Just Needing a License is not Enough

In order to win a Michigan Driver’s License Restoration or Clearance Appeal, a person essentially has to prove Sobriety. It does not matter how much a person “needs” a License, although that is often the focus of many inquiries I receive. The Michigan Secretary of State’s Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) has established the requirements for winning back a Driver’s License, or, in the case of those who have moved out of state, obtaining a Clearance of the Michigan “hold” upon a person’s Driving Record. Needing a License is not one of those requirements.

This is important. When a person whose License has been Revoked for multiple Drunk Driving convictions finds themselves presented with a new or better job opportunity, or otherwise suddenly needs to regain (or, in some out-of-state cases) or renew their License, the mad scramble begins, and, in their minds, centers upon the “need” for a License. While that may be the motivation for the person to get back on the road, it means nothing to the state. The fact that someone really needs a License to accept a new job is of absolutely zero importance to the DAAD. The state only cares abut whether a person can prove that they are not a risk to ever drink again.

This means, then, that by contrast, if a person has a few years of Sobriety under his or her belt, and has no pressing, real need to drive, but just wants to tool around in a convertible and feel the wind through their hair, their desire to drive again, coupled with their having really quit drinking, puts them in a position to win a License Appeal.

This focus on the “need” to drive shows up in many of the Letters of Support I review as I prepare a case for filing. Often, a concerned parent or family member will explain how the lack of a License has held the person back, and how inconvenient it’s been for the whole family to have to drive the person (sometimes, the main wage earner) to and from work, meetings, school, and whatever else. Even in the context of a Letter or Support, this could not possibly matter less. Instead, the letters need to focus on the person’s Sobriety, particularly their demonstrated abstinence from alcohol over a particular time period.

This is bad news, of course, for someone who did not make the decision to quit drinking before the pressing need for a Driver’s License became so urgent. But the reality is that, if you’re ever going to get your License back, your going to have to get Sober anyway, so this may be the wake-up call you needed. “Sobriety,” in the sense contemplate by the DAAD, means the life-changing decision to give up drinking altogether, and making that decision a permanent one. It means having made the transition from drinker to non-drinker so that a person adopts a “Sober lifestyle” and, over time, that lifestyle becomes second nature to the point that it works almost as if on “auto pilot,” like brushing your teeth in the morning before leaving the house.

Not surprisingly, in many cases where a person is presented with good opportunity for advancement, that opportunity is often a direct result of the person having quit drinking in the first place. Promotions and so-called “golden opportunities,” at least for people with a DUI history, are most often one of many rewards for having embraced Sobriety. Such opportunities are far less common when people are still caught up in a problem drinking lifestyle.

The bottom line is that the “need” for a License carries no weight in terms of the evidence considered by the DAAD in deciding a License Appeal. Often, though, that “need” arises precisely because a person has turned his or her life around, and, having put their drinking behind them, realizes that they have been living well below their potential. The Sober person realizes that without the drinking to hold them back, they can accomplish al kinds of things, and begins to do just that. Then, they are confronted with an otherwise “normal” situation that requires them to drive. They need a License, and I can help with that

In other cases where the decision to really quit drinking has been pushed forward day after day, the sudden need for a License, and the understanding that Sobriety is a first requirement in order to win a License Appeal may come together in a way that inspires the person to finally “put the plug in the jug.” While finding out that just needing a License plays no part in a License Appeal, this can serve as the catalyst for a person reevaluate their relationship to alcohol, and finally decide to quit drinking. In such a case, soon enough, the person will find that things get better than then could have ever imagined.

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