To get your driver’s license back, you have to have an appeal hearing before the Office of Hearings and Administrative Oversight of the Michigan Secretary of State. A hearing officer thoroughly reviews (i) your driving record, and (ii) any rehabilitation programs that you’ve gone through. Think of the hearing officer as a judge or magistrate. The hearing officer conducts an interview while balancing the facts and circumstances for and against reinstating your license.
What is the Hearing Officer Thinking?
The driver’s license hearing attorneys at George Law understand the hardships you’ve been enduring since you lost your license. Perhaps it put a tremendous strain on your relationships, family, and employment. We know it has placed huge restrictions on your freedom. Obviously, Michigan has severe drunk-driving laws. If you have more than one drunk-driving arrest, you have been hit with extreme hardship.
Just to get to work, we’ve had clients who have relied on their elderly parents, begged their upset spouses (who may also work), and even used a bicycle in the snow. It’s not easy, particularly given the lack of public transportation in Michigan. You may lose your job, set your career back, or even lose your marriage.
George Law can help you turn it all around. When examining the process in Michigan, though, we believe it’s helpful to look at it from the perspective of the person who decides whether you get a second chance at driving.
What is the Hearing Officer Looking For at an Appeal Hearing?
Take a minute or two to try to appreciate the hearing officer’s situation. Every year, they conduct hundreds of License Appeal Hearings. And if you need a Driver’s License Appeal Hearing, you’ve probably been convicted of 2 or more drinking-and-driving offenses within a 7-year period. Under Michigan law, this means that you qualify as a “habitual offender.”
Now, imagine being a hearing officer, essentially a judge, in a state where over 200 people die from alcohol-related driving accidents every year. As the hearing officer, you have to decide whether you’re going to put someone with multiple drunk-driving offenses back behind the wheel of a car and back on the road. The hearing officer has to make, literally, a life-and-death decision. If the hearing officer places somebody back on the road who gets drunk, starts driving, and then kills someone, that hearing officer has to live with that feeling of guilt.
Obviously, the appeal hearing officer bears a tremendous burden of responsibility when they make a decision to reinstate a driver’s license. This is clearly a serious decision. So you have to ask yourself how you can ease the hearing officer’s mind and empower them to make the wise decision of reinstating your license.
The answer is not complicated — you need to show that you have changed your conduct, and your change is going to last. This means (i) admitting that you had a problem, (ii) demonstrating how you have solved your problem, (iii) proving that the changes you have made will be lasting, and (iv) demonstrating that your past problems will not reoccur.
George Law specializes in focusing on you are as a person and telling your “story” in a way puts you in the best possible light. We will demonstrate your growth and transformation as a person, and that you deserve to have your driver’s license restored.
What do You Need to Prove at an Appeal Hearing?
You must prove to the hearing officer that you deserve to have your driver’s license returned to you. This means that you must convince the hearing officer of each element necessary to win the hearing by clear and convincing evidence. First, we’re going to discuss the “standard-of-proof.” Then, we’ll briefly discuss each element that you need to prove to win your case.
What is the Standard of Proof? Clear-and-Convincing Evidence.
Everybody knows that the standard-of-proof in criminal cases is “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.” But a Driver’s License Restoration hearing is not a criminal trial. So the standard-of-proof here is that you must show “only” by “Clear and Convincing Evidence” that your driver’s license should be restored.
Beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest burden of proof. It requires a prosecutor to prove, in a criminal case, your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If there remains a reasonable doubt after all of the evidence is presented, then the jury should not convict you.
Conversely, a “Preponderance of the Evidence” is the lowest standard-of-proof, and it is used in civil cases. Preponderance of the Evidence means the evidence is just more likely to be true than not. So if you presented evidence showing that there was a 51% likelihood that a something did occur, you would meet your standard of proof in a civil case.
