Why Sobriety is Required to win a Michigan Driver’s License Restoration Case
It’s been a while since I’ve written about why a person must be genuinely sober to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal. Sobriety is FIRST thing a person must have, and it’s the key requirement to have any chance of getting back on the road. This is beyond important, because proving that one has quit drinking and has the ability and commitment to remain alcohol and drug-free (including from recreational marijuana) for life is the very foundation upon which every Michigan license appeal case is built. That’s what we’ll examine in this article.
The big problem is that many people overlook how fundamentally important sobriety is to driver’s license restoration cases. Instead, they’ll focus on how much they need a license. Many will point out how long it’s been since they’ve had one, or how long they’ve stayed out of trouble. Those are, of course, important personal considerations. However, in the context of a Michigan license appeal, unless a person is genuinely sober, they don’t matter at all. As one hearing officer states, everybody “needs” a license. Getting it back, though, is a whole different ballgame.
There are very specific rules for wining a Michigan license appeal after a driver’s license has been revoked for multiple DUI’s. Nothing in them references a person’s need to drive, or the hardship caused by not being able to do so. It is understood that it’s hard to get by without a license. That’s intentional. As we just noted, it has nothing to do with being able to win a Michigan license appeal. Instead, the Michigan Secretary of State is directed, by law, to make sure, as best it can, that anyone it puts back on the road isn’t a risk to ever drive drunk again.
The calculation to make that determination is rather simple: People who don’t drink are exactly ZERO risk to drive drunk. That’s who the state is looking for. This becomes clear upon a careful reading of the Michigan Driver’s License Rules. To be sure, the main rule (Rule 13) that governs license restoration and clearance appeals can sound a bit complicated at first. However, once the relevant part is broken down and explained, it’s actually quite straightforward. Before we get to that, though, it’s important understand something about Michigan’s DUI laws.
In Michigan, if a person is convicted of 2 DUI’s within 7 years, or 3 DUI’s within 10 years, he or she is legally categorized as a “habitual alcohol offender.” Beyond the dubious title, there are 2 important consequences that flow from that. The first, which the reader no doubt knows rather well, is that his or her driver’s license gets revoked.
Second, any such person is presumed, by law, to have an alcohol problem. This means it’s assumed that anyone who has to file a Michigan license appeal after being revoked for multiple DUI’s has a drinking problem. That’s the starting point for every driver’s license restoration and clearance case. From there, the legal appeal process is all about screening for those people who have really quit drinking for good.
Because many people don’t know this, they miss the fact that, under the law, it is a complete waste of time to try and argue things like he or she –
- Never did really drink that much
- Doesn’t have a drinking problem
- Was going through a rough patch when the DUI’s happened
- Was young at the time, but has since “grown up”
- Hardly drinks at all now, or only on special occasions
- Won’t drink if he/she has to drive
- Will never drink outside of his or her home
- Only has a glass of wine with dinner once in a while, or the occasional beer.
None of that will fly with the Michigan Secretary of State. Instead, it simply assumes anyone who files a Michigan license appeal after multiple DUI’s HAS a drinking problem. Under the law, the fact that someone racked up 2 or more DUI’s is proof enough that there is some kind of problem. For those people, the problem is at least that drinking carries risk. To the state, it’s an unacceptable risk to the public for him or her to drive, at least until he or she has quit drinking.
As a result, the Secretary of State’s interest really goes to the next level: What has the person done to fix his or her troubled relationship to alcohol? In that regard, “fix” means to quit drinking for good.
To be clear, the mere idea that a person even thinks he or she can ever drink again is a deal-killer. It follows, then, that being sober is, in fact, the foundation upon which a license appeal case is built.
Now, let’s take a look at the relevant part of that main license appeal rule. First, we’ll look at how it’s written, and then we’ll break down what it really means:
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.
Notice how the opening sentence directs the hearing officer to NOT issue a license unless and until the person filing the appeal proves several things by what is specified as “clear and convincing evidence.” In simple terms, that means he or she has to hit a home run.
Remember, under Michigan law, anyone who has lost his or her license for multiple DUI’s is presumed to have a drinking problem. This completely negates the “if any” language in part i, which only applies in non-alcohol or substance abuse revocation cases.
Next, let’s see how that legalese translates to plain English:
First, the notion that the person’s presumed alcohol problem is “under control” means proving that he or she has been completely abstinent from alcohol (and all drugs, including recreational marijuana) for a legally sufficient period of time.
Not surprisingly, the exact amount of clean time necessary will vary from case to case. Someone with just 2 DUI’s will need less than someone who has 6 or 7 prior drunk driving convictions. As a practical matter, our firm generally requires a MINIMUM of 18 months’ sobriety in the even the easiest of cases before we’ll file it.
Second, the person must convince the hearing officer that his or her presumed alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control.” This means demonstrating that he or she is a safe bet to NEVER drink again (or use any drugs, including, as mentioned, recreational marijuana). Put another way, this requires proving that he or she has both the ability and the commitment to remain clean and sober for life.
