Interviewer: At what point would I contact an attorney to restore my license?
Paul Tafelski: I think it’s good for people to contact an attorney as early as possible. I have some clients that I work with almost immediately. Right after they get convicted and lose their license, we start prepping and planning what they need to do to get it back.
If You Lose Your License in Michigan, You Cannot Apply for a License in a Different State
This is because you really don’t want to get denied at that first hearing and have to wait another year to reapply. One of the absolute worst things in the world to deal with is living without a license in Michigan and most other states. And as long as you’re revoked in Michigan, you can’t even move somewhere else and get a license. They won’t let you get one until you clear Michigan. So you have to eventually deal with it.
It Is Advisable to begin the Process to Restore Your License as Soon as Possible
So I start counseling people as early as possible. Even a year beforehand is not too early, but six months, three months, even two months. As soon as you can, you should start working with your attorney because you’re going to get good advice on how to prepare and what to do.
And it takes time to get letters from people. The whole process takes time and effort, and the sooner you get help, the better. And typically, most of us work on flat fees in handling these cases. So how early you engage your attorney, the more advice and help you’re going to get along the way and the higher your chance of success is going to be.
Some People Do Not Realize the Disadvantage of Self-Representation until They Are Faced with the Consequences of Losing Their Driver’s License
Interviewer: Now have you ever worked with clients that you didn’t work with on the DUI case but then afterwards they say, I kind of handled this pretty badly and now I think I’m going to need an attorney for this?
Paul Tafelski: Oh, yes. Many of the driver’s license restoration clients are not people I represented on their drunk-driving case. Unfortunately, some of them are people who went the first time by themselves and just didn’t know what they were getting into and didn’t realize how adversarial the process was.
They didn’t realize how the Secretary of State was not looking to give them a license but was looking for a reason to not give them a license. And so then they start looking around for help and they find me and we help them.
In Order to Successfully Petition for a License Restoration, You Must Present a Compelling Story of Your Intentions to Remain Sober
Interviewer: What are some of the possible dangers that they could be facing if they go and try to get their license restored on their own?
Paul Tafelski: Well, obviously, some people can go by themselves and be successful. Other people may be clean and sober and doing everything right, but they’re just not naturally good at presenting evidence and dealing with people who are aggressive against them.
And they’re not going to do a good job of presenting a compelling story and making sure that they present all of the requirements that are necessary to prove they deserve a license. The burden of proof is on the person seeking the license; it’s not on the Secretary of State.
Frankly, I think unless you cannot possibly afford to hire somebody, you should have an attorney in a driver’s license restoration case because so much is at risk. You can’t even try again for a year if it doesn’t work. So you want to make sure that you put your best foot forward.
Refusing a Chemical Test and a License Suspension
Interviewer: What about with refusals? Is a driver automatically suspended after a refusal?
Paul Tafelski: Michigan law requires that you submit to a breath test after you’ve been arrested by a police officer. You don’t have to take the preliminary breath test on the side of the road; that’s just a civil infraction with a small fine.
Even If You Are Later Exonerated, a Refusal to Submit to a Breathalyzer Test Results in an Automatic 12-Month Suspension
But once you’re arrested and taken back to the station and they ask you to take the Data Master test, which is what everybody calls the Breathalyzer, you have to take that or else your license gets suspended for a year. It doesn’t matter if it even turns out you were innocent.
Your refusal to take that test is called an implied consent violation. And what that means is by law when you agree to take a driver’s license, you are also consenting to take a breath test if lawfully requested by an officer.
You have 14 days to request a hearing to appeal that, in which case then you end up again from the same Driver’s License Appeal Division hearing officers and you can challenge that issue based upon a few different things that are a little more complicated.
But if you’re unsuccessful and you lose that hearing, and it’s your first refusal to take the Breathalyzer, you can file a hardship appeal to the circuit court. And the circuit court judge can decide to grant you a restricted driver’s license for that one year. You will have to demonstrate to them that it will be a hardship on you to be able to survive without a license. It’s not exactly driver’s license restoration, but indirectly it is the same thing.
Do I Really Need a Lawyer to Get My License Back?
We are often asked by prospective clients whether they really need a lawyer to get their license back. The reasons for their questions are legitimate and varied. Some are ignorant to the legal standards that require YOU to prove to the hearing officer through production of evidence that you have been 100% sober for at least a year and that you are likely to remain 100% sober for the rest of your life. These people usually think if you have been waiting long enough and not had additional legal trouble you are entitled to get your license back. That’s not true. When you have had your license revoked because of two or more OWI’s the privilege to drive is taken from you FOREVER. It is only returned when you convince a hearing officer that another drop of alcohol will never touch your lips.
Sometimes clients wonder if they need a lawyer because they have been sober for a long time and they believe that should carry the day at the hearing. These cases have a better chance to prevail without a lawyer if the client has a compelling story and knows how to tell it the right way. However, even in this situation we recommend using a lawyer (not just because we are lawyers). There are many details of the process that you would not be familiar with unless you have experience. For example, if the substance abuse evaluation contains an incomplete or inaccurate history the hearing officer may deny your request for restoration because the evaluators opinion was based upon incomplete information. If the evaluator you choose isn’t totally familiar with the process they may not complete the paperwork properly and you can be denied for that reason. If your letters are not in compliance with the rules you could be denied. In other words, there are lots of reasons you can be denied that are unrelated to your actual sobriety. Our experience avoids these type of errors and can be the difference between success and failure, even for top level clients.
There are many law firms that will accept your drivers license restoration case that do not have a passion for this line of work, lack experience and do not understand the level of detail that needs to be followed. If you hire one of those firms you may have been better off by yourself. However, it is our honest belief that having a firm like ours, with great experience in this area of the law combined with a desire to help people get their full lives back, provides you with advantages you will not have on your own.
Does it Matter if I live Out of State When Applying for License Restoration?
If you are seeking to have your driving privileges restored by the State of Michigan it is a great benefit to live out of state.
The process is different and the results are different.
First, if you live out of state at the time of your application for reinstatement (with no plans to resume Michigan residency) you are eligible to apply for reinstatement through an administrative review. Michigan residents must have a hearing in front of an Administrative Hearing Officer that takes place in person or by video and subjects the applicant to cross examination by an experienced lawyer for the Drivers License Appeal Division of the Secretary of State. However, if you are an out of state resident you can submit all of the required documents for administrative review and you will either be approved or turned down by mail. If you are turned down, you are eligible to have an in person hearing like normal and immediately try again to gain reinstatement.
If you are approved administratively you are granted a full restoration of your driving privileges and become immediately eligible for a license in the state that you now reside in. This means you avoid the restricted license and mandatory interlock device that most Michigan residents are required to deal with. You also avoid the need to come back in a year to seek full reinstatement like most Michigan residents. It is a tremendous advantage to be an out of state resident when applying to get your license back!
We have successfully assisted numerous clients to win their full driving status through the administrative application process. When applying this way it is particularly important that the documents submitted are perfect and leave no margin for error.