In part 1 of this article, we began with the question, “What does it mean to be a real Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer?” To answer that, we began with a necessary detour into how being a Michigan DUI lawyer is helpful, and why a thorough knowledge of recovery is helpful in both fields. Understanding how substance abuse problems, and, particularly, how alcohol problems develop, are diagnosed, and ultimately treated, is foundational to a full understanding of recovery. That’s important because proving sobriety is the key requirement in every license appeal case.
Understanding the law is important, as is understanding recovery from a clinical perspective, but what’s more important is to put those things together so that, as driver’s license restoration lawyers, we can actually make the proofs necessary to win our cases. Our firm guarantees to win every restoration and clearance appeal case we take. That’s great for the client, as it eliminates any risk, but it also provides a huge benefit for us, because it obligates us to stick with every case we take, and, in that way, provides a clear disincentive for us to take on any appeal that we can’t make into a winner.
Even though someone is willing to hire us, we will only take his or her case when we are willing to guarantee a successful result. This is a critical element that separates a really good driver’s license restoration lawyer from everyone else – the strength to say “no.” It can be hard to turn away someone who is willing to pay for a license appeal, but we never lose sight of the fact that if we weren’t so rigid in our screenings and standards, we’d get stuck with doing a lot of “warranty” work and re-doing cases we should have never taken in the first place, all over again, for free.
The sobriety requirement for restoration and clearance cases is non-negotiable (both for the Secretary of State and for us), but the reader would be surprised at how many people don’t read far enough to learn that license appeals really are all about not drinking. Precisely because of the sobriety requirement and 2-way functioning of our guarantee, our firm has to turn away no small number of people who are ready, willing and able to pay.
It’s not easy to say “no” to people who are ready to hand you money, but, as noted, the obligation our guarantee places upon us offsets any temptation to take a case that we can’t fashion into a winner even when someone is willing pay right then and there.
For us, it’s simple: If we take a case, then we’re stuck with it until it wins. The unvarnished truth is that we make our money winning them the first time around. The very idea of having to do a case all over again – for free, no less – is a very strong disincentive and reason enough for us to pass on any prospect we don’t think we can win.
This sounds great (and it is, actually) but it is all a direct consequence of how well my team and I understand recovery, and how good we are at proving its existence in the driver’s license restoration and clearance appeal cases we take.
That recovery, though, must be be real. One of the biggest mistakes a person can make in a license appeal is to try and BS his or her way through it.
I literally cringe when a person says that some lawyer told them that they should start going to AA “to make it look good,” or that they otherwise need to be in AA to win a license appeal.
Nobody should ever do anything just to “look good.” That’s disingenuous and dishonest.
It’s also an insult to anyone who attends AA because he or she finds it helpful. Although AA is NOT the right fit for most people, there are plenty of people who do like it and benefit from it, and they don’t need someone taking up a seat at one of their meetings just to “look good.”
Whatever else, you do not need to be in AA to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal.
Any lawyer who says differently is dangerously ignorant. Remember, our firm guarantees to win every restoration and clearance case we take, and the vast majority of our clients are NOT in AA.
No one with any claim to the title “driver’s license restoration lawyer” will ever tell a person he or she needs to be in AA to win a license appeal case, or should start going to make things “look good.”
That said, having previously gone to AA, even for a while, can be very helpful, because there are a lot of useful “tips” a person can pick up from the program about getting and staying sober.
Knowing them is one thing, but really understanding them is what separates someone in recovery from everyone else, and a real driver’s license restoration lawyer from some attorney who is just “doing” a license appeal case. Here are 7 such “tips” from AA that everyone in recovery should understand in some way or other:
1. Avoid wet faces and wet places.
2. I didn’t get in trouble every time I drank, but every time I got in trouble, I had been drinking.
3. One day at a time.
4. Come Hell or high water, just don’t pick up.
5. Nothing changes if nothing changes.
6. Keep it simple, stupid (the KISS rule).
7. It’s funny how stupid smart people can be.
Although a person may not be familiar with these sayings, their larger meanings should resonate with anyone in recovery. As a driver’s license restoration law firm, we actually look to these truisms as part of our screening of potential clients.
Let’s do a quick translation of the 7 “tips” from above:
1. If you’re trying to quit drinking, stay out of bars and away from people who are consuming alcohol. A sober lifestyle means changing what you do, where you go, and who you hang with. You wouldn’t take someone with a gambling problem to the casino, would you?
