Getting Your License Back

The Top Ten Mistakes To Avoid


The process of getting your license back in Michigan is far from simple.  There are particular mistakes that you should avoid to assure a positive result.

Under Michigan law, the Michigan Secretary of State considers those who have been twice convicted of a MCL 257.625 offense such as operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated or impaired within a seven-year period, or have three such convictions within a ten-year period as habitual offenders. Habitual offenders’ operating privileges are revoked by the SOS and they are precluded from driving until their license is reinstated.

The reinstatement process for getting your license back that governs habitual offender appeals is set forth in Administrative Rule 257.313.

In a nutshell, habitual offenders who petition for reinstatement have the burden of proof by clear and convincing evidence.  They must prove that they have maintained a minimum period of abstinence from all alcoholic beverages and/or illegal drugs.  They must also demonstrate that their substance abuse or dependence issues are under control.

On the surface the burden of proof seems to be rather straightforward. However in truth, the habitual offender appeal process is anything but simple and straightforward. Indeed, the road to reinstatement and getting your license back is fraught with hidden and not-so-hidden pitfalls.  It can test the patience and perseverance of even the most stalwart souls.

But with timely and appropriate planning, you can significantly increase your chances of getting your license back and driving privileges reinstated. The key to a successful petition lies in avoiding the following top ten mistakes during the planning and appeal process.


Mistake #1 – Failing To Plan Well In Advance

In the most typical scenario involving license revocation, a person is convicted of OWI or OWVI within seven years of a previous conviction for the same or similar offense. Within a week to ten days following the conviction the person receives a notice from the SOS advising that their driving privileges have been “revoked/denied”. It is at that point that planning for the habitual offender appeal process should begin in earnest in anticipation of getting your license back.

If the conviction occurs in a court that maintains a Sobriety Court it is imperative that the habitual offender avail himself or herself of the program. Most Sobriety Court programs allow participants to qualify for restricted driving privileges after a minimum of 45 days in the program. Aside from that practical consideration, proof of successful completion of Sobriety Court assists the habitual offender in demonstrating a serious commitment to maintaining sobriety.  This is the keystone to any successful attempt at reinstatement.

Mistake #2 – Failing To Successfully Complete Probation

Most habitual offenders are sentenced to at least one year of probation. But regardless of the length of the probationary term, it is imperative that the probation be served without any violations. Not only do VOPs (violations of probation) expose the probationer to additional sanctions from the court, but they usually result in extensions in the length of the probationary term.

As a practical matter, the AHS hearing officers who decide whether getting your license back is warranted in any given case give very little weight to periods of abstinence that coincide with time on probation.  A petitioner has to show at least one full year of complete abstinence and will get no credit for any time he or she is sober while on probation. So the longer the term of probation, the longer the petitioner will have to wait to ultimately petition for reinstatement of their license.


 Mistake #3 – Failing To Attend Alcoholics Anonymous

Anyone who is serious about getting their license back as soon as possible must regularly participate in AA or a similar support program. For better or for worse, hearing officers at AHS place great weight on evidence that petitioners have regularly attended AA meetings. But attendance is only one piece of the puzzle. The serious petitioner will not only attend meetings regularly, but also get a sponsor and work through the Twelve Steps.

It is also of critical importance for AA attendees to substantiate their attendance by maintaining meticulous records.  This includes signed attendance sheets for every meeting. Also, relationships forged with other AA participants will provide a rich source of corroboration of continued sobriety either through letters documenting sobriety or live testimony at any future reinstatement hearing.

Mistake #4 – Failing To Maintain Complete Abstinence

AHS hearing officers require that petitioners prove they meet the requirement of total and continuous abstinence for an extended period of time. Specifically, the hearing officer will require the petitioner prove that he or she has completely abstained from the use of alcohol and controlled substances.  The exception is only for those controlled substances prescribed by a licensed health care professional.  They must prove this abstinence for not less than six consecutive months immediately prior to the hearing, unless the evidence considered at the hearing establishes that a longer period of abstinence, at least a year of sobriety, is necessary.

Evidence tending to show that a longer period of sobriety is necessary may include:

1) a BAC of not less than 2X greater than the statutory presumption;

2) three or more convictions of substance abuse-related offenses;

3) relapsing after attempting to bring a substance abuse problem under control;

4) diagnosis by a professional that the petitioner is alcohol or controlled substance dependent; and

5) evidence of a prior order of revocation or denial under Section 303.

Mistake #5 – Driving Without a License

Driving after your operator’s license has been suspended or revoked is a 93 day misdemeanor. More important to the repeat or habitual offender is MCL 257.904(10) .  This requires that the Michigan Secretary of State impose a like period of suspension or revocation upon receiving notice of the conviction. What that means is if a person received a one year revocation upon conviction of a second MCL 257.625 offense within seven years and that person is subsequently convicted of DWLS (driving while license is suspended or revoked) the SOS is required to impose an additional one year to the period of revocation. In practical terms that means that the offender will have to wait another full year before being eligible to petition the AHS for reinstatement. The moral here is that if you have been revoked you drive at your own peril.

