Restoring The License

How Long Does A Person Have To Wait To Become Legally Eligible To File A Driver’s License Restoration After Multiple OWIs?

A person’s eligibility depends on his/her master driving record. A defense attorney should require a potential client to get a current copy of his or her driving record to determine specific eligibility for an appeal hearing.

As a general rule, a person convicted of two 625 offenses within 7 years will be revoked and ineligible for a license appeal hearing for one year—unless he/she enrolls in a state-certified Sobriety Court.  A person convicted of three 625 offenses within 10 years will generally be revoked for a minimum of 5 years (unless they did not suffer a prior revocation).  Lastly, a person convicted of most OWI felony offenses will generally be revoked for a minimum of one year. 

Can’t I Just Get Some Kind Of Restricted License For Work?

If revoked, the answer is generally no.  When a person is revoked, there is no legal ability to seek a hardship or restricted driver’s license, even for employment.  If suspended, the answer is generally maybe.  For example, if a driver violates the implied consent law, he or she can seek a hardship license in front of a circuit court judge, asking for work privileges only.  Likewise, if a person is convicted of OWI/High BAC, he will receive an automatic restricted license after 45 days’ suspension, so long as he installs a BAIID in any vehicle driven.  However, a person may not receive any restricted/work privileges during a “hard” suspension (such as the 30 days imposed for a first-time OWI conviction).

Can I Go To Circuit Court For A License Hardship?

In 1999, Michigan courts lost virtually all original jurisdiction over driver’s license issues, with the exception of a few limited procedures. Now, the grand majority of license jurisdiction falls with the Michigan SOS, and in particular, the Administrative Hearing Section (AHS), which used to be called the Driver’s Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD), and even earlier called the Driver’s License Appeals Division (DLAD). 

Circuit Courts do maintain appellate jurisdiction over most AHS decisions, including when a person is denied relief at AHS and files a legal challenge to that ruling in front of the circuit court judge.  Similarly, a person can seek hardship/equitable privileges from a Circuit Court following an implied consent suspension.  For implied consent appeals, jurisdiction lies with the Circuit Court in the county of OWI arrest.  For all other appellate relief, jurisdiction lies with the Circuit Court of the Petitioner’s residence. 

Does Being Eligible To File A License Appeal Mean I Will Automatically Get My License Back?

Absolutely not.  According to the SOS’s most recent published statistics, approximately two-thirds of drivers are denied relief at their first license appeal hearing.   Many Petitioners are either unprepared for the rigors of the hearing, or are not committed to sobriety.  And, when denied, they usually have to wait an additional year before reapplying.  In some unfortunate cases, Petitioners continue to lose for years and years on end. 

In contrast, a specialized, experienced license appeal attorney often has much more successful statistics, and should be able to demonstrate a long track record of success at a variety of license appeal hearings.  License Appeal Specialists should only take on clients who are committed to sobriety, who have their documents in order, and are serious and dedicated to proving their case. 

What Is The License Restoration Process Once I Am Eligible After A Revocation?

Put bluntly, the process is extraordinarily time-consuming and detailed. A driver must submit many documents to AHS to even request a hearing. These documents include a substance abuse evaluation (“SAE”) screening from a trained/licensed therapist, letters of support, and documentation of counseling/treatment. All of these documents are submitted to AHS in preparation for an actual hearing, at which time testimony will be taken from the revoked driver.

License appeal hearings are conducted either live or via videoconference and are presided over by an Administrative Law Judge (aka, “Hearing Officer”) employed by SOS.  As of 2018, there are 10 different Hearing Officers; three live hearing locations; and dozens of videoconference sites.  Typically, the hearings are scheduled in proximity to the Petitioner’s residence, and the Hearing Officers are assigned at random. 

How Do I Prepare For The Appeal Hearing?

For starters, if you are financially able, you should certainly consider retaining a license appeal specialist attorney to assist in this process. An experienced specialist will walk you through every step of the appeals process, and should be able to demonstrate a long track record of success in the process. 

That said, with or without an attorney, the best way to adequately prepare for a hearing is to document and provide all treatment/rehabilitation efforts and be prepared to answer many questions related to sobriety and methods of achieving long-term sobriety.  To be clear, a license appeal hearing is not about a Petitioner’s need for a license; it’s about a Petitioner’s sobriety (or, in many cases, lack thereof). 

How Do I Prove Sobriety?

Sobriety is a very difficult and often nebulous concept to prove. Generally, proof of sobriety comes in the form of sworn testimony by the Petitioner, as well as written/documentary evidence from therapist(s) and friends/family who can attest to the Petitioner’s abstinence date and other sobriety markers.  Also, Petitioners are required to submit current 10-panel drug/alcohol toxicology reports to prove current abstinence.  Lastly, Petitioners must submit a current SAE which documents sobriety/abstinence and gives both a formal diagnosis and prognosis for continued sobriety.

What Actually Happens At The Hearing?

First, all documents that were submitted for the hearing are marked and introduced into evidence.  Second, sworn testimony is taken from the Petitioner regarding his background, criminal history, and sobriety efforts. The Hearing Officer and/or the Petitioner’s attorney (if applicable) will question the Petitioner, in detail, about these areas and will review all of the documents that have been submitted. Third, the Petitioner (or his attorney) will be given an opportunity to make a closing argument and, if allowed, submit any additional documentation post-hearing.  Then, the Hearing Officer will issue a written opinion, either granting or denying the petition for a restored license.

What Happens Post-Hearing?

If the Hearing Officer finds in favor of the Petitioner, typically a restricted license will be granted along with a requirement of BAIID Installation.  Again, typically, that restricted license will be required for a minimum of one year before the Petitioner can come back to AHS and request full privileges.  At a hearing requesting full privileges, the same process repeats---accumulation of written documents, scheduling of hearing, sworn testimony—with the chief difference being the requirement that the Petitioner submit an updated and certified BAIID report showing full compliance.  If the BAIID report shows any major or minor violations, the Petitioner will have to address each satisfactorily or will face continued restrictions, or, in some instances, reinstatement of revocation. 

If the Hearing Officer finds against the Petitioner, typically the Petitioner will have to wait one calendar year to apply again.  Or, the Petitioner can file for appellate remedy in the Circuit Court of his/her County of Residence.  A legal appeal challenges the propriety of the Hearing Officer’s decision (with the standard of proof being an Abuse of Discretion) and can ask for either an immediate re-hearing, or full reversal. 

If a Circuit Court judge reverses the AHS decision, the driver may receive full privileges once the signed order is sent to the Secretary of State.  If the judge orders an immediate re-hearing (called a “remand”), that hearing will be conducted several weeks later and should be supplemented with new evidence. 

The appellate process for driver’s appeals—much like the underlying system itself--is quite cumbersome and confusing.  Finding an attorney who’s experienced in license appeals—at both the Secretary of State and Circuit Court levels—is obviously advantageous for clients who are fighting to legally drive again. 

For more information on Restoring Your Driver’s License In Michigan, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (734) 263-2780 today.

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