What does it mean to be a real Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer? It’s likely that anyone reading this has been searching for information about driver’s license restoration, and has come across endless attorney sites hawking their services. What one hopes to find, of course, is helpful and useful information from a reliable source, and that’s what my team and I provide. We describe ourselves as “driver’s license restoration lawyers,” and as a “Michigan driver’s license restoration law firm,” because that’s exactly who and what we are.
To be a real “driver’s license restoration lawyer,” license appeal cases must be a primary focus of an attorney’s practice – as they are with our firm. We specifically concentrate in DUI and driver’s license restoration and clearance cases. Our practice is like a “Q-tip,” with DUI’s on one end, license restorations on the other, with alcohol as the “stick” that connects them together. Almost all driver’s license restoration appeals follow from DUI cases, and underlying each is a person’s overall relationship to alcohol: DUI cases are all about drinking – and license appeal cases about not drinking.
Most people know that drunk driving is a criminal offense. Therefore, a DUI case is a criminal case, although it is a special kind of criminal case. In a very real way, all DUI lawyers are criminal lawyers, but not all criminal lawyers are DUI lawyers. There are plenty of lawyers who have a more general criminal practice, and will take most or all criminal cases that comes their way. If one steps up the legal ladder a bit, then he or she can find lawyers who concentrate their practices in specific areas of criminal law, like DUI cases, sex crimes, or white collar offenses.
Accordingly, it makes sense that the best lawyer to try a murder case is almost certainly NOT the right person for a DUI case, any more than the best DUI lawyer would be the right choice to try a murder case.
Central to both driver’s license restoration and DUI cases is the fact that a person was caught driving while drunk. In that sense, both kind of cases are “related,” but it’s important to note that not all DUI lawyers handle driver’s license restoration cases. There are way more attorneys who would consider themselves to be “DUI lawyers” than who would label themselves “driver’s license restoration lawyers,” no matter how accurate (or not) any such description might be.
In fact, by looking around, one can find all kinds of marketing self-descriptions among lawyers. Some will simply indicate that they “do” DUI and/or license appeal cases, while others will outright call themselves DUI lawyers.
There are only a few of us, though, who will describe themselves as driver’s license restoration lawyers, although because of the way these 2 subjects interact, it’s highly unlikely that some lawyer with a practice “focused” in driver’s license restoration cases would not also have a significant concentration in DUI cases, like our firm does.
While it is true that alcohol is at the core of both DUI and driver’s license appeal cases, and they share that commonality, there are some profound differences between DUI these kinds of cases, as well.
In order to explain what makes a good Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, we’re going to take a detour and talk about DUI cases and DUI lawyers, first. I point this out this because even though it may seem like I’ve lost the thread in this article, this diversion is necessary, and I want the reader to stick with me.
By doing so, he or she will come away with a much better understanding of license appeals in general, and what to look for in a “driver’s license restoration lawyer,” in particular.
As a technical detail, the reader should note that, in Michigan, the legal term for what everyone calls a “DUI” is actually “OWI,” or “Operating While Intoxicated.”
Whatever term one uses, in DUI cases, the key legal issue is whether or not a person was driving while his or her BAC was over the legal limit. Consequently, the focus in drunk driving cases is on things like the metabolization of alcohol consumed around the time the person was driving, the reliability of chemical and field sobriety tests, and the ensuing results.
By contrast, in driver’s license restoration cases, there is a much wider inquiry into a person’s drinking history, as well as his or her future plans with respect to alcohol. To even begin a license appeal case, the Michigan Secretary of State requires a detailed substance use history that includes a person’s first drink to his or her last, and everything in-between.
Under Michigan law, if a person is convicted of an OWI offense, the court is required to screen him or her to determine if he or she has an existing or potential problem with alcohol.
This is particularly important in 1st offense DUI cases.
By the time a person has to file a restoration appeal after losing his or her license as the result of multiple DUI’s, it is a foregone conclusion that he or she has (or at least had) some kind of problematic relationship to alcohol.
This isn’t just a practical matter, either: In Michigan, anyone who racks up 2 DUI’s within 7 years, or 3 within 10 years is automatically categorized as a “habitual alcohol offender,” and as a consequence of that, will be legally presumed to have an alcohol problem.
What the Secretary of State looks for in a license restoration case is proof that a person has accepted his or her drinking has become problematic, made the decision to quit, and has both the commitment and ability to remain sober for life.
To properly handle a restoration or clearance appeal case (at least well enough to guarantee a win, as my team and I do), a lawyer must thoroughly understand recovery, because everyone’s is unique.
A DUI lawyer can get by, and do “okay” handling OWI cases without much of an understanding of how alcohol problems develop, how they’re diagnosed, and, ultimately, how they’re treated, because, at least in Michigan, the court assumes that responsibility.
However, being able to merely “get by” is a far cry from being able to produce the best result possible for a client in a DUI case.
The very best conceivable outcome for anyone facing a DUI charge is to have the whole thing dismissed. Statistically speaking, however, the overwhelming majority of DUI cases do not get thrown out of court. Anyone reading this article for information about driver’s license restoration has already learned that lesson firsthand.
In the real world, the best practical outcome is the one in which a person can avoid as many of the legal penalties and negative consequences as possible.
In that regard, the gold standard for handling DUI cases, and a motto of our firm, is that success in a DUI case is best measured by what does NOT happen to you.
Accolades and self-praise aside, the simple fact is that all the “legal” and technical knowledge about evidence and the evaluation of the reliability of breath and blood testing is of absolutely ZERO use once there has been a plea or conviction in a DUI case, or if the evidence is otherwise legally solid.
