Real Sobriety is the Basis for a Winning Driver’s License Restoration Appeal

To win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case, a person must show complete abstinence from alcohol and drugs. In addition, he or she must demonstrate a commitment to permanently remain abstinent. In other words, he or she must prove sobriety. As a Michigan driver’s license restoration law firm, we don’t just know sobriety, we live this stuff. Sobriety is at the core of everything we do, and there is nobody who understands it better than us.

Understanding sobriety is how we win Michigan driver's license restoration casesI learned a lot through the practice of driver’s license restoration and DUI law. Then, some years ago, I decided to go further and learn the clinical side of alcohol and substance abuse problems and recovery. To do that, I completed a formal, post-graduate program of addiction studies. Now, my team and I use this specialized knowledge every day to win driver’s license restoration cases. Everyone in our firm has a deep understanding of the development, diagnosis, treatment of and recovery from alcohol and substance abuse problems.

This is useful in several different ways. First, we know how to screen potential clients to make sure they really are clean and sober. The reader would likely be shocked at how many people call us and indicate that they’d be willing to say “whatever you need me to” in order to win back their drivers license. While such thinking is understandable, we’re not interested in anything like that. Our firm guarantees to win every driver’s license restoration and clearance appeal we accept. To do that, we ONLY take cases for people who are genuinely sober.

No matter how you cut it, sobriety is the absolute foundation of a winning Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal case. However, merely being sober, by itself, isn’t enough to prevail. A person has to prove it as required by law.

There are certain, specific questions that enable my team and I to separate those who truly sober from everyone else. In fact, one day not that long ago, our senior assistant made a passing comment to me that “I can tell if someone is sober or not in about 3 seconds.” It may actually take a bit longer for us to be sure, but the point is that, because we know real sobriety, we can easily identify anyone who is not. That, in turn, is how we can guarantee to win every restoration and clearance appeal case we take.

The Michigan Secretary of State hearing officers also know sobriety. That said, we sometimes have to help expand their understanding of it. Pretty much the first thing everyone learns and associates with sobriety is AA. While AA is a great program, it is certainly NOT the right fit for most people. Also, and contrary to what many believe, being in AA is not necessary to win a license restoration or clearance appeal case, either.

No matter what the hearing officer’s understanding of sobriety may be at any point in time, the rules governing license appeals still reign supreme. In fact, the hearing officers’ job description under those rules makes clear that they are not supposed to wrestle with deciding if someone wins or not.

Instead, the law mandates that the Michigan Secretary of State hearing officer must DENY an appeal unless the person proves his or her sobriety by what is defined as “clear and convincing evidence.” That makes better sense when you understand that, under Michigan law, anyone who has lost his or her license for 2 or more DUI’s is presumed to have an alcohol problem. That’s the starting point for all licnse appeals for anyone revoked as the result of multiple drunk driving convictions.

Now, let’s first set forth the relevant part of the governing rule. Then, we’ll quickly break down what it really means in plain English:

The hearing officer shall not order that a license be issued to the petitioner unless the petitioner proves, by clear and convincing evidence, all of the following:

i.  That the petitioner’s alcohol or substance abuse problems, if any, are under control and likely to remain under control.

ii.  That the risk of the petitioner repeating his or her past abusive behavior is a low or minimal risk.

iii. That the risk of the petitioner repeating the act of operating a motor vehicle while impaired by, or under the influence of, alcohol or controlled substances or a combination of alcohol and a controlled substance or repeating any other offense listed in section 303(1)(d), (e), or (f) or (2)(c), (d), (e), or (f) of the act is a low or minimal risk.

iv.  That the petitioner has the ability and motivation to drive safely and within the law.

v.   Other showings that are relevant to the issues identified in paragraphs (i) to (iv) of this subdivision.

That may all sound complicated, but here’s what it really means in simple terms:

The rule begins by clearly instructing the hearing officer to NOT grant the appeal unless the petitioner (meaning the person filing it) proves certain things by what is next defined as “clear and convincing evidence.” The reader can take this to mean that, in terms of proofs, anyone filing a license appeal has to hit what amounts to a home run.

Under the rule, there are essentially 2 things that must be proven –

First, that the person’s alcohol and/or substance abuse problem is “under control.” Simply put, a problem is considered “under control” when a person can show that he or she has been completely abstinent from alcohol (and drugs, including recreational marijuana) for a legally sufficient period of time. The precise amount of time varies depending on the person’s record and substance use history. As a general rule, though, our firm generally won’t move forward until someone has been clean for at least 18 months.

Second, that the person’s alcohol and substance abuse problem is “likely to remain under control.” This basically means that a person must demonstrate both the ability and commitment to remain alcohol and substance free permanently. Put another way, it means a person must show that he or she is a safe bet to remain clean and sober for life.

Taken together, it means that the law requires the hearing officer to say “no” to any appeal unless a person proves, by “clear and convincing evidence,” that he or she has been completely alcohol and drug-free and is likely to remain that way permanently.

One problem with all of this is the word “abstinent.” Under the rule, abstinence is required, but mere abstinence, by itself, is NOT the same thing as sobriety. This is something genuinely sober people fundamentally understand.

