Driver’s License Restoration in Traverse City: The Basics

Driver’s license restoration is a blend of administrative law, hearings at the Secretary of State, and appeals to the Circuit Court. In Traverse City, and everywhere else, getting your license back has become easier over the past couple of years. Hearings are held at the Secretary of State’s office in Traverse City and the local judges are now more likely to grant relief on appeal. Statewide, the path to reinstating a driver’s license has become easier with the use of a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID) and changes in the law that allow the Circuit Court to grant restricted driver’s licenses. With a little work, people living with a revoked driver’s license have more options than in the past. Most driver’s license restoration cases stem from two situations. First, a driver refuses to submit to a chemical test after being arrested for driving while intoxicated, this is called an implied consent suspension. A hardship appeal is available if the driver attends the Secretary of State hearing. A defendant may request a hearing before the Secretary of State to challenge an implied consent driver’s license suspension, but the request must be within fourteen days of the alleged violation. Second, the Secretary of State revokes a driver’s license for multiple drunk driving convictions. A conviction for operating while intoxicated, a second offense, requires the Secretary of State to revoke all driving privileges for the offender. The revocation of the license is permanent. After one year of living with a revoked driver’s license, a petitioner is eligible for reinstatement of their driver’s license. However, the Secretary of State is not in the business of restoring driver’s licenses. In fact, they will deny a petitioner’s application for any failure to meet the State’s strict requirements. Furthermore, if a petitioner previously attempted to regain their driving privileges and failed, the Secretary of State will reconsider the prior hearing at all subsequent hearings. In short, if a petitioner screws up in one hearing, the Secretary of State will continue to bring up the previous hearing year after year in subsequent attempts to regain driving privileges. One poor showing at a hearing may haunt someone for years. The best strategy for a person to get their driver’s license back is to hire an attorney and thoroughly prepare for the hearing.

The process for a driver’s license restoration case

A driver’s license restoration case begins with an application for a hearing. The application requires care because several documents must be attached and there are many factual questions. Errors within the application will be exploited and used against the petitioner. Second, there is a hearing before the Secretary of State’s Office of Hearings and Administrative Oversight(OHAO) hearing officer. The hearing officer is an attorney, and they are skilled interrogators. At the conclusion of the hearing, the hearing officer will issue a written opinion. The hearing officer will either grant a restricted driver’s license or deny the petitioner’s request for driving privileges. If the hearing officer denies the petitioner driving privileges, the petitioner must wait a year before he/she is eligible to try again. In limited circumstances, a petitioner may appeal the denial to a Circuit Court. Circuit Court appeals are difficult and rare. A better strategy is to prepare for and win the petitioner’s case before the AHS hearing examiner.

If the petitioner is granted a restricted license at the AHS hearing, the limited license will include the use of a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device(BAIID). A private company will install the device into the petitioner’s automobile. A BAIID tests the driver’s breath for traces of alcohol. If the device detects alcohol, the vehicle will not start. In addition to tests for starting the vehicle, BAIIDs require a rolling retest. A rolling retest is a test while the vehicle is operating. The BAIID sounds an alarm and the driver must immediately pull over and provide a clean breath sample.

If there is a problem with the BAIID or the device detects alcohol, the Secretary of State will reinstate the prior revocation of the petitioner’s driving privileges and the process starts all over again.  Sometimes, a petitioner may save their restricted driver’s license at a hearing.  After a year with no BAIID violations, the petitioner must, once again, file an application and conduct a hearing to gain a full, unrestricted, driver’s license.

Why a petitioner needs an attorney

An experienced driver’s license restoration attorney has been through the restoration process many times.  The petitioner has only been through the process once.  Experience matters.  I know the pitfalls, how to avoid them, how to beat them.  My trial experience also allows me to effectively question a petitioner and draw out the important facts that a hearing examiner wants to see.  The road to get your license back is long, but it doesn’t have to be difficult for the client. 

What to expect as my client

A telephone consultation starts the process.  I charge $125 dollars for a phone consultation. No free consultation for driver’s license restoration. During this consultation, I will evaluate the client’s chances of restoring driving privileges. I talk to a lot of people seeking a driver’s license. The majority of the people I speak to elect to hold off on filing an application for a license until they can build up, or shore up their case. The general public doesn’t understand how difficult it is to regain driving privileges in Michigan. After a contract is signed, I conduct a thorough interview with my client.  This interview exposes the reasons why the client stopped drinking alcohol and how they maintain sobriety.  After the interview, we work together to gather evidence, find witnesses, and build the best case possible.  Before the hearing, I thoroughly prepare the client by asking hard questions, similar to the Hearing Examiner.  I will travel to the hearing for low costs to the client, and then conduct the hearing.  When my clients call, they talk to me, the attorney.  My driver’s license restoration clients can expect nothing but personal service, affordable rates, and to be thoroughly prepared for the hearing.

