In Michigan, if you have been convicted of a second OWI your license will be revoked for a minimum of 1 year. If you have been convicted of a third OWI your license will be revoked for a minimum of 5 years. After the time frame has past, you will then be able to ask the Driver’s License Appeal Division for a hearing where a hearing officer will determine whether you meet the specific criteria to have your driver’s license restored.
As your driver license restoration hearing approaches it is important to study, in depth, the questions the hearing officers are going to ask you. Your responses should be honest but well thought out. The questions may seem simple on their face but what the hearing officers are really looking for are usually much more complex. Your specific responses will determine whether you can be trusted to safely drive – so let’s take a look at some of the standard questions:
Questions about your personal relationships and contacts
Questions about your personal relationships and contacts are more important than you think. If you are still associating with your same “drinking buddies” and people that frequently drink you are not going to make a very good impression on the hearing officers. The fact that you have superhuman will power and you can be in a bar surrounded by your friends that are drinking and not be tempted to drink yourself is not the sort of answer the hearing officer’s value. Here are some of the standard questions that will be asked about the people in your life:
- Who do you live with? How long have you lived together? How old are they? What do they do for a living?
- Does that person drink or keep alcohol in your home? Does that person drink when they are out of the house and by themselves or with other friends? If so, how often?
- How would the people in your life feel if you started drinking again?
Being sober is a life changing event and it requires that you do more than simply fight the urge to drink. Having the right answer to these questions will mean the difference between having a license now and having to wait another year.
Questions about your driving habits
Before you even step foot into the hearing room you should have thoroughly reviewed your current driving record. Doing this will help you anticipate the inevitable questions that will be asked of you. Offenses on your record such as driving while license suspended, reckless driving, careless driving, speeding tickets and accident reports are going to be addressed. Remember, the number one criteria the hearing officer is trying to determine is whether you can be trusted to drive. Here are some of the standard questions that all of the hearing officers will specifically ask:
- When is the last time you came into contact with a police officer?
- Have you ever driven while your license was revoked or suspended?
- Do you have any reckless or careless driving tickets on your record?
- Do you have any pending traffic matters?
- What are the details surrounding your traffic accidents?
- Have you ever had any traffic tickets that were dismissed?
Remember, the hearing officer already knows the answer to most of these questions because he or she will have your driving record right in front of them. What’s important is that you answer honestly.
Questions about your drinking habits
Questions about your drinking habits are not necessarily about proving that you haven’t had a drop of alcohol since your last OWI arrest, but more about you showing that you have remained sober for at least one year before your hearing date. The hearing officer will not only listen to your answers, but he or she will also pay a great deal of attention to the way you answer the questions. Being honest about your sobriety date and rehabilitative efforts, and answering with confidence is your best option. Don’t be mistaken – the hearing officer will evaluate the testimonial letters you submit to determine if your rehabilitative efforts and sobriety date are the same. Any amount of contradiction will be disastrous. Here are some of the standard questions:
- What were your drinking habits like prior to receiving your OWI’s?
- At the height of your drinking how often would you say you consumed alcohol?
- In the last year have you been to any bars, nightclubs, or establishments whose primary purpose is to serve alcohol?
- When you attend family gatherings or other social events where alcohol is present, how do you spend your time?
- Have you participated in a toast at a wedding or other celebratory event in the last year?
All of these questions are not intended to simply address the person you used to be, but the person you are today. If you don’t think taking a sip of champagne at a wedding is drinking, the hearing officer’s will not give any credibility to your claims of sobriety.
Some of the best lessons learned are the lessons that cause the most hardship and the hearing officer’s know that nobody is perfect. Any amount of downplaying your OWI offenses or past drinking habits will only show the hearing officer that you haven’t learned your lesson. And if you haven’t learned your lesson, giving you the benefit of the doubt and letting you drive is not likely. Remember, it is the hearing officer’s job to ensure the safety of drivers on the road. The best way they can do this is making sure that you have learned your lesson, that you are sincere and honest, and that you are unlikely to ever drink and drive again.
The hearing officers
Our office deals most often with the Livonia Driver’s Assessment and Appeal Division. There are five hearing officers located in the Livonia office and each hearing is recorded just like a regular court of law. Each hearing officer has their own personality and style of questioning. If you have a hearing in Livonia you can expect to see one of the following hearing officers:
While some hearing officers are more liberal, others are very technical and conservative. Some hearing officers get their answer and orders out quicker than others and some hearing officers will indicate at the actual hearing whether you will be granted driving privileges or not. You will always know which hearing officer you will have prior to your actual hearing date, so you and your attorney can fine tune your approach.
If you or a loved one is in need of driver’s license restoration services in the Oakland, Wayne, or Macomb county communities of Royal Oak, Bloomfield Hills, Detroit, Sterling Heights or any surrounding area, contact the Law Office of Barton Morris. Our attorneys have been handling DAAD hearings for years and the Livonia office is our home base. We know the hearing officers and we know what to expect.
Charlotte Steffen specializes in criminal defense and driver’s license restorations. She has been practicing law for nearly 20 years. Her experience includes thousands of criminal cases, including capital offenses and high profile cases. She began her career at the Legal Aid and Defender Association of Detroit, handling the toughest felonies in Wayne County. She went into private practice in 2002 and has continued helping those who need it most.
Charlotte is an adjunct law professor at the Detroit Mercy Law School in the Criminal Trial Clinic. She supervises student attorneys and lectures on drunk driving and driver’s license issues. She is also on the faculty of the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan in which she helps train lawyers to become trial lawyers.