As a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I receive tons of emails from people who want to win back their driver’s license, or who need a clearance of Michigan’s hold on their driving record so they can get (or renew) a license out of state.  Many of these email messages are long, and recount the history of a person’s DUI convictions, and/or go on to explain how much they need a driver’s license.  As I read them, my eyes are searching for one thing – mention of sobriety.  All to often, people who send me a long story without any mention of quitting drinking or sobriety don’t pan out to be good candidates to win a license restoration or clearance appeal case.  The point I really want to make in this short and simple article is that sobriety is the absolute first and most important thing –  the real “meat and potatoes” – of a Michigan driver’s license restoration or out-of-state clearance case.

qwd-202x300I have written more about the license appeal process than everything else out there combined.  I haven’t seen much about the sobriety requirement on other legal websites.  By contrast, you would have to try hard to miss it on my site or in any of my articles.  Even the quickest glance at my stuff makes clear that you must have quit drinking in order to win a license appeal.  I provide a first time win guarantee in every case I take.  Yet even in the relevant (although short) guarantee sections of my website, I make clear that sobriety is a non-negotiable requirement.  Experience has convinced me that some people just look at the sheer volume of information I have put out about driver’s license appeals and just figure, “he’s the guy,” without taking the time to read any of my stuff.  If they did, they’d see how I put sobriety front and center in everything.  The only thing I can figure is that some people simply define sobriety differently.  This is an important point because, legally speaking, there is no flexibility here:  The rule set forth by the Michigan Secretary of State, through its Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) states that a license appeal “shall not” be granted unless the person proves that his or her alcohol problem is “under control” and, more important, is “likely to remain under control,” meaning that a person is a safe bet to never drink again.

There is no room in here for the misguided idea of having the occasional drink at home, or a toast at a wedding, or anything else.  The state requires “clear and convincing evidence” to prove you’ve quit drinking, sworn off alcohol for good, and have the commitment and the tools to stay sober for life.  Anything less is not enough, and the hearing officer is required to deny the appeal if you can’t prove that.  In fact, the rule governing these cases specifically begins by reminding the hearing officer that he or she is under a negative mandate to look for the reason(s) to deny an appeal, because it begins with this language: The hearing officer shall not order that a license be issued to the petitioner unless the petitioner proves, by clear and convincing evidence…” [that the person’s alcohol problem is under control and likely to remain under control].  Beyond denying anyone who so much as entertains the possibility of ever drinking again, the whole point of the license appeal process is to examine a person to make sure that, beyond just saying as much, he or she really does live, and is otherwise genuinely committed to, life without alcohol.

In my role as a Michigan DUI lawyer who has been practicing for nearly 27 years (as of this writing), I have literally handled thousands of drunk driving cases.  If there’s one thing you can bet on, it’s that after the traffic stop itself, if you’re asked out of the car, you ARE going to jail.  This short article will be a bit of a departure from my usual informational, legal examination of some aspect of a DUI case and focus instead on the common, real world experiences of people dealing with a drinking and driving case.  For just about anyone pulled over and suspected drunk driving, being asked to get out of the car means having to perform some field sobriety tests (FST’s), and that, in turn, amounts to what you could call the “ballet of the bust.”  You may stand and balance and walk and count in an effort to prove to the police officer that you’re not drunk, but what you’re really doing, in a sense, is dancing and talking your way into the backseat of the police car.

0018-Photographer-Unknown-Harpers-1407-630Here’s the kicker:  You’ll never meet anyone who was suspected of driving drunk, asked out of his or her car to perform FST’s, and then let go.  I’m sure there’s someone out there who’s had that happen, but I’ve never met anyone who has, despite having had tons of clients who claimed they did just fine on those tests.  Some of these clients report that they were asked to do test after test after test until they’d eventually screw something up, while others maintain that they were given a roadside breath test (called a PBT for “preliminary breath test”) even though they recall having performed rather well on the FST’s.  Certainly not every client is wrong about that, but plenty do, to put it nicely, “remember” things differently when drinking is involved.  Look, when you’re legally drunk (or twice or more the legal limit of .08), you don’t process things that well.  If you did really well on the FST’s and you remember everything clearly despite being legally drunk, then you’re probably a professional drinker, and that’s even worse!  One of the more interesting things I see, and I see it rather often, is the client who remembers handling him or herself pretty well in front of the officer, and who then cringes while watching the patrol car video and seeing how clearly drunk he or she was.