The typical license restoration case consists of the following client expenses: 1) A certified driving record($10); 2) A criminal history report ($10), and 3) A drug and alcohol assessment ($150 to $250).  I charge an hourly contract, $250 an hour. I estimate that it takes about 6 hours for a restoration case or approximately $1500 in legal fees. In addition, I charge a travel fee: $35.00 minimum for travel outside of Grand Traverse or $35.00 an hour.  If an overnight stay is necessary, I will charge the client an additional $160.00.

I also use Facetime and Skype to reduce/eliminate travel for my clients.  It’s a decision of whether to stop pissing around, thinking you can handle this yourself, or hire a true professional to guide you to a better life.

My retainer for an appeal to the Circuit Court following an OHAO hearing is $2500.00, plus the travel fees, and the cost to order your transcript. If you have been wronged, then I am the man for your appeal. Unless you have been trained in how to draft, complete, and present an appeal, the restoration road ends with the Secretary of State.  I will fight for your license.

Driver’s license restoration lawyer near me

There is little or no advantage to hiring your local attorney to handle your driver’s license restoration case.  Today, most lawyers file a driver’s license restoration application, including all exhibits, letters, etc.., via the Internet.  This means that dropping off letters or other evidence is not needed.  A client can pay an attorney to scan their documents into a PDF file, or the client can save money and scan their documents and email them to their attorney.  All license restoration cases in Northern Michigan are conducted via television teleconferencing at select Secretary of State offices. Or, thanks to the pandemic, an applicant may request a teleconference hearing through Microsoft Teams, which is software similar to Zoom.  If the client does live in one of the cities with the teleconferencing equipment, then the client will have to travel to a Secretary of State office for a teleconference hearing.  Sometimes a driver’s license restoration lawyer in Northern Michigan must travel to the same location.  Each Secretary of State office services a different geographic region, these regions are not all the same.  For example, the Petoskey Secretary of State office is one of the busiest offices in the State for restoration cases, it takes a long time to schedule a hearing.  In comparison, the Traverse City office is less busy, and hearings are scheduled much sooner.  This means that a driver’s license restoration attorney near me search will likely bring up a local attorney.  But is this attorney the best choice?  In my opinion, the convenience of having a local attorney near the client is outweighed by hiring an attorney with the knowledge and experience to get the job done. 

The out-of-state client clearance case. Michigan has a hold on my license

When a driver leaves Michigan for a fresh start but leaves with restrictions, suspension, or revocations due to multiple DUI convictions, this person will run into problems when they seek a new driver’s license in a different state.  The driver will be told by a DMV representative in the new state that Michigan has a hold on their license.  This means that the driver must clear up the problem back in Michigan, hence I call this a clearance case.  Please visit my driver’s license restoration blog for more information on my service for out-of-state clients.

Do-It-Yourself Driver’s License Restoration in Michigan

Nearly every attorney will tell people not to appear at a driver’s license restoration hearing without an attorney. Despite all this sound advice, people continue to represent themselves at these hearings. I offer two services to help people who insist on representing themselves. First, a telephone consultation for $125 dollars. During this consultation, I will evaluate the client’s case and offer suggestions for shoring up their case before filing. Second, I offer a letter outline. One of the requirements found in the SOS 257/258 application is 3 to 6 notarized letters. The content of these letters is very important for a successful driver’s license restoration case. For $250.00 I will send you the outline that I insist my driver’s license restoration clients follow.

Client Reviews

Mr. Benedict did a great job helping me regain my driving privileges. He was always available and punctual throughout the entire process. I believe my attempt would have been unsuccessful without his representation. He is very knowledgeable about the process and what it takes to be successful. I highly recommend his services as an attorney.

Frequently Asked Questions Driver’s License Restoration

My last drunk driving was over ten years ago.  I should get my license back by now. I know someone with even more DUI convictions than me who has restored their driver’s license.  Why can’t I get my license, I haven’t had a driver’s license for over a decade.

The State of Michigan doesn’t want habitual drunk drivers on the road, neither does the general public.  Restoring driving privileges is not easy.  A driver’s license revocation is permanent until the petitioner demonstrates that their drug & alcohol issues are under control and not likely to return in the future.

I barely drink alcohol since our State legalized marijuana, why can’t I get my license?

The drug and alcohol professionals don’t distinguish between alcohol and marijuana, they advocate and seek total abstinence from all drugs.  People who struggle with addiction speak of “recovery” not just “recovery from alcohol.”  The restoration process involves a drug and alcohol rehabilitation profession, and, in my opinion, 10 out of 10 of these professionals will see a person who smokes marijuana today instead of drinking alcohol as a person who has traded one addiction for a new addiction.  A person like this will receive a poor drug and alcohol evaluation, which is all that is needed for a Hearing Officer to say no. It is still illegal to drive while impaired by cannabis.

