The devil is in the details? and so is salvation

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By Michael G. Brock

I have long been saying to anyone who would listen that when it comes to success at SOS Administrative Hearing Section, it you (the attorney or the client) don’t beat yourself, you have a pretty good chance of winning your driver license appeals. Lawyers who are good at this win (according to their reports) close to 95 percent of their cases. Some call me after every hearing, so I know how they are doing. I have no stats for clients who go in pro per, but many of them return to me for the eval for full driver’s license restoration, so my sense is that most of my clients are successful.

But the SOS states that they give a license back around half the time, so what accounts for the discrepancy? I believe it is because there are so many ways to beat yourself, and if you aren’t a stickler for details, it’s easy to find one. Here is a partial list of some of the details that get overlooked:

1. Not having your driving record at the evaluation and consequently guessing wrongly about how many arrests you have had and how long you have been sober. This includes arrests for drunk and disorderly or drug paraphernalia, which the hearing officer is not going to believe was a mistake, unimportant because you don’t think they’re important, or that you were abstinent when they occurred.

2. Thinking that being off by a year because it was “so long ago it is not a big deal.” You are not applying for a job where experience may be desirable regardless of when you had it; this is a court of law and time matters.

3. Not having records or memory of specific treatment or involvement in AA, including the ability to say something about what treatment consisted of or where you went to meetings, what the steps are, what the serenity prayer is, or who Bill and Bob are.

4. Thinking that telling the hearing officer that everyone was BS-ing at the meetings and they were a waste of your time and you weren’t paying attention is a sufficient rationale.

5. Having discrepancies between the Substance Use Evaluation (SUE) and the Request for Hearing Form (257), your letters of support, or what you say at the hearing. If your people don’t know your last drink date you need to tell them. If they are not signed, dated, notarized, with last drink/drug date and contact information for the letter-writer, don’t bother going to the hearing; save the gas money. Save everyone time.

6. Not knowing what’s in the eval, like your last drink and drug date. Some if this stuff may be hard to pin down exactly, but once it is on paper it is the Gospel (or the Torah, if you prefer) According to You. Any changes have to be approved in writing by God (or myself, when I’m acting in his stead) or your chances of getting your license back will be burned at the stake along with your credibility.

7. Not having your prior eval with all the different dates, facts and opinions you gave the hearing officer last time, right or wrong, but which are nonetheless a matter of record and must be addressed in all subsequent SUEs and at the hearing.

8. Not having your last rejection letter with the instructions from the hearing officer of what needs to be done before he might consider giving you a license at the next hearing, and not having any clue as to what those instructions were. Yes, I know you moved, had a flood, etc., but a hearing officer is a judge by another name and judges expect their rulings to be adhered to.

9. You can’t fish for information at the hearing. If you don’t know it before you go in you will lose. If you can’t read the eval, find someone who can and have them read it to you — several times.

10. Matt Zick says that 90 percent of the case is decided before the hearing ever takes place, so lining up the evidence and preparing the client is where you lawyers really earn your fees in these cases. The days of showing up at the hearing and winging it are long gone.

11. If you want to know the minimum standards for acceptable evidence in one of these cases, ask yourself, “Could Clinton get this past FBI Director Comey?” If the answer is no, then you know sure as hell no hearing officer is going to find it credible.

12. And if you want to know what not to do at the hearing, just ask yourself, what would Donald Trump do in my situation? Do the opposite; leave your guns at home, be polite and act like a mature adolescent, and not only will you pass with flying colors, you may even earn the respect of the people closest too you!

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Michael G. Brock, MA, LLP, LMSW, is a forensic mental health professional in private practice at Counseling and Evaluation Services in Wyandotte, Michigan. He has worked in the mental health field since 1974, and has been in full-time private practice since 1985. The majority of his practice in recent years relates to driver license restoration and substance abuse evaluation. He may be contacted at Michael G. Brock, Counseling and Evaluation Services, 2514 Biddle, Wyandotte, 48192; 313-802-0863, fax/phone 734-692-1082; e-mail, michaelgbrock@ comcast.net; website, michaelgbrock.com.

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