As part of my first interview with a new DUI client, I’ll ask him or her about his or her initial contact with the police.  I have a number of Matchbox police cars and civilian cars (no, those are NOT for kids) on my desk that we use for the client to show how things went down at the scene of the arrest.  While I ask the client to line up the police car (or cars) in relation to his or hers, I’ll also ask about what the officer did as he or she approached the vehicle.  Soon enough, we’ll get to that part where the client was asked to step out of the vehicle.  Here, I need to take my time and go over field sobriety tests, and the order in which they were given, along with all the other details (including if you had been asked to do a heel-to-toe walk barefoot, on a gravelly, slippery or uneven spot).  Most of the time, the client will recall having done “okay,” on some of the tests, while perhaps admitting to not doing quite so well on some of the other tests.  No matter how it happens, the story always goes from being asked out of the car to being arrested for a drinking and driving offense.

Within the more than 360 license restoration articles (as of this writing) I have put up on my blog, only a few have ever explored what goes on at an actual license appeal hearing.  I think that it’s about time to revisit this subject.  As a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I attend and conduct license hearings all the time. Indeed, I have 5 scheduled for next week alone.  It is understandable that people tend to think of their hearing as the climax of the license appeal or clearance process.  In truth, however, while it may feel that way, the hearing is actually not the apex of the license restoration or clearance process, and that’s a key point I want to address in this article.

scales-justice-legal-lady-liberty-233x300As important as the hearing is in any license case, it is really the preparation for it that matters even more.  Just a few days ago, as I was “prepping” my client for his hearing the next day, I told him that the proceeding itself would likely be rather short, and that we had probably spent more time preparing for it than we would actually spend in it.  I was right, and in less than a half hour, my client left the hearing room having won back his privilege to drive again.  This may sound trite, but the simple fact is, if you’re going in there to tell the truth, then the hearing isn’t that big a deal after all.  In the context of a license appeal, the Michigan Secretary of State requires you to prove, by what is defined as “clear and convincing evidence,” 2 things: First, that your alcohol (and/or substance abuse) problem is “under control,” meaning that you can fix a sobriety date, and then second (and even more important), that your alcohol (and/or substance abuse) problem is “likely to remain under control,” meaning that you have really quit drinking for good and are a safe bet to not drink again.  If you want to cut right to the heart of the matter, this all means that sobriety is really the “meat and potatoes” of a driver’s license appeal case.  In a word, sobriety is everything.

Here’s why I say the hearing isn’t such a big deal:  I will only take cases for people who are genuinely sober, but in exchange, I guarantee to win every case I take.  When a person has truly gone through the profound transformation from drinker to non-drinker, then the hearing becomes an opportunity to talk about that.  Getting sober isn’t something you can fake, nor is explaining your recovery journey like standing in front of the class, taking some math test where you have to remember calculations and rules.  In a license appeal hearing, it’s you telling your own story, and details aren’t a problem when you tell the truth.  If I’m your lawyer, I’m right there with you, to help.  “Help,” in that sense, means that I ask you questions and make sure that your answers are complete and see to it that your nerves don’t get the best of you.  If you forget or otherwise misstate something, I’m there to make sure we back up and get it right, or otherwise clarify it.  Part and parcel of my job is to have your case memorized, from your sobriety date to who your letter writers are and what they have said about you, and when I walk into that hearing room with you, I sure as hell do.   Let’s turn, now, to how this all plays out in the hearing room…

