What You Need to Prove at Your Driver's License Appeal Hearing
In order to have your driver’s license reinstated in Michigan, you must request a hearing before the Office of Hearings and Administrative Oversight of Michigan Secretary of State where a hearing officer will conduct a thorough review of your driving record and the rehabilitation program that you have undertaken. The hearing officer is essentially like a judge or magistrate and conducts an interview while balancing the facts and circumstances both for and against reinstating your license.
Understanding the Hearing Officer’s Predicament
Our driver's license hearing attorneys understand the onerous hardships you have had to endure in losing your license. It has more than likely put a tremendous strain on your employment, family, relationships, and huge restrictions on your freedom. There is no doubt that Michigan has some of the toughest drunk driving laws in the country. The fallout and hardship you have faced from a second or more drunk driving arrest are about as rough as it gets.
We have encountered clients who have run the gamut of hardships from relying on elderly parents to get to work, leaning on disappointed spouses who work themselves, to using a bicycle year-round in the snow to get around to make ends meet. People lose jobs, set their careers back years, and sometimes lose marriages. We can appreciate all manner of hardships you have endured and the stress and difficulties you have likely suffered by losing a driver’s license. Grabel and Associates is here to help you turn it all around. But before we jump into explaining what we need to show to get you back on the road, let us take a moment to look at what the hearing officer’s perspective is in making difficult decisions to give people a second chance at driving.
The Hearing Officer’s Perspective and What They Are Looking For
We want you to step back for a moment to appreciate the precarious predicament of a hearing officer. They conduct hundreds of these License Appeal Hearings every year, and it is important to note that for a person to need a Driver’s License Appeal Hearing, they must have been convicted of two or more drinking and driving offenses within a seven-year period. This qualifies every person applying as a “habitual offender.”
Can you imagine being a hearing officer, essentially a judge, in a state where there are over 200 alcohol related driving deaths per year? This hearing officer has to decide whether to put someone with multiple drinking and driving offenses back behind the wheel. Therefore, the hearing officer is literally in charge of making life and death decisions. If the hearing officer puts a person back on the road, and that person kills someone while drinking and driving, then that hearing officer has to shoulder that burden and guilt.
The hearing officer has a tremendous burden of responsibility in making these decisions to reinstate driver’s licenses. We can all appreciate how serious of a matter this is. So the relevant question is, what can we do to ease the hearing officer’s mind and empower him or her to make a sound decision to reinstate someone’s license?
Quite simply, we must show you have changed and that change is going to last. This means admitting there had been a problem, demonstrating the steps you have taken to solve the problem, and proving that the changes you have made are lasting and the problems of the past are not likely to reoccur. Grabel and Associates specializes in using who you are as a person and the experiences you have been through to put you in the best possible light to demonstrate your growth and transformation and to have your driver’s license restored.
Meeting the Burden of Proof and What You Need to Prove
The burden is on you to prove to the hearing officer you deserve your driving privileges back. Meeting the burden means convincing the hearing officer of each element necessary to win the hearing by clear and convincing evidence. We will discuss what the standard of proof means then briefly discuss each element we need to prove to win our case.
Standard of Proof: Clear and Convincing Evidence
You don’t need to have gone to law school to have heard that the standard of proof in criminal cases is “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.” However, you would not likely know that the standard of proof for a Driver’s License Restoration hearing is “Clear and Convincing Evidence” unless you took an administrative law course or looked it up.
Beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest burden of proof and requires a prosecutor to prove evidence beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal cases. This means, if a reasonable doubt remains in existence after all of the evidence is presented, then the jury should not convict. Conversely, A “Preponderance of the Evidence” is the lowest standard of proof that is used in civil cases. Preponderance of the Evidence means the evidence is just more likely to be true than not. Therefore, if evidence showed there was a 51% likelihood that a fact did occur, than it would meet the standard of proof in a civil case.
In the Driver’s License Restoration hearing the standard of proof is “Clear and Convincing Evidence”. This standard of proof is in between the highest (Beyond a Reasonable Doubt) and the lowest (Preponderance of the Evidence). Legal scholars describe Clear and Convincing Evidence as “substantially more likely to be true than untrue”. The take away here is to meet the burden of proof you must show that evidence is Clear and Convincing, or evidence that is substantially more likely to be true than not. Practically, this means that if you were to walk into the hearing and claim that you deserve to have your license back because you are sober for over a year and believe you will stay that way, but you did not bring any evidence or documents to support your claim; you would lose. The evidence of your bare statement would fail to meet the standard of proof for Clear and Convincing Evidence, because it fails to prove it is substantially more likely to be true than not. This is why preparation and presentation are so important to winning a Driver’s License Restoration hearing. Grabel and Associates will be sure to meet and exceed the burden of proof to win at the hearing.
