Sobriety – in our roles as a Michigan driver’s license restoration attorneys, this is THE most important things we look for in every potential client. In our day-to-day conversations with callers, we find that the notion of sobriety is widely misunderstood. The point of this article is to try and make clear (in my case, by sheer repetition) that sobriety is a non-negotiable requirement to succeed in a license appeal case, and that, without it, a person simply cannot win.
License restoration cases are complex, and governed by what I call “a million little rules,” but absolutely none of that matters unless a person has first given up drinking for good. The reader should take note that the main rule governing license appeals requires that the hearing officer deny an appeal unless the person filing it proves, by what the law defines as “clear and convincing evidence,” that his or her alcohol problem is “under control,” and that it is “likely to remain under control.” Lets see what those things really mean in the next 2 paragraphs:
In the context of a license appeal, a person’s alcohol problem is considered “under control” when he or she has been completely alcohol-free for a legally sufficient period of time. Normally, being “under control” requires the person to be diagnosed as having an alcohol use disorder that is in full sustained remission, meaning he or she has at least a year of complete abstinence. However, the rule also allows the hearing officer to require more than 12 months, so in our practice, we generally prefer that our clients have at least 18 months of sobriety before we’ll move forward.
An alcohol problem is considered “likely to remain under control” when a person can demonstrate that he or she has both the ability and commitment to remain alcohol-free for life. Essentially, this requires proving one’s self to be a safe bet to never drink again. And to be clear, that means never, as in never-ever. There is no middle ground here. In the world of driver’s license restoration appeals, sobriety is a state of mind, and a way of life, rather than just the state of not being drunk at a certain time.
This will all make a bit more sense if we look at the relevant part of the main license appeal rule (Rule 13), as it’s written:
The hearing officer shall not order that a license be issued to the petitioner unless the petitioner proves, by clear and convincing evidence, all of the following:
i. That the petitioner’s alcohol or substance abuse problems, if any, are under control and likely to remain under control.
ii. That the risk of the petitioner repeating his or her past abusive behavior is a low or minimal risk.
iii. That the risk of the petitioner repeating the act of operating a motor vehicle while impaired by, or under the influence of, alcohol or controlled substances or a combination of alcohol and a controlled substance or repeating any other offense listed in section 303(1)(d), (e), or (f) or (2)(c), (d), (e), or (f) of the act is a low or minimal risk.
iv. That the petitioner has the ability and motivation to drive safely and within the law.
v. Other showings that are relevant to the issues identified in paragraphs (i) to (iv) of this subdivision.
As the plain language of the rule makes clear, the hearing officer’s job is to NOT grant an appeal unless the person meets his or her burden of proving that his or her alcohol problem is under control and likely to remain under control by clear and convincing evidence. Although it’s easy to read past and overlook, the specific language in the rule instructing the hearing officer to “not order that a license be issued” is critical to the whole process.
Unfortunately, many lawyers miss it, accounting for why so many legal websites fail to point it out.
My team and I are keenly aware that, in order to win, one must fully grasp that under the “…shall not order that a license be issued…” provision of the rule, every driver’s license restoration case begins with a “no” answer.
Our job, as Michigan driver’s license restoration attorneys, is to flip the hearing officer’s answer all the way around, from “no” to “yes.”
Because we guarantee to win every case we take, and are, therefore, every bit as invested in success as our clients, we don’t overlook anything. Instead, we are ever-mindful of that language, and what it means.
Although my team and I are very nice people, we’re also in business to make money, and we do that by winning our cases the first time, not by missing things so that we get stuck doing “warranty work,” which, for us, means having to do the whole case all over again the next year, for free.
Our office is contacted multiple times every day by people who see our guarantee (although not much else) and basically want to know how to pay us and get started on a license appeal right away. Financially speaking, I wish we could take all the cases that come our way, but having that guarantee means that, if we take a case, we are stuck with it until it wins.
That means we have to screen potential clients to make sure that have what it takes to be able to win, and that all boils down to one simple thing: sobriety.