As a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer, about 2 of the most common questions that I’m asked are, “Am I going to jail?” and “Can you keep me out of jail?”  Even the quickest look at a sampling of DUI lawyer websites reveals that the whole “Avoid jail!” theme is used everywhere, by everyone.  It seems to be the strongest pitch a lawyer can make for your money.  I’m no exception; I make it, too, and I know that if I was in a pickle, staying out of jail would certainly be my first and biggest concern.  However, as I have pointed out in many of my various DUI articles on this blog (as well as my website), in the kinds of drunk driving cases and clients I handle, jail is usually not, for the most part, even on the menu.  But the cold truth that I have not seen addressed (until now) on any lawyer site is that some people do, in fact go to jail., and you can be sure that the folks sitting there didn’t book themselves in voluntarily.

jail-thumbIt is generally understood that, as a lawyer, talking about this isn’t good for business.  That’s why attorneys avoid it like the plague.  That’s also a disservice, however, to someone seeking real world information about what happens after a drunk driving arrest.  Of course, it’s my first goal to avoid jail as much as possible, in every situation possible, but even the WORST lawyer out there has the same goal, although perhaps not the skill to do it quite so well.  There is no hard and fast rule about who does get some jail time as opposed to who doesn’t, but there are a few helpful observations we can make to clarify things a bit.  On the one hand, if you’re facing a 1st offense DUI, you’re not really facing any jail time.  On the other hand, someone with a bad record has a much better chance of doing some time than a person with no prior record.  I addressed this in a recent article, and common sense is a pretty good guide here.  If you’re facing your 5th DUI, then yeah, you can count on some time.  Beyond that, however, there is a mix of variables that figures into all of this.  Some jurisdictions are really tough, while others are much more forgiving.  In fact, one Judge can be way more lenient than another would be in the exact same situation.  You also have to include the prosecutor in this mix of variables, as well, because not only do individual prosecutors from the same office have different approaches to things, but some offices are much more flexible than others.

Our discussion here will be limited to the things I handle my own practice: DUI cases and criminal cases involving things like suspended and revoked license charges, drug possession, and other misdemeanors and lower-level felonies, mostly for professionals or other good wage earners. meaning good people caught up in a bad situation.  For the most part, if you’re a solid citizen and haven’t been in trouble before, and you’re facing something like a DUI or suspended license charge, jail isn’t really on the menu at all.  Even if you have had a prior scrape with the law, including, perhaps, a prior DUI, you’re still probably safe in almost every one of the courts where I practice.  But here’s where things get dicey:

In part 1 of this article, I began my examination of the role of alcohol and substance abuse related issues in Michigan criminal, DUI and driver’s license restoration cases, and how my specialized background, which includes having completed a post-graduate program of addictions studies, makes my office different.  I pointed out that I balance my overriding mission to help people at all phases of their relationship to substances, but to never become “preachy” or seemingly fixated.  We looked at how alcohol and drug issues are interwoven into the vast majority of criminal cases, and of course, all DUI charges and possession cases.  I cautioned that, as much as I want to help people recognize and deal with substance abuse related issues, there are plenty of situations where I use my clinical knowledge to prevent a person from being perceived as having an alcohol or drug problem they don’t.  This is especially relevant in 1st offense DUI cases, where a drunk driving incident that just happens runs up against the court’s inherent “alcohol bias.”  In this second installment, we’ll turn our focus more to recovery, and how a deep knowledge of recovery and recovery processes is important to the win I guarantee in every driver’s license restoration case I take, and how all of these considerations kind of coalesce in criminal cases.

https://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2017/01/drug-addiction-spiritual-recovery-1.1-289x300.jpgIn the context of a Michigan driver’s license restoration case, understanding recovery is everything.  A person must prove his or her case by what is called “clear and convincing evidence” (this is a high standard of proof; think of it as requiring, in part, that after the evidence in a case is presented, the hearing officer deciding it will not be left with any lingering or unanswered questions).  There are 2 primary things a person must show:  First, the person must demonstrate that his or her alcohol (and/or substance abuse) problem is “under control,” meaning that he or she can fix a sobriety date (this doesn’t have to be an exact date; someone might say, for example, “early fall of 2009,” or something like that), and second, that his or her alcohol (and/or substance abuse) problem is “likely to remain under control.”  This means that the person can show that he or she is a safe bet to never drink (and/or use) again, and has cultivated the commitment and the tools to remain sober.  This is complicated stuff, as anyone who has tried a license appeal before and lost knows all too well, particularly if the person was genuinely sober.

