Skip to main content

Remove a Michigan “Hold” on Your Driving Record to Get a License in Another State

Home Blog DUI Remove a Michigan “Hold” on Your Driving Record to Get a License in Another State

Anyone who does not live in Michigan but has a hold from this state on his or her driving record needs what’s called a “clearance” to get it off. That hold will prevent him or her from either obtaining or renewing a license in their state of residence.

Our firm handles about 200 license appeal cases each year. Nearly half of our clients are people who live outside of Michigan and need a clearance. Accordingly, we know how this works, having successfully done it thousands of times over.

When a person wins a driver’s license restoration case, his or her Michigan driver’s license is restored, and he or she has legal driving privileges here.

By contrast, if he or she wins a clearance case, the Michigan Secretary of State releases its hold on their driving record, allowing another state to issue a license.

To be clear, a driver’s license restoration case and a clearance appeal case are identical in every respect, except for the result:

  • A Michigan resident will win back his or her Michigan driver’s license.
  • Someone who lives out of state will get the Michigan hold cleared off his or her driving record.

Once a clearance is issued, the person can either get (or, in some cases, renew) a license in their home state.

For anyone who had and wants to reinstate or otherwise obtain a CDL (commercial driver’s license), removing a hold on their driving record is the first step in that process.

Whether you are trying to restore your license or get a hold off your Michigan driving record, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s dive in and talk about license holds and revocations in Michigan and how you can clear yours.

Understanding Michigan Driving Record Holds

Under Michigan law, the driving privileges of any person who has a driver’s license issued by this state and who racks up two DUIs and/or drugged driving convictions within seven years or gets convicted of DUI three or more times within ten years will have it revoked.

If that person moves out of state, then his or her Michigan driver’s license revocation becomes a “hold” on his or her driving record.

This also applies to someone who, despite never having had a Michigan license, picks up a 2nd DUI conviction within seven years or a 3rd DUI conviction within ten years in this state.

A license revocation is different than a suspension for something like an open case or unpaid tickets. A suspension is temporary; a revocation, by contrast, is permanent.

That revoked license status NEVER changes. It does not matter how long you wait, the ONLY way to get your license back is to file – and win – a formal driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal before the Michigan Secretary of State, through its Office of Hearings and Administrative Oversight (OHAO).

A person who lives outside of Michigan can also try a “do-it-yourself” appeal called an “administrative review” (discussed below), but as we’ll see, those are sure-fire losers, given that 3 out of 4 of them are denied.

Why You Need To Request a Copy of Your Michigan Driving Record

To get started, you’ll need a copy of your driving record from Michigan and any other state where you’ve held a driver’s license. It does NOT have to be a certified copy of the driving record. However, we will want a recent copy of all driver records.

When the paperwork is submitted to the Secretary of State, we’ll have to include the client’s full name, Michigan and out-of-state driver’s license number(s), and date of birth.

There is vital information on that record beyond just a driving history of someone’s moving violations, traffic violations, and other driving offenses. My team and I need to carefully review the entire record to ensure a person meets the mandatory eligibility requirements.

For example, the Michigan Department of State (Secretary of State) cannot restore a license or grant a clearance if a person has any open matters in Michigan involving the operation of a motor vehicle. We see this sometimes when a person has left the state without taking care of a ticket or has an unresolved revoked or suspended license charge pending somewhere.

It’s worth noting that, in our decades of practice, my team and I have also encountered plenty of errors on driving records, as well.

Sometimes, a court will not completely or properly report the closure of a traffic infraction or drunk driving case, or any kind of traffic matter, and this will screw up a person’s eligibility to file a license appeal case.

These errors can prevent a person from winning and, in some cases, even starting a license appeal. Our job, in these situations, is to help get them fixed for the client.

Points On Your Michigan Driving Record

Points on your Michigan driving record usually do NOT matter in a driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal. As a practical consideration, by the time someone is eligible to seek reinstatement of his or her driving privileges (or the clearance of a Michigan “hold’ on his or her record, those points will usually have fallen off.

The MDR (Master Driving Record)

The term “Master Driving Record” is a misnomer in Michigan. A person simply has a driving record, and when it’s printed, it’s either a certified or regular copy. As noted above, there is no need for us to get a certified copy if the record is provided by the Michigan Secretary of State and is up to date.

