Illinois Secretary of State Proposal Redefines ‘First Offender’

Under the Illinois summary suspension law, a driver who is arrested for DUI and has not had a prior DUI disposition within 5-years is considered a ‘first offender’. This is significant because if the driver is considered a first offender, he or she faces a shorter driver’s license suspension based on whether chemical testing is failed or refused (6-months vs. 12-months). Furthermore, a first offender is automatically eligible for driving privileges during the period of the suspension through use of an MDDP.

The Secretary of State’s office is behind a new proposal now pending in the Illinois legislature that will drastically change the definition of a first offender under the Illinois DUI summary suspension law.

The new legislation would triple what has been called the 5-year look-back to a period of 15-years. This means that if the prior DUI disposition occurred within 15-years, the driver would be considered a second (or subsequent) offender and would be subject to a substantially longer period of driver’s license suspension based on whether chemical testing is failed or refused (6-months vs. 1-year for failed testing and 1-year vs. 3-years for refused testing) and would be barred from receiving automatic driving privileges during the period of suspension.

Besides a longer period of license suspension, a person who is considered a multiple offender under the summary suspension law can only obtain driving privileges through an administrative hearing with the Secretary of State’s Office, a long and difficult process.

Attorney Larry A. Davis of The Davis Law Group, P.C., has testified on behalf of the Illinois State Bar Association in opposition to the proposal. The proposed law will result in a substantial increase in the number of drivers subject to significantly longer suspensions. Without the expeditious availability of driving privileges, many of these persons will essentially be forced to drive with a suspended license in order to keep their jobs and support themselves and their families.

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