That I really understand recovery from the inside-out, the outside-in, and from all the clinical perspectives, as well, provides me with a huge advantage as a license restoration lawyer.  So much so, in fact, that I guarantee to win every case I take.  The catch?  I will only take a case for someone who is truly sober.  As far as I know, I’m the only lawyer who writes anything at all about sobriety, and I am completely certain that amongst every other lawyer out there, I have written more about sobriety than all of them combined – and HUNDREDS of times over, at that.  The job of the Michigan Secretary of State Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) hearing officers is more or less to “test” whether a person is sober or not, and they are very knowledgeable and do their best to examine the clinical information provided in a license appeal case through the lens of the legal requirements that must be met in order to win.  It is the lawyer’s job to make sure that the clinical evidence submitted meets those legal standards.  That task is a HELL of a lot easier when, as the lawyer, I fully grasp the clinical and practical realities involved in getting sober.  For everything that could be said here, the bottom line is this:  If you’re sober, then you know that sobriety is a journey, and not a destination.

The other day, my paralegal, Ashlee, told me of a conversation he had with a caller who had gotten into trouble because of a relapse after having been clean and sober for a number of years.  She smiled as she recalled telling the caller, “Well, you certainly called the right place with us because we kind of specialize in substance abuse matters.”  I nodded in agreement, but as I began to think about it later, realized how accurate Ashlee’s statement really was.  Every single day, for almost all of the day, my staff and I deal with issues related to drinking and drugs in criminal, DUI and driver’s license restoration cases.  These issues are so central to what I do (more on that in a bit) that a number of years ago, I returned to the University campus (no online classes for me) and completed a post-graduate program of addiction studies.  Between handling DUI cases and driver’s license restoration appeals, issues directly related to the development, diagnosis, treatment of and recovery from alcohol and/or drug use disorders are at the core of everything I do.  In this 2-part article, I want to look at the critical importance of understanding substance abuse issues in the context of DUI (OWI) and driver’s license restoration cases, and in certain other criminal cases, as well.

In a 1st offense DUI case, for example, I use my clinical https://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2017/01/SA1.1.jpgtraining to prevent a person who does not have a drinking problem from getting caught up in the court system’s inherent “alcohol bias” and wind up being treated like he or she does.  This means I work to prevent them from getting ordered into unnecessary substance abuse counseling, education and/or treatment.  By contrast, when a person with a 2nd offense DUI tries to explain, as many 2nd offenders do, that no matter how bad things look and how much the court system will “think so,” he or she doesn’t have a drinking problem, I have to make clear that, by law, that every 2nd offender is required to complete some kind of counseling.  I must also make clear that, clinically speaking, no matter how much the person does or does not drink, just by their record alone, there is obviously some kind of risky relationship to alcohol.  I have to help my client see that, at this point, labels don’t really matter anymore.  I deal with it all, from 1st time DUI offenders who quite obviously have a serious drinking problem to 2nd offenders who do not, and really are just unlucky, The same holds true for certain criminal charges, and particularly drug and even marijuana possession cases.

