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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Wirth

Driver's License Reinstatement: The Difference Between Formal and Informal Hearings.

Jennifer Wirth, Attorney, compares the basic differences between formal and informal hearings when seeking driver's license reinstatement with the Illinois Secretary of State.

What is the difference between a formal and informal hearing when seeking drivers license reinstatement with the Illinois Secretary of State after a DUI revocation

The Illinois Secretary of State has two types of hearings to request driving privileges after a license revocation - formal and informal hearings. The reason for revocation dictates which type of hearing is required of an applicant for driving privileges.


A formal hearing is required for a person whose driving privileges have been suspended or revoked due to having multiple DUI suspensions/revocations, a DUI involving a Type A injury accident, a Reckless Homicide revocation, or any other offense where a fatality occurred while operating a motor vehicle.


Conversely, an informal hearing is required for a person whose driving privileges have been suspended or revoked for a single DUI (excluding reckless homicides and Type A injury accidents), as well as revocations for less serious moving violations and offenses. Informal hearing officers may also accept requests to change the information on existing permits and renew permits if there were no BAIID violations during the permit period.


The conduct of a formal hearing is more like a trial setting than an informal hearing. Formal hearings are scheduled in advance by the State and the applicant is sent written notice of the date. During the proceedings, the hearing officer acts as a decisionmaker, while the Secretary of State’s representative is the attorney for the Secretary, retained to protect their interests. The applicant is entitled to bring a defense attorney to advocate on their behalf.


At the beginning of a formal hearing, the attorneys for both sides submit evidence to support their case. The proceedings are recorded, and the applicant may be questioned by both attorneys, as well as by the Hearing Officer. At the conclusion of the formal hearing, the Hearing Officer writes a decision, subject to review, that should be sent to the applicant within ninety (90) days after the formal hearing has taken place.


In contrast, an informal hearing is held in an office setting, where the hearing officer sits behind a desk and asks the applicant specific questions. The applicant’s answers are written down by the informal hearing officer and a non-binding recommendation is made to the Secretary by the hearing officer. The proceedings are not recorded, and the State does not have an attorney present. However, applicants are entitled to prepare with their own attorney and bring representation to an informal hearing. After the hearing, the applicant is mailed a written decision after review has been completed.


An applicant for a formal hearing must pay a $50.00 filing fee at the time of filing for a hearing. If the applicant is represented by an attorney for a formal hearing, their attorney may file for the hearing on their behalf. The applicant, as well as their attorney who files on their behalf, will be notified of the hearing date by either regular mail or email.


A formal hearing request must be made in writing through the U.S. mail and should be sent to the location where the applicant would like to sit for the hearing. The Illinois Secretary of State holds formal hearings at four locations in the state: Chicago, Joliet, Springfield and Mount Vernon.

The Illinois Secretary of State holds informal hearings on a walk-in basis at many DMV locations throughout the state. To find an informal hearing officer, the Secretary maintains a List of Hearing Officer Locations. An applicant should call in advance, whenever possible, to ensure an informal hearing officer is present before showing up for an informal hearing. An informal hearing officer may be temporarily assigned to a different location, maintain specific hours or have taken the day off work.


For both formal and informal hearings, it is strongly recommended that applicants hire an experienced attorney for the Secretary of State hearing process. The Secretary of State maintains copies of all documents submitted at a hearing. They also keep a record of the statements made at prior hearings and their written decisions. It is always advisable to prepare with legal counsel in advance to reduce the likelihood of errors or misunderstandings that may lead to a denial at a hearing.


Our office offers free consultations regarding our legal services for driver's license reinstatement hearings for revoked drivers in Illinois. Please do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation at jennifer@wirthlaw.org or by calling 312.761.8290.

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