Winning an out-of-State Clearance of a Michigan “Hold”
In the previous section, we saw that an “appeal by mail,” called an “administrative review” can be a risky proposition and that the Michigan Secretary of State Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) denies about 3 out of every 4 it receives. Now we can turn our attention to what I believe to be the better way to win a clearance of the Michigan “hold” upon your driving record. I remove the element of chance or risk from the decision to hire me by providing a first-time win guarantee. The bottom line is that if you hire me, I will win a clearance for you so that you can obtain (or renew) your license in your new state.
I win each of my clearance cases by conducing an actual live, in-person driver’s license restoration hearing. While not nearly as convenient as an administrative review, the final result, which is all that really matters, is that when I conduct a live hearing, you will win your clearance the first time around. The catch is that you have to come back to Michigan to get it done this way. When you think about it, there is nothing convenient about losing, anyway.
I have perfected a system so that my out-of-state clients will only have to come back to Michigan twice: The first time to see me for 3 hours, then go directly from my office to a local clinic to have their substance abuse evaluation completed, and then a second time, about 8 weeks later, for their actual Michigan license appeal (clearance) hearing.
While this comes as no surprise to anyone who has tried before (and lost), the Michigan law directs that “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…” (Emphasis added).
This means the hearing officer is instructed to look for a reason or reasons to deny a license appeal or clearance case. The biggest mistake anyone makes is thinking that they’ve been without a license for too long, or that they somehow “deserve” it back, or that they’ve been punished enough. The Michigan Secretary of State’s entire and only concern in a license appeal is that a person’s “alcohol problem…is under control, and likely to remain under control.” This translates to a person having to prove their sobriety, and that they are a safe bet to never drink again. The whole focus of the Michigan license appeal process is to not put someone who might ever drink again back behind the wheel.
The substance abuse evaluation, in that sense, is really the foundation of a license clearance case, and must, therefore, be “airtight.” The substance use evaluation is clinical document that includes a professional evaluator’s best opinion on the likelihood that the person will ever drink again, or not. If there is even the smallest doubt or imperfection within it, then it’s not “airtight” and the hearing officer must follow the law and deny the appeal. If the hearing officer finds any problems with the substance use evaluation, he or she is required, by law to conclude that the person has not proven their case by “clear and convincing evidence.”
It is imperative, therefore, that I prepare my client to do well on the evaluation, which is exactly why I spend 3 hours doing just that. I have a special “substance abuse evaluation checklist” form that I have developed, and that I complete as my client and I go over the official state substance abuse evaluation form, line by line. I make sure my client gives a copy of the checklist to their evaluator so that no detail is overlooked at any stage of the process.
The client and I can thereafter work on the letters of support through email or fax. The letters of support play a vital role in a license appeal or clearance case, and I take a very active role in editing and revising them so that they not only contain the information necessary to verify, in a consistent manner, the person’s abstinence, but also to make sure they don’t contain any information that can be adverse to our interests. The reader might be surprised to learn that proper editing of these letters involves deleting as much information as it does suggesting additions or revising them. This is not something that can be done casually or quickly.
Once I have checked and re-checked the substance use evaluation, and the letters of support have been revised and finalized (and signed and notarized), my office will file everything. Usually, it takes about 6 weeks to be notified of the hearing date, which is usually set another 2 weeks after the notice is received (meaning about 8 weeks after everything has been filed).
The notice of hearing will also identify the hearing officer who will be deciding the case. I have all of my hearings held at the AHS hearing office in Livonia. There are 5 hearing officers there, and I know each one of them extremely well. This allows me to not only “prep” my client for their hearing, in general, but also for the specific hearing officer who will ultimately be deciding their case.
That “prep” session, just like the substance use evaluation and the letters of support, is a critical process and must be done carefully. I normally spend at least an hour with my client going over the questions that I will be asking at the hearing, as well as those that will be asked by the specific hearing officer to whom their case has been assigned.
This is, of course, a rather summary account of how I do things, but the end result is always the same: A guaranteed win, clearing the Michigan revocation or “hold” so that my client can either obtain or renew a license in another state.