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Illinois Drivers License Reinstatement

For over twenty years, our law practice has been focused exclusively on driver’s license reinstatement and DUI defense. We regularly represent suspended and revoked drivers at Secretary of State hearings to help restore driving privileges. Over 95 percent of our clients win their first hearing with our office, including persons who have been denied in the past at a hearing.

During consultations, people have many questions about the driver’s license reinstatement process. Many have tried it on their own, and later realize that they need help getting their driver’s license back. The process of reinstating a license after a suspension or revocation can be intimidating and confusing. Many people call our office completely overwhelmed in the beginning, and later go on to do flawless, winning hearings after preparing with our firm.

We cannot stress this enough – These are not punishment hearings. The Secretary of State is not yelling and throwing chairs around the room. They are generally happy and respectful if you show up prepared and address their concerns in a straightforward manner.

In the following sections, we will briefly clarify some common concerns and questions about driver’s license reinstatement in Illinois.

How Do I Know If My Illinois Driver’s License Is Revoked or Suspended?

A driver’s license suspension is for a definite period of time, such as one year. It will naturally terminate on the expiration date if you have paid all reinstatement fees and have not committed any offenses that may cause it to extend in duration.

A driver’s license revocation is for an infinite period of time. A revocation requires a person to proactively take action to remove it, which typically involves attending a Secretary of State hearing. Although the Secretary of State assigns a “reinstatement eligibility date,” a revoked driver is not automatically reinstated on this date. The “reinstatement eligibility date” is the first date that they are eligible to request full reinstatement of their driving privileges at a hearing.

It should be noted that the “reinstatement eligibility date” on a driving abstract is not necessarily the true eligibility date for reinstatement. There are certain classes of petitioners that are required to drive for a specific length on a permit or are only eligible for a hardship permit. Some examples include Illinois residents who have 2-3 DUI convictions, as well as lifetime petitioners with four or more DUI convictions. For further reading on this topic, please refer to our blog article on eligibility for permits versus full reinstatement

Can My Illinois Driver’s License Be Revoked for More Than One Reason?

Yes. We have many clients who have multiple reasons for revocation of their license. During the consultation, a license revocation attorney should review all reasons for revocation of a driver’s license. Most hearings can address mulitiple revocations at the same time.

Our practice includes criminal defense and major traffic offenses in our areas of practice for this very reason. Some clients will have a non-DUI criminal charge that caused a revocation, such as possession of a stolen motor vehicle, while also being revoked for DUI convictions.

As a license reinstatement law practice, we are experienced in dealing with license revocations that were caused by driving under the influence (DUI) and criminal charges, as well as revocations or suspensions that resulted from minor traffic tickets. We do not charge extra for clearing more than one revocation in the same hearing – it is included in our flat rate.

If My Driver’s License Is Revoked, Can I Get It Back?

Most revoked drivers are eligible for their full driver’s license to be restored after a specific period. This may or may not include serving a period on a hardship permit, 1,826-day BMO permit (five-year permit) or being given a probationary permit prior to full reinstatement.

Eligibility is complicated and we recommend consulting with a license reinstatement attorney to review your particular case. For instance, a lifetime petitioner with four or more DUI convictions can only request a permit if they reside in Illinois. However, a lifetime petitioner may request full clearance if ten years have passed since their most recent revocation or incarceration (whichever is later) and they reside out-of-state.

We have written extensively on reinstatement eligibilityhardship permitsprobationary permitsfive-year BMO permits, and lifetime revocations. We encourange you to read our blog for more detailed information on driver’s license reinstatement or contact us for a free consultation at (312) 761-8290.    

Do I Need an Informal or Formal Hearing?

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.  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 requesting a formal 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 and their attorney of record 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.

Do I Need to Find a License Reinstatement Lawyer Near Me?

In our opinion, the goal is to find the best attorney for drivers license reinstatement, not the attorney that is closest to your home. We represent many out-of-state residents who have a driver’s license hold in Illinois, as well as many revoked drivers who live in more rural areas of Illinois. We work with clients in-person, via phone and we meet over Zoom calls. Our license reinstatement practice is designed to accommodate all types of clients.