I have to drive for work, why can’t I get a hardship driver’s license?

There is little sympathy for habitual drunk drivers.  “Once is a mistake, twice is a problem.”  This quote is true for both the driver and the public at large.  Hardship licenses are restricted to a small class of people who lose their driving privileges.  Unfortunately, a driver with two or more DUI convictions is not eligible for a hardship license in Michigan. 

What is the most common mistake you see with people who try to get their license back on their own?

The most common mistake is a person who underestimates how hard it is to get your license back.  This mistake manifests in carelessness or incomplete information within the application for a hearing. In addition, the letters submitted focus on the petitioner’s hardship from life without a license instead of the petitioner’s abstinence and sobriety. Another mistake is after a client receives a restricted license with a BAIID(Ignition Interlock Device), they fail to seek a full driver’s license after one year. Instead, they drive with a restricted license for many years. The longer the BAIID is wired up to their automobile, the more likely there will be a problem resulting in the loss of their license again.

What happens if I get caught driving before my OHAO hearing to get my driver’s license back?

After a license revocation, the driver must wait either one year or five years before they become eligible to request a hearing to restore their driver’s license.  If a driver is caught driving a vehicle, the Secretary of State will impose another year of hearing ineligibility for the driver. Driving without a license while you wait for your OHAO hearing is a recipe for disaster.

Which people have the hardest time getting their driver’s license back?

In my opinion, there is a scale for drivers seeking to restore their licenses.  On the “easier side” are people with only two convictions for DUI.  The more convictions a driver piles up, the harder it becomes to restore driving privileges.  The person who has two DUI convictions then completes the restoration process and receives a restricted license, but later has a positive alcohol reading on the BAIID(Ignition Interlock Device) or picks up a third DUI, will likely never convince a Hearing Officer to restore their license.  This person will need to present a near-perfect case at the OHAO hearing, expect to be denied, and then file an appeal with the Circuit Court to restore their driving privileges.

What do I need to know after I get a restricted license with a BAIID(Ignition Interlock Device) installed in my car?

Congrats, you can drive to work again.  Read the Order and memorize the procedure when there is a BAIID problem. But don’t think you are done and it will be easy going to a full driver’s license. The most important thing for a person driving with a BAIID is to be proactive if there are any issues.  If there are any problems, immediately, on the same day, get tested for alcohol consumption.  After a year of driving on the BAIID, you will be eligible for another hearing to restore full driving privileges.  Do not stop going to your support groups while you have a BAIID installed in your car. Do not delay in seeking to restore your full driver’s license. The longer one drives with a BAIID installed in their car, the more likely something will go wrong with the machine.

I went to the hearing and I thought it went well, but I received a written opinion stating I was denied a driver’s license.  What should I do next?

At the end of the opinion, there should be a list of recommendations written by the Hearing Officer.  One year after the date of the written opinion, you will be eligible to have another hearing. You can address this list of recommendations and prepare for next year’s hearing.  Second, you can contact a driver’s license restoration attorney and ask them to read your opinion for a fee.  This will provide more insight into what can be improved.  Third, you can order the hearing transcript and have an attorney provide an opinion on the merits of an appeal to the Circuit Court.  Finally, you can hire an attorney to prepare and file a Circuit Court appeal.

Do you ever turn people away for a driver’s license restoration case?

Yes. Nearly every person who seeks to restore their driver’s license has to prove their drug and alcohol abstinence for over one year.  I will not accept a client who tells me they still drink alcohol, but not like they used to. Every lawyer has an ethical obligation not to allow their client to commit fraud upon the tribunal.   The second group of people I will not help are the people who tell me they have an out-of-state DUI conviction but don’t want to disclose this conviction on the hearing application.  Both of these situations trigger an attorney’s ethics, i.e. misrepresentations to the tribunal.  About a third of the people that I speak to realize they are not ready for an OHAO hearing. The client elects to work on their case before filing.

I had a hearing to get a license ten years ago, why do I need the old opinion?

A license restoration case is not a one-and-done hearing. Old opinions are available to a Hearing Officer. Every person seeking a driver’s license should keep a copy of everything filed with the Secretary of State. It is important to remain consistent with the client’s history from hearing to hearing. Changes in the application history will likely lead to an inquiry about the changes. These questions can lead to the dreaded “credibility issue,” label. Once an applicant’s veracity is questioned, the driver will have to prepare a strong case, expect to be denied, and appeal to the circuit court to gain driving privileges.