Just Needing a License is not Enough
In order to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal, a person has to prove sobriety.
It does not matter how much a person “needs” a license, although that is often the focus of many inquiries I receive.
The Michigan Secretary of State’s Driver Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) has established the requirements for winning back a driver’s license, or, in the case of those who have moved out of state, obtaining a clearance of the Michigan “hold” upon a person’s driving record.
Needing a license is not one of those requirements.
This is important. When a person whose license has been revoked for multiple DUI convictions finds themselves presented with a new or better job opportunity, and suddenly needs to regain (or, in some out-of-state cases, renew) their license, the mad scramble begins.
Understandably they focus on how much they "need" a license or clearance. While that may be the motivation for the person to want to get back on the road, it means absolutely nothing to the state.
The fact that someone really needs a license for a new job, or needs it for ANY reason, is of absolutely zero importance to the Secretary of State.
The only thing the state cares about is whether or not a person can prove that they are a safe bet to never drink again.
This means that a person who can prove he or she is sober, but has no need to drive, can win a license appeal, while a person who really needs a license, but can't prove sobriety, has no chance
Let me say this another way: it doesn't matter how much you need a license. The whole process revolves around proving that you have quit drinking for a sufficient period of time, and that you have the commitment and tools to remain alcohol-free.
This focus on the “need” to drive shows up in many of the emails I get, and letters of support I review as I prepare a case for filing.
Often, a concerned parent or family member will explain, in a letter of support, how the lack of a license has held the person back, and how inconvenient it’s been for the whole family to have to drive the person (sometimes, the main wage earner) to and from work, meetings, school, and whatever else.
This could not matter less...
This is bad news for anyone who did not make the decision to quit drinking before the need for a driver’s license became so urgent.
However, the reality is that, if you’re ever going to get your license back, you're going to have to quit drinking, anyway, so this may be the wake-up call you needed.
“Sobriety,” in the sense contemplated by the Secretary of State, means the life-changing decision to give up drinking altogether, and making that decision a permanent one.
It means having made the transition from drinker to non-drinker so that a person adopts a “sober lifestyle” and, over time, that lifestyle becomes second nature to the point that it works almost as if it's on “auto pilot."
Not surprisingly, in many cases where a person is presented with good opportunity for advancement, that opportunity is often a direct result of the person having quit drinking in the first place.
Promotions and so-called “golden opportunities,” at least for people with a DUI history, are most often one of many rewards for having embraced sobriety. Such opportunities are far less common when people are still caught up in a problem drinking lifestyle.
The bottom line is that the “need” for a license carries no weight in terms of the evidence considered by the Secretary of State in deciding license appeals. Only sobriety does.
Often, though, that “need” arises precisely because a person has turned his or her life around, and, having put their drinking behind them, realizes that they have been living well below their potential.
A genuinely sober person soon realizes that without the drinking to hold them back, they can accomplish al kinds of things, and begins to do just that, like driving again.