For as complicated as Michigan driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals are, the main thing you must do is prove that you have given up drinking for good. In this section, I want to explain what that means in the context of being able to win your license back from the Michigan Secretary of State
When a person’s license has been revoked for multiple DUI’s, the Secretary of State concludes that the person has some kind of drinking problem. Even if the person really isn’t any kind of “big drinker,” his or her DUI record has established he or she has at least some kind of risky relationship to alcohol.
Consequently, the state won’t put any such person back on the road until that risk - the risk of ever driving drunk again - is eliminated, and that’s done by showing that alcohol has no place in his or her life whatsoever.
The essence of a license appeal is that a person must prove, by what the law defines as “clear and convincing evidence,” that he or she has given up drinking for good, and this, in turn, requires proving 2 separate things:
First, that they have not had a drink for a “sufficient” period of time (practically speaking, we generally won’t consider taking a case if a person has less than 18 months’ of sobriety), and,
Second, that they have the commitment to remain alcohol-free for life.
Under no circumstance can a person win a license appeal if he or she even thinks they can ever consume a drop of alcohol again. The Secretary of State will never take a chance that somebody who has racked up multiple DUI’s can safely drink AND have a driver’s license.
We hear people argue about this all the time when people try and say things like “I don’t drink like I used to,” or “I don’t really drink that much,” or that they "only drink on special occasions,” or “only at home,” or “only if someone else is driving.”
None of that will fly in a license appeal - ever.
The state, for its part, has drawn a line in the sand: the ONLY people who can win back a driver’s license are those who have given up alcohol completely, and forever.
One thing is beyond dispute: people who do not drink are exactly zero risk to drive drunk.
It’s not pretty, but this analogy makes the point clearly:
Imagine a local school district sends out a notice that it has hired “Charlie” as the new, after-hours custodian. The notice discloses that although Charlie has 2 old convictions for criminal sexual conduct with minors, he hasn’t been in any trouble for a long time, and he is very adamant that he “thinks differently now.”
No parent in the world would accept this. In fact, nobody with any kind of assaultive or sexual misconduct conviction can be employed in a school district. Moreover, people like Charlie generally can never be within 1000 feet of a school for decades, if ever again.
When it comes to restoring someone’s license, the state is only taking the safe bet - that the person is unlikely to ever drive drunk again precisely because he or she is unlikely to ever drink again.
Of course, it goes without saying that everybody needs a driver’s license.
The ugly truth, however, is that only a minority of people who have a drinking problem ever manage to quit drinking and stay sober for good. They license appeal process is designed to make sure, as best it can, that only these people get back on the road.
Therefore, no matter how much a person may want or need a license, and for as much money as they’re willing to pay to get it back, and despite how long they’ve gone without one, or how long they’ve managed to stay out of trouble, ONLY those people who can prove that they have honestly quit drinking and who are genuinely committed to lifetime sobriety can win it back.
In other words, sobriety is the first requirement
to win a Michigan license restoration or clearance appeal.