We can simplify this a bit by taking a “bottom line” look at the way things are interpreted and applied by the Michigan Secretary of State:
A person convicted of multiple DUI’s is legally categorized as a “habitual alcohol offender.” That means he or she is presumed, by law, to have a drinking problem.
As a result of the “habitual alcohol offender” designation, the person’s driver’s license is revoked, because he or she is seen as too much of a risk to be allowed to drive.
The only way such a person can get his or her license back is to file and win a driver’s license restoration case (after their period of revocation has run).
For all the technical stuff that’s involved in the the main rule (Rule 13), the essence of a license appeal is that the Secretary of State has effectively drawn a line in the sand, and only those people who have quit drinking for good will ever have their driver’s licenses restored.
As I’ve tried to make clear, the Secretary of State’s rules require that a person has both been alcohol-free for a “legally sufficient” period of time, and that he or she is a safe bet to never drink again, and reman sober for life, before they can win their license back.
Thus, the “line in the sand” divides people into 2 groups: those people who don’t drink and are committed to lifelong sobriety, and everyone else.
Only those who can prove they have given up drinking for good will be considered for reinstatement of driving privileges.
Whatever else, the state knows that people who do not drink are zero risk to get behind the wheel and drive drunk.
While this is easy enough to understand, our office is still contacted by loads of people who think that the concept of “sobriety” allows for some drinking (it doesn’t), rather than the complete abstinence from alcohol and a firm commitment to never drink again (which it does).
Plenty of people will say that they’re “sober,” and then go on to try to explain they still consume alcohol, but that things are different now, and that they don’t drink like they used to, or insist that they only drink once in a while, or only on special occasions, or only while at home, or only when someone else is driving….
That’s not “sober” in any way, shape, or form.
Sobriety is not about a commitment to never drive drunk again, it’s about a commitment to never drink again. The never driving drunk again part follows from the never drinking again part….
I wind up writing about sobriety all the time, not because I have nothing else to say, but because it is important to keep this subject at the very top of the pile, so that anyone looking around online for information about Michigan driver’s license restoration knows that sobriety is a preliminary requirement and the absolute key to winning a license appeal.
Unfortunately some of the people who try to argue that they’re “sober” because they “don’t drink like they used to” get all pissed off when we explain that “sobriety” requires total abstinence from alcohol. Instead of rethinking things, some take this as a prompt to just try to BS their way through the license appeal process by saying that they have, in fact, quit drinking.
Good luck with that.
The whole standard to win a license appeal isn’t just about saying that you’re sober, it’s about proving it .
The Secretary of State hearing officers know they get lied to every day, and have heard every story in the book a million times over. They are prepared to get inundated with BS.
In a very real way, their job is to dig through all the BS to find those people who can prove that they are genuinely sober because they have, in fact honestly given up drinking for good.
Winning a license appeal is not just about saying the right things to fool a hearing officer, and even if it was, my office 100% wants NO PART of any such case.
We win fair and square. We’re honest, and if we ONLY want to represent people who are genuinely sober. We genuinely believe in what we do, and who we help.
And while it’s all great that we have such high standards, remember, we also have a guarantee that binds us to any restoration or clearance case we take until it does win.
I can’t imagine how we’d ever feel any enthusiasm for someone we discovered to be lying about his or her sobriety. Moreover, I know we would NEVER have the heart to stand by some scammer who (rightfully) lost his or her case by trying to BS his or her way through it.
As I said, no thanks…
As we close out, I want to circle back to something I said at the beginning of this article, that “license appeals are complex.” That’s true; they are. However, if a person is eligible to file a license appeal, and really has quit drinking, then we have what we need to make a winning case for him or her.
We know what to do well enough to guarantee our work.
If you are looking for a lawyer to win back your Michigan driver’s license, or you need to clear a Michigan hold on your driving record, be a good consumer and read around, and see how other 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 consultation are free, confidential, and done over the phone, right whey 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 either 248-986-9700, or 586-465-1980.