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Winning a Michigan Driver’s License Restoration Case Before the OHAO

Home Blog Driver's License Restoration Winning a Michigan Driver’s License Restoration Case Before the OHAO

The Michigan agency that handles all driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals is called the “Office of Hearings and Administrative Oversight,” or OHAO., for short. It is a sub-division of the Michigan Secretary of State that oversees every part of the license reinstatement appeal process. The acronym “OHAO” is just the latest designation for a department that has changed its name 4 times in the last several years. It was originally called the “Driver’s License Appeal Division,’ or DLAD, until sometime in the early 2000’s.

How to win a Michigan license reinstatement appeal before the OHAOThat name made sense to anyone who needed to file a license reinstatement appeal. For some reason, however, the agency was then thereafter rebranded as the “Driver Assessment and Appeal Division,” or DAAD. Only a few years later, yet another name change resulted in it being called the “Administrative Hearing Section,” or AHS. That title lasted several years, until the most recent change, a few years ago, which has now given us the OHAO. Its name might sound funny, but the business of the OHAO has a very serious impact on the lives of everyone who must deal with it.

The Secretary of State is legally required to revoke a person’s license after multiple DUI’s (or any combination of DUI’s and/or drugged driving convictions). However, the authority to grant or deny a license reinstatement appeal is exclusively within the purview of the OHAO. The Office of Hearings and Administrative Oversight employs 10 hearing officers who decide every license appeal case that’s filed. This includes cases for anyone who lives out of state, and seeks the clearance of a Michigan hold on his or her driving record in order to obtain a license elsewhere.

A driver’s license restoration appeal follows a very specific legal process, and understanding it is key to having any chance to win a license appeal. Our firm guarantees to win every restoration and clearance case we take precisely because we know what we’re talking about. Not to sound cocky, but we speak with far more authority than all of the “McLicense” operations out there who can’t explain the specifics that we’re about to cover here.

There are a lot of laws and rules governing how a license reinstatement appeal must be filed, and then decided. Thus, it will help for us to step back and simplify things:

Under applicable Michigan law, if a person is convicted of 2 DUI’s within 7 years, or 3 DUI’s within 10 years, his or her driver’s license will automatically be revoked for either 1 or 5 years, respectively.

When we say that someone’s license is revoked for either 1 or 5 years, that doesn’t mean he or she gets it back thereafter. Instead, a license is revoked for life, and the 1 or 5 year periods refer to minimum period a person must wait before he or she can file a license restoration case to have the OHAO even consider restoration of driving privileges, or granting the clearance of a Michigan hold on his or her driving record.

This means if someone loses his or her license after multiple DUI’s, and waits 20, 30, or even 50 years, he or she must still file a license restoration or clearance appeal and go through the formal restoration process before the OHAO, and then win his or her case. Thus, “revoked for life” means just that – a person’s license is gone for the rest of his or her life, unless and until he or she wins it back through a formal restoration or clearance appeal.

There is NO exception to this.

Another consequence of Michigan’s DUI laws is that once a person has been convicted of his or her 2nd DUI within 7 years, or 3rd within 10 years, he or she is automatically categorized as a “habitual alcohol offender.” This is really important because it means that any such person is also legally PRESUMED to have some kind of alcohol (and/or substance abuse) problem(s).

That presumption is CENTRAL to every license reinstatement appeal filed before the OHAO.

Put another way, simply because a person has racked up 2 or more DUI’s, it is taken as a given that he or she has a drinking and/or substance abuse problem of some kind. That’s the starting point for the OHAO in every license appeal it is asked to consider. To understand how this all works, let’s look at the main one of the Michigan Driver’s License Rules (Rule 13) governing these cases, and then break it down into simple terms:

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 that really means in plain English:

To begin, note that the opening sentence mandates that the OHAO hearing offer NOT grant a license reinstatement appeal unless the person proves certain things by what is next defined as “clear and convincing evidence.”

It’s easy to read past and overlook this, but it’s critical to NOT do so. One must pay attention to the fact that the rule requires the hearing officer to DENY a license reinstatement appeal unless the person proves what’s required (more on that shortly) by that “clear and convincing evidence” standard. Legally speaking, it is unusual for a law to be written in the negative like that.

Indeed, just about everything else in the law works in the exact opposite manner:

  • If you sue someone in a civil case, you win if you prove your case by a “preponderance of the evidence.” This basically means that the parties walk into court with the scales of justice evenly balanced. Whoever piles up more evidence on his or her side will prevail.
  • In a criminal case, a person can only be found guilty if the proof against him or her is good enough to meet the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. Here again, we can think of the scales of justice as starting off evenly balanced (remember, a person is presumed innocent). A conviction can only be had if the prosecutor convinces the jury of the person’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
  • In a Social Security disability case, the law provides that benefits shall be awarded if a person proves his or her case by the same “clear and convincing evidence” standard that applies in a license reinstatement appeal. Just like in a regular civil or criminal setting, the case essentially begins with the scales of justice evenly balanced. All a person has to do is tip the scales from the mid-point enough to meet the “clear and convincing evidence” standard.