Essentially, the law requires that the Secretary of State to NOT take any chances when it comes to restoring driving privileges for someone who has lost them because of multiple DUI’s. The whole point of the Michigan license appeal process is to weed out anyone who presents any risk to ever drive drunk again.
The surest way to do that is to only put people who can prove they don’t drink – and won’t drink – back on the road.
In our roles as Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, we speak with a lot of people. Those who really have quit drinking just “get” this. However, plenty of others don’t. They want to argue that they can still drink. They’ll get mad and say things like “This is bull$hit!” Or, they’ll say “drinking is legal” – like we didn’t know that.
Whatever else, my team and I don’t make the rules; we work within them.
However, we do it well enough to guarantee to win every driver’s license restoration and clearance appeal case we take. We know our stuff, and part of that involves knowing what cases NOT to take. Specifically, we will only take a case for someone who, as the Michigan license appeal rules require, has honestly quit drinking.
To keep this in perspective, it’s worth repeating – again – that the law presumes anyone who racks up 2 DUI’s within 7 years or 3 within 10 years has some kind of drinking problem. And to be clear, this does NOT mean that any such person is necessarily some hardcore alcoholic who wakes up with the shakes.
A recent client of mine (who won his case, by the way) explained to the hearing officer that, early on, he struggled with idea he could actually have a drinking problem. He never drank very often. He could point to all kinds of people who drank more frequently, and who drank more, and clearly had issues with their alcohol use.
It took him a while to come to grips with the fact that, for as infrequently and little as he drank, when he did, things could go sideways. They certainly did when he got his 2 DUI’s. Then, he got it: Anything that causes a problem IS a problem.
It’s important to understand that the measure of a drinking problem isn’t just the amount or frequency of one’s alcohol consumption. It can also just be the fact that a person who doesn’t drink much is at risk to get into trouble when he or she does. That, of course, is exactly what the “habitual alcohol offender” designation is all about.
This means that even a person who rarely drinks has a problem if that limited alcohol use has caused him or her to get arrested twice for DUI’s within 7 years. The “problem,” as we noted above, is simply that drinking is a risky proposition for him or her.
The ultimate goal of the Michigan license appeal process is to limit the risk of someone getting another DUI as much as possible. This is done by making sure, to the extent possible, that the only people who get back on the road are those who simply don’t drink.
There is, of course, more to sobriety than just not drinking. To be sure, every sober person doesn’t drink, but not every person who doesn’t drink is really sober. True sobriety is a state of being. It is backed up by a sober lifestyle. Anyone who is genuinely sober “gets” this. They ditch the drinking friends. They stay away from drinking situations. As people in AA put it, they “avoid wet faces and wet places.”
When people get sober, pretty much everything in their lives change. Beyond getting rid of the negative influences, their lives gets better. It’s normal for people who embrace sobriety to eventually regain the trust and respect of those who matter. Their social circles often shrink, but instead of drinking friends, they associate with people with whom they have things in common.
They do better at work, or, in some cases, they get better work.
People will usually report that after they quit drinking for good, they began to feel better physically and mentally. When a person gets sober, every last aspect of his or her life improves.
When someone doesn’t “get” this at the gut level, then we know (and, in turn, the Secretary of State will know) that he or she is not yet truly sober.
Moreover, you can’t force sobriety. It comes when it comes – if it comes. The sad fact is that most people who develop a troubled relationship to alcohol don’t get over it. Nor can you fake sobriety, either. I mentioned that a lot of people contact us about winning back their driver’s license. Less than half of them are really sober. Because we guarantee to win every case we take, we can’t represent them. That’s why we screen potential clients as carefully as we do.
No matter what, my team and I are always please to speak with anyone about the Michigan license appeal process, and, for those who may not be there yet, about getting sober. Ultimately, however, people will only quit drinking when they’ve had enough of the trouble caused by it.
For some, this is the result of a profound “a-ha” moment. Many describe this as hitting bottom (not surprisingly, a lot of such epiphanies occur following a 2nd or subsequent DUI arrest). For others, there is more of a gradual path to that last drink.
However it works out, in order to win a Michigan license appeal case, a person must be sober, and we, as the license restoration lawyers, must be able to prove it by “clear and convincing evidence.”
Sobriety, then, is the foundation upon which a winning driver’s license restoration or out-of-state clearance appeal case is built. Without it, a person has no chance.
If we have that, however, then my team and I can build a winning case upon it – guaranteed.
If you are looking for a lawyer to win back your license or obtain the clearance of a Michigan hold on your driving record so that you can get a license in another state, be a wise consumer and read around. Pay attention to how different lawyers explain the license appeal process, and how they explain their various approaches to it.
This blog is a great place to start. It is fully searchable and updated weekly with new, original content. With over 660 articles (to-date) in the driver’s license restoration section, the reader can find more useful information about the Michigan license appeal process here than any and everywhere else combined.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Look for yourself.
When you’ve done enough reading, start checking around. You can learn a lot by speaking with a live person. Our firm can handle your case no matter where you live (it’s can all be done remotely now, anyway).
All of our consultations are free, confidential, and 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 either 248-986-9700, or 586-465-1980.