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Reinstating Your Drivers License

On & Off TriggerUnder Illinois Law, there are approximately 21 different offenses which will, upon a conviction, result in the mandatory revocation of all driving privileges, according to Section 6-205 of the Illinois Vehicle Code. There are also a number of ways that one’s driving privileges may be revoked within the discretion of the Secretary of State upon a fair showing of evidence to warrant such action. These "discretionary revocations" are detailed in Section 6-206 of the Illinois Vehicle Code. This article’s purpose is to discuss how to petition the Secretary of State for an administrative hearing to regain driving privileges after they have been revoked, and the procedures involved in seeking and obtaining full reinstatement of driving privileges, and/or restricted driving privileges leading up to full reinstatement at a later time.

Suspension of Driving Privileges in Illinois

The vast majority of suspensions are, by design, meant to last no longer than 12 months, and will automatically result in full reinstatement of driving privileges without a hearing at the end of the period of the suspension, after payment of all reinstatement fees has been made. Some suspensions can remain out there indefinitely though, until the underlying basis of the suspension has been properly addressed. An example of this is a "failure to appear suspension," which happens when someone who received a moving violation, and posted his or her driver’s license as bail, fails to appear in court or otherwise take care of the ticket. Other indefinite suspensions include, but are not limited to, suspensions for failure to pay child support, unpaid parking tickets, automated control traffic device tickets or tollway violations, unsatisfied civil judgements stemming from a motor vehicle collision, and uninsured motorist suspensions stemming from an accident where no proof of insurance was forwarded to the Illinois Department of Transportation. How to take care of these types of suspensions is the subject of another article.

Revocation of Driving Privileges in Illinois

Revocations of driving privileges are different, in that they do not terminate automatically on their own terms the way suspensions normally do. Instead, one must go through a hearing process at the Illinois Secretary of State, Department of Administrative Hearings, which has locations throughout the State. There are two types of hearings: Formal and Informal. Whether your case requires a Formal or Informal Hearing is dependent upon the basis (or bases) for your revocation, and the extent of your driving history.

Formal Secretary of State Hearings

While the evidence one must produce at a hearing remains the same, and the standard of proof (Clear and Convincing Evidence) is the same, there are differences. Formal Hearings are held in only a few locations across the State (although the Department may, in its discretion, allow for a hearing at any location within the State, balancing the convenience of the motorist versus the ability of the Department to accommodate them, manpower availability, and budgetary constraints). Given the current fiscal crisis we face, don’t hold your breath for any special consideration in this regard.

Formal Hearings also may only occur upon the written request of a motorist, along with payment of a filing fee. Formal Hearings are held before a Hearing Officer, who is recording the entire proceeding electronically. There is an attorney working on behalf of the Secretary of State who presents the State’s case supporting your revocation, and who will cross examine you after you testify.

Informal Secretary of State Hearings

Informal Hearings, on the other hand, may be held on any day, at any time, at any Informal Hearing office location within the State of Illinois. There is no filing fee, no scheduled hearing date, time or location. There is no recording of the proceedings, and no lawyer from the State cross will examine you. Instead, you sit down informally with the officer at his or her desk, your documents are reviewed for completeness and accuracy, and the answers you give to the questions are noted on a form. Whether a hearing is Formal or Informal, in either circumstance you will not get a decision on the spot. Instead, the matter is "taken under advisement," and you may not get a decision for a period of, on the average, 8 to 12 weeks at present. Sometimes the decision comes quicker, although rarely does it take longer. While a decision is pending, the Department will not answer any questions regarding anything of substance, as in "when will a decision come down," "what was the decision," "what is taking you people so long to give me a simple yes or no," etc.

Revocation Most Commonly Caused by a DUI Conviction

The most common reason for having one’s driving privileges revoked is a conviction for Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol, Drugs, or Intoxicating Compounds, or driving with a BAC of 0.08 or more, or any amount of a controlled substance or methamphetamine, or an amount of THC over 5 nanograms per milliliter of whole blood, or 10 nanograms per milliliter of any other bodily fluid. Court Supervision, typically given for a first DUI offense, is not a conviction, and does not result in a license revocation. Jail time, Probation, Conditional Discharge, or even just a judgement of conviction with just a fine all constitute convictions that trigger a license revocation however. When that happens, you must undergo a hearing to obtain either full reinstatement, or the issuance of a restricted driving permit for employment, medical, educational or household needs.

Formal Hearing Required if a DUI "Recidivist"

As stated, the vast majority of motorists in Illinois do receive court supervision for their first DUI, and a conviction upon the second offense. In the case of a first offender that receives a conviction for whatever reason, or has an out of state offense that results in a conviction that triggers an Illinois revocation of the driver’s license, an Informal Hearing may be held. However, some multiple offenders may also be eligible to proceed by way of an Informal Hearing under the administrative rules. Formal Hearings are required for anyone that is considered to be a "recidivist", meaning, someone that has suffered two or more separate losses of driving privileges due to DUI related incidents. This includes someone that had a prior Statutory Summary Suspension that was not rescinded, even on a case where there was a sentence of Supervision entered, along with a separate case involving a DUI conviction resulting in the revocation. But if any prior DUI arrests resulted in rescinded suspensions and non-convictions on the DUI, then there was no loss of driving privileges, and cannot be counted towards a recidivist classification.

