As Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers we handle over 200 license appeal cases per year, my office has pretty much heard and seen it all. My office is regularly contacted by people who want their license back, but who don’t have a clue about sobriety or quitting drinking. This is a real obstacle, because the main focus of a license restoration case is proving that you have stopped drinking for a sufficient period of time, and have the commitment and tools to remain alcohol-free for good.

0a558a8c8a64ebdcf3bffb146be85fea-300x195Let me be blunt and honest here: the license restoration process is tough, by design, to the point of actually being a real pain in the a$$. The state makes it hard. That’s just the way it is, like having to fork over a chunk of the money you earn to pay income tax. Even though the process could always be made “better,” most people who are genuinely sober realize that no matter what, the reason they’re in this boat is because of their own behavior. They understand that, as much as this whole thing sucks, they can’t blame anyone else for their situation. You don’t have to like any of this, but a mindset of acceptance is one of the markers that shows a person has turned the corner in his or her life, quit drinking, and has what it take to get through the process in order to win his or her license back.

By contrast, I can usually tell, right off the bat, just by someone’s attitude, that he or she probably isn’t anywhere near sober or ready to quit drinking, much less undertake a license appeal. The day I began this article, I received an email contact that was a perfect example of this, and inspired me to write this piece. This is it, reprinted exactly as it arrived in my inbox: I have two dui with in 7. the state held my lic, due to Drs, bill $2500. Now the wan me to jump through hoops, to get it back.. What caught my eye immediately was that the writer essentially complained that they want him to “jump through hoops” to get his license back. When a person has the right disposition to win a license restoration or clearance case, their inquiries tend be more like questions how do we do this, rather than complaints about having to do it at all.

As a Michigan DUI and driver’s license restoration lawyer, I deal with the whole gamut of alcohol issues every single workday. On one side of the spectrum, I see plenty of DUI clients who don’t have any kind of drinking problem. On the opposite side, I have license restoration clients whose relationship to alcohol nearly ruined their lives and are lucky enough to have hit bottom, quit drinking, and are now enjoying a sober life. In-between those two ends lay all the struggles. One group that we encounter in my office rather consistently are people who had previously quit drinking, suffered a relapse, and then get popped for a DUI. I see this happen both within the context of my DUI and driver’s license restoration practice. In this article, we’ll restrict our focus to the DUI part of things.

10-best-ways-to-stop-drinking-alcohol-300x188Not surprisingly, the idea of a relapse leading to a DUI can come as a kind of mixed blessing: on the one hand, it can turn out to be the real “lightbulb moment” for some people, and mark the point where his or her life changes for the better. This is usually because the person accepts, with the force of a hammer, the reality that he or she simply cannot drink anymore. On the other hand, being too open about having issues with drinking then having had a relapse can really complicate a DUI case. Although a drunk driving arrest may really be a pivotal moment in a person’s life, the extent to which we should reveal that it was part of a relapse depends on a lot of factors.

In the real world, most of those factors are NOT usually present in something like a 1st offense DUI. Things are often different, however, when a person has any prior drinking and driving convictions. In many (but not all) circumstances, admitting a relapse can positively affect how things turn out in a 2nd or 3rd offense DUI case. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, because you don’t want to be the person who should have kept quiet about having had a relapse. Conversely, though, it’s foolish to not bring it up when doing so can be helpful. Exactly how to advantageously use the existence of a relapse (or not) in the context of a DUI charge must be carefully evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Perhaps one of the most important consequences of my guarantee to win every driver’s license restoration and clearance case is that it ensures we carefully screen every potential client to make sure he or she has what it takes for a successful appeal. For all the niceties I could mention about how you’ll only pay me once to get back on the road and such, the flip side is that I earn my living winning these cases the first time around, and that gives me a very strong incentive to screen out anyone who is not yet ready to move forward, or else I essentially double my workload while slicing my income in half. In that way, my own self-interest really stands as a huge benefit for the client, as well.

maxresdefault-300x169If that was all there is to this, then we could have stopped at that first paragraph, but, like everything else in life, it gets a bit more complicated. For every caller whose case is a clear “yes” or “no” in terms of being able to move forward right away, there are also plenty of “maybes.” It’s knowing what to do, and when to do it in those cases, that really calls upon our experience and knowledge. Nobody wants to wait longer than they should to get their license back, yet the cost of moving forward too soon is that you’re case will be denied and you’ll be stuck without a license for a whole additional year.

This is easy to understand in terms of a person being legally eligible or not to file, but it gets bogged down in the details when we throw in things like additional revocations because a person got caught driving on a suspended/revoked license, or having a medical marijuana card, being on a certain medication, or any of about a million other things that we evaluate as part of our screening process. And for all the legal situations that can exist, sometimes a person needs some help to understand how to explain his or her recovery process in a way that will be successful.