The court system is not (and does not have the resources to be) very nuanced or subtle about a person’s relationship to alcohol, operating instead from the position that, if you’re facing a DUI, you probably have some kind of drinking problem.  Lawyers typically line up to make their money by agreeing with and never challenging a client who say, “not me.”  From a business point of view, the customer is always right, so if a client with multiple prior DUI’s calls in and is looking for a lawyer who will echo that he or she doesn’t have problem, it’s a temptation that’s hard for many to resist.  After all, money talks and BS walks, right?  On the flip side, however, nobody really wants to hire some lawyer who thinks he or she is Ms. Sobriety or Mr. Rehab, either, and won’t fight to protect them.  Where, then, is the balance?  I think it’s fair to say that if we are going to be honest here, we need to acknowledge that a lot of the trouble people get into, especially those that result in DUI, criminal or drug possession charges, are the result of poor decisions made after drinking or using.  Imagine if you asked a law-abiding, non-drug using person, “Would you mind keeping these  Vicodin pills (or this cocaine, or whatever) in your pocket while as we drive around?”  They’d look at you like your nuts – but to a drug user, having them in their pocket as they travel around in a car doesn’t seem like such a stupid idea.  The point I’m making is that the court system doesn’t have it completely wrong about alcohol and drug problems and how they “ride in” with various cases, but that same system doesn’t always get it right, either.  Not every DUI driver has a drinking problem.  The lawyer must find the right balance between these seemingly competing positions in order to produce the best outcome possible for the client.  Here’s what I mean…

One of the most important issues that I face as a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer is a person’s prior record.  It is absolutely critical to how things work out in just about every case.  Curiously, it is a subject that has largely been overlooked on lawyer’s websites, mine included.  In this article, I want to take a look at how a person’s prior record can affect the outcome of his or her case, and how this applies across the board, from serious things like 3rd offense (felony) DUI all the way to a simple traffic ticket, and everything in-between, including 1st and 2nd offense drunk driving cases, as well.  This is not a pretty topic, because the simple truth is that it’s not good for a lawyer’s business to be writing things that can make a case seem tougher as opposed to all the things that can make it better, but your record is a necessary topic to discuss, and any lawyer worth a nickel is going to have to address it at some point with his or her client.  I think it’s about time to drag it out into the light and give it a good once-over.

criminal-clipart-criminal-clipart-1-281x300In some cases, the importance of a prior criminal record (or lack thereof) is obvious; for example, in DUI cases, because a person with a prior conviction within 7 years will be charged with a “2nd offense.”  In DUI cases, there is no getting around a case being a 2nd offense or 3rd offense, whereas a person arrested for something like possession of marijuana may be charged and ultimately treated like a 1st time offender, even if he or she has a prior record for the very same thing.  Worse yet, there seems to be little or no logic as to why, beyond just being “lucky,” in a manner of speaking.  In other situations, a person may have a prior record for a completely unrelated offense, or even multiple offenses; those convictions may be recent, old, or a even a combination thereof.  It goes without saying that having NO record at all is better than having any kind of record, but given that a prior scrape or two with the law isn’t that uncommon, lots of very good people have some missteps in their past.  That said, I’m sure the reader understands that the fewer of those on record, the better.  This should make sense without the need for any kind of further explanation.

This can get weird, however, because in the real world, a prior record can be a big deal in some cases, and not matter much, or even at all, in others.  I have, for example, represented someone with a rather bad record charged with his or her 1st DUI and have been able to easily reduce the drunk driving charge because the person doesn’t have any prior drinking and driving convictions.  By contrast, there are some really tough jurisdictions (thankfully most of which are NOT in the Detroit-area) where a single, unrelated and old conviction can be a stumbling block to a plea bargain in a new and completely unrelated case.  With these somewhat extreme and opposite situations serving as bookends, let’s turn now to how things most often play out in the real world.

No one is really prepared for a DUI, so when it happens, it is natural for a person to want to know what to expect.  Of course, the most pressing questions fall into the “what is going to happen to me?” and “am I going to jail?” category, but another rather common question asked of me is “how many times do you think I’ll have to go to court?”  In this article, I want to answer that question, at least as it applies to OWI cases in the Detroit-area (Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties).  Our primary focus will be on what a person facing a 1st offense DUI (this includes High BAC cases, as well) can expect, but we’ll also examine, albeit briefly, the likely number of court appearances for 2nd and 3rd (felony) offenses, as well.  It is important to note at the outset that where a case is pending has a lot to do with this, as does the strategy used in the case, but our focus here will be more on how many times you have to show up, rather than the reasons why.

