Michigan License Restoration Guidelines

The Michigan License Restoration Guidelines may be difficult to understand.

Most people find the prospect of getting their driving privileges restored after a period of revocation a daunting undertaking. They are fraught with dismay after hearing story after story of similarly situated folks being turned down repeatedly by the Secretary of State in their efforts to be reinstated. They may have been turned down themselves after one or more AHS hearings without any understanding of “why?”.

Well, the fact of the matter is that people who fail in their reinstatement efforts are, in most instances, unsuccessful for one of two simple reasons.

  • They attempt to “go it alone” without seeking any legal advice to guide them through the complexities of the process or

  • Seek legal advice from an attorney who does not specialize in license restoration matters. In truth, license restoration is a very complicated area of the law and most attorneys have a limited understanding of Michigan License Restoration Guidelines and the requirements necessary to mount a successful effort to secure reinstatement.

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The typical person seeking reinstatement had his or her operating privileges revoked/denied as a habitual offender under MCL 257.303(5)(c) and (g) based on two or more convictions of crimes described in MCL 257.625c(1), or one or more convictions for offenses listed under MCL 257.303(5)(d). For example, operating while visibly impaired (OWVI) and operating while intoxicated (OWI) convictions within seven years. In that case, according to MCL 257.303(7)(c), the Secretary of State shall not issue a license until the petitioner meets the requirements of the Department and the license restoration guidelines.

But what, you may ask, are the Michigan License Restoration Guidelines?

Is there some mystical and elusive catechism that must be met to meet the SOS license restoration guidelines?

The simple answer is “no”.

In fact, the Department’s requirements are written in black and white and have been established in promulgated administrative rules. See 1999 MR9 R 257.313(1) commonly known by expert practitioners as Rule 13 – the “Golden Rule” of license restoration in Michigan.

Under Rule 13 the petitioner must present clear and convincing evidence that:

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

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

  • There is a low or minimum risk of driving while impaired or intoxicated, and

  • The petitioner has maintained a period of abstinence consistent with Rule 13.

So what does all of that gibberish mean and how does one go about meeting that burden of proof under the license restoration guidelines?

The first step in meeting the burden of proof under Rule 13 is to show that the petitioner has not consumed any alcohol or any controlled substance for at least one year.

Although the rule provides that the minimum period of abstinence is six months, it is clearly the prejudice of most AHS hearing officers that a proven period of sobriety and abstinence of less than one year virtually assures a “thumbs down” on any petition for reinstatement. Indeed, when a petitioner meets one or more of the aggravating factors outlined in Rule 13, he or she may 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 the key in many determinations. Depending upon the petitioner’s history a period of 18 consecutive months of abstinence may be the threshold requirement.

For many hearing officers relapse histories and other factors are highly relevant in determining whether a petitioner has demonstrated long-term control over their substance abuse or dependence after one year of continuous abstinence relative to previous efforts at control. So what that means is that any history of relapse after an extended period of abstinence may push the evidentiary bar higher than simply proving one continuous year of sobriety.

It is also important to realize that the period of abstinence must not include any period of time the petitioner was on probation. It is indeed foolhardy for anyone to petition for reinstatement unless they have been off probation for more than one year and can demonstrate unremitting abstinence for that entire period. Keep in mind “abstinence” in “SOS speak” means to refrain completely from consuming any amount of any type of alcoholic beverage or controlled substance, except a controlled substance prescribed for the petitioner by a licensed health professional. 2011 MR9 R 257.301(1)(a). Evidence of even a single sip of champaign during a wedding toast is enough to disqualify a petitioner in the eyes of some hearing officers.

The key to prevailing before an AHS hearing officer is focusing on presenting evidence from a wide range and cross section of people who can testify convincingly that they have been and are in a good position to know the petitioner’s social habits and who can clearly indicate when they last knew the petitioner to have consumed any type of alcohol or illicit drugs.

Establishing dates of last use are extremely important in any successful reinstatement effort. All too often that point is overlooked by both petitioners and their legal counsel. Truly, the Devil is in the details and proving them convincingly.

While a petitioner is required to submit at least three letters in support of any claim of sobriety the hearing officers will accept up to ten letters. This is not a case where less is more! If the petitioner has the ability to solicit and secure ten support letters he or she should do it. Among other things the letters must clearly address how long the writer has known the petitioner and how often they see them. The letters must be dated and signed by the person who wrote them and contain contact information including addresses and telephone numbers. The letters must also be notarized.

The other important key to a successful result is a compellingly sufficient and persuasive substance abuse evaluation.

It is extremely important that any evaluation provide a valid diagnostic impression with regard to the petitioner’s substance abuse problems that led to his prior convictions for drunk or drugged driving. The evaluation must clearly show that any abuse or dependency problem is under control and likely to remain so. An evaluation that offers no more than a “fair” prognosis will never carry the day. To be successful a petitioner must provide an evaluation that opines a “good” or (better yet) an “excellent” prognosis with an opinion that petitioner’s condition is “in sustained full remission”. The evaluation should also reference evidence of ongoing support group involvement, community proofs and a ten panel drug/alcohol screen with integrity variable scores given as part of the evaluation. Anything less will likely sound the death knell for reinstatement.

The final piece of the puzzle is meticulous preparation for the actual AHS hearing.

It is imperative that the petitioner meet with counsel to review all of the testimony that will be offered. Sample questions must be discussed and appropriate answers considered. Trick questions from the hearing officers should be anticipated and reviewed. No stone must be left unturned. The key is preparation, preparation and more preparation.


Michigan license restoration attorney Edward Duke has successfully represented hundreds of clients seeking license reinstatement.  He is an expert in Michigan License Restoration Guidelines. If you are serious about succeeding at your next AHS hearing, contact us here or call Duke Law Group at 248-409-0484 and ask to discuss the details of your situation with Attorney Duke.

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Michigan License Restoration Guidelines
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Michigan License Restoration Guidelines
Experienced lawyer Edward Duke explains the Michigan License Restoration Guidelines and the complexity of the restoration process.
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