Mistake #6 – Submitting An Insufficient Substance Abuse Evaluation

Pursuant to R 257.302(1)(d), a completed substance abuse evaluation must be submitted to AHS before a reinstatement hearing is scheduled. Many petitioners fail to grasp the importance of submitting an evaluation that is meticulously prepared by a qualified health care professional.

Common mistakes and deficiencies found in many substance abuse evaluations include an inaccurate Substance Use History. In that regard it is imperative that the petitioner include all driving and non-driving convictions with correct dates and the location of the offense(s). Failure to include any conviction no matter how remote can be fatal to the petition. So, for example, if the petitioner had an MIP (minor in possession) twenty years ago, it is imperative that information about the offense be included in the evaluation. Similarly, if the petitioner had a charge such as marijuana possession, that information must be communicated to the evaluator and addressed in the evaluation.

Probably the two most critical aspects of the evaluation relate to the diagnostic impression and client prognosis. Based upon appropriate testing criteria, it is imperative that any alcohol or drug dependence be found to be in sustained full remission. Anything short of that diagnostic impression will virtually assure an unfavorable decision by the hearing officer. The same is true when it comes to the petitioner’s prognosis. Unless the evaluator can honestly opine that the petitioner has a good or excellent prognosis there is little chance for a favorable outcome when getting your license back.

Drug test 1Mistake #7- Submitting A Drug Screen Lacking Integrity Checks

One of the documents required by the Michigan Secretary of State by any repeat offender seeking reinstatement is a laboratory report from a 10-panel urinalysis drug screen. The administrative rules are very specific and require that the report include at least two integrity variables such as specific gravity, urine creatinine or pH level. For some reason many out-of-state labs do not include integrity variables in their drug screens. Consequently, if the petitioner resides in a state other than Michigan and is seeking clearance from AHS to qualify for a license in another state, care must be taken to insure that any drug screen submitted for consideration include the required integrity checks.

Mistake #8- Failing To Appropriately Document Sobriety

The Michigan SOS requires that the petitioner document his or her sobriety through confirmation by friends, family and co-workers, who are in a position to know, observe and personally attest to petitioner’s habits regarding the use of alcohol or controlled substances. The requirement can be satisfied either by submitting at least three notarized testimonial letters with the request for hearing or producing a similar number of live witnesses at the hearing to testify in person.

Although the minimum number of support letters are three, the petitioner would be better served by submitting at least six such letters. Letters must be signed, dated and notarized with a complete and accurate mailing address and telephone number where the author can be reached between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. eastern time.

Letters must also contain the following:

1) the author’s relationship to petitioner;

2) frequency of contact;

3) how long the person has known the petitioner;

4) the last time the person saw or had knowledge of petitioner consuming alcohol or a controlled substance;

5) the amount of alcohol or controlled substance the person knows petitioner used on the last day of use;

6) a description of the social activities the person knows petitioner to engage in involving alcohol or controlled substances; and

7) the author’s knowledge of petitioner’s past or current involvement in treatment or any ongoing support groups such as AA.

Mistake #9- Failing To Submit A Final Ignition Interlock Report

Where a petitioner has been operating with restricted privileges that included an ignition interlock device, he or she must submit a report from the interlock vendor to AHS. The report must state that the ignition interlock device has been properly installed for at least the minimum required time as specified by law and whether any alcohol readings or other violations have registered. Moreover, the report must be no more than 30 days old when it is submitted with the hearing request.

If the report shows any violations, it is imperative that the petitioner be prepared to explain the circumstances in a manner that vindicates any inference of alcohol use or effort to tamper with the device.

Mistake #10- Failing To Hire A Top Rated Michigan License Restoration Attorney

The single biggest mistake when getting your license back is to either 1) undertake the appeal process without professional legal guidance and/or 2) engage the services of an attorney who does not possess legal expertise in the area of license restoration.

Michigan license restoration attorney Edward Duke has over 38 years of experience guiding hundreds of clients through the complexities of the license appeal and restoration process. Having successfully resolved over 500 license appeals he has the substantive and procedural expertise to represent the interests of any habitual offender who wants to get his or her license back.

If you or anyone you know wants to maximize the chances of getting your or their driving privileges restored, contact Edward Duke at 249-409-0484 to discuss the specifics of your case.

Click Here to Contact Edward Earl Duke

Our Location

180 High Oak, Suite 205

Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304

(248) 409-0484 

Getting Your License Back: Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid
Article Name
Getting Your License Back: Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid
There are mistakes that you should avoid when you are considering getting your license back in Michigan. License Restoration Attorney Edward Duke explains the license restoration process and how these mistakes make a difference.
Duke Law Group