1300654103_calendar-man-smallMost of the time in the real world, and for most people reading this, the concern about how many court appearances you’ll have to attend arises in a 1st offense DUI case.  The reason I say this is that almost everyone facing a 2nd or subsequent offense probably realize that there is a pretty strong “it depends” component to all of this.  Keep in mind that that there is no set number of times a person must go to court for a drinking and driving case, although it is pretty much written in stone that a person will have at least 2 court dates in any case.  The exception comes if a person who lives out-of-state picks up a DUI here in Michigan.  In such cases, I am usually able to arrange things so that the person can come back and get everything done in one day.  For everyone else, you can start with the idea that you will have at least 2 court dates – “at least” being an important, minimum qualifier.

I hate to sound old and get into all those “back in the day” stories, but, truth be told, up until a number of years ago, a DUI lawyer like me could simply waive a person’s arraignment in a 1st offense DUI case in just about every local, Detroit-area court.  This means a person could skip the first court date.  Let me explain what an arraignment means first, and then I’ll explain why it’s still possible in most, but not all cases, to waive it.  An arraignment is a preliminary proceeding (the first thing that happens in any criminal case) wherein a person goes to court to be told of the exact charge against him or her, and have a bond set.  The reason it was (and still is, in most places) so easy to “waive” is that you’d kind of have to be a block-head to be arrested for drunk driving, held overnight in jail, then let go, but somehow NOT know you’re being charged with a DUI.  As to bond, most people are let out of jail after posting a few hundred bucks, anyway, although plenty of people are let go without having to pay a dime.  Even if a person was let out of jail for no money, once they’ve hired a lawyer and he or she files papers with the court, it kind of goes without saying that they’ve been told all about the DUI they’re being charged with, and the fact that they’ve hired a lawyer is as good assurance as any that they’re going to show up to court and not skip out.  There is really no reason to drag them into court to tell them they’re being charged with a drunk driving offense…

A big part of being a Michigan DUI lawyer is representing people who have never been in trouble before.  A drunk driving charge is a criminal charge, but the kind of client for whom I handle a DUI is hardly any kind of “criminal.”  Most of my DUI clients are people who have never been arrested before, and therefore never imagined being transported to a police station in handcuffs and spending a night in jail.  Then it happens.  If you’re reading this, chances are you, at least someone you care about, has recently been through a DUI arrest.  If it’s you, then you know it sucks.  If it’s your spouse, partner, sibling, child or someone important to you, you’re probably sharing in the misery.  Let me begin with the good news; Assuming you didn’t hurt anyone, and with the exception of just one Judge in the Greater-Detroit area, there is almost certainly no more jail in your future for a 1st offense DUI.  I say this upfront because I hate how some lawyers pander to people’s fears.  You know the type; they’re everywhere, reminding you of all the ways that a drunk driving charge can ruin your life while selling their services to save you from certain doom.  To be sure, a DUI is serious business, but in more than 26 years, I’ve represented people from every walk of life – from surgeons to sergeants, nurses to nannies, teachers to techies, engineers to bakers – and NOT ONE of my 1st offense drinking and driving clients has ever lost a job, or otherwise been “ruined.”

article-2255011-16B27161000005DC-30_634x603-300x285I wish I could say it was all thanks to me, but the honest truth is that, as scary as all of this can seem, the legal system itself is not designed to destroy anyone’s life over a DUI.  Sure, there is punishment and there are sanctions; the idea is to make it hurt enough so that you won’t let it happen again.  For the most part, that works, at least for my typical client, who is a professional with a lot to lose.  Often enough, a client will present to me with concerns about his or her occupational or professional licensure (everyone presents with concerns about his or driver’s license).  These are all manageable issues, and I mean manageable in the sense that, if handled properly, there will be no interruption or suspension of one’s ability to keep his or her job, or practice in a licensed field.  Still, I understand that there is a kind of persisting mortification that a person experiences after being released from his or her overnight in jail, and the point I want to make here is that while such feelings are normal, they are also, fortunately, misplaced.  The worst is already over.

