Winning back your Michigan Driver’s License After 2 or more DUI’s

Being a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer means that I answer a lot of questions about license reinstatements for Michigan residents, and that I explain a lot about the license appeal process, and what it takes to get your license back. To be clear, almost all of what I do involves restoring driver’s licenses for those who have lost the privilege to drive because of multiple DUI convictions. There are some questions I’m asked all the time. As a result, I am aware that most people aren’t clear on those points. Other questions only come up once in a while, and, perhaps because I work with license issues all day, every day, I sometimes forget that what might be obvious to me may be rather unclear to everyone else. One of these common questions deals with the kind, or type of license you win back when you win a Michigan driver’s license restoration appeal.

When this issue comes up, it’s usually asked something like this: “Is there a way I can just get a full license?” Sometimes, it’s phrased more like this “I understand that most people have to get that machine in their car and blow in it. Is there some way we can request to not have that?”

Interlock Install 1.2.jpgThe question arises because most people have kind of heard, at least in the background somewhere, that when you win a Michigan license reinstatement appeal, you only win back a restricted license, and that you have to install an ignition interlock unit (variously and more commonly called a “breath machine” or a “blow and go”) in your vehicle, but they’re not really clear on the details. I have a little good news for anyone who has bothered to check out my website or any of the other driver’s license restoration articles on this blog; the answer to this question is clear and simple.

If you win a Michigan driver’s license restoration appeal, you must drive for at least one year using an ignition interlock, and you may only have a restricted license. If you live in Michigan, there are absolutely no exceptions. Having clarified that there are no exceptions to discuss, let’s now take the time to explore what all of this “restricted license” and “ignition interlock” stuff means.

First of all, you must be a Michigan resident to win back your driver’s license. If you have moved out of state and no longer reside here, the Michigan Secretary of State cannot give you back any kind of license; that’s up to your new state. Normally, you’ll find out that your new state won’t issue a license because of Michigan’s “hold” on your driving record. In order to remove that hold, you have to obtain what’s called a “clearance.” The process of obtaining a clearance is virtually identical to having your Michigan license restored, except that a Michigan resident wins back a license, whereas a former resident is granted a clearance that removes Michigan’s hold and allows his or her new state to issue its license. For the remainder of this article, we’ll confine our focus to a driver’s license that is restored for a Michigan resident.

To win any kind of license appeal, you are legally required prove to a Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) hearing officer, by what is described as “clear and convincing evidence,” that your alcohol problem is both under control, and likely to remain under control. Doing that requires navigating what I call (rather accurately, I believe) a “million little rules.” I explain this in painstaking detail on my site and in numerous articles on this blog, but the simplest summary we can use here is that you have to prove that you’re sober, and that you have the commitment and tools necessary to remain sober. To put it another way, you have to prove that you’ve quit drinking for good.

When you satisfactorily prove this to a hearing officer, you win what is technically called “restoration” (not reinstatement, although I use the term like everyone else) of your driver’s license. The newly returned license is “restricted,” meaning that you can’t just use it to drive wherever or whenever you want. Instead, the standard restricted license itself states that it can only be used to drive to, from and in the course of employment, to and from your own education, to and from support group meetings (like AA,) and to and from your own serious and necessary medical treatment. Even if you work midnights, or are on call and may have to drive at 3 am, you can drive at any time, day or night, for any of the 4 specific purposes specified in your license.

It is often right here that people begin the “what about…” series of questions. For them, this is complicated; for me it’s simple. There are no exceptions to what is stated on your new restricted license.

“Yeah, but I need to driver the kids to school!” Let’s review here: To, from and during the course of employment, to and from your own education, to and from support group meetings, and to and from your own serious and necessary medical treatment. If what you want to know about isn’t clearly one of the 4 things just listed, then you can’t do it. And that means, specifically, that you cannot drive the kids to school. By the same token, you cannot take them to the doctor, either. This may not be the ideal situation, but, coming from not being able to drive at all, it’s a start.

In some cases, the hearing officer can or may grant a set of hours, rather than specific purposes. Thus, instead of allowing you to drive for any of the 4 specific reasons allowed in the standard restricted license, you can drive for any reason, but only during specific hours, usually along the lines of 6 am to 7 pm. The hours are not broad, meaning that you only get about 12 or 13 hours. Normally, these “time based” licenses require that your car be parked back in the driveway rather early. There is no provision to be tooling around at 9 or 10 pm, for instance.

Although somewhat rare, there is a kind of “combination” restricted license that a hearing officer can grant that will provide the hours-type of license (usually 6 am to 7 pm) with a provision that a person can operate beyond that time only for work purposes. Thus, a single mom who works as a nurse during the day, and who would rather be able to drive during regular hours to handle the household matters, but who may also be called in on an emergency, would be allowed to do that. To be clear, the decision to allow this kind of license rests solely with the hearing officer. To be clearer still, in almost every case, if you win, you only get the standard restricted license, no matter how well that works for you or not. As I noted earlier this might not be perfect, but it’s a start.

In any case, when you win a restricted license, you must install an ignition interlock unit on your car before the state will let you drive. I could write for days about interlock units; there is a lot to them, so much so that I’ve attended seminars about them, but the bottom line is that you won’t be driving until you have one put in your car.

Commonly called a “blow and go,” the interlock requires a breath sample to start the car, and requires further breath samples as the car is being driven to make sure you haven’t been drinking. The technology is far better than it used to be, but these things are far from perfect. Things like mouthwash or even the residual fumes from wiper fluid can trigger false positives, but there are specific instructions about how to avoid that, and what to do when that happens. Horror stories aside, most people complete their year on the interlock without any problems.

The bottom line, though, is that if you want to get back on the road, you’re going to have to deal with the interlock machine, like it or not.

The law requires that you drive on a restricted license and with an ignition interlock for at least 1 year. After 12 months, you can file for another hearing (and yes, it’s a whole new, full-blown hearing requiring a new substance abuse evaluation, new notarized letters of support and another trip in front of the hearing officer- this time with a “final report” from the interlock company showing that you did, or did not have any issues or problems with the interlock during the last year) to have the restrictions removed and get a “full” license without the interlock anymore.

It is up to you, however, to move forward and do this. If you do nothing, you can keep your restricted license and interlock unit forever. In other words, the restricted license and interlock requirements do not ever just “fall off.” Until you file for and win a hearing after a year of driving on your restricted license and with the interlock, your license will require both. This means that, technically speaking, you can keep your restricted license forever; part of that, though, is that you’ll also be required to keep and pay for the interlock unit in your car all the while.

As I noted before, this is rather simple. Many people, however, have questions. Unfortunately, they almost always begin with words like “what about” or “can I?” In this article, we’ve seen the full scope of what it means to win your license back. If what you want to ask about isn’t clearly allowed in what’s been outlined in the parameters of a restricted license, then the answer to any question that begins with “what about” or “can I” is a simple “no.” It may not be perfect, but as I noted, it’s at least a start.