This will be a short article to clarify one simple point: that you need to be done with probation (or parole) before you can win back your driver’s license (or, if you now live out of state, win a clearance) from the Michigan Secretary of State. This is an issue that comes up multiple times every week among those who call my office looking to restore their driver’s license. There are, of course, some exceptions to this. We’ll get to them shortly, because if there weren’t any, then we’d have no need to go much beyond the first sentence of this paragraph.

ball_and_chain_3322854b-300x188First, it helps to understand why the Secretary of State requires a person to be off probation or parole. Being under legal supervision is perceived as “living in a controlled environment,” meaning that the person is NOT free to have a drink if he or she wants, simply because he or she has been ordered to abstain, with the threat of some kind of punishment hangin over his or her head for violating that order. This is more obvious when a person is still on probation for his or her last DUI and is either being tested, or at is least subject to testing, for alcohol and/or drugs. However, even if a person is not tested regularly, or at all, he or she is still under a court or parole board order to not consume any alcohol.

If a person gets caught drinking in violation of a probation order, he or she can be sent to jail. To the Secretary of State, this means that for as much as the person can prove they haven’t had a drink for X amount of time, he or she cannot also prove that his or her abstinence while on probation (or parole) was completely voluntary. In order to win a license appeal, the state wants to see time where a person chose to not drink without any threat of legal sanction, even though he or she easily could have.

In part 1 of this article, we began our examination of what makes a felony different than a misdemeanor in Michigan. We saw that one key distinction is the maximum possible penalty that can be imposed, and that a misdemeanor can never be punishable by more than 1 year in jail, whereas a felony carries a potential prison sentence of any number of years. We then distinguished jail, where a person can be housed for no more than 1 year, from prison, where a person will usually remain for at least a year and a day. We then began to explore the differences between how a felony and misdemeanor charges are handled, at least at the early stages, in court. We saw how a felony charge is “tested” in the district court at the preliminary examination stage. We’ll pick up there:

preview-full-blog-post-8-16ac-01-2-300x166At a preliminary exam, the prosecutor will call some witnesses. This usually includes the arresting and/or investigating police officer, a victim, if there was one, and maybe a key eyewitness. Not everyone needs to testify at this phase of the case. Remember, this isn’t a trial, and the prosecutor doesn’t have to prove anything like guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but merely that there is a debatable question of fact that the defendant committed the charged crime. In that sense, “he-said, she-said” is more than good enough for a case to survive the probable cause test at this stage.

Another way to think about this is that all the prosecutor has to do, really, is show the Judge that the case against someone is not BS. In other words, unless the district Judge would feel comfortable saying something like, “this charge is baloney,” then the case will be allowed to continue to the circuit court. On the other hand, if the Judge can say something like he or she finds no evidence that a crime was committed or a law was broken (this rarely happens), or, that he or she cannot find that there is at least an open question that the person charged with the crime did, in fact do it, then the matter will be dismissed.

As Michigan criminal and DUI lawyers, my team and I deal with both misdemeanor and felony charges every day. Often enough, we’ll be asked by a client to explain the real difference between the 2 kinds of offenses. This happens a lot when the charge my client is facing is one that can be brought as either a felony or a misdemeanor, like DUI’s, embezzlement, indecent exposure offenses, as well as certain drug crimes. In this 2-part article, I will examine and provide an overview of what differentiates a felony from a misdemeanor charge.

apples-oranges-hero-188x300The one thing that most people know right out of the gate is that a felony is more serious than a misdemeanor. Few things in the law are absolute, but the idea that facing a misdemeanor is always “better” than facing a felony is one of them. Of course, the flip side is that facing a felony is always “worse,” and usually more expensive.

In Michigan, the biggest difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is the maximum amount of time a person can be incarcerated. By law, a person cannot be locked up longer than 1 year for a misdemeanor. To be sure, a person can be convicted of a felony and not be required to serve any time at all, or, he or she can be sentenced to less than a year in jail, but in no case can a misdemeanor conviction result in a sentence of greater than one year in the county jail.

You do not need to be in AA to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case. My goal in this article is to make clear that AA is NOT required to win a license appeal because we are regularly contacted by people who are clearly under this misconception. They’ll express interest in getting their license back, but then say, in a kind of “aw, shucks” way, that they really are sober, but they don’t go to AA, and wonder if we can still help. Most of them are shocked when we reply that as long as they’ve quit drinking, that’s good enough, and that being in AA (or not) couldn’t matter less.

00006487-NOT-REQUIRED-1-2-300x164I certainly know what I’m talking about, and I put my money where my mouth is because I guarantee to win every license appeal case I take. The majority of my clients are not in AA. In fact, I’d estimate that around 4 out of 5 of my clients do not go to AA meetings. That said, most of my clients have gone to AA in the past, at least for a little while. Even having attended a few meetings can be very helpful in the context of a license appeal.