Any state’s DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) will obtain its own certified copy of another state’s driving record. Note that in Michigan, it is the Secretary of State who handles everything related to driving privileges and vehicle records. Accordingly, there is no such thing as a Michigan “DMV.”

How To Request Your Driving Record In Michigan

No matter what your license status, getting your driving record is easy, and can be done either online or in-person.

Here’s the link for the Michigan Secretary of State’s online driving record request page, where a person can fill out a request form and have it sent by regular mail or receive it online:

Jeffrey Randa And Associates’ Virtual Advantage

Our firm LITERALLY brings a “virtual advantage” to the process of getting a Michigan hold off your driving record. Beyond guaranteeing to win every restoration and clearance appeal case we take, my team and I can handle every part of the license restoration process virtually.

A person can also remotely complete the required substance use evaluation (SUE) with one of our evaluators, as well.

Of course, we offer everyone the choice for either in-person or virtual appointments. Not surprisingly, most out-of-state clients are quite happy for the virtual option.

For its part, the Michigan Secretary of State now conducts ALL license appeal hearings virtually, so there is no need to come back to Michigan to clear a hold off your driving record. The entire process can be handled from the comfort of your own home.

To Get A Michigan Hold Off Your Driving Record, You Must Prove That You’re Sober

person waving off a glass of white wine


Here is the biggest issue: You MUST be sober to win a driver’s license restraint or clearance appeal case. Our firm doesn’t accept cases for people who haven’t HONESTLY stopped drinking. That’s key to how we can guarantee to win every case we take.

We carefully screen our potential clients and ask direct questions about their abstinence from alcohol and drugs, including recreational marijuana (which is a huge no-no and will kill a license appeal before it even starts).

The cold truth is that if we could take every case we’re offered, we’d be rich!

However, because we’ll only take on a restoration or clearance appeal for people who are genuinely sober, that greatly reduces the number of interested parties who actually become our clients.

To be clear, sobriety is the absolute foundation of every license appeal, and the basis for why we guarantee to win every driver’s license restoration and clearance appeal case we take.

The Law (Rule 13) Governing License Appeals

To understand all of this better, let’s look at the written law and then quickly break down what it really means in plain English. Here is the relevant part of the main rule (Rule 13) regarding license restoration and clearance appeals:

  • 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.

Here’s What The Law Says In Plain English

The written law can seem confusing, but we can break it all down to a few, simple points. Here’s what the important stuff really means:

  • First, anyone who has lost his or her license for multiple DUIs is presumed, under Michigan law, to have an alcohol and/or substance abuse problem. That’s the starting point for all license appeals.
  • Second, note that the hearing officer is instructed by the rule to NOT grant a clearance or restoration appeal (in other words, he or she must deny it) unless the person filing it proves certain things by what is specified as “clear and convincing evidence.”

Think of “clear and convincing evidence” as about the same thing as hitting a home run into the upper deck. In other words, you really must “crush it” to win.

With that in mind, there are two key things that must be proven:

  1. That the person’s alcohol and/or substance abuse problem is “under control.” To be “under control,” a person must show that he or she has been completely abstinent from alcohol and drugs (including recreational marijuana) for a legally sufficient period of time. In practice, our firm generally won’t move forward with a case until someone has been clean and sober for at least 18 months.
  2. That the person’s alcohol and/or substance abuse problem is “likely to remain under control.” This requires demonstrating that one has both the ability and commitment to remain alcohol and drug-free permanently. Put another way, a person must show that he or she is a safe bet to remain clean and sober for life.

That’s what it takes to win, so let’s next look at how and why people lose.

3 Reasons For Losing An Administrative Review of Your Michigan Driving Record

judge hitting gavel

There are three things that most often cause an administrative review to lose:

  1. An inadequate substance use evaluation (SUE)
  2. Insufficient letters of support, and
  3. No ability to provide testimony or clarify anything.

Let’s look at each in turn:

1. The Substance Use Evaluation (SUE)

A substance use evaluation must filed to start a license restoration or clearance appeal, including an administrative review. To count, it must be both legally adequate AND have a favorable prognosis.

