Driver’s license appeals are intended to be hard to win. The Michigan Secretary of State has very strict standards for returning driver’s licenses. To be clear, this process has nothing to do with how much you may need a license, how long you’ve been without one, or that you haven’t been in any kind of trouble for a long time. Although this is a deep subject, the simplest way to put it is that the state wants to make sure that no one who loses his or her license for multiple DUI’s gets back on the road until they can show that they won’t drink anymore. Ever. Whatever else, people who don’t drink alcohol aren’t any risk to drink and drive again, so the line in the sand has been drawn there, meaning a person must demonstrate, by what is defined as “clear and convincing evidence,” that he or she has quit drinking and is likely to remain alcohol-free in order to have any chance of winning his or her license back. The whole license appeal process involves what I call “a million little rules,” but for all of that, timing is everything, and if you file your case too soon, you’ll run straight into a denial.
You must have enough sober time under your belt to win a license restoration or clearance case. Under the main rule (Rule 13) governing license appeals, a person must have at least 6 months of complete abstinence from alcohol to even be in the ballpark, legally speaking, to win his or her license back, BUT, and this is huge, the same rule specifically provides that the hearing officer may require at least (meaning more than) 12 months abstinence in just about any and every case. In the real world, you will always need more than a year of sobriety to have any chance of getting your license back. I guarantee to win every license appeal case I take, and in my practice, I generally want at least 18 months of genuine sobriety before I’ll let any of my clients sit for a hearing. And for all of that, I like it better when someone has even more clean time.
Not having enough sober time is a sure way to lose a license appeal. So how much is enough? You’re going to love this typical lawyer answer: it depends. Indeed, one of the reasons I can claim the title “driver license restoration lawyer” is that I can look at all the factors of a person’s situation and just “know” how much sober time is enough in any given case. Let me explain that with a few examples: