When a person has a hearing, they appear in front of the hearing officer. This will be a single person with a tape recorder. The appearance happens in an office that looks like a normal office in an office building. It does not look like a courtroom. The hearing is recorded and the petitioner or the person who is seeking their license back has the burden of presenting the evidence and meeting the legal standards necessary to get their license back.
To go through the process, usually their attorney will present the evidence to convince the hearing officer that the individual is completely sober, and that they deserve a license because they will drive safely, obey all traffic laws, and that they are at a minimal risk to repeat the behavior that got them into trouble to begin with. That evidence will consist of numerous different pieces and factors. At the end of a hearing, the hearing officer will sometimes tell you if you have won or not, but most often they take it under advisement and then issue a written opinion on their decision.
What Does Someone Need To Prove In Order To Have Their License Reinstated At A Hearing?
There are some specific things that are spelled out in the administrative rules, particularly known as Rule 13 of the secretary of state’s administrative rules. Some of the specifics are that the hearing officer shall not issue a driver’s license to the petitioner unless the petitioner shows by clear and convincing evidence that any substance abuse problem they have is under control and that it is likely to remain under control.
Further, there must be evidence that there is a minimal risk of them repeating the past behavior that got them into trouble. They are also looking at different situations in the petitioner’s past to determine how long of a period of sobriety it will take for them to be satisfied. There are some cases where they might say that 6 months of sobriety is enough for a person to get their license back, but in reality, a person wants to have at least one year of complete sobriety under their belt before they petition for that license. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to get your license back if you don’t have at least one year of complete sobriety that you can try and prove at a hearing.
What Is The Hearing Officer Looking For In Terms Of Proving Sobriety?
The legal requirement is that the petitioner proves by clear or convincing evidence that they are sober and likely to remain sober. Basically, it comes down to how you can prove that. It’s not simple and easy because every person will show up and say, “Yes. I don’t drink anymore and I don’t think I will drink ever again.” If it was that simple, they would just hand them the license and that would be it – but it’s not. They try to get it right and they try to figure out if the person is being untruthful. That is where the experience of your attorney is very important because we know of the struggle and the points that help us in trying to prove that someone is sober.
For example, we have to show the changes that occurred in the individual’s life. Usually when someone is an alcoholic or has a significant problem with alcohol, and they have now turned it around and have been sober for an extended period of time, there have been some major changes in their life. Their circle of friends is different, their employment status has improved, their relationship with their family has improved, and their financial status may have improved. They just have more going on in a positive way. They may have completed projects that they never finished before, or they may be in better shape or losing weight for example.
There are all sorts of different things that we look for and try to demonstrate to the hearing officer to prove that the client is on the right path and doing the right things. It’s really a matter of carefully discussing it with the client to try and figure out what evidence we can use and present that will be convincing. At the end of the day, you’ve got to convince this other person who is somebody that is probably generally cynical, given the nature of their work, about the people who are before them and asking for their licenses back. It does take preparation; there is no exact rule on what you can present to try and get the license back but it is important that you do certain things.
For example, you must present an alcohol or substance abuse evaluation performed by a licensed evaluator. You must present a 10 panel drug screen showing that you are drug free. You must present letters from at least 3 people attesting to your sobriety. Beyond that, however, is up to you. We can present anything that we think is convincing and compelling, such as AA sign in sheets or certificates of completion for sobriety court, certificates of completion from counseling, etc. Additionally, it can include testimony of friends or family members or co-workers or AA sponsors or whatever we determine will be powerful and convincing evidence. Basically, anything that we can think of that will help convince them that you are sober, we can use at the hearing. A lot of times, you don’t have any one giant piece of evidence to prove your sobriety. It’s not like you have a camera videotaping you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But what you want to try and do is just build a wall brick by brick and demonstrate to the hearing officer that there are enough things going on that are indicative of sobriety, and therefore, they should give you the opportunity to drive again.
For more information on Driver’s License Appeals Process, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (248) 451-2200 today.