As Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, one of the most frustrating things we deal with is the mistaken belief that needing a license has anything to do with actually being able to win it back after having it revoked for multiple DUI’s. In this article, I want to make clear that being able to win the restoration of one’s driver’s license or obtain the clearance of a Michigan hold on a person’s driving record has nothing to do with a person’s need to drive.
Let’s begin with the candid reality that our practice is in business to make money. Every license case we don’t take is money out the window, and we certainly don’t earn our livings by NOT taking cases. I point this out so that the reader understands our firm has every reason to pursue a viable license appeal case. However, because we guarantee to win each one we take – meaning that we’re stuck with it until it does, in fact, win – we also have every reason to pass on a case that isn’t yet ready to be a winner.
This means that we know what elements are needed to win a license appeal, and what things don’t matter. Unfortunately, while “needing” a license matters a lot to anyone who has lost his or hers after 2 or more DUI’s, it has nothing to do with being able to win a license appeal case before the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS).
In fact, one of the SOS hearing officers often says that “everybody needs a license.” However, the rules for winning it back focus only on a person’s past relationship to alcohol and current state of sobriety, not how much he or she needs to drive.
This is often disappointing to people for whom not having a license is a hassle. That sense of frustration often goes hand-in-hand with another sentiment; the notion that “I haven’t been in any trouble in a long time!” I examined that feeling in a recent article, explaining there, as I’l try to do here, that the main thing required to win a license restoration or clearance case is simply that a person has given up drinking.
Needing a license has nothing to do with sobriety any more than not having not been in trouble does, either. A key point that frequently overlooked is that in driver’s license restoration cases, just like in the DUI cases that precede them, the focus is on a person’s drinking, not his or her driving.
I remember winning a license appeal case not that long ago for an older man who hadn’t had a license for well over 20 years. He lived in a retirement community and had no real “need” to drive anywhere, but decided that he’s like to be able to do so, nonetheless, if only just for pleasure.
At no point beyond our initial meeting, from the substance use evaluation, the letters of support, right through the hearing itself, was the “need” to drive, or, in his case, the lack thereof, ever brought up.
Instead, and is ALWAYS the case, my client’s past drinking and his decision to quit, and stay quit, was put under the microscope.
The whole point of every license appeal is to examine a person’s prior alcohol use history (and any drug use, as well), and then assess where he or she is with that now.
Remember, there are 2 key things that must be proven to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case:
First, that the person’s alcohol problem is “under control.” This requires showing that he or she hasn’t had a drink for a “legally sufficient” period of time. Generally speaking, we want our clients to have been alcohol-free for at least 18 months before forging ahead, and
Second, a person must demonstrate that his or her alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control,” meaning that he or she had the commitment and the ability to remain alcohol free for good.
Underlying this is the legal presumption that anyone who has lost his or her license for 2 or more DUI’s has some kind of troubled relationship to alcohol.
I have examined the whole “relationship to alcohol” subject at the granular level in many of my other articles, including a recent, larger-installment, so we’ll skip detouring into that here.
However, the reader should understand that in Michigan, anyone convicted of 2 DUI’s within 7 years or 3 or more DUI’s within 10 years will have his or her license revoked because they’re considered too risky to be allowed on the road as long as they have any relationship to alcohol – other than having quit drinking for good.
The written law and the Secretary of State’s application of it has drawn a clear line in the sand: The only people who can win back a driver’s license are those who can prove that they have given up drinking permanently.
Underlying this is the simple proposition that people who do not drink are ZERO risk to drink and drive.
Whatever else, the Secretary of State isn’t going to take any chances with putting someone back on the road who still drinks. To answer 2 concerns that people often express – yes the SOS understands that drinking is legal, and no, there are no constitutional considerations at play here.
It’s this simple: if you want to drive again, you have to prove to the Secretary of State that you have quit drinking for good.
The state is NEVER going to screw around with someone who wants to explain how things “different” now, and that even though they’ve racked up 2 or more DUI’s in the past, they can somehow handle alcohol because they don’t drink like they used to, or that they only drink at home, or only once in a while, or just on special occasions, or only when someone else is driving…
While it’s possible that any those things could be true for the exceptional (as in one out of a million) person, the state isn’t going to take any chances.
Instead, the license appeal process is designed for people who have really embraced sobriety. The meat and potatoes of a license restoration case boils down to the idea that a person can show themselves to be a safe bet to never drink again.
The idea that someone needs a license isn’t relevant to those issues. Although it’s not an exact corollary, at the time a person first got his or her license, it didn’t matter how much he or she needed one, or not.
As I noted above, one of the hearing officers often says “everybody needs a license” in recognition of the fact that it is, indeed, hard to get by without one, but that his job, in deciding these cases, is to evaluate the 2 legal issues outlined above, and not worry about how difficult things are for someone who can’t drive.
Imagine if Tipsy Tina insisted she only drinks once in a while, but otherwise made the case that not being able to drive is a serious problem for her, and, as a result, she was granted a license (even though, legally speaking, that can’t happen).
There will always be a concern that she could go out one night after work at her new job she was able to get because she could drive again, have a few too many, and then wind up getting in an accident, injuring (or, worse yet, killing) someone.
– Just because she was still drinking…
Now, contrast that with Retired Rita, who, like the client I referenced earlier, lives in a senior community with shuttle service and has no real “need” to drive. She does say, however, that she would sure like to be able to go out once in a while and join a lady friend so they could shop and then have lunch together.
Rita proves that her last drink was well over 25 years ago, and that she has has been living a sober lifestyle for decades since. She leaves no doubt that she has both the commitment and the tools to never drink again.
In a very real way, the fact that a person finds him or herself in this situation is the direct result of getting those DUI’s in the first place. A now-retired hearing officer put it this way once: “When you got your first drunk driving, you because a criminal; when you got your second, you became a habitual criminal.”
The reader must understand that, as driver’s license restoration lawyers, we don’t make the rules, we just work with and around them. In the case of a license appeal, the idea that someone “needs” a license is simply a non-issue.
The Secretary of State is only concerned that a person has really given up drinking and is a safe bet to stay sober for the rest of his or her life.
Of course, as people, my team and I get it; everybody does need a license. The point I wanted to make in this article, though, is that in the real world, not everyone is eligible to get it back, and just “needing” to drive isn’t enough.
If you are looking to win back your Michigan driver’s license, or clear a Michigan hold on your driving record so you can get a license in another state, be a smart consumer and do your homework. Our firm guarantees to win every first time driver’s license restoration and clearance case we take.
You should read around and see how lawyers explain the license appeal process, and how they explain their approach to it.
When you’ve done enough of that, start checking around. 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 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.