Often, when I write about AA, I feel like I’m either attacking it or promoting it. My intention is to do neither here, but instead, make clear that while AA is a great program it’s simply not for everyone. That said, I think it’s also true that many people can learn a lot from AA even if they only spend a short amount of time in it. Most of my clients who did some AA will agree that by the time they stopped going, they had learned some important things, and had picked up what they needed from the program. The reality is that while AA is and should be a long-term or lifetime commitment for some folks, most people manage to stay sober without the need to keep attending support group meetings.

In my role as a Michigan DUI lawyer, my team and I are in court all of the time handling OWI charges and actually making things better for our clients. In this short article, I want to talk about money, and why you shouldn’t focus too much on it during your DUI case. To be clear, this is not an article about attorneys fees, but rather the overall cost of a DUI. The bottom line is that if you’re facing a drunk driving charge right now, you’re already on the hook, and there are very few things you can control that will affect how much money you’re going to have to fork over.

How-Much-2-284x300Ironically, one of the few costs you can manage is how much you spend on a lawyer. The best thing I can say about this is that you’ll never get what you don’t pay for. At the end of almost every blog article I’ve published, I tell the reader to be a good consumer, do his or her homework, read around, and then check around. I say that all the time because it’s solid advice and you should never do less than what you would do when buying a new microwave, much less spending several thousand on a lawyer. You learn things as you gather information. One of the most important suggestions I can make, though, is to gather real information. As much as you’ll never get what you don’t pay for, it’s every bit as easy to get sucked into paying too much for a lawyer, as well. Just keep that in mind as you look around.

At any given time, there is some ad campaign running here, in the Metro-Detroit area of Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties, warning people not to drive buzzed or drunk. These ads, which I hear on the radio and see on billboards around town, usually note that a DUI will cost you about $10,000 in fines, costs, legal fees, increased insurance and related expenses. I’ve done the math in previous articles, and, to my surprise, that’s about right. Let’s explore the worst 10 grand you’ll ever spend a bit further…

Everybody needs a driver’s license, and anyone who has been without one for a long time feels that need even more. In this article, I want to briefly explain how needing a license, or not having had one for years, and/or just having stayed out of trouble for a long time, doesn’t matter at all when it comes to winning a driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal from the Michigan Secretary of State, and then look at the main requirement for getting it back – being sober.

start-with-why-300x150On average, I file and win nearly 200 driver’s license restoration appeals each year. Every week, my office is contacted by any number of people who explain how much they need a license, or how long they’ve been without one, or how long it has been since they last got in trouble. While it is understandable that those things matter to someone who can’t legally drive, those things do not matter AT ALL to the Secretary of State. As one hearing officer says, “everybody needs a license.” To the state, the key to getting back on the road is proving that you have quit drinking, and are a safe bet to never drink again.

Similarly, a lot of people think that having stayed out of trouble for a long time makes it look like they’ve learned something, or have somehow become less “risky” than before. From the Secretary of State’s point of view, the only risk that matters is the risk that you will ever drink again. The state, for its part, could not care less about how much someone promises to never drink and drive. The simple reality is that the people who are the safest bet to never drink and drive are those who just do not drink. The idea that a person hasn’t had a DUI or other legal scrape in a long time, no matter how long, means nothing in the context of a license appeal. What you must prove in a license reinstatement case is that you will never drink again, not merely that you won’t drink and drive.

DWLS and DWLR cases all start with one common factor – the lack of a valid driver’s license, but they go in many different directions from there. A person who picks up a DWLS charge after not paying a ticket is going to need different “lawyering” than someone facing a DWLR charge, and who has had his or her license revoked after 2 or more DUI’s, especially if that person has any intentions of every trying to get it back in the future. There is a prevailing misconception that suspended and revoked license cases are all pretty much the same. In fact, the reality is very different.

RD144-Proceed-with-CautionIn general, suspended and revoked license charges provide one of the best examples of the admonition that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Over the course of my career, I have, in many cases, had to explain subtle but important nuances of licensing law to both Judges and prosecutors. Because I am a full-time driver’s license restoration and DUI lawyer, I work with the laws and rules that affect driver’s licenses every single day. I deal with everything, from the most common issues to the most obscure. I’ve had to research license issues most lawyers, including Judges and prosecutors, would never know exist, and then figure out how to resolve them.

A central focus of our work is helping people win their licenses back, which helps explain why my team and I often get a better plea deal in a suspended and revoked license cases. Many of our clients are people who don’t have a license (usually, because of multiple DUI’s), and want to get it back. When someone who is, or will soon enough become eligible to win their license back winds up facing a revoked license charge, or any kind of charge that can legally delay their ability to file a license appeal, we have to work things out so that doesn’t happen, and they can mover forward sooner, rather than later.