Character Letters for Driver License Appeals

by baronedefensefirm on March 30, 2009

In Michigan, if you are convicted of two or more drunk driving offenses within seven years, then your license will be revoked for life.  However, depending on the circumstances, you may be eligible to ask for your driving privilege to be restored after either a one year or five year waiting period.  These driver license restoration hearings take place at the Driver Appeals and Assessment Division (DAAD) of the Michigan Secretary of State.  It is not necessary but we highly recommend that you obtain legal counsel to assist you with your hearing.

At or before the hearing you will have the opportunity to present to the Hearing Officer at least three letters to support your case.  In thinking about and preparing these letters you are probably thinking about who should prepare these letters in your behalf?  Is there a required or preferred format that should or must be followed?  Are there things that should not be contained in the letters?

Here is a handy list you or your attorney might use as a reference tool as you begin to collect these import letters.

  • Send Letters to Your Attorney First – This will allow your attorney to check them for content and to make sure they contain all of the positive attributes and none of the negative.  Your attorney should make sure the letters contain no inconsistencies such as regarding your sobriety date.  Also, he or she should make sure they are signed and dated, and contain the day time contact information for the author.  Remember, the Hearing Officer will be looking for anything to deny your driving privileges, and it is your attorney’s job to make sure the letters are complete and accurate, and contain nothing to allow the Hearing Officer to deny you
  • The Letters Should be on Letterhead - Whenever possible, you should have the author place their letter on their professional letterhead or at least some kind of stationary.  Appearance counts and you certainly want to avoid the handwritten sloppy letter.  Again, whenever possible the letters should be type-written.
  • Avoid “Form” Letters - All letters should be original with totally original content.  While your lawyer may provide you with a preferred format, you must avoid letters that are too similar.  This will be a warning to the Hearing Officer that something is wrong, and your letters may be disregarded or given less weight, which may itself cause you to lose your hearing.
  • Address Letters to “Hearing Officer” – The letters should not be addressed to your or to your lawyer.  It is the Hearing Officer who will be making the decision on your case, and this is to whom the letter should be addressed.
  • Letter Writers Should Identify Themselves - Make sure that your letter writers indicate in their letters what they do for a living, and any significant activities in which they participate.  If the writer is a doctor, a teacher, a preacher or a poet, this should be specifically indicated and described.
  • Writers should be Specific - Each letter should indicate how long the writer has known you, how they know you, and what they know about you.  Specifically, the letters should include knowledge of your past drinking habits, and the fact that you are no longer drinking today.  A specific sobriety date should also be indicated.  If the writer has knowledge of your support group activities, this should be indicated.  Perhaps the most important thing to include is how your behavior has changed pre and post sobriety.
  • A Cross-Section is Best - You should think about having a cross-section of society write your letters for you.  Consider asking your friends, family, pastor, support group sponsor, teacher, coach or co-worker to write letters for you.  The think you want to avoid is to have all of your letters come from one source, such as all from your support group or all from work.  Again, letters coming all from once source may tip-off the Hearing Officer that you are hiding something, or at least raise suspicion to the point that the letters as a whole are discredited.

Your testamentary letters are an important part of your overall evidence at the restoration hearing, and if they are written correctly your chances of winning will increase significantly. If you follow these tips you will be well on your way to success at your next driver license appeal hearing.  Good luck!

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This post was written by...

– who has written 204 posts on Michigan Drunk Driving Lawyers.

Patrick T. Barone is the author on two books on DUI defense including the well respected two volume treatise Defending Drinking Drivers (James Publishing), and The DUI Book – A Citizen’s Guide to Understanding DUI Litigation in America. He is also the author of a monthly DUI defense column for the Criminal Defense Newsletter, published by Michigan’s State Appellate Defender’s Office. Mr. Barone is an adjunct professor at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School where he teaches Drunk Driving Law and Practice. He is also on the faculty of the Criminal Defense Attorney’s of Michigan’s Trial Lawyer’s College where he provides trial skills training to Michigan’s criminal defense practitioners. Mr. Barone lectures nationally on various DUI defense topics, and he has appeared in newspapers, on television and on radio as a drunk driving defense expert. Mr. Barone has been certified as an instructor and practitioner of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests and has also attended a 24-hour certification course at National Patent Analytical Corporation (the manufacturer of the DataMaster) and has thereby been deemed competent by the manufacturer to operate, perform essential diagnostic verifications and calibration checks on the DataMaster. Mr. Barone is a Sustaining Member of College for DUI Defense. Mr. Barone is the principal and founding member of The Barone Defense Firm, whose practice is limited exclusively to defending drinking drivers. The Firm is headquartered in Birmingham, Michigan.

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