Driver's License Reinstatement Procedures

The Secretary of State is required to revoke your driver's license if you are convicted of driving under the influence (DUI, DWI or drunk driving). After being so revoked, you may only obtain driving relief through the Secretary of State Department of Administrative Hearings. Mr. Harvatin heard and decided these cases for 15 years through a contract that the past three Secretaries of State granted him.

You are very unlikely to obtain a license or restricted driving permit merely by providing the minimum documents to the Secretary of State, promising never to drink and drive again, claiming to have "learned my lesson" and describing the hardship that not having a license has caused you. If it were that easy, there would not be so many revoked drivers out there, risking being thrown into jail and even prison because they have not solved the Secretary of State mystery.

The Secretary of State's rules are the same for a restricted driving permit (work permit or hardship license) as they are for a full license. He will not ease up on any of the requirements, regardless of the relief you request and the severity of your hardship.

Hearing Procedures

In order to obtain a formal hearing, you must make a written request to the Secretary of State. About 14 days after you make your request, the Secretary of State will mail you a hearing notice, advising you of the time and date of your hearing.

The Secretary of State must give you a hearing date that is no more than 90 days beyond the date of your request. Fortunately, the hearings are usually set approximately 6 weeks out.

A hearing officer is assigned to hear your case and to summarize, in a written report, your testimony and your documents. You will not receive a decision the day of your hearing; it may take as long as 90 days for the report to be prepared.

If the decision is a denial, the report explains the reasons for the denial. The report will instruct you to resolve the issues that formed the basis of the denial.

The report becomes part of the record at the next hearing. If, at the next, hearing, you fail to address the issues that were mentioned in the denial order, the Secretary of State will deny you again. You can only have a formal hearing once every 3 months, so every denial sets you that much further back in time.

If a lawyer does not represent you, you can expect the Secretary of State's attorney to ask you a minimum of 80 to 100 questions, and the hearing officer will also question you. You must be prepared to answer detailed questions about your past, including particular information concerning all your DUI arrests and regarding both your current and past alcohol and drug use.

You will be questioned at length concerning the information contained in the paperwork from your evaluator. Keep in mind that the Secretary of State has heard every story there is to tell.

As a result, the hearing officer and the Secretary of State's lawyer will view you as just another person trying to take an easy ride through the system. When you come into the hearing with a knowledgeable driver's license lawyer they see all the time, they realize you are serious about the task at hand.

Not to mention that instead of it being you, who knows nothing about the law or this process, up against an experienced Secretary of State lawyer and hearing officer, you have someone on your side. The odds will no longer be stacked against you.

Formal and Informal Hearings

There are two types of hearings, informal and formal. If you have only had one DUI arrest, you may have an informal or a formal hearing. If you have had two or more DUI arrests, you are usually required to have a formal hearing.

Informal hearings are held on a first come, first served basis. No previous appointment is necessary. Only the informal hearing officer and you (or you and I if you hire me) are present at the informal hearing. Informal hearings are not recorded, and the decision is explained in a short letter.

If you are denied at an informal hearing, you can have another hearing 30 days after the previous one. However, you have no right to appeal the decision reached at an informal hearing.

In order to have a formal hearing, someone must make a written request to the Secretary of State. In response, the Secretary of State will provide written notice of the date and time of the hearing, usually about 6 weeks after the request was submitted.

Formal hearings are tape-recorded, and the decision comes in the form of a detailed order that is several pages in length. Besides the hearing officer, you and me, a lawyer for the Secretary of State will also be in the hearing room.

You have the right to appeal a formal hearing decision to the circuit court. You are entitled to have a formal hearing once every 3 months.

At times, even though someone is eligible for an informal hearing, I will recommend that he attend a formal hearing. If I make that recommendation, it is usually because the case is complicated in some manner.

The Various Classification Levels and What They Mean for You

There are 3 primary classification levels. Two of the levels have sub-classifications.

Level I applies to someone with only one DUI arrest. If you have two or more total DUI arrests, you cannot be Level I. The only requirement for someone who is classified Level I is completion of a 10-hour Driver Risk Education (DRE) course.

However, even if you only have one DUI arrest, you cannot be Level I if you either refused the breath test or took the breath test and registered between .15 and .19. Your classification in that case must be at least Level II moderate risk.

If you are classified Level II moderate risk, you must complete the DRE course. In addition, you must complete at least 12 hours of early intervention alcohol counseling.

