This article describes the steps you should take in the Michigan license restoration process. In Michigan, if you are convicted of two drinking and driving offenses within 7 seven years, or 3 within 10 years, your license will be revoked. If you have a “2 within 7” you lose your license for a year. A “3 within 10” results in a 5 year revocation. You will have to appeal to the Driver’s Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) to get your license back.
Losing your license is a burden. You cannot drive anywhere you want to go, at least not legally. If you are caught driving while your license is revoked you will have to wait for the original revocation time to end and then serve a “like kind” revocation of 1 or 5 years. Also, your loss of driving privileges is not only a burden on you but on family and friends as well. They have to become your taxi. Life gets seriously complicated without a license.
What steps should you take to prepare for the MI license restoration hearing?
- Do I need a lawyer to handle my driver’s license restoration?
The answer is no. Not unless you want to lose at the first hearing. I have answered this question in another article.
It is never advisable to engage in legal proceedings on your own. The driver’s license restoration process is very technical and tedious. It takes experience to be successful in any field of law. Also, it takes knowledge of the Administrative Rules to be able to properly respond to any issue that may arise. Without the necessary knowledge and experience, you put yourself at a disadvantage against the Secretary of State hearing officer. He or she is trained in the rules and procedures for the license restoration hearing. When the odds are stacked against you, the outcome will most likely be a denial.
If your appeal for reinstatement of your driver’s license is denied, you may have to wait an entire year before requesting another hearing. After a denial, you can appeal the case to the circuit court, but the circuit court appellate process is complicated as well. In an appeal to circuit court you will have to confront the Michigan Attorney General’s Office who almost always argues that the hearing officer’s denial order was correct.
Hiring an experienced driver’s license restoration attorney, without a doubt, gives you an advantage with the Secretary of State. An attorney who does license appeals can precisely tell you what the Secretary of State is looking for regarding the evidence and testimony. Your lawyer can tell you what traps and pitfalls need to be avoided.
The Driver’s Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) is confusing. Just think about how frustrating it can be just to go to a branch office and transfer titles, register vehicles, etc. All the “red tape” can be a headache with just minor tasks. Now, increase the length of the “red tape” when it comes to a driver’s license restoration hearing. If you want to succeed, the “red tape” must be properly addressed. Just have a look at the Rules: Michigan License Hearing Administrative Rules
Experience Matters When You Want to Win
If you do not hire an attorney and you are not familiar with the administrative rules, you might improperly complete forms, fail to provide required evidence, fail to provide enough evidence, rely on a less than credible substance abuse evaluator and your letters of reference may not contain sufficient factual information. Any failure on your part will result in – a loss.
Just hiring any attorney will not work either. Many lawyers try to be a “jack-of-all-trades.” Specifically, they want to do many types of law. But, relying on one of those lawyers can be a problem. For example, would you go to a general physician to perform brain surgery or would you rely on a brain surgeon? There is no question what you would do.
Attorneys who specialize in MI driver’s license restoration cases are rare. Attorneys who restore Michigan licenses must stay aware of changes in the law and administrative rules. This is why an experienced license restoration lawyer can help you properly navigate the “red tape.” He or she will make sure all of your paperwork is correct, accurate and specific before a request for a hearing is even made. I always tell clients, I want to win the hearing before we even get there. Specifically, I want your testimony at the hearing to close the deal.
The ability to drive is a source of freedom. You do not have to rely on others for transportation. A driver’s license can change your life. If those things are important to you, it is a worthy investment to hire an experienced license restoration lawyer to help you get back on the road.
You must properly submit all of the required forms to request a DAAD hearing.
If you hire one, your attorney will file the request for a hearing once all of the evidence is complete and has been thoroughly reviewed. According to Administrative Rule 13, you must prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that any “alcohol problem is under control and likely to remain under control.” You must also establish that you are a “low risk” for repeating any offense. Unless those standards are met, you will not win.