All sober people are abstinent from alcohol and drugs, but not all abstinent people are sober.

For example, plenty of people may have had abstinence forced upon them while incarcerated, or on probation. Simply not drinking or not using is NOT the same thing as having changed one’s life following a decision to never drink or use again.

Sobriety is qualitatively different than abstinence. Sobriety is a state of of being and a state of mind. Simply taking a break from alcohol or drugs for any period of time means being abstinent.

Sobriety, by contrast, can only start when a person has had enough of the problems caused by his or her drinking (or using), and then decides to quit for good. There is almost always an “a-ha” or “epiphany” moment that precedes any such decision to get sober.

And let’s be clear, there are often multiple “decisions” to quit drinking that don’t last. For many, getting sober is something of a journey. In fact, there is often a fairly long path leading up that decision to quit for good and then sticking with it.

Most people will try to control, limit or otherwise manage their drinking before they realize that such tactics don’t work. To be sure, some people manage to slow down for a while, but those who do finally quit for good almost always make the choice after learning that nothing less ever works.

As both DUI and driver’s license restoration lawyers, our experience with drinking, drinking problems, and sobriety is comprehensive.

First, it’s important to note that we’re not in court handling divorces, or trying murder cases. DUI and license restoration appeals are our bread and butter. My team and I literally spend all day, every day, dealing with alcohol and legal problems.

Think about it this way: as driver’s license restoration lawyers, my team and I deal with people who have managed to overcome a troubled relationship to alcohol and get sober. In that sense, our perspective is similar to that of the Michigan Secretary of State hearing officers who decide license appeal cases. This essentially provides a front row seat to how people recover.

As DUI lawyers, we are often involved with people who are struggling with their drinking. This is particularly true in 2nd offense and 3rd offense cases. Part of our job is to help them find the right kind of help. This perspective provides what amounts to a front row seat to see people who are actively struggling with a drinking problem. From that vantage point, we see people who succeed in getting sober, those who fail and try again, and those who just can’t stop, no matter what.

In other words, as DUI lawyers, we see people who need help with their drinking, and among them, some try, and others resist. We can follow along as some of those who do accept help get better, while others, unfortunately, fall back into troublesome alcohol use.

In our work as driver’s license restoration lawyers, we meet people much farther down that road, after that decision to quit drinking has worked, and they’ve stayed sober

And we’re human. We all have personal experience with friends and family and others from every point on the drinking and addiction spectrum. This includes normal drinkers, problem drinkers, and those who have embraced sobriety. We’ve had many people come to us outside of the legal setting to ask for some direction. We’re not substance abuse counselors, but we have helped countless people get in touch with someone who can help.

We know sobriety from the inside looking out and the outside looking in. A key part of that is also knowing bull$hit. We hear it all the time. Really knowing sobriety means knowing what isn’t sobriety.

People who are sober understand certain things in the same way that they know 2 plus 2 equals 4. They know, for example, that nobody ever quits drinking too soon. They can look back and realize that drinking had stopped being fun for a long time before they finally quit. They’ll nod in agreement with the statement that “I didn’t get in trouble every time I drank, but every time I got in trouble, I had been drinking.” Sobriety leaves no doubt that “one is too many, and a thousand is never enough.”

Soon enough, after quitting, sober people begin to feel better emotionally, mentally, physically, and sometimes even spiritually. They ditch the drinking friends, change what they do for “fun,” and, quite often, where they go. Their lives certainly change, but – to a person – they’ll all agree, all for the better.

Everyone who has managed to embrace a sober lifestyle instinctively understands that “my worst day sober still beats the hell out of my best day drunk.”

We could recount endless examples of this, but the one observation that probably puts it best is that anyone who is really sober KNOWS IT. There is no doubt. Those who flirt with abstinence haven’t undergone the profound life changes the way people do when they make and then stick with the decision to quit drinking forever. Sober people accept that they can never consume alcohol again.

Moreover, they wouldn’t want to, even if they could.

My team and I understand all of this. We’ve seen it from every vantage point a human can have. I can safely say this – there is no other law firm that understands this stuff anywhere near as well as ours does. I invite anyone who wonders if that’s just hype to call around and then call us to see for themselves.

If you’re looking for a lawyer to win your license back or clear a Michigan hold on your driving record so that you can obtain or renew a license in another state, be a wise consumer and read around. Pay attention to how different lawyers break down the license appeal process, and how they explain their various approaches to it.

This blog is a great place to start. It is updated weekly with new, original content, and is fully searchable. To-date, I have written and published over 670 articles in the driver’s license restoration section. The reader can find more useful information here than anywhere else, but don’t take my word for it – check for yourself.

Once you’ve done enough reading, start calling around. You can learn a lot by actually speaking with a live person. Our firm can handle your case no matter where you live, so make sure you give our office a ring as you explore your options.

All of our consultations are free, confidential, and done over the phone, right when you call. My team and I are very friendly people who will be glad to answer your questions and explain things. We’ll even be happy to compare notes with anything some other lawyer has told you.

We can be reached Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (EST) at 248-986-9700 or 586-465-1980.