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Driver’s License Hearing Questions

What Is the Difference Between a Formal and an Informal 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 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 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.

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How Do I Obtain My Records From My Prior Secretary Of State Hearings?

Prior to attending a Secretary of State hearing, an applicant for driving privileges should order their administrative hearing records if they have had any prior hearings in the past. If an applicant has enlisted the services of an attorney, this is often done during the consultation phase or at the outset of representation to evaluate the case.

If a person has never attended a Secretary of State hearing, it is unlikely there are any records in the file. However, it is still a good practice to verify that no records have been sent to the Secretary by making this request. The Secretary of State may seek to use any records in the file as evidence against an applicant at a hearing.

It is easy to request the records from all prior hearings by using the record request form that the Secretary of State has created. An applicant should check all boxes on the form and fill in their personal information so the Secretary of State can locate their records. The completed form can be emailed to copywork@ilsos.gov.

Once the request form is emailed to the Secretary of State, the support services division will price the cost to copy the file, charging fifty cents per page. An invoice will be emailed or sent via regular mail to the requestor for the cost to obtain the records. The requestor should return the form with a check or money order, payable to “Secretary of State,” with their driver’s license in the memo of payment. The Secretary of State will send the records to the requestor after receiving payment. It can take several weeks to receive the records.

To obtain the form to request records, click here: Hearing Record Request Form

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How Do I Request Copies of My Sworn Reports From My Prior DUI Arrests?

Prior to attending a hearing, an applicant should be aware that the Illinois Secretary of State retains copies of all prior DUI sworn reports that were sent to their office. The State may inquire about all prior DUIs at a hearing, not just the DUI arrest that caused the revocation.

It is critical that an applicant has the information that the State will be using against them at a hearing. This allows the applicant to remain consistent with the reports on file with the Secretary of State.

An applicant’s attorney typically orders the sworn reports prior to a hearing. However, if a person seeks to request the Sworn Reports on their own, they can write a letter to request the sworn reports the following address: Illinois Secretary of State, Attn: Driving Abstracts, 2701 S. Dirksen Parkway, Springfield, IL 62723.

When making a request for sworn reports, the requestor should include a check or money order, payable to “Secretary of State,” that provides a fifty-cent payment per each DUI sworn report. For example, if a person has two DUI arrests, the check should be for one dollar. The requestor should include their name, return address, Illinois driver’s license number and date of birth on the correspondence to assist the record search and return of any documents.

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Will I Need to Complete an Evaluation and/or More Treatment to Attend a Hearing?

On the date of hearing, the Secretary of State requires that an applicant for driving privileges provide them with an evaluation (aka “Uniform Report”) completed within the last six months. The evaluation must be accompanied by a “Treatment Needs Assessment” and a full lifetime reporting of the applicant’s chronological alcohol/drug use history. The Treatment Needs Assessment may deem prior treatment satisfactory (when documents are available), recommend further treatment, or waive treatment altogether.

There are various classifications that can result from a Uniform Report: Minimum, Moderate, Significant Risk, High Risk (Non-Dependent) and High Risk (Dependent). These classifications govern the minimum number of recommended hours, absent any waiver being given by an evaluator or treatment provider. Except for High Risk applicants, the DUI Risk Education course is required all applicants and cannot be waived by an evaluator or treatment provider under the Secretary of State rules.

The Secretary of State has very stringent standards on evaluations and treatment documents that are specific to their forum. Prior to attending a hearing, an applicant will want to ensure that they have had their attorney review the documents to ensure they have all of the required documents to attend a hearing. The content of the documents should also be reviewed by the attorney and the applicant to ensure there are no typos or errors that may cause issues at a hearing.

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How Long Will It Take to Get a Decision After a Formal Hearing?

By law, the Secretary of State has twenty days to set a hearing date upon receipt of a written request for a formal hearing. Unless the applicant makes a request for a continuance, the hearing date must be scheduled within ninety days of receipt of the hearing request.

Once a hearing is held, the Secretary of State has ninety days to issue a written decision. The decision is mailed to the applicant via regular mail or email, setting forth their findings, conclusions of law and ultimate recommendation relating to driving privileges. 625 ILCS 5/2-118.

The Secretary of State does not offer expedited decisions. Although some decisions do arrive earlier than the ninety-day statutory period allowed by law, we cannot compel the State to decide a formal hearing earlier than the law requires them to do so.

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