If you have a Michigan hold on your driving record, it will prevent you from getting (or, in some cases, renewing) a license in another state. If that hold is from a revocation following multiple DUI’s, you won’t be able to have it removed until you win a formal driver’s license clearance appeal. As Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, handling out-of-state clearance appeals is a HUGE part of our work. Out of the 200-plus license appeal matters we handle each year, over 40% of them involve clearances for people who do not live in Michigan.
In this article, we’re going to look at how a Michigan driver’s license clearance appeal should be done. My team and I are long beyond the point of just “knowing” how to do them. Instead, we have developed, implemented, and, ultimately, refined a system to handle clearance appeals that is so good, we guarantee to win every case we take (more on that later). The key to our success lies in the fact that we handle and manage every single detail and facet of every case we take, right from the start. This allows us to have complete quality control, and while that may sound boastful, it’s not; it’s just a fact.
To be blunt about it, anything less is simply not good enough. A person doesn’t lose a license appeal because he or she got 99% of it right; he or she loses because of the one thing in their case that was missed, or that wasn’t good enough, or that was just plain done wrong. Because our firm makes sure we control everything that goes into a case, we don’t have that problem. This is true even though appeals are now heard remotely, as is much of the legal work we do that goes into them.
Just to be clear, the remote hearings of today are very different than the old kind of video hearings of old that I had always opposed. Prior to our firm’s implementation of remote attorney-client meetings, and the adoption of remote substance use evaluations and, ultimately, remote formal license appeal hearings, we required our out-of state clients to come back to Michigan twice: First, to meet with us, and have their evaluation completed, and then later, to return for the hearing.
We did this because it allowed us to exercise complete control over everything.
Whereas anyone who wins a restoration case gets a restricted Michigan license and has to drive on an interlock for a year, a person who wins a clearance gets just that – a clearance. This means that Michigan’s hold on his or her driving record will be removed, and he or she can go get a license in their new home state. This almost always clears the way for full driving privileges without any restrictions or interlock required.
Before we go further, it’s important to first note that license appeals are all about not drinking. Above and beyond everything else, the entire process is designed to make sure that anyone who is let back on the road poses no risk to drink and drive again.
Under Michigan law, anyone whose license has been revoked for multiple DUI’s (2 within 7 years, or 3 within 10 years) is legally categorized as a “habitual alcohol offender,” and as part of that, is also legally presumed to have at least some kind of drinking problem. In other words, any person undertaking a license appeal after 2 or more DUI’s is assumed, by law, to have some kind of problematic relationship to alcohol.
In order to win the case, he or she must prove that they’ve quit drinking, haven’t consumed any alcohol or drugs, including recreational marijuana, for a “legally sufficient” period of time (our firm generally requires a person to have been completely abstinent for AT LEAST 18 months before we’ll move forward with an appeal), and that they are committed to never drinking (or using recreational marijuana) again, for life.
Technically speaking, the law requires a person to prove, by what is specified as “clear and convincing evidence,” that his or her alcohol problem is “under control,” meaning the person has been abstinent for that legally sufficient period of time, and that it is “likely to remain under control,” meaning that he or she has both the ability and the intention to remain abstinent from all substances for good.
The Michigan Secretary of State sees anyone whose license has been yanked for multiple DUI’s is a demonstrated risk when it comes to drinking and driving. The safest bet – and the only one the state will take – is on people who can prove they don’t and won’t drink, because non-drinkers present zero risk to ever drive drunk.
Therefore, the only people who can win a license appeal are those who prove that they’ve quit drinking for good and who otherwise show themselves to be likely to remain clean and sober for life.
Circling back to the issue of control, my team and I exercise it from the very start of every case we take; our clients go to see our evaluator, but even before that, they meet with us to prepare for their evaluation.
Over the course of 30-plus years, we have read countless evaluations brought by clients who hire us after having tried and lost a “do-it-yourself” appeal, or who used some lawyer that didn’t concentrate in license restoration cases. Out of all of those, we have only found a few evaluators good enough to meet our standards.
As of now, we use 1 primary evaluator whose office is near ours, and another whose office is across town. We used to have a third, but he passed away a few years ago.
One of the problems with the whole license appeal process is that just about any substance abuse counselor can look at the substance use evaluation form published by the Michigan Secretary of State and figure, “I can do that.” In truth, if he or she was using that form to transfer his or her client to another counselor, he or she would probably be right.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that the information requested by the form seems straightforward, the Secretary of State has very specific requirements regarding the information it wants, and, just as important, what it doesn’t want.
