Driver’s License Restoration
Tim Dinan has been working with drivers since 1994 who have lost their driving privileges
Restoring a Driver’s Licenses from a DUI
Since 1990, the State of Michigan has enacted and amended our drunk driving laws. Each change makes the law tougher. It has become harder to get your driver’s license back because of these changes. The legal body alcohol percentage for driving has been reduced from a high of .15% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) in the 1960’s to its current level of .08% BAC. Levels below .07% BAC can still result in arrests and convictions. Any alcohol offenses have both strict criminal and civil liabilities and costs. Other controlled substances like marijuana are an issue with the Secretary of State. Michigan’s Medical Marihuana (the official statute uses the ‘h’ and not the ‘j’ usually seen with marijuana) Act has introduced a different level of scrutiny for the Secretary of State to consider.
Despite education, public service announcements and many people who have learned the hard way, drunk driving is one of the most common criminal offenses which any citizen faces. It transcends the bounds of class, race, education, profession or any other differentiating standard. Most drunk driving crimes are generally misdemeanor offenses with jail sentences are relatively light or non-existent for first offenders. However, the long-term implications for the client’s driving record are tough and non-negotiable. One of the most important things to remember is that two convictions within seven years raises the presumption that the client is a habitual hazard to the driving public. After that second conviction, a driver’s license is revoked. Thus, the revoked driver loses their privileges to drive in Michigan until that presumption is rebutted.
The Secretary of State has established a special division known as Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) which has exclusive jurisdiction in returning the driving privileges of habitual drunk driving offenders. The Secretary of State is represented by hearing officers; they are attorneys who have specialized training and knowledge of Michigan’s traffic laws, alcohol-related offenses and rehabilitation programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Their job is a simple one: to maintain safety on Michigan’s roads and to prevent habitual drunk drivers from being legally licensed. They have high standards for those who come before them seeking a return of their driving privileges. The law is written in such a way as to favor the hearing officers’ opinions. The hearing officers’ decisions are rarely appealed and when appeals are filed, their decisions are often upheld.
The Implied Consent Act
If you are stopped for suspicion of any alcohol-related offense, a police officer may request the driver take a BAC at the police station. This is in addition to any other breath testing done during an investigation. The law requires any driver who is asked to give a breath sample to do so. While you can refuse to give the breath sample, the Secretary of State will impose a 12-month suspension except under very limited circumstances. If a suspension is entered, a driver can appeal to the circuit court in the county where the underlying traffic stop was made to request limited driving privileges during the suspension period.
Restoring a Driver’s Licenses from Medical Disqualification
You can lose your driver’s license for medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, epilepsy, vision or hearing disorders, and complications from surgery or medications. The discovery of this condition may have occurred after an accident or traffic citation. Doctors must inform their patients and the Secretary of State about patients who suffer from certain debilitating conditions. The driver may not drive for a minimum of 6 months or more until the medical situation has resolved through treatment or time. Petitioners with a medical restriction must be ready to demonstrate their condition is no longer a hazard to the driving public usually with specific SOS forms and other proofs of treatment and compliance with medical directives.
The Driver’s License Restoration Process
Once someone has been deemed a habitual drunk driver, their license privileges are not just suspended, they are revoked. Being revoked means it is as if the driver never had a driver’s license in the past and they now seek driving privileges with the presumption of being a habitual drunk driver.
Step 1: The Application for Restricted Privileges
After the initial penalty period has run, an unlicensed driver, known as the Petitioner, may apply once per year for restricted privileges. If this attempt is not successful, the Petitioner must wait another year or longer. The fact a Petitioner needs a license for work or other important business is not relevant to the Secretary of State. The burden is on the Petitioner to client to prove by clear and convincing evidence that they have rebutted the presumption they are a habitual drunk driver. This is done with evidence presented by the Petitioner: an assessment by a professional alcohol therapist, letters from individuals who know the Petitioner and offer written information regarding the Petitioner’s abstinence, live witnesses who will testify to the abstinence and the Petitioner’s testimony to prove abstinence. Other useful evidence would include sign-in sheets from AA meetings, letters from medical treaters, proof of successful completion of probation and attendance at other programs that support the notion that the Petitioner is no longer a habitual drinker and driver and would be a safe risk to be given limited driving privileges.
Step 2: Hearing Before DAAD
After one year of being revoked, most Petitioners can file the request for a hearing before the DAAD. The DAAD will then set a hearing date at which time the evidence and Petitioner is presented before the Hearing Officer who ultimately will decide whether the Petitioner will be allowed to drive. The Hearing Officer will then prepare an opinion which either grants limited driving privileges or rejects the petition. If a petition is rejected, the Hearing Officer will provide reasons why it was rejected and offer suggestions for further proofs twelve months from the date of the opinion. The Secretary of State’s website and Michigan law sets forth the standards which the Hearing Officers are to apply. These suggestions must be followed to the letter and usually require more than the minimum stated.
Should a Petitioner be fortunate enough to succeed in a DAAD hearing, they are then allowed to drive with an alcohol interlock device on the car that must remain on the car for a minimum of twelve months. The cost and expense of installation and monthly maintenance are the responsibility of the Petitioner.
Step 3: One Year Later
After one year of successful driving with the interlock device, the Petitioner then may seek full restored driving privileges at another hearing usually held before the same Hearing Officer. In some limited circumstances, there may be other narrow avenues of relief for Petitioners. However, these are few and far between and are best addressed by counsel.
How Can An Attorney Help?
An attorney who is experienced with the DAAD can help present the arguments and proofs of the Petitioner in an efficient and effective manner. An experienced attorney can help the Petitioner meet the DAAD’s standards and recommend whether a hearing would be timely, given the state of sobriety of the Petitioner and their ability to effectively present themselves. An experienced attorney knows how to not only present the case for the Petitioner, but make a record that can be appealed if necessary. Your attorney should understand you and your needs while explaining the law so that you understand it. You can call the office for a complimentary consultation and an honest assessment of your situation.