As Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, we handle hundreds of license appeal cases every year. Many of those are for people who now live out of state, but have a Michigan hold on their driving record that prevents them from obtaining (or, in some cases, renewing) a license in their new state. This release is called a “clearance,” and getting it requires submitting the same documentation and proof as a regular driver’s restoration appeal.
The most important part of a license appeal, whether you’re seeking a clearance or the restoration of your Michigan driving privileges, is proving that you have quit drinking for good. Beyond proving your sobriety one key difference is that a restoration appeal requires a person to show up for an actual appeal hearing, while a clearance can be requested by just filing the documents alone and waiving the hearing. This is called an “administrative review,” and is essentially an appeal by mail. It may sound like a good idea, but in practice, it’s not.
In terms of the “chances,” with an administrative appeal, it’s worth noting that from year to year, 3 out of every 4 of them are denied. In this article, I want to explain why I never do this shortcut method, and why I firmly believe that a person should come back for a live, in-person hearing. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of that, let me answer anyone who is (understandably) thinking, “Of course you want people to come back so they can hire you; this is how you make your money.”
First, my office could very easily take on administrative appeals, and, truth be told, charge the same fee as we do right now, or even a bit less, spend a lot less time on them, thereby making them more profitable than the way we currently handle cases. However, because they’re done long-distance, and not local and in-person, there would be no way to guarantee a win in an administrative appeal, like we do in every regular clearance and restoration case we take right now.
Second, in every article I have ever written about out-of-state appeals, I have been clear that anyone inclined to try “do-it-yourself” appeal should give it a go, and, if it doesn’t work out, call us afterwards. It has never been my intention to try and scare anyone away from an administrative appeal. To be perfectly honest about it, it’s quicker for me to not have wasted my time trying to talk anyone out of attempting it themselves.
Instead, I’m better off to let them go and give it a shot, and then, in all likelihood, get their case later. As a bonus, if somebody does win, then good for them, and they can never say that I discouraged them in any way.
The guarantee we provide does matter, though. Ann, our senior assistant, always puts it like this: if you try yourself, there is no guarantee you’ll win. If we take your case, however, your success is guaranteed.
It’s worth noting that when you lose a Michigan Secretary of State administrative review yourself, you can screw things up in a way that will prevent you from being able to win next time around. I want to be honest here; most of the time, this doesn’t happen, but it still does occur, at least once in a while, and we have to deal with the fallout from that.
Moreover, if it happens in your case, and you blow your chances to drive again for the next couple of years, how much are you going to kick yourself in the a$$ for not having stepped up and done it right the first time?
I handled ONE administrative appeal some years ago. At the time, we had so many requests to do them, I figured, why not? It turned out to be a nightmare for me, because we’re very particular as to how we do things (this is why we guarantee to win every case we take) and we exercise complete control over every step of the process.
I learned that in an administrative review, I couldn’t do that, and even though I won, I decided right then and there that I would never do another, no matter the money involved or even if a person would go forward without a guarantee.
Our guarantee is important, and is a good thing for our clients, but it also holds my team and I to a high standard. When I walk into a license hearing, I NEVER want the hearing officer to wonder if I’m bringing in a good case, or just some scammer who will say anything to get his or her license back.
Instead, I want the hearing officers to know that, whatever else, my team and I have carefully screened the person for eligibility and sobriety, and that we’re willing to put our money where our mouth is, and stand behind the client.
For everything I could get into about this, there are really 2 key points I want to make about why you should come back for a clearance:
The first is control. I referenced it above, but the issue of control underlies every license appeal case we take. Making sure things are done right begins at our first meeting, which typically lasts about 3 hours. The main purpose of this meeting is to prepare our client to go and have the substance use evaluation completed at our evaluator’s office.
For out of state clients, we set it up so that they come to our office in the morning, and then go directly to the evaluator’s to have their substance use evaluation completed. This effectively makes it a “one and done” appointment. Of course, at that meeting, we’ll go over the rest of the license appeal process, including the letters of support, providing a sample template and explaining what the letters should and should not address.
Thereafter, the client will submit the letters to us in draft form so that we can correct and edit them, allowing the client to have the changes made so the letters can be finalized. Once the evaluation comes in and has been reviewed, and the letters deemed good enough, we’ll file everything and wait for a hearing date. This brings me to my second point –
I won’t do a license appeal without a live, in-person hearing. Let me be perfectly clear about this: anything less than actually “being there” just plain sucks. Hearings are all about questions and answers, and the ability to look a hearing officer in the eyes and have him or her assess your body language as you answer those questions is priceless.
Let me detour here a bit. The week before this article was written, I was kind of “forced” to do my first video hearing in more than 28 years of practice. My client hired me after he had requested a hearing for an ignition interlock violation, and the matter had already been assigned to and scheduled before a hearing officer on the other side of the state, so there was no getting out of that.
I hated it. The sound was boomy and awful, the picture of the small TV monitor was blurry, and the whole thing an exercise in frustration for me.
Everything I consider important about actually being in front of the hearing officer was missing. Imagine doing a FaceTime or Skype meeting in the middle of a busy street, with the camera or phone 10 feet away; it was like that.
This raises another point about why I’ll never skip a hearing. I can’t imagine a case where a hearing officer looks at a person’s evidence and doesn’t have questions. When you’re at a hearing, those questions are asked and answered.
If you’re not there, then the hearing officer can’t ask anything, and you lose the chance to explain yourself. I think this is a large part of the reason that 3 out of every 4 administrative appeals lose, and it only leads me to wonder how many times those who eventually do win have tried before…
Think about it: I’m in business to make money. As I noted above, it would be very profitable for us to do administrative appeals, given how much less time we’d have to put into them, but I won’t sell out like that. Nor will I go the easy route and do a video hearing, even though the location for them is LESS than 5 minutes from my office, while driving to the live location takes nearly an hour.
If there’s one thing I want my practice to be known for, it’s our integrity and success. We maintain those things by exercising control over every facet of a case, and making sure that the decision about an appeal is made after a live, in-person hearing. Sure, it may be more convenient for someone to just try an appeal by mail, and it would certainly be a money-maker for me, but my team and I expect better of ourselves.
That should be something of a warning to anyone considering an administrative review. If not, then, as I said before, go for it. We’ll be here when you need us.
If you live outside of Michigan and need to obtain the clearance of a Michigan hold on your driving record so that you can get or renew a license in another state, do it right, and come back. If and when you’re looking to hire a lawyer, do your homework. Read around, then check around. All of our consultations are free, confidential, and done over the phone, right when you call. My team and I are friendly people who will be glad to explain things and answer your questions. You can reach our office Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (EST), at 586-465-1980.