And therein, really, lies the mystery and the truth.  While a DUI can be a threat to your future, most of the worst consequences aren’t even on the menu in a 1st offense case.  Proper and timely defensive action can protect you from most of the other potential fallout, as well.  The mystery here is the sense of unknown surrounding what will happen – “Am I going to go to jail?” – (no), while the truth is that bundle other consequences that you are at a very real risk to experience.  This is where all that “proper and timely defensive action” comes into play.  And to be clear, “timely” does NOT mean hurry up and hire a lawyer.  On the contrary, you should take your time and get to know the lawyers you’re considering by reading their articles and websites.  There is NEVER a reason to hurry up and hire a lawyer, and the only reason any lawyer would suggest you “act now” or “call today” is so that you won’t continue to look around, explore your options, and find someone else.  Believe me, there is simply no good reason to ever NOT put in the time to really do your homework when it comes to hiring a lawyer.

For everything that has been and can be written about Michigan driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals (and there is a lot), all of it can be reduced to one word: Sobriety.  Sobriety is not only the key to winning your license back, it is the foundation (the real meat and potatoes) of the license appeal process; it is the first and a necessary requirement to beginning that process and, very often, the motivator for those who are truly inspired to improve their lives.  To put that another way, while it is understood that everybody “needs” a license, when people get sober, their lives get better; they do things like get married, have kids, and get better jobs.  As their responsibilities in the world rise (a direct result of not drinking anymore), they not only need a license, but want one to ride the wave of their life getting better.  In that sense, sobriety is the cause for life getting better, and that, in turn, becomes the cause for the need to get back on the road.

ad42367d5c022a9c3e2ccfa3bf9879e2-300x300In my numerous writings about the license appeal process, I am very clear that I will only take cases for people who are genuinely sober.  That’s not just some standard that I set.  The whole license restoration system is really focused on that single point; people who have honestly quit drinking for good are no risk to drink and drive again.  Anyone who is seen as a risk to pick up a drink again is also seen as an unacceptable risk to drink and drive again.  The Michigan Secretary of State has drawn a line in the sand, and it separates non-drinkers from everyone else.  I could have just as easily said “drinkers from non-drinkers,” but that’s the kind of wordplay some people try to use as they argue that they don’t really “drink” very much, and, as such, aren’t really “drinkers” anymore.  They’ll insist that they can manage to enjoy the occasional glass of wine with dinner or such, once in a while, without risk.  The Michigan license reinstatement rules and the court cases interpreting them (and, most importantly, the hearing officers who apply all that to real life cases and make the real-world decisions about who wins and who loses) don’t allow for any of that.  No one in the state system buys the “once in a while” thing about drinking, and the rules specifically forbid anyone who still drinks, however infrequently, from winning their license back. The only people who will even be considered for re-licensure are those who can prove that they have completely given up drinking, and who really mean to stay sober for life.

That last part is important, because plenty of people will figure out enough about the license restoration process to know that the only chance to win back the ability to drive is to convince the state that they won’t drink again.  If it was just as easy as saying so, I’d almost be out of a job, and all anyone would have to do is keep a straight face and tell the hearing officer that they’ve quit drinking for good.  The whole point of the appeal process is to make people prove that they are genuinely sober, and for the AHS hearing officers to sniff out those who are just saying it from those who really mean it. What’s more, since the overriding concern is to make sure that no one who is seen as a risk to ever drink again wins his or her case, it is understood that plenty of genuinely sober people will get denied.  This is just the price for setting the bar so high.  The idea here is that even if a person who has honestly quit drinking gets denied a time or two, they’ll eventually get the right help to be able to prove their sobriety.  And that’s where I come in…