Michigan License Appeals and Clearances for Out-of-State Residents – the Residency Issue

As a Driver’s License Restoration Lawyer with a busy Practice, about half, and maybe even more of my License Appeal cases involve Representing Clients who now live outside of Michigan. I’ve had Clients from just over the border in Ohio, to all corners of the US, lots from Florida, and some from as far away as Japan.

This article will be about how the different Michigan Secretary of Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) Hearing Officers in Livonia, where I have all my cases heard, require proof (or not) of such out-of state residency, and why such proof is so important. Unlike just about every other article in this section, and on this blog, this one will be reasonably short. Our subject today is important, yet refreshingly simple.

FLDRL1.1.jpgThe reason this is important in the first place has to do with the very fundamental difference between a License Appeal for someone who still lives in Michigan, and someone who does not. Michigan residents are ONLY eligible to win a Restricted License. In other words, the ONLY thing a Michigan resident can win in A Driver’s License Restoration Appeal is a Restricted Driver’s License that requires the installation of an ignition interlock (breathalyzer) system on their car for at least 1 year. There is no option to win a “full” License, and no way around the ignition interlock. These requirements are set in stone.

Non-residents are not eligible for ANY kind of Michigan License. Think about it for a moment, if a person lives in Florida, for example, and is a resident there, how can Michigan, or any state (except Florida), for that matter, give them any kind of Driver’s License? It would be no different if a person wanted a Concealed Weapons Permit. They have to obtain that in the state in which they live. A Florida resident could not come to Michigan and apply for and be granted a CCW (actually, such a permit, at least in Michigan, is called a “CPL,” meaning Concealed Pistol License), or vice-versa.

Instead, anyone who is a non-resident with multiple DUI’s (sometimes, these can be spread across different states) and a Michigan “hold” upon their Driving Record learns they cannot obtain, or, in other cases, cannot renew an out-of-state Driver’s License because of that Michigan “hold.” In order to obtain the Driver’s License in another State, they need to “clear” Michigan’s hold. “Clear” is a very important word here.

That’s because a non-resident with a Michigan hold on their Driving Record will apply for what is called a “Clearance.” Quite logically, this means that the relief they seek from the DAAD is a Clearance (or voiding out) of the Michigan hold on their Driving Record.

Once a Clearance has been granted, the person is free to obtain a full, unrestricted License in their actual state of residence. Michigan ha no authority over them; it cannot, in any way, restrict what they do. Granting a Clearance literally “clears” any Michigan impediment, and the person will no longer have any accountability or connection to Michigan.

Thus, if Michigan feels that all Revoked-for-multiple-DUI Drivers must first prove themselves on a Restricted License, with an ignition interlock, for at least 1 full year, it is certainly going to be cautious about simply removing its hold, because, once that hold is released, the person is free to get whatever kind of License they like in their state of residence. It is up to that state to determine, what, if any restrictions to impose upon the person. For what it is worth, once someone obtains a Michigan Clearance, they will have no trouble getting a Full, Unrestricted License in their home State.

To make this clear, lets assume Sneaky Sam has a Revoked License for 2 DUI’s within 7 years. Assume further that Sam has been eligible to file a License Appeal for a few years. Now, Sneaky Sam files his Appeal and lists an address in Illinois.

Except that Sam really lives in Troy, Michigan. If Sam wins his License Appeal, and at the end of that Appeal asks the Hearing Officer for a Clearance, because he lives in Illinois, then once that Clearance is in the system, Sam can “magically” move back to Michigan (“gee, what do ya’ know, just last week I got a job offer back here…”) and obtain a FULL Michigan License, thus circumventing the state’s requirement that all Michigan residents prove themselves for at least 1 year with a Restricted License and an ignition interlock.

While the difference between a Clearance and a Restricted License is rather profound, there is absolutely no difference in how one goes about obtaining either. In other words, whether a person hires me to obtain a Clearance or a Michigan License, the identical paperwork is filed, the identical proofs need to be made, and the entire process, in every respect, is identical. The only difference is the relief requested, meaning that the person is either a Michigan resident, and can therefore ONLY seek and obtain a Restricted Michigan License, or the person resides outside of Michigan, and can ONLY obtain a Clearance of Michigan’s hold.

Now it should be rather obvious why the state is so concerned about where a person really lives. And it has every right and reason to require proof that a person filing a License Appeal really does live outside of Michigan.

In terms of my Practice, I only do License Restoration Appeals where my Client shows up for a live, in-person Hearing. I do not handle any kind of second-rate, “Appeal-by-mail” Administrative Reviews. Those are losers. In 2010, out of 875 files with the State, 650 were Denied, meaning that 75% LOST! By contrast, in that same calendar year, I won every single case I handled, meaning I had a 100% win rate. Beyond that, I offer a win guarantee.

This means that my out-of-state Clients will have to come to Michigan twice: The first time, we’ll have them scheduled to meet with me for about 3 hours before they have their Substance Abuse Evaluation completed at a local Clinic a few blocks from my Office. Most often I will meet with the Client right before they have their Substance Abuse Evaluation done. Usually, the Evaluation is completed the same day. Thus, if I meet with a Client at 10 am, for example, he or she can leave my Office and go directly to a 1:30 or 2:00 Evaluation appointment.

Their next trip to Michigan will be for their License Appeal Hearing, which by rule, can only last for an hour, although in practice, most last even less than that.

Interestingly, the state does not ask for any kind of proof of residency prior to the actual Hearing. And the type of proof requested there varies, and depends on, more than anything else, the Hearing Officer to whom the case has been assigned.

Some Hearing Officers will ask a person if they have a State ID issued by the state in which they claim in they live. Some will simply examine it, while others will make a copy of it.

Other Hearing Officers do not require such independent verification, primarily because they see that most, if not all the Letters of Support a person has submitted are from the state in which they claim to live, and the Letter writers identify themselves as co-workers and neighbors and the like. Remember, the Letters must be notarized.

Yet between these two “bookends” lie a myriad of other possible scenarios. What if a person has rather recently moved out-of-state, has few acquaintances there, and therefore submits Letters of Support mostly from Michigan residents? What if the person has no State ID? What if they more or less “live” in another state, but spend the majority of their time on the road, working?

Then things like a lease agreement, bank statements and mail, such a utility bills, credit card statements, and such other evidence as tends to prove the person does, in fact, reside outside of Michigan can be presented.

Sometimes, in their rush to pack and come to Michigan for a Hearing, a person will forget this stuff. That’s not a big problem; the Hearing Officer will ask that they get such evidence to their Attorney (me), who will, in turn, have it promptly submitted.

Very often, in the course of the actual Hearing itself, the Hearing Officer will ask the person if they have any intention of moving back to Michigan. Remember Sneaky Sam for a moment. What if Sam “borrowed” his Helpful Uncle Harold’s address in Toledo, Ohio, for a while, then “magically” moved back to Michigan right after the won his License Appeal? The State has to make sure, to the best of its ability, that no one circumvents its rules for Licensing residents and Clearing non-residents.

As the reader has no doubt concluded, the whole residency issue is important, but not very difficult. Still, with a bit of planning and foresight, any evidentiary matters can be satisfied beforehand, and there will be no “cleanup” once the Hearing is over. For those who become my Client, this means a successful Appeal sooner rather than later. With my win Guarantee, both the Client and I look forward to a favorable decision as soon as possible, and not having any last-minute documents to submit makes that all the more likely.