My team and I have worked hand in hand with our evaluators for years, and have even brought our primary evaluator to live hearings as an observer in order to see how things are done and how evaluations are used in context.
It would not be an exaggeration to say we have spent thousands of hours with our primary evaluator going over cases and discussing clients and talking about the substance use evaluation and how the hearing officers interpret the information provided, as well as what each one of the nine current hearing officers want, and what they don’t want.
It is an utter failure for some lawyer to meet a client and either tell that person to “go get an evaluation,” or otherwise just hand him or her the business card of some counselor to contact for an evaluation. The way we do things requires us to first meet (now, mostly virtually) with each client before his or her evaluation and prepare him or her to undergo it.
One of the key things we do at that first meeting is fill out a form of our own making that kind of mirrors the state’s form, line-by-line, so that we know the evaluator will get every relevant detail needed to complete it.
We review the client’s driving record, and we “mark it up,” often color-coding it, so that the evaluator will see all of the important entries that need to be included and addressed within the substance use evaluation.
That’s a world apart from just telling a client to go see someone and “get” and evaluation. Our clients walk into our evaluator’s office not just “prepared,” but thoroughly prepared for what’s going to happen, and our evaluator is provided with all the information that will need to be included in the evaluation.
As noted above, we guarantee to win every driver’s license restoration and clearance appeal case we take. As such, we count on earning our money by winning these cases the first time around, not by having to do the whole thing all over again – for free – as “warranty work.”
Our guarantee not only makes us equally invested in our client’s success, it also stands as a kind of safety measure that ensures we do everything right the first time so that we don’t have to re-do a case.
Accordingly, all that stuff about quality control isn’t just talk. We actually do micro-manage every last part of every restoration and clearance case we take. Here’s what that looks like in summary form:
1. Carefully screen potential client to make sure they really are sober.
2. Meet with client to prepare him or her for substance use evaluation.
3. Go over requirements for letters of support with client and provide an example letter.
4. Prepare documents for evaluator based upon information we get from client.
5. Exchange necessary information with evaluator about the client and the case.
6. Review and edit all letters of support, returning same to client to be re-done.
7. Review evaluation alongside final draft of letters, checking for accuracy.
8. Review everything carefully before filing.
9. Review file again, and then prepare client for license appeal hearing.
10. Attend license appeal hearing with client, making sure nothing important gets missed.
To some, that last one (#10) can sound like a bunch of self-serving mumbo-jumbo, but here again, it’s about control. All that “reviewing” of a case means we’ll be on top of the story behind the person’s recovery, and make sure that it gets told as part of the hearing.
Remember, every person’s recovery IS a story in its own right. Nobody quits drinking because it’s working out so well. There is always a backstory to why a person finally stops, and it’s usually after any number of unsuccessful attempts to control, cut down, limit and manage one’s drinking.
That story is huge, and it ultimately becomes the theme of a person’s case.
Some hearing officers expect the lawyer to present the case and do most of the questioning, while some, by contrast, prefer to ask most of the questions themselves. Other hearing officers fall in the middle, developing the case through a combination of questions asked by the lawyer, and some they ask themselves.
No matter who asks what, it’s our job, as the lawyers controlling the case, to make sure it does, in fact, get fully developed on the record. When a person has really thrown in the towel and decided to give up drinking for good, his or her life changes in numerous and profound ways. That’s the kind of stuff that can’t be faked, and what we have to make sure gets told.
The hearing officers know full well that lots of people understand the whole “I quit drinking” thing, and will try to BS their way through the process that way. They expect to get lied to, so one of their primary job skills is to sort out those individuals who really are sober from everyone else.
When a person really has undergone the life-changing transition from drinker to non-drinker, there’s a real story behind it, and we make sure that it’s correctly put in the framework of a winning license appeal.
If you are looking for a lawyer to clear the hold on your Michigan driving record so that you can get a license in another state, be a wise consumer and read around. This blog is a great place to start, and with over 640 fully searchable articles to-date in the Driver’s License Restoration section examining every aspect of license appeal, it has more information than can be found any and everywhere else combined.
Don’t take my word for it, though – check around.
When you’ve done enough of that, then call around. You can learn a lot by speaking with a live person.
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 b glad to answer your questions, explain things, and even 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.