It sounds crazy: a man with 6 DUI’s in 3 states plus other charges including driving under suspension and weed possession has his driver’s license permanently revoked – twice – then asks me to help him get it back, and I do.
While I feel I did some important legal work here, this is really Dave’s triumph. I agreed to help because I listened to his story and it moved me. It seemed harsh a man who’d not only paid for his sins but repented of them would be forced into a life sentence, unable to drive forever.
But what could we do? South Carolina law clearly forbid him from license reinstatement. While the law does allow a permanently revoked driver one chance to get his license back, that evaporates if you get convicted of DUI after your permanent revocation. Dave did that.
But one thing I love about this story is, when one door gets slammed in your face, sometimes you can find another. Here’s how we won Dave’s case, won his driver’s license, and finally won his freedom back after 2 decades of struggle.
It all started in 1995 with a bad split from his ex-wife. (By the way, Dave owns his fault in contributing to that, too). Until then, Dave was squeaky clean – he rarely even drank. The divorce began a rapid downward spiral into depression, alcoholism, and legal problems.
In just 8 short, hard years, Dave generated an extensive criminal record reflecting his lifestyle fueled by alcohol and drugs. His convictions were only the tip of the iceberg.
He lost custody of his children. He sold his home cheap and moved in with his mother. His credit was ruined. He could only drive a moped, and still had some serious accidents from driving it drunk. He got a DUI visiting his son, who had to bail him out. His daughter stopped talking to him. His clothing, like his life, stunk. He was shocked to make it to 40.
Out of Darkness
Dave began climbing out of his valley only after reaching the lowest point. He got his last DUI July 22, 2007. It would be the last day he ever drank alcohol.
He never contested the charges, carrying mandatory prison time. He went away for over a year. While there, he dried out and began to look at his life. About a month before release, an impressive group of men spoke to Dave and his fellow pre-releases. They worked for a ministry, describing how their lives crashed from drugs and alcohol.
Dave had an epiphany that day. He felt they spoke directly to him. When they told him the vicious cycle can be broken by removing the main link, he knew what he had to do – stop drinking. So he did.
He started AA the day after release and became very active in the program. He realized the damage he’d caused to those he loved and who depended on him. It made him so sick to think of it, he couldn’t even stand the thought of alcohol anymore. And life began to turn around.
He began to make amends with his family. He gave his daughter away at her wedding and was his son’s best man. Blessed with a boss who’s long stood by him, Dave had a job to go to and began using the income to repair his credit slowly and help his elderly mother. He bought his own tools. An accomplished musician, he began to buy musical instruments and enjoy being part of a band, sober. For the new joys of his life – grandchildren – he spent as much time with them as he could, and gave them generous birthday and Christmas gifts.
But something was missing. It’s hard on anyone not to drive, but it was especially hard on Dave. He and his mother had no reliable family or friends nearby to drive him around. It basically made him a hermit. He lived most of his life on Facebook, which isn’t living at all. He began to worry it hurt him at work, as he’s an auto mechanic who needs to test drive cars to make sure repairs are done properly. Dave worried if his boss retired, he’d be unable to get a job.
Worst, it kept him from his children and grandchildren, who live over 100 miles away. His mother’s declining health kept her from driving very far, so he rarely got to see them. While Dave was living, it wasn’t the life he or those who depended on him needed.
Into The Light
While I knew Dave deserved a second chance, I also knew the law could be quite unforgiving. We needed a powerful strategy to counteract it. I figured if we could get his last DUI pardoned, he’d have a shot at reinstatement. I quickly decided not to shoot low – we’d ask for a pardon on all charges, hoping if the pardon board didn’t want to do that, they’d throw Dave a bone by pardoning the last charge. Sometimes if you ask for the stars, you can make it to the moon.
In the legal world, the pardon process is a little unusual. You file an application with a couple letters from folks who aren’t relatives that support the pardon, then you get a brief hearing in front of the board in Columbia. And I mean “brief” like, it takes you longer to eat lunch. That’s how many people are clamoring for pardons in our state- the board’s just overwhelmed with the sheer number of requests flooding their office.
You don’t have a lot of time to get their attention at that hearing. You’ve got to get it beforehand, when they can consider it on their own time. I concluded that means you win a pardon with paperwork sent to the board members way in advance.
In the weeks leading up to the hearing, I had Dave gather affidavits (sworn statements) from people in his life who could attest to the changes he’d made, to show the board he was worth another shot. Since his recovery, Dave has won an impressive list of supporters, especially his children, his sister (who’s a doctor), his boss (one of his biggest fans), his mother, and – you may need to read this twice – his ex-girlfriend AND ex-wife. As I told the board at the hearing, it takes a truly inspiring man to gain the support of his ex-wife!
When we arrived for our pardon hearing, I was extremely thankful we’d submitted David’s packet weeks before. We got ushered into a huge waiting room, teeming with people. It would make a doctor’s office blush! And these were just the morning hearings!
When we finally got in the board room, the hearing lasted about 10 minutes max. I spoke for about 6 before the board grew tired of me. Then they asked Dave some questions and he spoke for about 2 minutes, then his boss lent his support for about another 2 minutes.
Then it was over. Unlike the movies, there was no dramatic phone call where we were summoned back in for the announcement of the decision. Instead, we waited out in the hallway used by every other office on the floor.
A pardon board employee strolled out and gave Dave the fantastic, hoped-for news: he got a full pardon on all charges.
I admit that moment was kind of like the movies for me.
As we celebrated in the parking lot, we still knew we had another hurdle to climb to get his license back. And it struck me like lightning: if the prior DUI’s got pardoned, we could argue he technically had no permanent revocation. So he could get his driver’s license immediately.
Last hurdle cleared. After we got the official pardon document, I contacted the DMV. To my surprise, they agreed with me without a fight. In just a couple business days, the revocation it took Dave 8 years to accomplish got completely undone. The next day, he had his driver’s license.
He dropped by recently just to show me his new license- a glittering prize to us. So far he's driven about where I expected- to work, to see his children and grandchildren, to help his mom, to buy music equipment and rehearse- and to an AA meeting.
I know this has run long – but believe me, I’ve left out a lot of details – and I’m just so thankful to be part of this process. And I know Dave deserves it. He will prove himself worthy of the chance we worked for and got.
The moral here. Even when you’re down, you’re not always out. And you can never give up hope. With hope, a solution’s probably out there. It may not be the exact one you want. But often, it’s one that you can make work out pretty well. While this worked out perfectly for Dave, I know he had a backup plan that would have worked just fine, because that’s who he is.If you’ve got a problem you think you can’t solve, call us at (888) 230-1841 and see what we can do for you. Who knows, we may be able to help.