Preparing for your Driver License Restoration Hearing

Losing your driving privileges in Michigan can have a devastating effect on your life. For most people, a driver’s license is a necessity to maintain employment, to care for children, to go to school, to make required medical appointments, or to simply manage day-to-day tasks. Michigan, unfortunately, has some of the most severe driver license sanctions in the country. The attorneys at Springstead Bartish & Borgula Law, pllc, know how important a driver’s license is to maintaining a way of life. We also know what it takes to get your driving privileges back in the event they are revoked or suspended by the Secretary of State.

The Driver License Restoration Hearing

If you have been convicted of two drunk driving offenses within seven years or three drunk driving offenses with ten years, the Michigan Secretary of State will revoke your driving privileges indefinitely. This means that you will not have the ability to legally drive in Michigan for any reason until your driving privileges are restored. The recipient of such a revocation cannot petition the Secretary of State for reinstatement of his or her driving privileges until at least one year after the revocation is imposed (or five years in the event of three drunk driving offenses). There is no guarantee that the Secretary of State will reinstate your driving privileges. In fact, most petitioners who attempt to get their license back on their own fail.

If you are a resident of Michigan, you need to attend a Driver License Restoration Hearing in order to obtain the reinstatement of your driving privileges. These hearings are very complicated. The burden is on the petitioner (you) to prove by clear and convincing evidence that you have abstained from the use of drugs and alcohol for at least one year, that any alcohol or drug abuse problems are under control and in full-sustained remission, that your risk of repeating your past abusive behavior is low, and that you have the motivation and ability to drive safely and within the law. This is a very difficult burden to meet. You will be required to submit an affidavit recounting your alcohol and drug use history, a substance abuse evaluation, a 10-panel drug screen, and three letters from a cross section of the community attesting to your abstinence from alcohol for at least a year. The information contained in the affidavit, the substance abuse evaluation and the letters needs to be consistent with each other. The hearing officer will view any discrepancy as an excuse to disregard the positive information contained in your evidence. During the hearing, the hearing officer will question you extensively about your prior alcohol and drug use. The hearing officer will be looking for any discrepancies between the answers given during the hearing and the information contained in the affidavit, letters, and substance abuse evaluation. Any discrepancy will be counted against you and will likely result in a denial of your appeal.

Many petitioners who attempt to handle these hearing on their own underestimate the difficulty of meeting that burden. They are ill prepared for the questions asked by the hearing officer, and their proofs are inadequate to meet the clear and convincing burden of proof. Consequently, many petitioners fail in their attempt to get their driving privileges reinstated and have to wait another year to repeat the process all over again. In some cases, the petitioner’s evidence or the responses given during the hearing make it even more difficult for the petitioner to obtain their driving privileges at the next hearing.

If you reside in Kent County or Ottawa County, you are likely to find yourself before Hearing Officer’s Mayfield and Erickson. These hearing officer’s have a reputation of being the most difficult hearing officers from which to obtain the reinstatement of driving privileges in the entire state. Both officers have a predisposition that any petitioner with two or more drunk driving offenses is or was alcohol dependent. They expect to see evidence of regular attendance and participation in Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Active participation means more than just attendance – it means working the 12-steps as well as obtaining and working with a sponsor. Both officers will expect you to admit that you are powerless over alcohol regardless of whether they will expect you to express a commitment to future abstinence from alcohol before either officer will even consider restoring your driving privileges.

The attorneys at Springstead Bartish & Borgula Law, pllc, have represented countless petitioners at Driver License Restoration Hearings throughout the state of Michigan. We know what evidence is required to meet the clear and convincing burden of proof necessary to obtain the reinstatement of driving privileges. We ensure that our clients’ proofs are as strong as possible before they appear at the Driver License Restoration Hearing. Our clients are prepared for the questioning they will encounter at the hearing and are equipped with the skills necessary to present their evidence in the most effective and compelling way possible. Finally, we attend the hearing with our client to ensure that our client has presented all of the evidence available to meet the clear and convincing burden. This method has proven successful for many of our clients and has resulted in numerous reinstatement orders from the Secretary of State.

Appeals to the Circuit Court

If your petition for reinstatement of your driving privileges is denied following a Driver License Restoration Hearing, you may appeal the decision to the Circuit Court of the county in which you reside. Out of state residents may appeal the decision to any Circuit Court in the state. This is a distinct advantage as there are some Circuit Courts in the state that are particularly skeptical of the manner in which the hearing officers reach their decision. Accordingly, if you are an out of state petitioner, it is especially important that you contact an attorney so that file your appeal in the most advantageous Circuit Court possible.

In order to win that appeal, you must prove that the decision of the Hearing Officer was substantially unreasonable or against the great weight of the evidence presented at the Driver License Restoration Hearing. The attorney’s at Springstead Bartish & Borgula Law make it a point to ensure that our client’s evidence is sufficient and compelling before the initial hearing in front of the hearing officer. Consequently, we often achieve successful results during the initial hearing. However, on the rare occasion that the hearing officer denies our client’s petition, our preparation provides a strong record and transcript for appeal. In cases where we did not handle the original appeal to the Secretary of State, we were still often to achieve positive results for our clients. In numerous cases, we have obtained the reinstatement of driving privileges from the Circuit Court after the hearing officer at the Driver License Restoration Hearing denied the petition. In other instances, we were able to get our client a new Driver License Restoration Hearing prior to the one-year waiting period imposed by the Secretary of State following a denial.

If you have lost your Michigan driving privileges for any reason, contact the attorneys at Springstead Bartish & Borgula Law, pllc, to find out what we can do to help you get your driving privileges restored and get you back on the road.