TOP TEN WAYS TO SABOTAGE YOUR DRIVER'S LICENSE APPEAL
September 1, 2015
From the Book, Get Your Michigan Driver's License Back!
By Evaluator Michael Brock and Atty Matthew Zick
We 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 some believe that 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. We 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. We say that, no matter how hard we try, we’ve found it impossible to prevent the motivated patient from getting well.
Of course, the converse is equally true. Any professional can think of numerous times when they have explained the best course of action; sometimes surprising themselves with their own eloquence. The professional may feel they have obtained what seemed to be a true breakthrough with the client, who for the first time appeared to grasp the substance and import of the message and begun to get real about options, only to find that by the time of the next visit the insight had completely vanished and the client was back at square one.
Similarly, when doing an SUE for driver’s license renewal, we encourage clients not to sabotage their own efforts when the go to their hearing. But they often find a way to do it, and here are some tried and true methods of achieving this result:
Keep drinking or doing drugs. Having a positive drug screen or showing up for a hearing with alcohol on your breath has to be the surest way to give the HO the message that you are not ready to have your driving privileges restored. Why people think they can get away with this is a mystery to me, but some try it. They may think that by drinking herb tea they will cleanse or mask the substances in their system, but it doesn’t, and if they drink huge amounts of water to dilute their urine, the integrity variables will show it. Better to get serious about recovery and obtain the required year of abstinence before attempting to regain your driving privileges. It’s safer for everyone on the street too.
Talk about how you didn’t deserve the tickets in the first place; the cop had it in for you. This is also a very effective way to demonstrate to the HO that you have not owned the problem, but continue to see others as the source of all your woes. Of course, it is obvious to everyone that if you don’t have a problem, there is no need for a solution, so why should you stay sober once you have you license back; the license that should never have been taken from you in the first place?
Defend yourself by saying, “I wasn’t that bad.” This is a natural tendency for anyone involved in a legal process, but it works against you in a driver’s license appeal. Any defensiveness sounds like denial. Better to fall on you sword, admit past sins and demonstrate a commitment to remain sober/abstinent and abide by the law. Generally speaking, the HO really doesn’t care how bad you were—many of our clients have done prison time—they just want to be reasonably certain you’ve changed and will not be a problem for the courts if they restore your diving privileges. To do this you must convince them that you own the problem.
Leave a couple of convictions off your evaluation if you don’t think they’re relevant. Sometimes clients want to argue with us that this is about drinking and driving, not their methamphetamine bust, their underage drinking or the domestic violence they picked up while drunk. We explain to them that the HO has access to these records, and that drug crimes appear on their driving record. Leaving it off because you are embarrassed or think it’s none of the HO’s business is another indication that you do not own the problem; hence, a good reason to deny your appeal.
Run down AA. If you don’t go to AA you can still get sober and maybe get your license back, but the HO knows that if the best the rich can afford when they go to the Betty Ford Treatment Center, or Eric Clapton’s new treatment center in the Bahamas are the same 12 steps that are available to the schmuck who just crawled out from under a bridge, there must be something to it. Best to say it wasn’t for you, or that you found something that worked better in your case, but running down the world’s most successful self-help group (“All those people do is go there to get their court slips signed; then they all go to the bar.”) is not going to win you points toward driver license reinstatement.
Say, “I dunno,” when asked why you relapsed. Alcoholics relapse for a reason; they stop going to AA and working the steps; they start hanging out with their old drinking friends; they drink NA beer by the case, feel sorry for themself because their missing out on all that “fun,” convince themself that one won’t hurt them, etc. If the HO thinks that you understand how you sabotaged your recovery and are committed to doing what is necessary to avoid another relapse, they might consider granting your appeal. If they don’t, they won’t.
Try to control the interview. People coming in for an SUE often want to provide information that is either irrelevant or harmful to their case without realizing they are doing so. Sometimes the information is relevant, but does not answer the question we’ve asked. No interviewer wants to ask one question and receive an answer for one the interviewee thinks is more relevant. We often tell them to give short answers to our questions, not the questions they want to answer. But we’re just an evaluator, the HO is a judge whose rulings can only be overturned for abuse of discretion, and they don’t have to put up with such nonsense. Moreover, answers to the questions asked on the Request for Hearing and SUE forms are the evidence the State considers relevant and they are the one making the decision.
Give different answers to the HO than you did to the evaluator. This is always a surefire way to get a denial letter. Tell the HO about the other drugs you did when you were young and forgot to tell the evaluator about, or the relapse you forgot to mention. I always tell clients, “This is the gospel according to you, make sure you read your copy over before you go to your hearing.” A word to the wise is sufficient, but many ignore this advice and wind up contradicting themselves, thus convincing the HO they are lying to someone.
Get the cheapest evaluation you can find. There are a lot of people who do evaluations. The law says that anyone with a Master’s level license or addiction certification can do one. But if it’s not done right you’re dead in the water. HOs have told clients of lawyers we do work for that if they had their evaluation done by someone else, they would not have gotten their license. Some evaluators (including some who know better), don’t have an arrangement with a lab to provide a 10-panel drug screen with integrity variables, even though it says on the evaluation form they have seen the clean drug screen. If you’re rejected you have to wait another year to reapply. Is it worth waiting a year to save fifty bucks?
Pretend you’re an AA member when you’re not. Get slips signed for a month or two before your hearing, but don’t learn the 12 steps, get a sponsor, know the Serenity Prayer or find out who Bill W. or Dr. Bob are. “Weren’t they the guys who started AA?” HOs know what they are doing and are not easily fooled.
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