Driver’s License Restoration – How to Address Relapse History

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Driver’s License Restoration – How to Address Relapse History

Anyone who has had his or her driving privileges revoked for multiple alcohol or drug related offenses faces a daunting task when seeking driver’s license restoration from the Michigan Secretary of State.

The task is made even more difficult where the petitioner has a history of relapse after an extended period or periods of sobriety. Consequently, a petitioner with a relapse history must approach any effort to obtain license restoration with a focus on addressing the factors that contributed to the relapse as well as the reasons as to why any future relapse is unlikely to occur.

In the typical case a petitioner’s operating privileges would have been revoked/denied as a habitual violator under MCL 257.303(2)(c) and (g) based upon two or more convictions for crimes described in MCL 257.625c(1), or one or more convictions for offenses listed under MCL 257.303(2)(d).

Under those circumstances and according to MCL 257.303(4)(c), the Secretary of State is precluded from granting driver’s license restoration until the petitioner meets the requirements of the Department. The Department’s requirements are established in promulgated administrative rules. See 2011 MR3 R 257.313(1) [Rule 13].

Specifically, Petitioner must present clear and convincing evidence that:

  • any substance abuse/dependency problem is under control and likely to remain under control,

  • that there is a low or minimal risk of repeating prior abusive behavior relative to alcohol and/or controlled substances,

  • that there is a low or minimal risk of driving while impaired or intoxicated, and that Petitioner has maintained a period of abstinence consistent with Rule 13.

This means that the petitioner must persuade his assigned AHS hearing officer by the presentation of clear and convincing evidence that any diagnosed substance abuse disorder is under control, likely to remain under control, that he or she represents no more than a low or minimal risk of repeating past abusive behavior and/or that he or she have been abstinent for at least the minimum period of time required by Rule 13.

The Department considers multiple alcohol related convictions as aggravating factors that trigger the enhancement provisions of Rule 13 and require the petitioner to provide proof that he or she has been abstinent for at least the last 12 months. Abstinence is defined by applicable AHS administrative rules as follows:

‘Abstinence’ means to refrain completely from consuming any amount of any type of alcoholic beverage, controlled substance, except a controlled substance prescribed for the petitioner by a licensed health professional.
2011 MR3 R 257.301(1)(a).

The foregoing underscores the absolute necessity of a comprehensive substance abuse evaluation in support to the petitioner’s driver’s license restoration application that addresses any relevant history of relapse following an extended period of sobriety.

It is not uncommon for a reinstatement petition to be denied solely on the ground that the hearing officer finds that the substance abuse evaluation is incomplete because it does not adequately assess the petitioner’s history of relapse, particularly given the fact that he or she had significant periods of abstinence in the past.

In cases with similar facts the hearing officer must be able to ascertain and determine the likelihood of another relapse; which is why it is critical for the evaluation to provide insight into the dynamics of each relapse incident and why the prognosis is good based upon petitioner’s history, essentially what is different and why any period of abstinence is distinguishable from any other.

Within the context of addressing relapse, it is important for the petitioner to understand the importance hearing officers place on participation in programs like Alcoholics Anonymous.

Hearing officers routinely opine in orders denying reinstatement that the program of AA is meant to be a program that is worked rather than just attended and conclude, often unjustifiably, that someone who is not working the program poses a concern for maintaining future abstinence.

In support of that perspective the hearing officers often cite Jesus Maysonet vs. Secretary of State, unpublished Order of the Court of Appeals, decided June 28, 2006 (Docket No. 229507).

In Maysonet, a case which is not controlling but is persuasive, the Court upheld the denial of a license to person with four years of reported abstinence where the substance abuse evaluator recommended that the person attend AA meetings and where he was unable to articulate an understanding of AA principles and found that the petitioner’s failure to commit to his chosen support program failed to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that their alcohol problem would remain under control.

It is also important to keep in mind that hearing officer often find that a petitioner needs to develop a longer period of quality abstinence.

When a petitioner meets one or more of the aggravating factors outlined in Administrative Rule 257.313(1)(b), it is often determined by a hearing officer that the petitioner be required to demonstrate a continuous period of abstinence for not less than 12 consecutive months. The emphasis on the words “not less than” is key in this determination.

Relapse histories and other factors are hightly relevant in determining whether petitioners have demonstrated long-term control over their addictions after one year of continuous abstinence relative to previous efforts at control. A petitioner might be able to demonstrate one year of continuous abstinence yet have had other periods of continuous abstinence for similar or longer periods after earlier drinking and driving offenses.

The 12 month period enumerated in Rule 13 does not serve as an absolute eligibility standard simply because the language itself serves as a minimal standard. Because every case is different, the language in Rule 13 is broad and confers on the Department’s Administrative Law Examiners the discretion to determine what minimal lengths of continuous abstinence may be appropriate in any given case. Furthermore, it should also be noted that meeting a minimal length of required abstinence addresses only one of several of the eligibility prongs enumerated in Rule 13.


Michigan driver’s license restoration attorney Edward Earl Duke has successfully represented hundreds of repeat offenders who had previously been denied reinstatement of their driving privileges due to their relapse histories.

Mr. Duke has developed professional relationships with well credentialed, experienced and highly respected substance abuse evaluators who understand the dynamics of alcohol and drug relapse within the context of recovery.

To that end, Mr. Duke carefully oversees and reviews the nature of the substance abuse evaluations of his clients to insure that they address the mandate of Rule 13 to maximize his client’s prospects for reinstatement.

If you or someone you know has been denied reinstatement of driving privileges due to multiple prior convictions or a significant relapse history call Mr. Duke at 248-409-0484 to discuss the specifics of your driver’s license restoration case.

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