If a person doesn’t get his or her DUI case dismissed, then the Judge is going to order him or her to do certain things (like attend classes or counseling), and not do other things (like consume any alcohol), as a term of his or her sentence, while on probation.
This means that the best thing a lawyer can do for the client is to protect him or her from being seen as having any kind of alcohol problem when they don’t, and making sure that the person doesn’t get slammed with any unnecessary counseling or treatment as a condition of probation.
If a person does have an identifiable drinking problem, then a good DUI lawyer – one with the kind of skills that enable him or her to do a lot more than just “get by” – will ensure that the client doesn’t get stuck with any kind of counseling or treatment that isn’t a good fit for him or her.
Doing that requires a much deeper knowledge of how alcohol problems develop, how they’re diagnosed, and, ultimately, how they are treated, than just knowing enough to “get by.”
In Michigan, every person going through a DUI must be screened for either the presence of a drinking problem, or the risk for one to develop. The court will then use the information it gathers and the conclusion it reaches to determine what kind of education, counseling, treatment and testing to impose.
Courts are courts, and they may have expertise handling drunk driving cases and deciding legal issues, but that doesn’t make them experts regarding clinical issues. Courts don’t actually “diagnose” a person; instead, they have him or her fill out a test form that uses a scoring key from which they will conclude whether or not he or she has a drinking problem, or is at risk for one to develop.
Using that information, a Judge will decide what kind of “help” to require someone to get.
Courts don’t provided counseling or therapy, nor do they have any real clinical understanding of the entire panorama of recovery processes available. Instead, they will usually send a person to whatever local clinic or counselor is on their radar, and/or require him or her to go to to AA, as well.
To be sure, AA is a great program – but not for most people.
In point of fact, and even by its own admission, AA has a success rate of between 5 and 10%, although most studies peg it even lower. In the real world, AA is the right fit for very few people.
The idea of a court just “sending” someone to get help is really nothing more and nothing less than a shot in the dark.
For example, requiring someone who doesn’t like crowds, or who would do better in 1-on-1 counseling, to go to group treatment is really nothing other than a well-intentioned mistake. You can’t force someone to accept “help” they don’t want, and you can’t expect any benefit from help they don’t need, or that isn’t a good fit for them, either.
To really have a positive impact on someone in a DUI case, it’s critical to really understand the meaning and value of the old saying “different strokes for different folks.”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that having a lawyer with thorough knowledge of the development, diagnosis and treatment of alcohol (and drug) problems, and the many ways people can recover from them, is a real asset in a DUI case.
The courts may be well-intentioned, but their job isn’t to protect you or your interests.
Therefore, in a DUI case, the very best result a lawyer can produce is protecting the client from getting stuck with unnecessary “help,” meaning any kind of counseling or treatment that isn’t necessary, or otherwise isn’t a good fit for him or her.
This can ONLY be done if the lawyer has a solid clinical understanding of how alcohol problems develop, how they are diagnosed, and the various kinds of effective treatments available and the different ways people recover from them.
Because of the different scopes of these 2 kinds of cases, a driver’s license restoration lawyer has to understand more about recovery than a DUI lawyer, but even so, the deeper that knowledge, the better.
As we’ve seen, though, a more complete clinical understanding of all this can be extremely helpful in DUI cases, as well.
Many years ago, even though I had long considered myself a “student” of recovery because of my work in these fields, I realized that it would be very helpful for me to have comprehensive clinical training into how people develop and then get over alcohol and drug problems.
Consequently, I went back to school – literally.
I returned to the University campus and completed a post-graduate program of addiction studies. My undergraduate degree is in psychology, so this field fell under that umbrella anyway, and was a natural extension of it.
The program took a couple of years to complete, but it was well worth it. Having gone in with decades of practical observation of alcohol, drug and addiction issues, I then became able to see thing from a different perspective, and learn from the clinical side.
As a result, I came to understand the language of substance abuse counselors and the see the kinds of issues relevant to my work from their side of the table.
I learned a LOT from my the program, but one of the most important things I took was the knowledge that, although I can understand the language of substance abuse counselors, I am NOT one, and I shouldn’t try and “play” that role, either, any more than some therapist should try and “play” lawyer.
The only person who should take on the role of a substance abuse counselor is a substance abuse counselor. All the good intentions in the world don’t change that.
That said, my team and I use our clinical knowledge in both DUI and driver’s license restoration cases every single day. One of the main reasons we guarantee to win every driver’s license restoration and clearance appeal case we take is because we really understand recovery.
We know, for example, that people get and stay sober in all kinds of different ways, and that most of them do NOT rely on AA.
Although I often bristle at the self-praise some lawyers heap upon themselves in their online marketing, it would be foolish for me to not stake this claim:
There is no lawyer who understands the development, diagnosis, treatment of, and recovery from alcohol and drug problems better than I do.
In fact, there isn’t any lawyer who comes anywhere close to me in that regard, and I don’t ever intend to be second best, although I don’t exactly see any other lawyers racing to be admitted back into graduate school, either.
To win a license appeal case, a person has to prove that he or she is in recovery, meaning that he or she has honestly quit drinking and has the ability, commitment and tools to remain sober for life.
The unrivaled and unsurpassed clinical knowledge my team and I have is directly responsible for our success rate, and, as I noted, why we guarantee to win every restoration and clearance appeal we accept.
Our guarantee sounds good, but it’s important to remember that it cuts 2 ways:
First, it removes any risk for someone hiring us so they don’t have to ask questions like “what are my chances?”
Second, because it obligates us to stick with a driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal case until it does win, it acts as kind of a safety net ensuring that we only take cases that can be made into winners.
In that way, it removes any temptation for us to take a case that may not be ready, just because a person is willing to pay.
We’ll stop here for now, and pick back up, in part 2.