PUBLIC ARTICLES (Free): by Michael G. Brock, MA, LMSW
January 2014 Changes To SOS 258
(New Article 04/12/14)
In January of this year the Secretary of State made a couple of changes to the process of completing the Substance Use Evaluation form which may seem minor, but are important.
First of all it should be noted that the Secretary of State is now specifically asking for the dates of last use of alcohol or NA beer, and controlled substances, including addictive prescription medications. This change actually made it onto the form in the previous incarnation in December of 2012, but anyone who does these cases knows that hearing officers are going to be concerned about the use of any substance that may impair the persons ability to operate a car, or that may be a substitute for alcohol, or a particular client's drug of choice. The fact that they are equally concerned about legal prescription drugs is no surprise either, since, according to the Center for Disease Control, prescription opiates kill more people every year than heroin and cocaine combined. ...
One Year License Suspension? Good Luck With That!
(New Article 10/05/13)
By way of an update regarding the Secretary of State driver's license restoration hearings, there have been some new developments that need to be taken into consideration by mental health professionals and attorneys involved in these cases. The major upshot of these policy changes is that what used to be a year suspension plus a month or two processing time to acquire license reinstatement is now likely to take much longer. Whether this is deliberate policy or just a byproduct of an increasingly complicated process is anyone's guess, but it involves a number of factors.
The first important change is that instead of a month it now takes an average of three months to get a hearing. The amount of material required to be submitted is substantially greater and therefore it must take more time to review, thus increasing the homework involved for hearing officers and lengthening the time they must spend on each file. The purpose of requiring the same information multiple times would seem (...)
What Attorneys Can Expect At The DAAD Hearing
By Michael G. Brock and Attorney Matt Zick Article
(New Article 06/18/13)
I asked Matt Zick to write this article with me because, though I have done thousands of evaluations, I have never attended a hearing of the DAAD (FKA DLAD, NKA the Administrative Hearings Section). I know that the mental health professionals who do these evaluations are allowed to represent clients at these hearings, but to my view it represents a conflict of interests. How can I be both an evaluator and an advocate? Moreover, if I went I would want to be compensated for my time, and if a clients are going to pay me to act as their "representative," aren't they better off hiring a real attorney? I think they are and that's what I tell them. If they ask for a referral (or sometimes it seems like a good idea), there are several people who refer to me who do an excellent job on these cases, and I give them three names.
Most of the material in this article comes from Matt; I am just the one writing it up, so if you have a problem with something I say, blame him. I wanted you to know that before I make this first point in case \ you feel that this is shameless solicitation and self-promotion (moi?). The first (...)
When "Request For Hearing" Does Not Mean "Request For Hearing"
(New Article 05/20/13)
Even before the State DAAD redesigned their REQUEST FOR HEARING form again in October of 2012, I had become aware of an important trend in the outcome of driver license appeal hearings. From client and attorney feedback I noticed that, providing a person was qualified to regain their license and had not been disqualified by one of the stated reasons they might not be eligible (e.g., less than a year of sobriety/abstinence), or one of the unstated reasons (they were still on probation or parole), the most common reason for one of my clients being denied a license by a hearing officer was inconsistency between the information provided in my SUBSTANCE USE EVALUATION and the information they provided at their hearing.
Sometimes an inconsistency might be glaring-they neglected to tell me about one of their offenses, or told me no when I asked about other substances they had used and told the hearing officer (...)
Feedback From A Hearing Officer
New Article 03/12/13)
Thank you for your well thought out and detailed feedback. I haven't had any direct response from a hearing officer or former hearing officer before, so it was good to hear from someone who has been in the trenches. I did have one attorney who sends me work say that I was recommended to him by a hearing officer--actually one of the tougher ones--and I took that as a sign that my work is respected.
Not everything on the website is up to date; I'm still learning. Several years ago when I began to do DAAD evals I contacted the State about getting some training, but they could not direct me to any. I wish I had known about you then; I may not have had to learn everything through trial and error. I don't share your view, however, that representing appellants at their hearings is inherently "dark." (...)
Elements Of A Good Recovery
(New Article 11/02/12)
Recently, at a Downriver Bar Association Meeting, I ran into an attorney I do some work for on driver's license restoration cases, and we had a brief discussion about the elements of a good recovery from alcohol or other drug addiction. He went over some points that he considers, and which he believes the hearing officers also look at when trying to decide who is making a valid recovery. It occurred to me the topic might make a good article. When I got home I jotted down a few traits I thought were proof of positive momentum in sobriety, and I also asked an AA friend of mine what he thought (....)
Driver's License Restorations Are Subject To Murphy's Law
(New Article 10/13/12)
There is an old joke about the world's first, fully automated pilotless aircraft. The passengers for the maiden voyage all board the plane and as they taxi toward the runway, a recorded voice tells them they are being transported by the most advanced remote control technology with multiple backup systems, so while there is no human pilot, they can rest assured that nothing can go wrong... can go wrong... can go wrong...
Of course, in the real world, and especially in legal proceedings, things go wrong all the time. Therefore, Murphy's Law should be taken into consideration when making plans. Murphy's Law says, of course, anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible time (...)