However, in the context of a Michigan driver’s license appeal, every case starts out with the answer as “no.” To use our scales of justice analogy, it’s like the scales are tipped ALL THE WAY to that “no” side. A person must therefore not only pile up enough evidence to get the scales to balance in the middle, but keep going to tip them almost all the way to “yes” side far enough to hit that “clear and convincing evidence” point.

In the real world, this means that there are no “breaks” to be had in these cases. A person can’t get “the benefit of the doubt” in a license reinstatement appeal. The OHAO hearing officer is required to start out with “no” as the answer, and can only issue a license (or a clearance) if the person presents enough evidence to make a “clear and convincing” case.

In terms of understanding “clear and convincing evidence,” think of it as the equivalent of hitting a home run.

More specifically, it’s about the same thing as hitting the baseball into the stands.

Now, with that as our backdrop, let’s see exactly what must be proven. Despite all the language in the rule cited above, and for as complicated as it may sound, we can boil all it all down to 2 main things:

First, a person must prove that his or her alcohol and/or substance abuse problem (remember, the existence of such a problem is PRESUMED by law) is “under control.” This means that he or she must demonstrate COMPLETE AND TOTAL abstinence from alcohol and all drugs (including recreational marijuana) for a legally sufficient period of time.

Although the precise amount of clean time necessary will vary from case to case, our firm generally requires a person to have at least 18 months of total abstinence before we’ll move forward with a license restoration or clearance appeal.

Second, the person must demonstrate that his or her (remember, presumed) alcohol and/or substance abuse problem is “likely to remain under control.” This essentially requires one to demonstrate that he or she has both the ability and commitment to remain completely alcohol (and drug) free for the rest of his or her life.

Put another way, a person must convince the OHAO that he or she is a safe bet to NEVER so much as even take a sip of alcohol or use any other intoxicants (again, including recreational marijuana) as long as he or she lives.

The day this article was being written, an email came in from someone interested in a license reinstatement appeal. As I read it, I realized that what this person said was the perfect description of what will NOT fly in a driver’s license restoration case, and exactly what will cause a case to be denied on the spot. Here it is:

“Hello I need help getting my license back….I have not drank since 2019 except for a couple sips of wine here and there, but other than that I do not drink…”

Anyone who has been revoked after multiple DUI’s is seen as a risk on the road, and to the public. The law was written and the license appeal process designed to eliminate that risk, and the best (and only) way to do that is to limit the restoration of driving privileges to those people who DO NOT drink, and are a safe bet to never drink again.

People who do not drink are exactly zero risk to ever drive drunk again. That’s who the whole license restoration appeal process is designed to find.

If the OHAO so much as suspects that a person even thinks he or she could ever drink again (even by taking a mere “sip” of beverage alcohol), then the law requires that his or her license reinstatement appeal be denied. Remember, an alcohol problem is considered to be “under control” only when a person can prove that he or she has both the ability and commitment to remain completely alcohol (and drug) free for life.

The individual who sent that email is exactly the kind of person that the main rule set out above is designed to keep OFF the road. The end goal of the license appeal process is to screen out those people who are genuinely sober, and who truly live a sober lifestyle. Real sobriety, of course, means that someone has not only quit drinking (and using any other substances), but also intends to stay quit – permanently.

A lot of people don’t get this, but plenty do, even though some of them aren’t completely sober. Thus, the OHAO is on the lookout for people to come in and say they’ve quit drinking, and otherwise try to say all the right things. The hearing officers expect that people are going to lie to them, and know their job is to really dig deep in order to verify that someone is genuinely clean and sober.

Here, it’s important to circle back to that opening line of the main rule, which requires a person to prove his or her case by “clear and convincing evidence.” Of course, a person must really be sober to win a license reinstatement appeal, but in addition, he or she must also be able to prove that.

This is where my team and I come in, because we know exactly how to prove what’s necessary to win a license reinstatement appeal before the OHAO. That’s precisely how and why we can guarantee to win every case we take.

Of course, as a precondition, that requires a client who is, in fact, genuinely sober. Our firm is NOT interested in trying to “pass one off” and move forward with a license reinstatement appeal for someone who really hasn’t quit drinking, and/or who otherwise isn’t fully committed to remaining sober.

We’re honest people, and we represent honest clients.

The OHAO, for it’s part, is going to put every license reinstatement appeal though the wringer to make sure that’s the case.

Ultimately, if we have a sober client, my team and I can make his or her case into a winner. No attorney can do more, and we will never do less.

If you’re looking for a lawyer to win back your driver’s license or clear a hold on your Michigan driving record so that you can obtain a license in another state, be a wise consumer and read around. Pay attention to how different lawyers break down the license restoration anc clearance 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 a new, original article. To-date, I have written and published almost 700 articles in the driver’s license restoration section. here is nothing like it anywhere, but don’t take my word for it, check for yourself.

When you’ve done enough reading, start calling around. You can learn a lot by speaking with a live person, which is exactly what you’ll get when you call our office. 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, explain things, and even compare notes with anything some other lawyer has told you.