A Guide to Drivers License Reinstatement Hearings with the Illinois Secretary of State.
By: Jennifer Wirth, Attorney at Law
When a DUI conviction has led to the revocation of driving privileges, many revoked drivers are concerned about how to reinstate their drivers license at an Illinois Secretary of State hearing. This article will provide a basic overview of the Secretary of State hearing process and the considerations that accompany a hearing.
Under 625 ILCS 5/6-205, a mandatory drivers license revocation occurs when a person is convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (or a similar provision of a local ordinance), pursuant to 625 ILCS 5/11-501, or a substantially similar offense occurring out-of-state under 625 ILCS 5/6-206(a)(6). A revocation is effective for an indefinite period of time until the revoked driver is eligible for reinstatement and has satisfied the Secretary of State that they are not a danger to public safety and/or welfare.
Although some exceptions apply, the Secretary of State generally determines eligibility for reinstatement based on the number of prior DUI convictions. When a person has received one DUI conviction, they will generally be eligible for full reinstatement within one year of the revocation being entered by the Secretary of State. A prior supervision on a DUI charge does not count toward reinstatement eligibility, but will still be considered at a Secretary of State hearing when determining if the Petitioner is an acceptable candidate for driving privileges.
If a person has two or three DUI convictions, they will be required to drive on a continuous five-year BAIID permit prior to consideration for their drivers license, regardless of reinstatement eligibility. Some exceptions to the five-year rule exist, such as when the Petitioner resides out-of-state or if they were “in the system” with an active permit that has not lapsed since the law became effective on January 1, 2016. If a five-year petitioner is denied at a future hearing or loses their permit for any reason, they will be subject to a five-year BAIID permit at any future hearing.
If a Petitioner has had four or more DUI convictions prior to January 1, 1999, they may make an application for full reinstatement of their driving privileges upon becoming eligible to do so. If any of the four DUI convictions occurred after January 1, 1999, the Petitioner is only eligible for a lifetime permit if they live in Illinois. One notable exception to the lifetime revocation law applies when a Petitioner can demonstrate that they have resided outside of Illinois for a ten-year period. In cases where a Petitioner is given clearance due to out-of-state residency after four or more DUI convictions, the lifetime revocation will be re-imposed if they establish Illinois residency in the future. If Illinois residency is reestablished, the Petitioner will be subject to a lifetime permit if granted driving relief upon return to Illinois.
In some cases, a Petitioner may apply for a hardship permit if they are not yet eligible for full reinstatement of their drivers license. Hardship permits can be granted to drive for many purposes, including employment, educational, support/recovery groups, medical and/or to drive children to school or daycare. When applying for a hardship permit, the petitioner must demonstrate that there is an extreme difficulty in getting to the desired location and they have no reasonable means of transportation available to do so. “Mere inconvenience” is not enough to establish a hardship. Further, a Petitioner seeking a hardship permit will still need to attend a hearing with the Secretary of State and meet the burden of showing they have resolved their problem with alcohol/drugs and will not endanger public safety and/or welfare if given such a permit.
When a Petitioner seeks to obtain driving privileges after a DUI revocation, they can do so by attending an informal or formal hearing, depending on their case. Generally, an informal hearing is only available to Petitioners who have one DUI conviction, as well as no summary suspension on their record from a prior DUI. An informal hearing consists of a meeting with a Secretary of State hearing officer to answer questions about their DUI, treatment and present lifestyle. Petitioners may bring counsel to an informal hearing.
Generally, a formal hearing is necessary when a person has two or more DUIs in their history and is seeking to obtain any form of driving relief after revocation, including a permit. In order to attend a formal hearing, a Petitioner (or their counsel), must submit a written request to the Illinois Secretary of State for such hearing and state what type of driving relief they are requesting, such as full reinstatement and/or a specific type of permit. A formal hearing is presided over by a Secretary of State Hearing Officer and a Secretary of State Representative is also present to protect the State’s interests. The proceedings are recorded and all parties, including your counsel, are allowed to ask questions during the hearing.
When a Petitioner attends a formal hearing, the Petitioner is required to demonstrate that they have resolved their problem with alcohol/drugs and granting their application to drive would not pose a risk to public safety and/or welfare. At the beginning of a formal hearing, both the Petitioner (whether pro se or by counsel) and the Secretary of State submit evidence in support of their case. The required documentation differs based on the Petitioner’s classification in their evaluation, as well as the overall facts of their case. It is strongly advised that a Petitioner retain a qualified attorney to represent them in these proceedings and review all documentation prior to submission to the Secretary of State. The State retains all records submitted at the hearing and the documents can be used against a Petitioner at any future hearing if they are denied full reinstatement of their drivers license or are revoked in the future for another offense.
During a formal hearing, a Petitioner’s attorney has the right to question their client in an attempt to demonstrate that their client is an acceptable candidate for driving relief. At a minimum, a Petitioner should be prepared to answer questions relating to their overall driving record, the facts of each DUI arrest, their lifetime alcohol/drug use history, their treatment experience, as well as any positive lifestyle changes since their last DUI arrest. It is strongly advised that a Petitioner retain counsel to help obtain the documents necessary to provide accurate answers, as well as review their testimony prior to attending a hearing with the Secretary of State.
At the conclusion of a hearing, the Secretary of State does not render their decision immediately. Petitioners will receive a written decision of the result within ninety days of their formal hearing. If driving relief is granted, the decision will provide accompanying documents to advise the Petitioner on how to obtain their license and/or Restricted Driving Permit.
Secretary of State hearings are complicated and applicants should strongly consider retaining qualified counsel prior to attending a hearing to request driving privileges. Although this article provides a basic overview of the process, there are many aspects of the hearings that differ based on the specific facts of a case. The information in this article is not intended to serve as legal advice and Petitioners should seek the advice of experienced counsel prior to attending a hearing with the Illinois Secretary of State.