Current Standards for Driver License Renewal Evaluations
(Updated Article 06/01/12)
The New SUBSTANCE ABUSE EVALUATION (ALCOHOL AND DRUGS) AND REQUEST FOR HEARING requests far more information than previously sought by evaluators handling these cases. It also affords hearing officers the authority to reach conclusions about clients they have not done sufficient evaluation to assess, such as mental health diagnosis and its impact on sobriety. Moreover, they may not be qualified to offer an opinion on the subject if they had. Since the opinions issued by these officers do not contain their credentials, or even their first names, it is hard to know what they are qualified to determine. However, in addition to the information traditionally asked for in substance abuse evaluations, the DAAD is currently requiring (...)
Penny Wise and Dollar Foolish
(Newly Added Article)
Recently an attorney I do some work for asked me to comment on a compilation of suggestions from another attorney for his clients in driver's license appeal cases. Looking it over, I found that most of the suggestions were useful and showed an understanding of the applicable law as well as what questions could be reasonably anticipated at a DAAD hearing. However, some of the suggestions related to the substance abuse evaluation and included what I believe is a misunderstanding of the importance of this evidence to the appeal.
For starters, this attorney suggests that the appellant obtain an evaluation at a counseling center that is affiliated with a hospital or a doctor's office in order to obtain the drug screen at a cheaper price. I encounter this thinking from time to time among attorneys who handle these cases, but I would say that it comes more from those who do a general practice than from lawyers who make a specialty (...)
(Newly Added Article)
Below is a real letter from a local attorney regarding the importance of the substance abuse evaluation in a DAAD hearing and my response:
"I'm a young attorney in the Downriver Bar Association; we met briefly months ago, and I attended the talk you gave a few weeks ago.
"I did my first license restoration hearing this week. I wanted to let you know that how helpful your talk was, and especially the written materials you handed out. I recently attended an attorney seminar (...)
What If Your Client Doesn't Go To AA?
(Newly Added Article)
If your client doesn't go to Alcoholics Anonymous, does he have a chance of getting his license back? If he has two or more OUILs it is an uphill battle, as any attorney knows, requiring clear and convincing evidence that he has been clean and sober from alcohol, illicit drugs and abuse of any prescription drugs for at least a year (or 5 years if he's had three convictions). Moreover, the burden of proof is on the client, and how does he prove that he is doing what is necessary in his particular case if he is not attending AA or NA, getting attendance slipped signed, learning the 12-step catch phrases and establishing a sober support network (...)
Top Ten Ways to Sabotage Your Driver License Appeal
(Newly Added Article)
I once had a teacher in high school who had a standard response for students who complained about the quality of education they were getting (and in those days the quality of public education was substantially better than it is today). He would say that, while he couldn't speak for the quality or competence of the other teachers in the school, or, for that matter, the nation, he had found that no matter how hard he tried it was impossible for him to prevent the interested student from learning. I sometimes steal that line when talking to client's who complain about the quality of therapy or self-help they are receiving or have received. I say that, no matter how hard I try, I've found it impossible to prevent the motivation patient from getting well.
Rules Are Rules
(Newly Added Article)
Recently, when discussing a driver's license appeal case with Attorney Matt Zick, he told me that when he goes to a DAAD hearing with a client it is his custom, at the end of the hearing, to bring out and read a copy of R 257.313, Standards for issuance of a license. Rule 13 (1) (a) requires the petitioner to prove all of the following [listed below] by clear and convincing evidence.
Go Strong Or Go Home
(Newly Added Article)
There are times when someone is simply not ready to attend a driver license appeal hearing, and that situation presents a challenge for both the attorney and the evaluator. The attorney has to decide whether or not he or she wants to take the client before a hearing officer that is almost certain to rule against them. The evaluator faces the same dilemma with the client who is not ready to go for a hearing. Do you give them an evaluation that is certain to send them to their doom, or advise them to wait and try again when they are better prepared? I would generally choose the later course, but some people have their minds made up to try and can't be dissuaded. If the client is not represented by counsel and will fare poorly, I can at least tell them they would be wise to consult an attorney.
Driver License Restoration Is Counterintuitive
One of the more rewarding aspects of my practice is driver license restoration evaluations for people who have lost their license though drinking and driving and are appealing to the DAAD to get it back. As attorneys all know, the process is a difficult one, and requires the ability of the client to demonstrate clear and convincing evidence that he or she has been sober/abstinent at least a year and has high probability of remaining so. They don't all have to be committed members of AA to achieve this; sometimes it is sufficient to show that there has been a substantial change in lifestyle sufficient to escape the gravitational (...)
False Allegations of Sexual Abuse: What Can Be Done
Over the past few years I have published several articles about the prevalence of false allegations of sexual abuse in child custody cases. The purpose of these articles has been to heighten the awareness of mental health professions, lawyers, the judiciary and the general public regarding these allegations, and to cite the research regarding how to differentiate true from false allegations of abuse. During this time, however, very little has changed; the same allegations are made in the same way, with more or less the same results. The typical scenario.