More importantly, the Secretary of State does not hold formal hearings wherever a driver’s services facility may exist. Formal hearings are only held in the following locations: Chicago, Joliet, Springfield and Mount Vernon. For this reason, hiring a driver’s license attorney near your house doesn’t mean the hearing will be held near your home. Even if you don’t hire our office, we strongly encourage you to hire a drivers license revocation attorney based on experience, not their location.  

What Are the Different Types of Permits Issued by the Secretary of State?

Depending on eligibility and/or policy considerations, the Secretary may elect to issue a permit in lieu of full reinstatement of a driver’s license. There are several different types of permits issued by the Secretary of State, including Monitoring Device Driving Permits (MDDP), Hardship Permits, Probationary Permits, and BMO Permits (“1,826-day permit”). We explain the differences between each permit below.

Monitoring Device Permit (MDDP).  

When a person is arrested for DUI, they often receive notice that their driving privileges will be automatically suspended within 46 days, pursuant to the statutory summary suspension law in Illinois. A person may have grounds to challenge the suspension through a hearing in court within a ninety-day period. However, if a challenge is unsuccessful, a person facing a summary suspension of their driving privileges may be eligible for a Monitoring Device Driving Permit (MDDP)

To be eligible for an MDDP, a person must be a first offender and have an interlock device installed while operating their vehicle.  An MDDP allows an eligible first offender to drive during the summary suspension period if those conditions are met for any purpose – 24 hours day, seven days a week. 

There are certain instances where the Secretary will not issue a MDDP despite being a first offender. This includes cases where the person’s license is otherwise invalid, the underlying DUI involved death or great bodily harm, the person has a prior conviction for reckless homicide or aggravated DUI involving a fatality, or the person is under the age of eighteen at the time of their DUI arrest.  

A person is considered a “first offender for MDDP purposes if it has been at least five years since any prior DUI arrest that resulted in supervision or a conviction. 625 ILCS 11-500. A person who is not a first offender does not qualify for an MDDP. If a person is not eligible for an MDDP, a person may still be able to petition the Illinois Secretary of State for a permit at a hearing. If grounds exist, a person may also try to challenge the suspension in court if they are within the ninety-day window to file a challenge.

 Upon receiving notice of the summary suspension, the Illinois Secretary of State should send an eligible first offender written notice that they are able to obtain an MDDP upon meeting the requirements for issuance.  If a person does not have their current address on file with the Secretary of State, they should contact the Springfield Secretary of State office at 217-782-7065 to ensure the MDDP packet is delivered to the correct residence.

Hardship Permits

A revoked driver may be eligible for hardship permit prior to reinstatement eligibility date. Hardship permits can be approved if an extreme difficulty (aka “hardship’) is shown to obtain transportation for work, school, necessary medical care, support/recovery program meetings, and day care services, Hardship permits may also be issued for court-ordered activities, such as community service.

The burden is on the applicant to demonstrate that no alternative means of transportation is reasonably available and that they will not endanger the public safety or welfare if given a hardship permit. The Secretary of State’s code relating to hardship permits is clear that mere inconvenience to the petitioner or family and friends is not undue hardship.  Rather, the applicant must provide clear and convincing evidence as to the unavailability of reasonable alternative means of transportation, such as walking, mass transit, car pools, or being driven.

When a revoked driver applies for a hardship permit, the Secretary will also inquire as to how the petitioner is currently getting to a specific destination, such as work or school, as well as the distance between the petitioner’s residence and the destination. If a hardship permit is requested for work, the Secretary will request information as to whether driving is required as part of employment. This is common in cases where a person has a job that requires driving, such as mechanic, construction, or real estate agent. A hardship permit may include work-related driving.

If an applicant has 2-3 DUI convictions and is a five-year BMO permit, they are not required to show hardship to request a permit. A BMO applicant may request a probationary permit, even if their driving record does not indicate eligibility for full reinstatement yet.  