Make no mistake, the Secretary of State believes that your 2 or more drinking and driving offenses means you have an alcohol problem. Is this belief always fair? It is not. Nevertheless, you will have to demonstrate and prove your complete abstinence from alcohol for at least 12 months. In some cases if you had tried to quit drinking before and resumed drinking you must have period of sobriety longer then the period of time you tried to quit. For example, if you had quit drinking for 13 months but relapsed, the SOS wants you to have 13 months or more of uninterrupted sobriety.
In the preceding paragraph I mentioned that the rules require a minimum of 12 months of abstinence. Abstinence means that you did not consume any alcohol for those 12 months. None. Zero. This would also include any substance that mimics alcohol such “near bears” like Sharpe’s. If you admit to just one drink, a toast for example at Christmas, you will lose. Then you will have to wait a full year to appeal again.
This is why an attorney will review your evidence for perfection before it is submitted to the DAAD to request a hearing. Once the evidence has been compiled by your attorney, he or she will request the hearing for you.
In short, you must become sober, stay that way, and prove it.
Evidence Supporting your Sobriety
When you retain our office to represent you, we provide you with a letter/checklist that explains all of the evidence you will need for the hearing. This is a handy piece of information because it makes it easy for you to reference.
The evidence required for the hearing will include the following:
- 10 panel drug screen test
- Substance abuse evaluation report completed by a licensed and qualified evaluator
- Most recent driving record
- Evidence of any substance abuse treatment programs
- Evidence of AA attendance
- You must bring documentation of participation in a support group, such as AA. You should get the attendance sheets signed as proof that you have attended the meetings. All hearing officers like to see consistent attendance at least once a week if not more.
- You MUST be familiar with and be able to recall the 12 steps of AA. AA 12 Step Recovery Program
- Letters of reference establishing your sobriety and abstinence from alcohol – the DAAD only requires 3 but my office requires 6 ; our checklist explains what the letters should say, that is, what the hearing officers want to know about you
- The exact date of your sobriety must be specifically stated in all the letters. The letters should state how the people know you, how often they see you, knowledge about any counseling you have attended, and your history with alcohol. You should consider getting letters from your family, friends, co-workers, AA members, AA sponsor, etc. I will review the letters before I submit them.
- List of any witnesses that can corroborate your sobriety
If you do not submit all of this information, correctly and accurately, you will lose. If you hire an attorney, the attorney will review everything for you to make sure there are no errors.
Substance Abuse Evaluation Report
The substance abuse evaluation report is probably the most critical piece of evidence that you can provide. The report must be completed by a licensed substance abuse counselor or therapist. Evaluation prices range from about $250.00 to $400.00. The substance abuse evaluation must not be dated more than 3 months before the date it will be received by the DAAD-Request for Hearings Office.
It is important to note that the SOS does in fact give less credibility to some evaluators over others because their reports are incorrectly completed. My office avoids using those evaluators. We recommend evaluators that we trust because they create accurate and precise evaluations. We do not receive anything from the evaluators that we recommend. I repeat – we do not get anything in return other than an accurate and reliable report that the hearing officers find credible. You are always free to choose any substance abuse counselor that you may be familiar with if you have gone to him or her for services.
The report is important because an accurate and comprehensive report will document your sobriety and provide a prognosis for abstinence. It will list your drinking and driving offenses as well as any other offenses that may be substance use related but not reflected on your driving record. The evaluator will state if he or she believes that your problem is under control. An accurate and complete diagnosis will satisfy the requirements of Admin. Rule 13 and the “clear and convincing” standard that your alcohol problem is under control. Essentially, the report will detail your sobriety and the steps you have taken to maintain it.
Physician’s Statement of Examination
This report is not always needed. However, it is needed when you are currently under a doctor’s care and are prescribed narcotics. The SOS wants to know if your doctor is aware of any substance abuse issue related to your prescription medication. The doctor must declare that you are safe to operate a vehicle when prescribed the medication.
The SOS also wants to know about any medical condition that may interfere with your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. For example, the SOS wants to know if you have any blackouts, seizures, etc. If you do have a medical problem, the doctor’s statement of examination will explain if you are able to drive without endangering yourself or others.