The evaluation is a clinical document that must include the entirety of a person’s alcohol, substance use, rehabilitation, and criminal history. If it’s discovered that anything was left out or not otherwise accurately listed, then the evaluation will be discounted and NOT considered.

That means it’s game over.

Here’s the problem: Very few evaluators know how to do an evaluation the way the Michigan Secretary of State hearing officers require. Any qualified clinician can look at the state’s form and think, “I can do that,” and, clinically speaking, they’d be right.

However, the hearing officers want certain information that’s not obvious by just looking at the form.

Our office works closely – and daily – with our two evaluators. We often communicate with them several times per day. We provide detailed feedback to them all the time. We’ve even brought one of our evaluators to license appeal hearings just to observe how the hearing officers interpret the information contained in the substance use evaluation.

Most evaluators working in Michigan never get anything like that or have a fraction of this kind of experience. Thus, an evaluator working in some other state who doesn’t work on Michigan license appeal evaluations daily can’t really do anything more than take “a shot in the dark” at completing an evaluation properly.

Good luck with that, because you’re going to need it.

However, this is never a problem for us because our clients go to our evaluators.

As noted before, the whole clearance appeal process can be handled virtually, so neither distance nor location is an issue. In other words, it doesn’t matter where the client lives. Our evaluator is literally a few clicks away.

2. The Letters Of Support

Another key reason administrative review and clearance appeal cases lose is that they rely on insufficient letters of support. In fact, letters that aren’t good enough cause more cases to lose than one could ever imagine. That’s why editing them is such a critical part of our work. My team and I literally spend hours doing this.

Our instructions about how the letters should be done is brought up at our first meeting with a new client (whether virtual, or in-person). We’ll go over what information the letters should contain, and what’s not relevant. We’ll also provide a sample copy for the person to give his or her writers to follow.

In addition, we explain that the letters should first be sent back to us in draft form so that we can make our corrections and then send them back to be finalized.

Here’s the “kicker,” so to speak: Almost without exception, every letter we get needs substantial editing. MORE than 99% of all letters need work before they can be filed.

This is not an issue of grammar, either. We get letters from college professors, doctors, lawyers, teachers, and people who are otherwise good writers. The problem isn’t one of writing ability, but rather about making sure that the letters contain the required information concerning the person’s drinking and/or drug use and abstinence history.

The “Helpfulness” Problem

What ends up happening is that most letters veer off into legally irrelevant territory. A colleague of mine describes these as “good-guy letters” because the writers inevitably provide extensive and positive commentary about the subject.

It’s natural (although not helpful) for the letters to indicate how hard it has been for the person to get by without a license and what a good person he or she is. Many will try to “help” by stating that the person really deserves to win his or her case.

Unfortunately, none of that matters a bit. In fact, a letter could describe the subject as the most arrogant, obnoxious, and selfish person on the planet, but if it also corroborates his or her substance use and abstinence history, then it’s good.

This is a hard concept to fully grasp, and it goes somewhat against the natural tendency to want to build someone up in any letter intended to be “helpful.”

A Real Life Example: For everything I could explain, here is a real-life example that drives the point home:

Not that long ago, our firm handled a license appeal for someone I knew well, and personally. I was called upon to write a support letter. The reader might think that, after having edited thousands and thousands of them, I’d have no trouble producing a letter that was near perfect.

And to be sure, I gave it my best shot. I thought I did a great job.

One of our associate attorneys reviewed it, and sent it back to me, all marked up for editing the very same way we send all of them back for corrections. As I thought about it, the fact that my best effort needed editing by an objective third party didn’t really surprise me, even if I was a bit disappointed.

This experience reinforced everything I know about how getting the letters done right requires the help of an outside party.

Anyone trying a “do-it-yourself” administrative review to get a clearance will get none of that help. This is a key reason why 3 out of every 4 “DIY” appeals wind up being denied.

3. Testimony – You’re Not There To Answer Questions, And There Are ALWAYS Questions.

Ultimately, the Secretary of State hearing officer must be convinced, by that “clear and convincing evidence” standard, that the person filing the appeal has honestly quit drinking (and/or using all other substances) and is a safe bet to remain clean and sober for life.

