Preparing for a Driver’s License Hearing with the Secretary of State

Being properly prepared for a driver’s license hearing with the Illinois Secretary of State is essential. Because of the complex nature of Secretary of State rules, it is important to understand the hearing procedures and requirements. Having an experienced driver’s license attorney by your side ensures that all aspects of the hearing are conducted properly and will lead to the best possible outcome.

The Secretary of State’s office conducts two types of hearings, formal hearings and informal hearings, for those seeking driving privileges after a driver’s license revocation or suspension arising out of a DUI conviction or summary suspension. In the majority of cases, a formal hearing is required.

What is a Formal Hearing?

A formal hearing is a hearing conducted by a hearing officer and a hearing representative who act on behalf of the Secretary of State. The person seeking driving privileges is known as the petitioner and bears the burden of proof to show that he or she is not a risk to the public. In certain cases, the petitioner must also show that they are suffering an undue hardship as a result of the loss of driving privileges.

All witnesses, including the petitioner, are placed under oath and the hearing is recorded.

Documents Needed for the Hearing

The main legal issue addressed at the hearing is whether the petitioner is a risk to the public safety. Showing that the petitioner is not a risk is done in several ways:

  • The completion of an alcohol/drug evaluation by a licensed program which classifies the driver according to one of five risk levels. The evaluation must be dated within 6 months of the hearing date and include all of the petitioner’s DUI arrests (both those that occurred in Illinois as well as out-of-state); any other alcohol/drug related criminal history; a chronological review of the person’s alcohol/drug use history; a review of any symptoms of alcohol/drug abuse or dependency; treatment history; support group involvement (if any); and the results of an objective test to determine the present or past existence of a drinking/drug problem.
  • Documentation of completion of risk education and treatment (if necessary) based on the evaluation classification. If documentation of treatment is required then the petitioner should be prepared to present a Treatment Verification, Discharge Summary, Treatment Plan, Continuing Care Plan and Continuing Care Status Report. Also, depending on the evaluation classification, the person should be prepared to present a risk education verification.
  • In certain cases, a Treatment Needs Assessment, also known as a Treatment Waiver, may be required.
  • Depending on the petitioner’s classification, the Secretary of State may also require abstinence/substance use and support group forms.
  • If the petitioner has appeared at a previous hearing and was denied driving relief, he or she is required to provide a letter or other document from the evaluator addressing the issues raised in the denial order. 

Petitioner’s Testimony

  • The hearing officer will require that the petitioner testify under oath at the time of the hearing. The petitioner will be asked questions regarding his or her alcohol/drug arrest history; drinking/drug use history; symptoms of abuse/dependency; factors contributing to previous history of abuse or dependency; benefits of treatment; lifestyle changes supporting non-problematic use or abstinence and, if applicable, hardship caused by the loss of driving privileges.
  • The petitioner should be prepared to address these issues raised in a previous hearing, which resulted in a denial.

Issues at the Hearing Affecting the Decision of the Secretary of State

  • Does the alcohol/drug evaluation support the classification and conclusions of the evaluator when considering the petitioner’s arrest history; substance use patterns (past and current); symptoms or abuse/dependency; objective testing; underlying reason(s) for past drinking/drug use issues and resolution of those issues through treatment? If treatment has been waived (excused), is there a sound basis for a waiver?
  • Is the petitioner’s testimony consistent with the information contained in the evaluation documentation and/or treatment documents?
  • If the petitioner is not eligible for full license reinstatement, does the petitioner have an undue hardship, which meets the requirements of justifying the issuance of limited driving privileges to relieve any hardship?

Procedure Followed at the Formal Hearing

  • At the outset of the hearing, the hearing officer will call the hearing to order, announce the purpose of the hearing and the case number and swear in the witness(es). The petitioner will be asked to introduce any documents including the evaluation, treatment documents, risk education verification (if applicable); abstinence/substance use forms and support group forms (if applicable) and other relevant documents.
  • The petitioner will testify. Typically, if he or she does not have an attorney at the hearing then the questioning will be conducted by the representative of the Secretary of State. If the petitioner does have an attorney, the questioning will be done by the attorney. Once the questioning has been completed, the hearing representative will have the opportunity to cross-examine the petitioner. The petitioner’s attorney will have the opportunity to ask questions on redirect.
  • Once the petitioner has answered questions posed by his or her attorney (if any) and the Secretary of State’s hearing representative, the hearing officer will have the opportunity to ask questions.
  • The hearing officer will then bring the hearing to a close and announce that he or she is taking the matter under advisement. The hearing officer will then prepare a recommendation in the form of a proposed order containing findings of fact and conclusions of law based upon the written documents admitted into evidence and testimony. This proposed order along with the evidence submitted will be forwarded to a designated representative of the Secretary of State who will accept, reject or amend the hearing officer’s findings, conclusions and/or recommendation. An order will then be issued under the name of the Secretary of State and forwarded to the petitioner.

What Happens After a Formal Hearing?

  • If the petitioner is granted driving relief in the form of a restricted driving permit or full driver’s license reinstatement, the order will be accompanied by a list of requirements to be completed by the petitioner. These requirements may include filing proof of financial responsibility insurance; clearance of any unpaid tickets; clearance of any unsatisfied judgements; filing of a medical report to address any medical issues; submitting to written, road and vision testing; verification of employment, educational need, child care or family education need or support group need (in the case of issuance of a restricted driving permits); and payment of any fees to the Secretary of State.
  • If granted an RDP, the petitioner will have 90 days to complete all requirements. If granted full license reinstatement, the petitioner will have one year to complete the requirements. Failure to meet these deadlines, unless extended, will result in an order denying all driving relief and requiring the petitioner to submit a new request for hearing.
  • Upon completion of all requirements, the driver will receive an RDP or full license reinstatement depending on the type of relief granted. If the driver has been granted an RDP subject to the use of a breath alcohol ignition interlock device (BAIID), the driver will have 14 days from the date of issuance of the RDP to have the BAIID installed in their vehicle. 
  • If the petitioner has been granted an RDP, he or she will be required to drive on the RDP for 75% of the time that it has been issued for or until eligible for full license reinstatement, whichever is later before they can be considered for full reinstatement. The only exception to this requirement is where the petitioner is required to drive on a BAIID for 5 years before being considered for full reinstatement. This typically will involve cases where the petitioner has more than one conviction for DUI. 
  • If the petitioner has been denied driving privileges, he or she will have one of two choices: 1) file a Complaint for Administrative Review of the Secretary of State’s decision in the Circuit Court within 35 days of service of the decision; or 2) file a request for a new formal hearing before the Secretary of State.

Contact our Illinois Driver’ License Attorneys Today

The driver’s license attorneys at The Davis Law Group, P.C. have helped thousands of individuals regain driving privileges. We have the experience and knowledge necessary to help you get back on the road sooner. Contact our lawyers today for a free consultation by filling out our contact form or by calling us at (847) 390-8500.