Probationary Permits

Once eligible for reinstatement, the Secretary may elect to issue a one-year probationary permit, rather than immediately reinstate the license. The probationary permit allows the permittee to drive for any legal purpose (i.e. visiting family, running errands, going to work), for a period of twelve hours a day, 6 days a week, within a 200-mile radius of their residence. An interlock device (“BAIID device”) is required as a condition of a probationary permit in most cases where a person has more than one DUI.

If an applicant is subject to the five-year BMO permit, they are immediately eligible for a probationary permit upon revocation. Unlike other petitioners, a BMO offender is not required to show hardship if they apply immediately after revocation and are not yet eligible for full reinstatement.

BMO Permit (aka “1,826 Day Permit” or “Five-Year Permit”)

In cases where an Illinois resident has 2 or 3 DUI convictions, the Secretary of State will require an 1,826-day continuous interlock permit before full reinstatement will be considered, regardless of the eligibility date listed on the person’s driving abstract. However, the applicant will be eligible for a probationary permit during the five-year period, rather than a restricted permit for work, school or other specified purpose.

The BMO permit requires the installation of a BAIID device on all vehicles owned by them and mandates that they continuously drive with the BAIID in their vehicle for at least 1,826 days prior to requesting reinstatement. 

In short, even if a Petitioner is technically eligible for full reinstatement, they must drive for a five-year period with the BAIID installed prior to requesting their full driving privileges again.

This law has few, but some notable exceptions.  

First, if a Petitioner is an out-of-state resident and is otherwise eligible for full reinstatement, they are not subject to the five-year BAIID permit if they show valid proof of out-of-state residency and are approved at their hearing for reinstatement/full clearance of their driving privileges.

Second, the Petitioner must have two DUI convictions.  If a Petitioner received supervision on any DUI, the DUI(s) in which supervision was granted do not count for purposes of determining eligibility for the five-year BAIID permit.

What Is the Difference Between a DUI License Suspension and Revocation?

In many cases, a person arrested for an Illinois DUI will face two potential repercussions to their Illinois driver’s license: statutory summary suspension and driver’s license revocation. It is important to remember that a “suspension” has a definite period before it ends (unless extended due to other conduct), where a “revocation” is infinite. In cases of a driver’s license revocation, a person must proactively do something to make the revocation end, such as successfully attend a Secretary of State driver’s license reinstatement hearing.

A DUI license suspension is generally used as an informal term for the Statutory Summary Suspension law in Illinois.  Pursuant to the suspension law, any person who fails or refuses chemical testing will have their Illinois driving privileges suspended on the 46th day after notice of the summary suspension is given to the person. A person facing the suspension is given ninety days to challenge the suspension upon receiving notice if sufficient grounds exist. 

In many cases, a person who is arrested for DUI is served notice of the summary suspension on the date of their DUI arrest. However, the notice of suspension may be delayed in some cases if test results are not immediately available, such as where laboratory testing is administered. If a person is not served notice on their arrest, they may be mailed notice once results are available.

If a person is consider a “first offender,” they should be offered a MDDP permit by the Secretary of State during the term of their statutory summary suspension period. An MDDP allows an eligible first offender to drive during the summary suspension period if those conditions are met for any purpose – 24 hours day, seven days a week.

At the time of a DUI arrest, a person is also ticketed for the criminal charge of Driving under the Influence (DUI). Unlike a suspension, a person’s Illinois driver’s license will be revoked if they are convicted of the DUI charge. It is important to note that a DUI revocation does not occur when a person receives court supervision on a DUI charge – they must be convicted. Some examples of non-supervision related dispositions, which count as convictions, are conditional discharge and probation.

If a person is convicted of a DUI and their driver’s license is revoked, they will be required to attend an Illinois Secretary of State hearing to request a driving permit or full reinstatement.

Did We Bore You With Our Legalese?

Let’s face it – law is not for everyone. Our office may have top driver’s license reinstatement attorneys, but we would be horrible at many other jobs. Everyone has a skill and this is ours. If this is not your skill, please don’t hesitate to contact us for a free consultation. You can reach our office at (312) 761-8290 or email us directly at jennifer@wirthlaw.org.

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