2. This is rather self-explanatory, but the upshot is that even if a person can drink 600 times without getting in trouble, but has also been in some kind of trouble 3 times, after drinking, that’s a clue.
3. Early on, a person should just focus on not drinking that day (today). Leave the “I can’t ever drink again for the rest of my life” thoughts alone. Focus on today, and ONLY today. Make a vow to just not pick up today.
4. One can always find an excuse to drink, but getting sober means accepting that nothing is more important than NOT drinking – period.
5. The key to getting sober is deciding to not drink and then NOT drinking. No matter what, all the promises to drink less, stop sooner, or whatever do not work. A person must affirmatively decide to stop, and then stick with it now, not later, or else it’s just the same old, same old.
6. The world of recovery and sobriety can seem huge, yet for all there is to it, stick with the simple proposition to just NOT drink today, and skip all the obsessing, planning and thinking about anything else.
7. Not drinking is as easy as not drinking. Smart people will devise all kinds of excuses and engage in all kinds of mental gymnastics that will rationalize a drink right into their hands. A simple-minded approach that limits the thinking to “just don’t drink” is all that’s needed. Anything else is just a distraction.
When our firm speaks with someone, if the larger meaning of at least some of the things listed above don’t resonate with them, then we know that they probably don’t have a solid understanding of sobriety, and therefore don’t have what is needed to win a license appeal – at least yet.
Not to be indelicate about it, but our firm makes its money and literally banks on winning our license appeal cases the first time around, and NOT having to come back and do “warranty work,” for free, because of a loss. If someone is not ready to win, the they’re not ready, no matter how much they may want to be, or how much they may need a license.
This is where the 2-way protection of our guarantee is helpful, because, in the first place, it shields the client from risking his or her money (you’ll pay us once, and you will get your license back), and, in the second place, it acts as a protection for us to resist any temptation to take a case for someone who isn’t yet strong enough in their recovery to win, no matter how willing he or she is to pay us.
As we noted in part 1, under Michigan law, a person who racks up 2 DUI’s within 7 years, or 3 within 10 years, is automatically categorized as a “habitual alcohol offender.” In addition to having his or her driver’s license revoked, he or she will be legally presumed to have an alcohol problem.
This means that everyone who undertakes a license appeal begins under the assumption that he or she has some kind of drinking problem.
First, that his alcohol problem is “under control,” meaning that he or she has been completely abstinent from alcohol (and also from any and all drugs, including recreational marijuana) for a legally sufficient period of time. Although the precise period can vary from case to case, in our office, we will generally not move forward with an appeal until someone has been clean for at least 18 months.
Second, that his or her alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control,” which equates to a person having both the ability and commitment to remain alcohol (and drug) free for life. Put another way, a person must prove to the hearing officer that he or she is a safe bet to NEVER drink (or use drugs – including recreational marijuana) again – ever.
How can a lawyer really help the client make those proofs if he or she doesn’t have a thorough working knowledge of addiction, recovery, and sobriety?
This is important, because almost no case is ever perfect, nor does a case need to be. People get and stay sober in all kinds of ways beyond those considered “traditional.”
We once won a case for a client who had relied upon “bibliotherapy” for his recovery.
Bibliotherapy happens when a person learns about recovery through reading. To be clear, we’re not talking about someone who just perused a few pamphlets, but rather a fellow who genuinely read extensively about recovery and sobriety, and incorporated that learning into his life and used those things to stay clean.
For my part, I am always reading some book or other about sobriety or recovery processes (As of this writing, I am reading “The Urge: Our History of Addiction” by Carl Erik Fisher).
Some of the books I read are intended for people interested in their own recovery, and others are intended for clinicians. To have any chance of mastery of a given field, a person needs to be a master student, meaning one who is always learning.
Back in the world of license appeals, it’s not the client’s responsibility to identify the specific protocol(s) he or she used to get sober; that’s ours. A client simply needs to get and stay sober, and then let us take care of proving it.
Our job is to explain it in a way that’s good enough to win his or her license appeal case, and we do that by really knowing recovery.
Indeed, we do it well enough to guarantee to win every restoration and clearance appeal case we take.
If you’re looking for a lawyer to win back your license or obtain the clearance of a Michigan hold on your driving record so that you can get a license in another state, be a smart consumer and read around. Pay attention to how different lawyers explain the license appeal process, and how they explain their various approaches to it.
When you’ve done enough of that, start checking around. You can learn a lot by actually speaking to a live person.
Our firm can handle your case no matter where you live. 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, 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 either 248-986-9700, or 586-465-1980.