It’s worth mentioning one last thing: Plenty of people think that, because they ARE clean, and are committed to sobriety, that’s enough to win a clearance or restoration case.

It’s not.

Sobriety is simply the foundation upon which a winning case is built.

In other words, we must take a person’s recovery, drinking history, and everything else, and then properly shape it into a winning license restoration or clearance appeal case.

In that context, the hearing officer is likely going to have some questions about your drinking and/or drug use history or your recovery and current lifestyle. Sometimes, they just want to clarify or confirm what’s on your evaluation or in your letters of support.

Whatever the question(s), if you’re not there to answer, you lose. As noted, three out of every four administrative appeals are denied.

It’s kind of like getting a job. Having the minimum qualifications on paper is only the first step. From there, a person must “win” the interview, as well.

Does Michigan Have A “Hold” On Your Driving Record? Don’t Let State Lines Stop You

If you need to clear the Michigan hold off your driving record so that you can obtain or renew a license in another state, explore our blog. You can find more useful information there than any and everywhere else combined. Look around online and see for yourself.

Remember, our firm can handle your case no matter where you live, so make sure you give our office a ring as you check out your options.

We always provide confidential and free consultations, conveniently 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’ll even be happy to compare notes with anything some other lawyer has told you.

We can be reached Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (EST), at 248-247-7995 or 586-300-4347.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is A Michigan “Hold” On A Driving Record?

A Michigan “hold” on a driving record means that a person’s privileges to drive in Michigan have either been suspended or revoked. This will prevent another state from issuing or renewing a driver’s license.

Can I Resolve My Michigan Driving Record Issues From Another State?

Yes. We make it easy to remove a Michigan hold on your driving record if you’ve been revoked for multiple DUI’s, drugged driving, or other serious criminal traffic convictions. Our firm handles about 200 license appeals per year, and we GUARANTEE to win every license restoration and clearance appeal case we take.

Anyone whose hold is the result of a Michigan suspension (not a revocation) simply needs to clear up the outstanding issue(s). Often, this is the result of something like an unresolved traffic matter.

We can help with that, too.

If the hold is the result of a revocation, then your best chance to remove it is to file and win a formal driver’s license clearance appeal case.

How Long Does It Take To Remove A Hold from My Michigan Driving Record?

The time frame for removing a Michigan hold on your driving record depends on why you have that hold in the first place:

  1. If your hold is the result of a REVOCATION for multiple DUI’s and/or drugged driving or other serious criminal traffic convictions, you will have to go through either an administrative review (remember, 3 out of 4 lose) or a formal license appeal.
    • This requires obtaining and filing a substance use evaluation along with testimonial support letters. It can take several months from the time a case is filed to the time a final decision is issued by the Secretary of State’s Office of Administrative Hearings and Oversight (OHAO).
  2. If your license has been suspended (not revoked), then you must clear up whatever is causing the hold in the first place. This is usually something like an unresolved traffic offense (a suspended license charge, for instance). In these cases, you must resolve what’s outstanding. Once that’s fixed, then the hold will be lifted. This can usually be done rather quickly.
Should I File A “Do-It-Yourself” Administrative Review In Michigan?

No. A “do-it-yourself” out of state clearance appeal is technically called an “administrative review.” In the real world, an administrative review is basically a shortcut to losing. Statistically speaking, 3 out of every 4 of these DIY appeals get denied every year. The chances of changing your license status this way are bleak, at best.

That said, if you’re determined to try your luck with a DIY clearance appeal, then go for it. Our firm will be here when you need us. In fact, it’s often easier for us when we speak with someone who has already tried to get a clearance on their own and lost. Then, we don’t have to convince them of anything.

However, it is important to point out that whatever someone screws up and causes them to lose an administrative review will need to be fixed in the next appeal. Sometimes, this can be a daunting task.

Why make things worse?

We noted above that there is no hearing in an administrative review, and therefore no testimony is provided to explain anything. You’re simply not there to answer any questions – and for the most part, there are always questions.

Our firm would never handle a case this way. Not surprisingly, the best way to handle an out-of-state case is to let the professionals – like us – who do this all day, every day, take care of it.