Production of Documents in Informal and Formal Hearings

If one is eligible to be heard informally, the Secretary of State will require that you proceed in that fashion. Even if you try to file a request for a Formal Hearing, and pay the filing fee, once they determine that you are eligible for an Informal Hearing, they will immediately kick back your request to you, with instructions to proceed informally first. If you are to proceed informally, be sure to maintain additional copies of all of your documents for your records, because everything that you give to the hearing officer will remain in their offices Downstate. If you are denied at an informal hearing, or if you are only granted a Restricted Driving Permit (RDP), and you need to go for subsequent informal hearings, you must bring copies of all of your original documents from the first hearing, originals of any new documents (such as a re-evaluation or an evaluation update), and copies of any and all prior administrative decisions/orders entered for or against you. This is because the officer does not necessarily have your file from Springfield sitting in the office. Remember, you may have walked in with no appointment or announcement. Formal Hearings are different in this way as well, because the filing of a hearing request, and the scheduling of a hearing, allows the Department to obtain your prior records from storage, and put them in the Hearing Officer’s hands, so that they can be considered with all of your new evidence that you bring to the hearing. Thus, at a Formal Hearing, you need only bring originals of new documentation, you need not bring in copies of previously filed materials.

Burden of Proof and Required Documentation for Hearing

The burden of proof at these hearings is upon the motorist, to establish by "clear and convincing evidence" that he or she has fully met, and addressed, his or her alcohol abuse or dependency issues, obtained an appropriate diagnosis of the nature and extent of the problem, obtained and successfully completed all recommended courses of counseling and treatment, and have made significant lifestyle changes and changes in attitude that minimize the risk of repeating the offense. As much as a mouthful that is, it is actually easier said than done. How much proof you need to present is dependent upon your level of classification in the Uniform Alcohol and Drug Assessment (DUI evaluation). Here is how the different classifications currently break down:

  • Level 1, Minimal Risk: Alcohol evaluation current within six months, proof of completion of
    • 10 hours of remedial education classes;
  • Level 2M, Moderate Risk:
    • Alcohol evaluation,
    • proof of completion of the 10 hour remedial education,
    • and 12 hours of outpatient counseling and aftercare (if any was required by the treatment provider during the treatment);
  • Level 2S, Significant Risk:
    • Alcohol evaluation,
    • proof of completion of the 10 hour remedial education,
    • 20 hours of outpatient counseling and 14 hours of aftercare,
    • treatment plan,
    • discharge summary,
    • and continuing care status;
  • Level 3, High Risk Non Dependent:
    • Alcohol evaluation,
    • proof of completion of 75 hours of out-patient counseling,
    • minimum of six months of aftercare,
    • treatment plan,
    • discharge summary,
    • and continuing care status;
  • Level 3, High Risk, Dependent:
    • Alcohol evaluation,
    • proof of completion of 75 hours of out-patient counseling or equivalent, such as a 28 day in-patient program,
    • minimum of six months of aftercare,
    • treatment plan,
    • discharge summary,
    • continuing care status,
    • proof of a minimum of 12 months of continuous and total abstinence from any alcohol or illicit substance,
    • AND a minimum of twelve months of active participation in a support group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, or Rational Recovery, etc. (one may also have a "non-traditional support group" made up of anyone that shares dependency issues, with regular meetings where everyone shares and offers mutual support).

Level 3 Letters Required for Hearing

The Secretary of State’s office has forms available on their website,, that are useful for documenting one’s abstinence as well as traditional and non-traditional support group participation. In the case of Level 3 classification, the rules presently require a minimum of three abstinence letters from those that see you regularly and can attest to not only your abstinence, but the positive changes to your lifestyle that have occurred since your abstinence began, such as your family, friends, co-workers or neighbors. You also must have a minimum of three letters from members of your support group, including one from your sponsor, detailing your active participation in the support group. These letters may not be older than 45 days before your actual hearing in order to be considered valid as evidence.

Speak to an Experienced Secretary of State Hearing Attorney

Revocation of driving privileges is the ultimate sanction one can experience when it comes to the collateral consequences of criminal wrongdoing. Obtaining reinstatement is a daunting task, and one that should not be attempted without the help of an experienced attorney, like the attorneys at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC. We have offices in Arlington Heights, Chicago, and other locations across Illinois. We offer a free, no obligation initial consultation, so call us right away at (800) 996-4824 to schedule your appointment, and start the process to regain your driving privileges.