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.