In many of my articles about driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals, I point out that anyone who now lives out of state and can’t get or renew a license there should come back here to do a proper clearance appeal. My office requires our clients to return to Michigan to meet with us, have their evaluation completed, and then attend the actual hearing. In exchange for that, we provide a guarantee to win every license appeal case we take. In this article, I want to focus on one of the key reasons we do it this way: control.
The idea of “control” means that we direct, oversee, and do quality assurance over every part of the process, including the planning of the appeal, getting it ready, and then ultimately, filing it. Specifically, we meet with every client for several hours prior to him or her going to the required substance use evaluation (SUE). We arrange things so that the client will meet with us first, then go directly to the evaluator’s office from ours. This makes the whole trip back to Michigan a “one and done” deal, and it allows us to guarantee a successful result, and far outweighs any inconvenience of having to come back.
Our guarantee to win stands in stark contrast to the reality of administrative, or “do-it-yourself” appeals: each year, 3 out of every 4 them, what we call an “appeal by mail,” are denied. However, rather than waste time and effort trying to talk someone out of going this route, it’s far easier for me and my team to simply say that, if you’re inclined to try an administrative appeal, then go for it. If it works out, good for you, but if it doesn’t, then call us after. As it turns out, many of our clients have done just that, and when they do contact us, they’re ready to get down to the business of actually winning.
It’s not easy to fully explain the issue of control, because it really does cover every facet of a driver’s license clearance or restoration appeal. Our clients will be prepared by us, see our evaluator, and when the evaluation has been completed, we will double-check it over. If we find anything we’re not happy about, we’ll get it fixed. We never file an evaluation that we don’t feel confident enough to guarantee we can win with.
As I noted, even before the client walks into the evaluator’s office, he or she will meet with us for about 3 hours to go over his or her case, in general, and to prepare for the evaluation, in particular. Making sure the client understands what the evaluation is all about, and the kind of information that will be sought and how it should be presented, is very important.
In fact, every client leaves our office with a packet of documents for the evaluator, including a highlighted copy of his or her driving record, and a checklist form of our own creation that lists everything of relevance, so the evaluator will have all the information needed to properly complete the substance use evaluation. “Control,” in this sense, means leaving nothing to chance.
It also means that we have a hand in everything, meaning every part of every step in the process. We speak with our main evaluator multiple times each week. Sometimes, we’ll be asked to provide additional information or clarification about a particular client, or his or her criminal or driving record, or some other aspect of his or her case, while other times, we call to give a “heads up” about some issue or other.
None of this can be done long-distance, nor with some strange evaluator. Instead of modifying how we do things in order to accommodate the client, and thereby losing control over any part the process, we have the client come back and be part of our system, so that we can exercise the kind of control that enables us to guarantee to win every driver’s license restoration and clearance case we take.
That control also extends to the letters of support, as well. In addition to providing the client with instructions as to how the letters should be written (along with a template example to use), we also carefully review each letter for content and then make written suggestions as to how they should be re-drafted.
This isn’t “fluff” stuff, either, because well over 95% of all the letters we see get sent back for further revisions. And to be clear, we don’t consider this an inconvenience of any sort, but rather an integral part of the way we do things, and the way they should be done.
We double and triple-check everything before it’s filed with the Michigan Secretary of State. When we’re sure enough that everything is good enough to guarantee our work, we then submit it, and wait for a notice of hearing.
The hearing is a key part of all of this. It provides the hearing officer an opportunity to ask questions. I really don’t understand how people fail to grasp that the hearing itself is nothing less than a question-and-answer session, run by the hearing officer. Why anyone would think trying a license appeal without one is a good idea baffles me; the whole point of it is for the hearing officer to be able to ask questions about the person’s alcohol (and/or drug use) history, recovery, support, and the whole range of underlying and related issues.
And make no mistake about it, there are ALWAYS questions, and lots of them. This is the fundamental problem with administrative reviews, and why 3 out of 4 of them lose every year, because when the hearing officer wants to inquire about something, or seeks clarification of some issue or point, and there’s nobody there to ask, it’s game over.
To be clear, my team and I won’t do an administrative review, even if offered our full fee. I have worked hard to establish our firm with a good reputation as honest and skilled lawyers, and the inability to control a case from the start means we could not guarantee either the work product, or the result.
In that same way, we won’t take an administrative review even if someone was willing to pay for our help without our guarantee. Our name goes on every case we file, and we have high standards. Whatever else, our integrity is NOT for sale.
To be clear, what I mean by control over a case is the ability to shape it, not manipulate it. We will never undertake representation for anyone who hasn’t genuinely given up drinking. The “meat and potatoes” of a license appeal is proving that you have quit drinking for a “sufficient” period of time (usually nothing less than 18 months), and that you have the commitment and ability to stay quit, and never drink again.
Confirming this (or not) is the main goal of a hearing. These issues are best explored in a live setting, because it’s dynamic, and answers can be provided, and clarified, if they’re not completely understood. However, a hearing officer can’t look a person in the eye and assess his or her credibility if he or she is not there. There is something special about real sobriety, and it comes through a lot better in person than it does on paper.
Another important part of our job as driver’s license restoration attorneys is to thoroughly prepare for each hearing, and that means memorizing the client’s file, and then prepping the client, as well.
This goes a lot deeper than just doing some kind of “dry run” of some of the main questions that will be asked; we “prep” the client for the particular hearing officer who will be deciding his or her case, and that means explaining the idiosyncrasies of each, including what things are of interest to them, and what things can “set them off.”
This, of course, necessarily involves going over the questions that the hearing officer will be asking, or expects us to ask, but that’s all part of doing things right.
To be blunt about it, anything less is simply not good enough.
None of this happens when somebody tries to do this on their own, out of state, and then, without any preparation whatsoever, hooks up with some substance abuse counselor who almost certainly has zero experience doing evaluations for Michigan Secretary of State driver’s license clearance appeals. Add a bunch of “good guy” letters to the mix, there can be little expectation of success when this is all mailed in.
Moreover, the best a person can hope for if they try it this way is that their documents are so good there will be no questions about any part of their case. Remember, though, the whole point of a hearing is for questions to be asked and answered, because, as I noted, there are always questions.
When my team and I handle things, we take control over everything, and know what to do well enough to guarantee success in every case we take. You simply cannot do better than that.
If you need to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal and are looking for a lawyer, do your homework. Read around, and see how other lawyers explain things, and how they explain themselves. When you’ve done enough of that, start checking around.
All of our consultations are free, confidential, and done over the phone, right when you call. We’re very friendly people who will be glad to answer your questions and explain things.
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.