The Steps in a Michigan Driver’s License Restoration Appeal

As a Lawyer specializing in Michigan Driver’s License Restoration cases, I have received lots of very nice compliments about this blog, the Driver’s License Restoration articles within it, and my site, as well. Some of my more recent articles have gotten rather detailed, and it seems about time for a short, general piece about the Driver’s License Restoration Appeal process in Michigan for someone with multiple DUI’s.

In Michigan, a person’s Driver’s License will be Revoked after their 2nd DUI within 7 years, or their 3rd within any 10-yer span. Specifically, in DUI cases, the Secretary of State will Revoke a Michigan Driver’s License as follows:

  • 2 Drunk Driving convictions within 7 years = Revoked for at least 1 year
  • 3 Drunk Driving convictions within 10 years = Revoked for at least 5 years

It doesn’t matter if all, some, or even any of the DUI convictions took place in Michigan. I’ve seen cases where, over the course of 7 years, a Michigan Resident with a Michigan Driver’s License received 2 DUI convictions, both outside of the state, and had their Michigan License Revoked.

Night Driving 1.2.jpgIf a Non-Resident of Michigan picks up two or more DUI convictions here, in Michigan, our Secretary of State will Revoke the his or Driving privileges within this state (Michigan cannot take action against an out of state License, nor can another state do anything to a Michigan License), meaning they cannot drive within the State of Michigan on ANY License, no matter where it was issued. When such a person goes to renew their License in their home state, they’ll find that they will be unable to do so until they obtain a Clearance of the Michigan “Hold” upon their Driving Record. In effect, Michigan’s actions will ultimately act just like a Revocation of their Driver’s License.

Once a person loses their License for multiple DUI’s as outlined above, they cannot get their License “reinstated” (Restored) until they appear before the Michigan Secretary of State’s Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) and prove certain things. There are five legal issues that must be proven under what is known a s “Rule 13,” the rule governing License Appeals. For purposes of this summary article, the real meat and potatoes of the Driver’s License Restoration process can be boiled down to two issues:

1. That the person’s alcohol problem is under control, and
2. That the person’s alcohol problem is likely to remain under control.

Each of these issues must be proven by “Clear and Convincing Evidence.” This means that a person must present an airtight case, and submit compelling evidence in order to win. Think “home run.”

The first issue involves establishing a Sobriety date. This means that a person will say “I haven’t had a drink of alcohol since “X” date.” Normally, a person will have to establish at least 12 months of abstinence from alcohol, with several months of that being demonstrably voluntary, meaning NOT while on Probation or Parole. Often, this means a person will have to wait more than 12 months to begin the License Restoration Process. With very few exceptions, you cannot win your License back while on Probation or Parole.

The second, and perhaps more important issue, essentially requires a person to prove that they are a safe bet to never drink again. To put it another way, amongst the other proofs required, the Hearing Officer must be convinced that the person seeking Restoration of their License is convinced that they can never drink again. A person must demonstrate a viable commitment to lifetime Sobriety.

The first two things a person needs to put together to being a License Appeal are a Substance Abuse Evaluation and several Letters of Support. The Substance Abuse Evaluation is the very foundation of a Driver’s License Appeal. It has to be perfect, and that’s why I spend 3 hours with a new Client just to prepare them for this, before they meet with the Evaluator. I refer all my Clients to a local Clinic just a few blocks from my Office in order to have the Evaluation competently and thoroughly completed.

The Letters of Support are really a collaborative effort between my Client and me. I take rough drafts of the Letters, correct them, and send them to the Client to have re-done. Once the letters are sent back, I double-check them for accuracy. The legal minimum is 3 Support Letters; in any case I handle, I require at least 4 such Letters, and prefer 5.

After carefully reviewing and giving final approval to both the Substance Abuse Evaluation and the Letters of Support, those documents, along with a Request for Hearing, is filed in Lansing. I have all of my cases set for a live, in-person Hearing at the DAAD Office in Livonia. I do not trust believe in nor will I ever accept a “Video Hearing.”

Anyone who now lives out of state can file for a kind of “Appeal by mail” called an Administrative Review. This means they do not have to come back to Michigan for a Hearing. Every year, about 75% of “mail order” Appeals are Denied. Given that 3 out of 4 Administrative Reviews wind up losing, I don’t get involved with them, either.

Preparing for the Hearing is important. Each Hearing Officer has his or her own unique approach, and places a different value on certain aspects of Recovery. Many even have a different approach depending on whether the person attends AA or not.

By the way, AA is NOT necessary to win a License Appeal. More than one-half of my Clients are not actively involved in AA, and I Guarantee I’ll win any Appeal I accept the first time. AA is helpful, or course, in a License Appeal, but it is no longer required in order to do so.

I never call witnesses at any Hearing I conduct. A person has the right to call witnesses, but I firmly believe that doing so is a serious, amateur mistake. Witnesses are only a liability, and anything worthwhile they have to say can be put in a Letter, if it’s done properly.

At the Hearing itself, the person’s knowledge of the principles of Recovery will be tested. Some people learn about getting and staying Sober from AA; others learn though Rehab programs, or Counseling. Still others find the key to their Recovery elsewhere. I’ve seen people get and stay Sober by employing self-help cognitive restructuring techniques coupled with daily journaling. It’s not so much what principles of Recovery a person uses to reinforce their Sobriety as it is that they have some such principles in the first place.

Part of my job, if I’m hired, is to help the Client put these things into words. Some people come in having been Sober for a number of years, without having made a close inspection of the process by which they went from drinker to non-drinker. They may have Sobriety under their belt, and they may have established a “Sober Lifestyle,” but having lived an alcohol-free lifestyle for so long, they do so without even thinking about it, as if on auto-pilot. In many cases, living “Sober” has just become second nature, meaning they haven’t really ever had to pause and give it enough thought to frame those concepts into story form. This is where I help.

After the Hearing, a person must wait for the decision to Grant or Deny their Appeal. Typically, this takes about four weeks to arrive in the mail. If a person lives in Michigan, they MUST spend the first year on an ignition interlock, and drive with a Restricted License. If they live out of state, they win a “Clearance,” which removes Michigan’s “Hold” on their License and allows them to get a Full Driver’s License in the state in which they live.

If they lose, they have to try again the following year. This is why I only accept cases where a person is genuinely Sober, and, if I do take a case, Guarantee that I will win it the first time. This assures any Client of mine that they will only have to pay me one time in order to get back on the road.