How to Appeal A Driver's License Hearing Decision

If you have just lost a driver’s license restoration hearing, then it probably feels like a crushing blow. The good news is there are options available to appeal the decision without waiting another year for a new hearing. You can file for a circuit court appeal under MCL 257.323. In this section we will discuss how to file a circuit court appeal, the standard of review used by the judge at circuit court, and the arguments available at circuit court.

Filing a Circuit Court Appeal

MCL 257.323 provides the details for who can file an appeal with the circuit court, and the details of how to file the appeal. The circuit court appeal is a tremendously powerful tool for giving a person a second chance at winning a restricted driver’s license. The judge will determine how to conduct the hearing, and many aspects are left to his discretion. For instance, the judge may take new testimony and evidence at the appeal, but it is under their discretion. Additionally, the judge has the authority to grant full driver’s license reinstatement or restriction of driving privileges. The judge may also decide to remand the case back to the Office of Hearings and Administrative Oversight, and grant you a new driver’s license restoration hearing. Having expert legal counsel present is imperative to your success at a circuit court appeal. Consequently, you should not hesitate to call the experienced attorneys at Grabel & Associates to begin the process of filing for an administrative appeal.

How to File a Driver’s License Restoration Appeal to Circuit Court

If you do not win a restricted driver’s license at your driver’s license restoration hearing, then you can file an appeal with the circuit court. There are several things that must be done before you file for an appeal in circuit court. First, you must prepare a petition with your name, current address, birth date, and driver’s license number. Next, you will need a copy of the official order from the Secretary of State from your previous hearing, and all of the affidavits, reference letters, and evidence that were used at your administrative hearing or driver’s license restoration hearing. All of these documents must be served to the Secretary of State’s Office in Lansing not less than 20 days before the hearing. You cannot delay too long before you complete this process, because you must file your appeal within 63 days of the Secretary of State’s final determination. You may be able to seek an extension of up to 182 days after the final determination if you can show good cause why you were unable to file within the deadline.

The Standard of Review: Abuse of Discretion

One of the most difficult things about appealing a driver’s license hearing decision to circuit court in Michigan is the standard of review. The legislature determines what authority to grant a judge for certain kinds of cases, and the standard of review is for an abuse of discretion for driver’s license appeals to the circuit court. An abuse of discretion is defined as an arbitrary, capricious, or clearly unwarranted exercise of discretion. This is a high bar for showing the hearing officer made the wrong decision. The good news is the legislature has included a provision in the MCL 257.323 to allow the court to take new testimony, so the judge is not stuck evaluating the record from the previous hearings. Consequently, you will have the opportunity to fortify your case for any reasons that may have prevented you from winning at the driver’s license restoration hearing.

Arguments Available at Circuit Court

Outside of proving the hearing officer abused their discretion in the final determination at the driver’s license restoration hearing, there are also several other ways that a person can win a restricted license or full license at the circuit court. However, all of these alternative grounds for relief require a showing that a person’s “substantial rights were prejudiced”. Here is a list of the reasons why a person could win a driver’s license back:

In determining whether a petitioner is eligible for full driving privileges, the petitioner's substantial rights have been prejudiced because the determination is any of the following:

  • in violation of the Constitution of the United States, the state constitution of 1963, or a statute
  • in excess of the secretary of state's statutory authority or jurisdiction
  • made upon unlawful procedure resulting in material prejudice to the petitioner
  • not supported by competent, material, and substantial evidence on the whole record
  • arbitrary, capricious, or clearly an abuse or unwarranted exercise of discretion
  • affected by other substantial and material error of law. MCL 257.323(4).

Therefore, there are many legal arguments that might be appropriate to help you win a restricted license during your appeal.

Looking Ahead to Next Year

If you win your full license or restricted license at the circuit court appeal, then you will be back on the road. Preparation is integral to winning a driver’s license appeal. If it is determined that you need a new substance abuse evaluation, then we can help set you up with a top-notch evaluator in your area. We can start fresh on recommendation letters, or we can suggest how to revise the ones you used at your driver’s license restoration hearing to make sure they have the type of content that is necessary to win. We will also evaluate your forms of evidence supporting your sobriety and make any adjustments that are necessary before your appeal. It is important that we are confident that we will successfully prove to the judge that you are genuinely sober and likely to remain sober. Preparation may be integral to overall success, but execution at the appeal is also essential to win. This might be why you lost your initial hearing. Maintaining a positive line of questioning is a big part of winning, a skilled attorney who has won hundreds of cases knows how to keep the interview headed in a positive direction towards a favorable outcome.

Contact us online or call us at 1-800-677-9795 today to schedule your free consultation and begin the process of preparing for your driver’s license appeal hearing.

Please note: Recently Administrative Hearings Section (AHS) changed their name to the Office of Hearings and Administrative Oversight. Common use of the name Office of Hearings and Administrative Oversight has not yet been widely accepted and the entity responsible for driver's license hearings is still referred to as AHS in almost all legal areas, which is why we continue to use the term "AHS" throughout our website. More information about this change can be found at the Michigan Secretary of State's website here.

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