By Michael G. Brock
An update from the Michigan Department of Treasury and sent to me by Attorney Matthew Zick addresses changes to the driver responsibility fee law and the process of license reinstatement. The bulletin is available at Latest News on Driver Responsibility Fee Changes - www.michigan.gov/driverreponsibility.
In brief, it states that all driver responsibility fees will be eliminated effective 10/1/2018. However, those people already on a payment plan can have their fees waved as of 3/31/2018, and will also have the $125.00 reinstatement fee waived. Those not currently on a payment plan must wait until the October date, but then may have their reinstatement fee waived between 10/1/2018 and 12/31/2018. After that date they would presumably have to pay the reinstatement fee. Those people whose licenses were suspended due to drinking or drugging and driving offenses still need to go through the process of applying for an Administrative Hearing Section appeal. The AHS Form 257 and instructions on what the client needs area available at:
https://www.michigan.gov/documents/sos/SOS257_258_Request_for_Hearing_432399_7.pdf, or by calling 888-767-6424.
Reminder regarding driver's license evaluations, the most common errors of presenting clients are:
- By far the most importantinconsistent information between the substance use evaluation, the request for hearing form (SOS 257), the letters of support, information provided at prior hearings, and information provided at the hearing itself.
- Not having their driving record, or knowing when they incurred their offenses, consequently not being able to construct a sobriety/abstinence timeline;
- Not listing all of their offenses, including those that do not appear on their driving record because of:
-the age of the offense,
-a late abstraction,
-the MIP or drug offense was not listed on the driving record,
-their memory was foggy,
-they did not think non-driving offenses were important or necessary information for the Hearing Officer to make an informed decision about whether they should drive. Any substance related offenses that are not listed are grounds for denial on the basis that the evaluation is invalid because the evaluator did not have all the facts when making his recommendation;
- Drinking too much water before they come in for the evaluation because they know they will have to provide a urine sample, and, as a result, providing a urine screen with a creatinine level below 20, which is not acceptable to the AHS and will be grounds for denial of the appeal. If the creatinine or other integrity variables are invalid, the drug screen needs to be redone at the client's expense. It also means arranging another trip to the office, which is difficult for those who don't yet have a restricted license and cannot drive;
- For those people who have been driving with the interlock device, not clearing all false positives or obtaining a breathalyzer or EtG test to verify that they were sober at the time of an alleged infraction, positive blow, or missed rolling retest. I understand that police are sometimes refusing to perform these tests when asked, but they might be willing to provide a note that one was requested. There is also the option of going to a Concentra or other lab. The effort must be made;
- Not informing the interlock company when the car is in the shop being worked on and keeping receipts for verification;
- Not keeping receipts for a dead battery or other car parts that would require unhooking the car battery and may be viewed as tampering with the interlock device.
- Not responding to notification from the State requiring an explanation of malfunction or notification of hearing within the two week time limit.
- Expressing "attitude" at the hearing;
- Telling the hearing officer what they think is important instead of letting the Hearing Officer take the lead and responding with short answers that address the question being asked;
- Trying to convince the Hearing Officer that, "I was never that bad in the first place," instead of owning the problem for which they now own a solution.
- Not knowing what is in the information they submitted to the Secretary of State AHS, leading to contradictory statements.
- Not reading my most informative booklet, co-authored with Matt Zick, "Get Your Michigan Driver's License Back, 2018!"
The bad news is that driver's license restoration continues to get more complicated, but the good news is that it is pretty easy as legal processes go, and now more people will be eligible who were not eligible before because they could not get out of the financial hole dug by bad decisions and driver responsibility fees. We can be part of the process of helping those making a good recovery to again become functional members of society.
There have been a couple of other changes that make the process of getting a license back a little easier:
1. On Circuit Court hardship appeals, the judges now have four options, they can deny the appeal, remand the case to the AHS, restore a full license, or issue a restricted license with a breathalyzer. This last option represents a significant change. This means that your client now has a better chance of obtaining some sort of driving privileges if he chooses to appeal his license suspension, should he refuse the breathalyzer. This could mean the difference regarding whether he can keep his job or not, so it's a big deal.
2. The Hearing Officers now have the ability to clear a late abstraction, which previously could only be done by taking the matter to Circuit Court-a process that involved considerable time and resources which many clients do not possess. If their last case was a felony, this could mean waiting an additional five years before they could even apply for a hearing. Again, this is a big deal, and should help us put more deserving drivers (those making a good recovery) back on the road.
Michael G. Brock, MA, 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. Much of his practice in recent years relates to driver license restoration and substance abuse evaluation, but he also consults and serves as an expert witness regarding forensic interviewing and the use of forensic interviewing protocols in cases of child sexual abuse allegations. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org, website, michaelgbrock.com.
Published: Wed, Apr 18, 2018