Letters of Reference for Your Driver's License Restoration

One of the most time-consuming components of preparing to request a driver’s license restoration hearing is collecting all of the reference letters. However, you may also find it is one of the most rewarding parts of the process. You may be surprised how willing and even excited the people in your life are to help you get back on the road and on with your life. This is really an opportunity to include your friends, family, and co-workers in your recovery.

Purpose Behind the Letters and What Needs to be Included in The Letters?

The Secretary of State refers to the letters as “Additional Documentation of Petitioner’s Past and Current Substance Abuse History.” What they are really trying to gather is a better understanding of your past substance abuse history to get a more complete picture of how you turned your life around as a person. This means you will need to collect between three, but not more than six reference letters from friends, family, co-workers, pastors, support group members, sponsors, neighbors, or others who you regularly associate with. These letters should be signed and notarized by the person writing the letter of support. If you hire us, we will be sure to review all of your reference letters for content, and will let you know if a second draft would be in your best interest. Our driver's license restoration attorneys will be there to guide you through the process and help make sure you have the strongest most effective group of reference letters you can produce.

Documenting Your Sobriety: Required Elements of the Reference Letters

Next, we will take a close look at the specific elements that each letter should include.

The main purpose of the letters of support is to provide the hearing officer with a clear and convincing evidence of the following facts:

  1. That you have your alcohol problem under control
  2. The problem is likely to stay under control
  3. You represent a low risk of repeating drinking and driving again
  4. You have been sober for the minimum period of one year

Keep these elements in mind when you ask your letter writers if they are willing to write you a letter of support. You will want to have a conversation with them regarding what is expected to be included in the letter. The following the information that you will want to have contained in each letter. First, the nature of the person’s relationship to you. Whoever is writing the letter should include their relationship to you, so if your sister is writing a letter, it should say, “I am petitioner’s sister”. This provides context for the hearing officer to understand the rest of the information. Next, you will want to have your letter writer include how long they have known you and how often they see you. All of these preliminary matters will help the hearing officer understand how well the person knows you, and also establishes how much weight to give their testimony.

Including Short Descriptions of Your Past Drinking or Drug Use

The next element is to have the letter writer describe their knowledge of your past and current use of alcohol and drugs including the amount used, frequency, and knowledge of drugs of choice. This is the element that most people applying for a driver’s license are unsure about asking their letter writers to include. However, this is an important element to show the hearing officer the disparity between who you were in active use and who you are now. Therefore, it absolutely should be included in the letters.

In Alcoholics Anonymous they often talk about “high-bottom drunks” or “low bottom drunks.” A high-bottom drunk refers to people who hit bottom at a relatively high level. An example of a high-bottom drunk would be someone who sleeps through work twice and decides they have a problem with alcohol and never drink again. Conversely, a low-bottom drunk might have lost their house and career before they decided they have had enough. Maybe a second or third drunk driving arrest was your bottom. The point here is that hearing officers have seen every level of abuse, and they are not judging you based on how bad you were, but on how well and healthy you have become. So regardless of the level of severity of your drinking at it’s worst, you do not need to be afraid of your references mentioning how you used to drink.

On the contrary, it is information that the hearing officer will expect to see and is recommended by the Secretary of State. Information regarding past use is a required element of the reference letters, but it can also be a powerful tool for showing the hearing officer the distinction between who you were before your arrest and the person you have turned into. Therefore, there is no reason to ask references to hold back about your past, or worry about including what may otherwise be embarrassing details of your drinking and drug history.

Other Information to Include in Letters of Support

You will also want to have your letter writers include the last time they saw you use drugs or alcohol. This part is especially important in substantiating your period of sobriety. Demonstrating a year of sobriety by clear and convincing evidence is one of the most important components of restoring your license. Making sure that each of your letters includes the last time they saw that you used drugs or alcohol will help to corroborate your sobriety date and reinforce the you have met the period of sobriety requirement.

Next, you will want to tell your letter writer to include any knowledge they have of your involvement in support groups like AA or SMART Recovery. Maybe they have driven you to a meeting or you have told them when you are getting back from a meeting. You could also tell them about how much AA meetings have helped you. There is a chance not all letter writers will have personal knowledge of your involvement in support groups, but any that do should include it in their letters.

Finally, the letter should include any information the letter writer believes is important. This is an open-ended portion that allows the letter writer to speak directly to the hearing officer. Information and first-hand accounts witnessing changes they have seen since you got sober can go a long way towards demonstrating the sincerity and efficacy of your recovery program. If you have undertaken a rigorous or regular workout program, this may be a good opportunity for your letter writer to mention your discipline and healthy stress management practices.

A Letter from Your Sponsor

Although it is not a compulsory element of a package requesting a driver’s license restoration hearing, you would be remiss if you did not ask your sponsor for a letter. Your sponsor is the captain and leader of your 12-step work. So if you have been working the program, the hearing officer will want to hear the details and progress from your sponsor.

Now that you have a much better idea of the information you need to request from the people in your life willing to write letters of support, just know that at Grabel & Associates we are here to support you and reinforce your efforts on this journey. We provide full review of all letters to make sure that you have everything you need to have included and are happy and willing to counsel you through this process. Call 1-800-677-9795 or contact us online right now to schedule a free consultation and let us put our 97% win rate to work for you!

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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