Prepare to testify at the hearing
An experienced attorney will properly prepare you to testify at your hearing. If you hire our office, for example, we will go over your testimony in detail. I will ask you questions on direct examination. I will also play the role of the hearing officer and ask you questions on cross examination. I also give you a list of questions that you can take home to review in your free time. A few days before the hearing we will practice your testimony again. You will be surprised at how many people have told me that their lawyer did not prepare them to testify, not even once. Like I said, experience matters.
The most common hearing sites are in Livonia or via video in Port Huron. The hearing will be conducted by the Hearing Officer. Most of the hearing officers are tough. Nice people, but tough. They ask thorough questions. Think about it, they want to be sure that you will be safe on the road. They do not want to be the hearing officer who granted you a license and you later injure someone or worse.
At the hearing, you will take an oath to tell the truth. Typically, I get to ask questions first. In most cases, I have prepared you so well, that when it is the hearing officer asks you questions they will sound nearly the same as mine. If that happens, and I can tell you it will, you can safely know that there is nothing new they can challenge you with.
Essentially, the hearing officer wants to question you regarding your sobriety. Again, if you are not prepared – you will lose. If your testimony is not consistent with your evidence – you will lose. However, with proper preparation we guarantee you will win.
Meet the Clear and Convincing Evidence Standard
It is the petitioner’s (you) burden to prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that your alcohol problem is under control and likely to remain under control, the likelihood that you will again drink and drive is low or minimal, and that you have the ability and motivation to drive safely and within the law.
If you win your DAAD hearing you be will required to have an ignition interlock device placed in your car for one full year. Your driving privileges will be restricted. After one year, you will be required to request another hearing in order to get full restoration.
An experienced driver’s license restoration lawyer will know how to get you through the hearing performing at your best. Excellent preparation is the key to success. How you present yourself at the hearing does make a big difference in the outcome. Our office understands that point, and we prepare you to be confident.
If need to get your driver’s license restored, we would be happy to answer any of your questions. At CZARNECKI & TAYLOR we have nearly 15 years of driver’s license restoration experience. We know what to expect. We make sure you do as well. We have a 97% rate of success at the first hearing. We are so confident that we guarantee we will win at the first hearing.*
FOR PEOPLE CURRENTLY ON PROBATION OR PAROLE
*If you are currently on probation or parole, you should note that as the law stands right now, you would lose your hearing. It would not be worth it to pursue a license hearing until you are done with probation or parole. Pursuant to Michigan Court of Appeals Order in Deborah Braddock Reynolds vs. Secretary of State, Docket No. 269714, the Court has stated that a person must demonstrate at least 12 months of uninterrupted sobriety outside the controlled environment of imprisonment or parole. So, the hearing officer have determined that this Order applies to probation as well. It is not fair because that is not how the law should be interpreted.
Even though this order is relied upon by the Secretary of State, at license restoration hearings, I have won license hearings for people while on parole or on probation. The hearing officer rarely grants a license in these situations though.
I have also won appeals in circuit court challenging the probation or parole status. For example, I have an order from the Macomb County Circuit Court finding that the hearing officer misinterpreted the meaning of “controlled environment.” At times, I have had the Macomb County Circuit Court grant my clients’ their license based on that argument. Note that other circuit courts do not recognize that order.
I just want you to know that we could not guarantee success when the law is against those on probation or parole. With that said, we would still fight to get your license back. We just want to caution you as to what the hearing officers may say.
Also, if you are on probation I would urge you to contact our office. We have been able to file motions to have our clients’ probation terminated early. If the court successfully terminates your probation, you can proceed with your license restoration process.
If you are ready to get your license back, give our office a call. We are always ready to discuss the license restoration process.
All consultations are free either by phone or in our office.
You can reach us 24/7-365 to discuss your case. We encourage you to call us with any questions that you may have.
JAMES E. CZARNECKI II (586) 718-2345
GENEVIEVE L. TAYLOR (586) 350-6044
website: Czarnecki & Taylor website