Reducing this rather complicated subject to a quick start guide is difficult. While it may not be as quick as the term “quick start” might suggest, the following is a very abbreviated overview of the process in my office. I would strongly suggest that anyone interested in the process take the time to read the all of the section here and call my office for a free and completely confidential consultation. This attention to detail is why I win over 98% of the Driver’s License Restoration Appeals I file on behalf of my clients.
In fact, I’m so sure I’ll win any License Appeal I accept that I GUARANTEE I’ll win it the first time, or the next one is FREE!
The process begins with a call to my office. I screen the client to make sure they will eventually be able to attend a hearing at the Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal office in Lansing or other designated locations throughout the State of Michigan. This means that people living outside of the Metro-Detroit area, “up north” etc… are within the area of hearings and jurisdictions that I cover.
I do not believe in either Administrative (paper) Appeals, nor will I do a “video” hearing, where the Petitioner and his or her Attorney show up in some remote State office and do a sort of “webcam” Hearing with a Hearing Officer in another location. I truly believe that nothing is better than a face-to-face hearing.
My fee, which is $3250 for a Driver’s License Restoration Case, is precisely that experience. I win as many cases as I do because I put the extra effort into making sure a case is ready before it’s filed, and making sure my Client is ready when the Hearing date arrives.
The first order of business is to find out when the interested party was or will be eligible to apply for a License Appeal Hearing. A person can request their hearing up to 6 weeks before their actual eligibility date. The Secretary of State rules are very specific, and cannot be shortened or modified. A person with 2 alcohol or substance abuse related driving offenses within 7 years must wait one full year from their last to be eligible to apply. A person with 3 or more within 10 years must wait five years from their last to be eligible.
A person seeking to get their license back must prove a number of things to the Hearing Officer in order to win their appeal. The “Law” governing these Appeals is known as Rule 13, and it requires that the person Appealing prove their case by “Clear and Convincing Evidence.” The Rule is reprinted below:
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.
Some of these sections are far more important than others, and some only come into play under certain, limited circumstances. Knowing which subsections to concentrate upon is, in large part, a byproduct of the individual circumstance of the Client’s prior Record. This is part of what I spend about 2 and ½ to 3 hours going over with the Client at our first meeting.
Once we have established your eligibility, I’ll ask about the kind of counseling, rehab, or support group (like AA) you’ve had since your last arrest. A common myth is that a person must be “in” AA on order to win their case. That’s not true. About ½ of my cases (and remember, I win more than 95%) involve Clients who DO NOT currently go to AA, and many of them either never went, or went a few times and bailed out.
Then we’ll go over what is the very foundation of an appeal, the Substance Abuse Evaluation. A person applying to get their license reinstated must do so by submitting a Secretary of State document called a Request for Hearing, along with that Evaluation. These forms are available online at the Secretary of State’s website and there is a link to them in the full-text discussion in this section.
The Substance Abuse Evaluation must be filled out by a licensed Substance Abuse Counselor. The form requires very specific information. Since the information in that document is the most important element in determining the outcome of your case, it is quite fair to say that the Substance Abuse Evaluation is the foundation upon which the rest of your case is built. If it doesn’t hold up, then the whole case collapses, and you are sent away with a denial and have to wait another year to try again.
If the Evaluation is good enough, then the rest of your case must also be as good in order to win. That is why I spend so much time preparing my clients before they ever even make an appointment for their evaluation. Usually, we will have spent nearly 3 hours in the office preparing for this all-important first step. Many times, clients will ask for a referral for the evaluation. I have several places that I refer my clients to. Evaluations range in price from about $200 to $350, and I have found, ironically, that the best quality evaluations usually come from the places that charge the lowest fees, as opposed to the other way around.
Along with the Secretary of State’s Request for a Hearing form and the Substance Abuse Evaluation form, a person trying to win their license back must also submit a minimum of three (3) and up to six (6) Letters of Support, called testimonial letters. These letters detail the writer’s relationship to the person seeking a license must be specific about the Client’s sobriety. The letters should come from a cross-section of the person’s life, meaning not just co-workers, or not just family, or not just fellow AA members, but a wide range of family, friends, and acquaintances.
In all cases, I’ll help the client with these letters, and have them get me draft copies so that I can review them and make corrections in order to get them right. Very seldom do I get letters that are good enough to be submitted the first time they are written. Knowing what needs to be proven, translating that into a particular person’s case, and producing a good evaluation and good letters are absolutely necessary groundwork in order to make a case a winner. Anything less can be a fatal mistake to your Appeal.
Once the Substance Abuse Evaluation and the letters are good enough, they are sent into the Secretary of State along with the Request for a Hearing. A date for the Hearing is set, and the case is assigned to one of the six (6) Hearing Officers in one of the designated Secretary of State DLAD Hearing Offices After we get the Hearing date and assignment to a particular Hearing Officer, we can begin to prepare for your testimony. I will prepare the client for the questions I will be asking, and those they can expect from whichever Hearing Officer will be hearing their case. Every Hearing Officer will ask certain of the same questions, but each has his or her own particular areas of interest they explore to help them determine whether or not to grant a license.
When a case is properly prepared, this stage is more about reviewing the person’s Recovery Story and reinforcing what we have been doing all along than learning something new. In fact, if you have to learn anything more than the specifics of what your particular Hearing Officer looks for in a hearing, then you probably haven’t been properly prepared, to begin with, and your chances of winning are already compromised. Like any contest or game, preparation is everything. Winning results are really just good preparation put into action.
I know that anyone looking for an attorney to help them win their license back has several things on their mind. They want to win their case and not spend any more money than they have to. I keep my prices as reasonable as I can, but I also know that there is a certain amount of work that must be done in any case in order to make it a winner. My Fee in these appeals is $3000 and can be made in payments as we go along. I do not cut corners to make my price the lowest around because that means skipping necessary work. And make no mistake about it, the work necessary to correctly prepare both the Case and the Client takes hours and hours. Nor, however, do I charge some outrageous “big bucks” premium fee for unnecessary work, or work that’s not actually done.
To be honest, I pretty much have this down to a science. If you are looking to get your license back, you owe it to yourself to call me and find out what I can do for you. As always, I advise anyone looking to hire a Lawyer for anything, much less something as important as this, to call around and see who’s out there, what they can offer you, and how much they charge for it. As you call around, I’m sure you will “get a feel” for those Lawyers who have the kind of experience in this area to help you win your case, and I’m sure you’ll be glad you included me in that group.
My initial consultations are done in my office or another designated location and are confidential. My phones are always answered by friendly staff members who will make you feel relaxed right from the start, and know what to ask in order to start helping you out from the moment you call.