The letter requirement associated with Michigan SOS 257/258 “Request for a hearing” is the most screwed up element I see on a regular basis. The driver’s license restoration letter is more difficult than it appears. I have not represented a client yet that was able to provide good letters on the first try. Yes, I ask my clients to return to their witnesses with instructions on how to write a better letter. This element clearly separates the professions from the bar stool lawyers. In my opinion, if someone is attempting to get their license back, not spending time and energy on generating good letters is a fatal error.
Basic requirements for Driver’s License Restoration Letter
The “Request for a Hearing” application states:
Documentation of sobriety – Your sobriety must be confirmed by friends family and coworkers who are in a position to know observe and personally attest to your habits regarding the use of alcohol or controlled substances. You must either submit three to six notarized testimonial letters with this form or bring three to six witnesses to your hearing who will testify as to your sobriety Letters must be signed dated and notarized with a complete mailing address and telephone number where the writer can be reached between – Eastern time – Letters must contain the following information about you:
The person’s relationship to you; How often the person sees you; How long the person has known you; The last time the person saw or had knowledge of you drinking or using controlled substances; The amount of alcohol or controlled substance the person knows you consumed on the last occasion; What social activities you participate in involving alcohol or controlled substances; The person’s knowledge of your past or current involvement in treatment or a support group.
Professional Tips for Driver’s License Restoration Letters
No Word Count Limitations:
Brevity is the enemy of all Driver’s License Restoration cases. In my video, I discuss how a short hearing before the Secretary of State is a warning sign for imminent failure. When I question a witness on the stand, it is always important not to rush or skip the foundation elements for the witness. Every witness needs to be persuasive to the fact finder. The same holds true for a driver’s license restoration letter. I read a lot of letters written on behalf of a person seeking their license. Short and sweet is bull shit, every time and all the time. The Administrative Hearing Section(AHS) employs attorneys, called Hearing Officers, it’s their job to review all the evidence presented at a hearing. A HO is never burdened by having to do their job. Making the HO’s life a little easier by soliciting short and sweet letters is not going to help anyone. The short and sweet letter makes the HO’s job harder and dramatically decreases the petitioner’s change of restoring their license. Being able to use witness letters instead of live testimony is a gift for anyone seeking to restore their license. Make use of this gift, lawyers are fast readers.
The bold title:
The bold title of this section of the application reads, “Documentation of Sobriety.” It should be retitled as “Evidence of Sobriety,” still further, “Testimony of Sobriety.” As I mentioned above, the driver’s license restoration letter is a substitute for live testimony. Here is a great tip, “How do you know?” The answer, “Because, because, because and because.”
Hardship not requested:
The driver’s restoration letter is not an opportunity to whine to the Hearing Officer. My father was a District Court Judge for 26 years. He used to say, “Once is a mistake, twice is a problem.” The State of Michigan agrees with my dearly departed father. A driver’s license is revoked for a very good reason. I am not writing this article to preach about the social costs related to habitual drunk drivers. I am sure MADD has plenty of facts that support the inference that a person who is caught driving intoxicated twice represents a clear danger to the public. Of course, living a modern life without a driver’s license is a hardship for a habitual drunk driver. The primary purpose of the driver’s restoration letter cannot be a recitation of the petitioner’s hardship due to the lack of driving privileges. A “poor single mom” approach will not help. There are many attorney practitioners that believe that the strategy of “arguing hardship, without arguing hardship” is a worthy exercise. I am not opposed to this sort of thinking, but I also believe that backdoor arguing of hardship is secondary to well-developed testimony of sobriety. I also believe that hardship should be introduced under the context of motivation for the petitioner. For example, “Jon told me about how he was passed up for a promotion at work due to his inability to drive. I know this was hurt Jon and he told me he was embarrassed. If Jon was given a chance to drive again, I know he would not do anything to jeopardize his driver’s license, he has learned first-hand how tough it is without one.” In this example, the witness has discussed a hardship for the petitioner without making any claims that the lack of a driver’s license is hardship and the petitioner has suffered enough.
There are more tips and traps: MRE 603 letter requirements; Habitual drunk driver; Brutal Honesty; How social activities can ruin a driver’s restoration case; The support network bonus; and the perfect driver’s license restoration letter–hard to find, but worth the effort.
The rest of these tips are reserved for people that hire me to represent them. However, I am here to help.
How to get help with your driver’s license restoration letter
I do provide counseling and a witness letter outline for people who do not want to hire an attorney for their entire case. Many people simply can’t afford an attorney to appear at the hearing for them. Other people just want to try to restore their license on their own. Either way, understanding the witness letter and providing guidance to an applicant’s witnesses is very valuable. I charge $160.00 for my witness outline and accept credit cards.
About the Author
Matthew Benedict is a driver’s license restoration attorney serving all of Northern Michigan, from Big Rapids to St Saint Marie. If you want to get your license back, call today for an appointment. 231-883-4170
Please visit my driver’s license restoration blog here.