Clear and Convincing Evidence
In the Driver’s License Restoration hearing, the standard-of-proof is in the middle: “Clear and Convincing Evidence”. This standard-of- proof is somewhere between the highest (Beyond a Reasonable Doubt) and the lowest (Preponderance of the Evidence). Legal scholars describe Clear and Convincing Evidence as “substantially more likely to be true than untrue”.
What should you get out of all this legal mumbo jumbo? Well, to meet the burden of proof at your hearing, you need to present evidence that is Clear and Convincing — evidence that is substantially more likely to be true than not.
What does this mean in the real world? Well, can you win if you just walk into your hearing and say that you deserve to get your license returned because you’ve been sober for over a year and believe you will stay that way? No, you can’t. To win you need to also bring testimony, documents, or other evidence that supports your claim. Your statement alone undoubtedly fails to meet the standard of proof for Clear and Convincing Evidence; you have presented no objective evidence that it is substantially more likely to be true than not. This is why preparation and presentation are so important to winning a Driver’s License Restoration hearing. George Law will be sure to meet and exceed the burden of proof to win at the hearing.
What Specific Things Do You have to Prove at the Hearing?
Above, we reviewed the Perspective of the Hearing Officer and defined the Clear and Convincing Standard-of-Proof. Now we’ll look at the specific elements that you need to prove to the appeal hearing officer by Clear and Convincing Evidence.
To get your license back, you need to prove 4 things to the Hearing Officer:
- That your alcohol or substance-abuse problems are under control
- That your substance-abuse or alcohol problems are likely to stay under control
- That you’re at low or minimal risk of drinking and driving again
- You have the ability and motivation to drive safely and within the law
Proving that you have your substance-abuse or alcohol problems under control and that they are likely to remain under control is all about proving your sobriety. You should demonstrate ownership of your sobriety program, that it is something that you care about, and that it is important to you.
As noted above, after a second drinking-and-driving offense, you will be categorized as a “habitual offender”. You will be treated as though you have an alcohol problem. Regardless of whether you truly feel you have a problem with alcohol, you need to admit that you have a problem for the purposes of license restoration. More specifically, you must show that you did have a problem and demonstrate how you fixed this problem. The more sincere that your commitment to recovery is, the more convincing your presentation will be to the hearing officer.
Recovery Programs to Consider
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is considered the “gold standard” for demonstrating a lifelong commitment to sobriety. Regularly attending AA meetings, having a sponsor, and working the 12 steps is a proven path to recovery and license restoration. Hearing officers often ask specific questions about the actual steps themselves or what step you are on. Or, you can show that you’re in an adequate recovery program without AA’s 12-steps if you use Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) or a combination of SMART and counseling or other support networks and coping mechanisms.
Demonstrating that you will be able to keep your substance-abuse problems under control and that you will not drink-and-drive again requires that you prove to the hearing officer that you have (i) begun a lifelong commitment to sobriety, and (ii) taken the necessary steps and put measures in place to ensure your continued sobriety. Try to demonstrate to the hearing officer that you have built a brand-new life based on a foundation of sobriety. Also, talk about how you have transformed your life, the positive changes that you’ve made, the ways that others have recognized the change in you and your positive conduct.
How do You Maximize Your Probability of Success? Get a Lawyer!
When you’re just sitting at your computer, reading a blog, and contemplating the results of a formal hearing, it is difficult to figure out how much hiring a skilled attorney will really help. You think that you should, but you’re not sure. But it always sounds better to the hearing officer to have a lawyer explaining your side of things. A lawyer can describe how you’ve changed and improved as a person. It is your job to convince the hearing officer that you learned your lesson. And that you understand that what you did was wrong.
But let us tell the hearing officer how great you are now doing and how complete your turn-around really was. The experienced attorneys at George Law can put you in a light most favorable to convincing the hearing officer. He can sleep well knowing he made the right decision to put you back on the road.
Leaving the Appeal Hearing
When you leave the hearing, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and redemption. You will feel good about the case that we, with your help, put together for you. This bog provides an excellent overview of how you can restore your driver’s license. For more details, please email or call George Law at (248) 470-4300 for a free consultation.