, and I can get you back on the road, guaranteed.