Circuit Court Options for Michigan Driver's License Restoration

If you have lost a driver’s license restoration hearing in Michigan, then it is likely you are not happy with the prospect of waiting another year until you are eligible to have another hearing. Thankfully, you can appeal the decision issued by the hearing officer at the driver’s license restoration hearing. It used to be much more difficult to win an appeal, but effective Oct. 31, 2010, the state legislature passed MCL 257.322 and made it easier to win a driver’s license appeal hearing. Let’s look at both the new administrative appeal available under MCL 257.322 and the appeal to circuit court. We will wrap up with a practical discussion about what this means for you and your driving privileges.

Circuit Court Appeals

A circuit court appeal is really a second chance for a judge to evaluate the evidence and decide. You will file your appeal pursuant to MCL 257.323, and the court clerk will schedule an appeal hearing. The judge has the discretion to allow you to present new evidence and testimony, so you can correct any deficiencies in your case that prevented you from winning at your driver’s license restoration hearing. Unlike a driver’s license restoration hearing, at a circuit court appeal the judge can reinstate your full driving privileges. However, the judge can also grant a restricted driver’s license, or remand back to the Office of Hearings and Administrative Oversight. Remanding means sending the case back down to the previous forum, so if the judge remands your case it would go back to the Office of Hearings and Administrative Oversight for a new driver’s license restoration hearing.

Preparing a Driver’s License Restoration Appeal to Circuit Court

If you do not win a restricted driver’s license at the driver’s license restoration hearing, then you must file an appeal with the circuit court within 63 days of the final determination issued by the Secretary of State. If you are able to show good cause, then the court may grant an extension up to 182 days from the final determination at the Secretary of State. There are many things that must be done before a hearing at the circuit court. This consists of preparing a petition that includes the person’s full name, current address, birth date, and driver’s license numbers. You will also need a copy of the the official order from the Secretary of State, and all of the affidavits that were used as evidence at the driver’s license restoration hearing. You must serve all of the following to the Secretary of State’s Office in Lansing not less than 20 days before the hearing: the petition, all of the affidavits, and the order from the Secretary of State.

Situations Other Than Multiple OWI’s for Circuit Court Appeals

Most people interested in appealing to circuit court will be in the situation of having lost a driver’s license restoration hearing, and are looking at ways to restore their license without waiting another year for their second driver’s license restoration hearing. However, you can also petition the court for a license if you have a second refusal to submit to chemical testing and you have waited at least a year. The following is a list of other reasons why a person could petition the circuit court for a driver’s license appeal other than multiple OWI’s.

  • MCL 257.303(d) a person who is suffering from a physical or mental disability or disease preventing that person from exercising reasonable and ordinary control over a motor vehicle
  • MCL 257.320(b) a person involved in one or more accidents resulting in the death of a person
  • MCL 257.320(c) a person who has 12 or more points on their license
  • MCL 257.320(e) violating the terms of a restricted driver’s license
  • MCL 257.907(10) a person who is serving an “additional like term” of suspension or revocation for driving while license is suspended or revoked

It is important to note that each of the above circumstance will be handled very differently than a situation related to multiple OWI’s. No matter your situation, we can provide expert legal counsel to help you win a circuit court appeal.

The Standard of Review: Abuse of Discretion

In the law and the appeals process there is a concept known as “the standard of review” for appellate decisions. The standard is determined by the state legislature, and determines how much authority a judge has when he or she reviews a decision during an appeal. For instance, de novo review grants the judge broad authority to make determinations about what evidence to admit, how to interpret the evidence, and the ultimate decision to make about the outcome of the case. Basically, the judge gets to retry the case and make their own decision about how it should be decided.

Unfortunately, the standard of review for a driver’s license appeal to circuit court is much narrower than a de novo review. The standard of review for a driver’s license appeal to circuit court requires a review for an abuse of discretion. This is a very high standard of review, because the judge must overrule the administrative hearing officer’s decision if he finds that he or she abused his or her discretion in making a final determination. The definition of abuse of discretion has been defined by the controlling statute as arbitrary, capricious, or clearly an abuse or unwarranted exercise of discretion. However, there is a provision in MCL 257.323 that allows for new testimony and evidence at the judge’s discretion. Therefore, there may be an opportunity to present new testimony to bolster your case and provide new evidence for the judge to review before making a final decision.

What Can You Argue to Get a License Restored at a Circuit Court Appeal?

The 1992 Drunk Driving Reform Package may have greatly narrowed the circumstances for the circuit court to restore a person’s license, however, there are still legal grounds that can be argued to allow a circuit court judge to grant a person a restricted or full license. The following are the technical legal arguments that a skilled attorney can make on your behalf.

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).

If you have lost a driver’s license restoration hearing and would like to make an appeal to circuit court, then you should call Grabel & Associates experienced driver’s license restoration attorneys today to set up a free consultation. We can sit down and put together a comprehensive legal strategy to maximize your chances of success on an appeal. Winning an appeal means you get behind the wheel sooner than waiting another year for a new driver’s license restoration hearing. We would be happy to talk with you about your particular situation. Contact us online or call us at 1-800-677-9795 for a free consultation today.

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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