How much Abstinence is Enough?
How long should you wait to file a license restoration appeal, beyond just being legally eligible? While there’s no simple answer like “6 months,” “1 year,” or “2 years,” we can certainly outline a few considerations to keep in mind as you think about regaining the privilege to drive.
First, of course, there’s legal eligibility. You cannot start a license appeal until the minimum period of revocation from the Secretary of State is over. Thus, if your license has been revoked for 5 years, you have to wait until those 5 years are up.
You can’t go to court and shorten the revocation to 3 or 4 years, no matter how much you “need” a driver’s license.
Next, you must be off probation or parole to win your license back. The Michigan Secretary of State will generally consider any period of probation or parole as “living in a controlled environment.” This is because a standard condition of all probation or parole is to not consume any alcohol or use any drugs, and a violation of that condition can result in penal consequences, like getting locked up.
And to be clear, the Secretary of State doesn’t care how often you’re tested, or even if you’re tested at all. Accordingly, “sober time” accumulated while on probation or parole doesn’t really count as “voluntary,” unless it’s done as part of a Sobriety Court program.
Finally, you must really be sober. This means you must have truly quit drinking for good.
This really goes to the whole point of this section: how much abstinence is enough?
The Secretary of State uses a kind of “sliding scale” rule for the minimum period of abstinence a person must have (and be able to prove) in order to win a license appeal. This sliding scale” provides that the hearing officer, by law, can require proof of abstinence “for a period of not less than 6 consecutive months or… for a period of not less than 12 consecutive months if the evidence considered at the hearing establishes that a longer period of abstinence is necessary.”
Forget about “6 months.”
Forget about a single year, as well.
We won’t file a case if our client won’t have at least 18 month’s of sobriety by the time of his or her license appeal hearing.
This means that the answer to the question, “how much is enough” is exactly what everyone dreads hearing from a lawyer: It depends.
To repeat, then, based upon our experience as driver’s license restoration lawyers, we feel most comfortable if a person will have at least 18 months of sobriety under his or her belt by the time their hearing takes place
For all of that, having 2 years is better than just 18 months, and 3 years is better still…
In the counseling world, there is a general perception that 5 years is a pretty good indicator of stable abstinence. One particularly important study in the field of alcoholism found that 6 years was kind of the “magic number” for predicting long-term, stable abstinence.
When we represent clients with 5 or more years of sobriety, we make sure to really emphasize the length of their time sober. It is very important to remind the hearing officer of the clinical perspective about the likelihood that such a person’s alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control.” After all, the substance abuse evaluation form the Secretary of State requires is really a clinician’s best answer to that very question.
Accordingly, when we have something with significant clinical and evidentiary value, we’ll use it for all it’s worth.
In cases where a person’s period of sobriety is much shorter, then we have to put together evidence that shows, for example, that they’ve had the proverbial “a-ha” moment, or that demonstrates their strong commitment to sobriety, even in the absence of a long track record.
There are plenty of things to point to beyond a simple number, but how to organize and prioritize those things is where our experience as driver’s license restoration lawyers makes a difference. This really does relate back to the “it depends” answer from a few paragraphs ago. Just “knowing” what’s good, and strong, and should be emphasized to help win a license appeal is part of a strange kind of mixture of instinct, experience and skill that makes us real “driver’s license restoration lawyers.”
Remember, we put our money where our mouths are, and guarantee to win every initial driver’s license restoration and clearance case we take.
An example of picking out the helpful and relevant from non-essential and irrelevant can be seen in the letters of support written by family and friends as part of each case. Most letters describe the person they are about in kind terms, point out what a good person he or she is, describe how hard it has been for them to get by without a license, and offer an opinion that the subject deserves a chance to drive again.
None of that makes any difference in a license appeal.
The only thing a letter of support should do is to provide verification of a person’s abstinence. Even if the person the letters are about is a flaming jerk, and deserves a punch in the face more than anything else, as long as his or her letters of support confirms that the or she has been abstinent from alcohol for a sufficient period of time, then they’re good letters. If the don’t confirm that, and even if they paint the subject as the most wonderful person you’ll ever meet, they’re worthless.
We edit these letters to make sure each and every one says what it should, and doesn’t say anything it shouldn’t. Beyond all of our experience as license appeal lawyers, we just “know” when a letter is good, and when it’s not.
In the same way, we know how much sobriety is enough, and how much isn’t. Part of our day-to-day work involves explaining this those who call our office, inquiring about license restoration.
We would much prefer a person call us too early and be told to wait a bit before beginning the license restoration process, than for him or her to wait 5 years, only to call us and find out we could have started the process nearly 3 years earlier
What’s your magic number? Call us, and we’ll help you figure it out.