Elements to Prove at the Hearing
We have reviewed the Perspective of the Hearing Officer and defined the Clear and Convincing Standard of Proof. Now let’s look at the elements we need to prove to the hearing officer by Clear and Convincing Evidence.
To get your license back, you will need to prove to the hearing officer the following four elements:
- That your alcohol or substance abuse problems are under control
- That your substance or alcohol abuse problems are likely to stay under control
- That you’re at low or minimal risk of drinking and driving again
- You have the ability and motivation to drive safely and within the law
Demonstrating that your alcohol or substance abuse problems are under control and likely to remain under control is all about proving your sobriety. You want to demonstrate ownership of your sobriety program and that it is something that you care about and is important to you. After a second drinking and driving offense you will be categorized as a “habitual offender” and treated as though you have an alcohol problem. Regardless of whether you feel you have an alcohol problem or not, it is important to accept that for the purposes of license restoration you must show you did have a problem and demonstrate how you fixed the problem. The more heartfelt your transformation and commitment to your recovery the more convincing the presentation will be to the hearing officer.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is considered the “gold standard” for demonstrating a lifelong commitment to sobriety. Regular meeting attendance along with sponsorship and working the 12 steps is the tried and true path to recovery and license restoration. It is not uncommon for a hearing officer to ask specific questions about the actual steps themselves or what step work you have completed. However, you can also demonstrate an adequate recovery program without the 12-steps of AA if you use Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) or a combination of SMART and counseling or other support networks and coping mechanisms.
Demonstrating that your substance abuse problems are likely to stay under control and that you are a low risk of drinking and driving again requires proving to the hearing officer that you have begun a lifelong commitment to sobriety and that you have taken the necessary steps and put measures in place to ensure your continued sobriety. As they say in the program, “The old way wasn’t working so we let go absolutely.” Demonstrating to the hearing officer that you have built a new life on a foundation of sobriety will go a long way. Also, being able to speak about the transformations you have seen in your life and the ways that others have recognized change in you, such as increased reliability, focus, and integrity will all speak volumes about the sincerity of your recovery program.
The True Value of Representation - Your Ace in the Hole
When sitting at your computer contemplating how a formal hearing might go, it is difficult to accurately estimate how much value having a skilled attorney present and fighting for you can help. Explaining your side of things, and how you have changed and improved as a person will never sound quite as good coming out of your mouth as it does from someone else’s. It is your job to convince the hearing officer you have learned your lesson and understand what you did was wrong. Let us tell the hearing officer how great you are doing now, and explain the magnitude of your turn around. Our experienced attorneys at Grabel and Associates will expertly put you in the light most favorable to convincing the hearing officer that he can sleep well knowing he made the right decision to put you back on the road.
Leaving the Hearing
When you leave the hearing, you will undoubtedly feel a sense of accomplishment and redemption. You will feel good about the case we assembled for you, and even better about the presentation. You can rest easy knowing you hired a firm with a 97% record of first-time success. You will be able to tell how well you have done after seeing your attorney expertly articulate your successes and laudable character to the hearing officer.
This website gives you an excellent overview of what you need to know about restoring your driver’s license. Please take advantage of the entirety of the website to see all of the steps outlined in more specificity. However, we want to reiterate, you can be confident that calling Grabel and Associates for a free consultation is the best decision you can make for yourself and your future to getting yourself back behind the wheel.
Call Now for Your Free Consultation
The most important step in preparation for a Driver’s License Restoration is to hire the right attorney to represent you to get your driver’s license. Losing a driver’s license can be a huge disappointment and a massive burden on you and the people you rely on to get you to work, the grocery store, and 12 step meetings. We understand that getting your driving privileges back is of the utmost importance. Additionally, reassuring the people in your life of a timeline of when you can expect to be back on the road can be very helpful. We work fast and efficiently, so take the first step and call us today at 1-800-677-9795 or contact us online.