The next classification is Level II significant risk. Anybody, regardless of the number of DUI arrests, who registers .20 or higher on the blood or chemical breath test (Breathalyzer) must be classified at least Level II significant risk.

A second DUI arrest will result in your being classified as Level II significant risk if in the past you were convicted of DUI, or were placed on court supervision for DUI, or were arrested for a DUI that was later reduced to reckless driving, or even if you were acquitted (found not guilty or the charge was dismissed) of DUI but were, as a result of the DUI for which you were acquitted, suspended for failing or refusing the breath or blood test. These rules apply regardless of the age of the first arrest or the time between the arrests.

If you are classified Level II significant risk, you must complete DRE. In addition, you must undergo at least 20 hours of alcohol treatment and, in most cases, complete aftercare.

There are two Level III high-risk classifications. If you have 3 or more symptoms of dependency, you must be classified as Level III alcohol dependent, regardless of the number of DUI arrests.

If you are classified as dependent, you are not required to complete DRE. However, you must complete either inpatient alcohol treatment or 75 hours of intensive outpatient counseling.

You are further required to demonstrate that for at least the last 12 months before the hearing, you have been abstinent from all alcohol and illegal drugs. "Abstinence" means no use whatsoever of alcohol or drugs.

Finally, you must prove that you have established an ongoing support program to assist you in continuing your abstinence. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is known as a traditional support program because the Secretary of State is familiar with it and the program is widely recognized.

You must document your AA attendance with at least 3 letters from fellow AA members. Sign-in sheets are not a suitable substitute for letters.

The Secretary of State will accept a support program other than AA if it is properly documented and the Secretary of State is satisfied the program is sufficient to help you abstain in the future. Examples of nontraditional support programs are church, family and friends, and AA-type programs that do not include the spiritual or religious focus of AA.

If you intend to rely upon a nontraditional support program, you must be prepared to identify at least 3 individuals who are part of the support program, and you are required to obtain letters from each of them. You must also be able to explain to the Secretary of State how this program and the individuals who are part of it help you refrain from drinking alcohol.

In general what the Secretary of State is looking for as members of a nontraditional support program are individuals who provide you with assistance in dealing with the challenges that life presents to all of us, challenges that in the past you met by resorting to alcohol and/or drugs. While not a strict requirement, the Secretary of State also has a preference for a program in which at least one of the individuals in the group has battled a substance abuse problem in the past.

If church is your support program, it is helpful, although not required, if church doctrine frowns upon the use of alcohol and drugs or requires members to be of high moral character. Furthermore, the Secretary of State is more receptive to a church-based support program if the church has study groups that focus upon substance abuse problems.

Many individuals who are classified as alcohol dependent and who are not attending AA find themselves baffled about what their support program should be. Lacking proper legal advice, these individuals may enter AA halfheartedly.

When they are put under a microscope at the hearing, which they will be, about AA, their lack of commitment to AA becomes apparent to the hearing officer who makes the decision in their case. Those people are denied because they are unable to prove that they have established an effective support program.

Most often, after discussion with my clients, we are able to craft an acceptable support program other than AA. It also helps to have the evaluator's approval, properly expressed in a letter to the Secretary of State, of the nontraditional support program.

The final classification is Level III high-risk nondependent. Anybody who has had 3 or more arrests for DUI within a period of 10 years must be classified at least Level III nondependent. This classification applies only if the high-risk person has fewer than 3 symptoms of dependency as determined by the evaluator and the treatment agency.

Someone classified as Level III high-risk nondependent must complete 75 hours of alcohol classes, the same as someone classified dependent. However, the nondependent person is not required to have a support program (either traditional or nontraditional) and is not required to prove 12 months of abstinence. That person must demonstrate 12 months of non-problematic use of alcohol.

Types of Restricted Driving Permits (RDP)

It is highly likely that the first type of driving relief you will receive is a restricted driving permit (RDP). The Secretary of State has the legal authority to issue an RDP to allow you to drive to and from work, as well as drive on the job once you are at your place of employment.

The Secretary of State can also issue an RDP so that you can attend AA meetings and regularly scheduled medical appointments for you and family members. If you are a student, you may request an educational driving permit to drive to school and between classes.

The Secretary of State also has the authority to issue day care permits.  These allow household members to take and pick up their children from day care.

You may not request full reinstatement until you have used the permit for at least 9 months. After having your RDP for 9 months you must have another formal hearing to request your full license, unless you are subject to a five year revocation.

How I Will Help You

My overall success rate at obtaining some sort of driving relief (a permit or full reinstatement) at formal hearings averages more than 90%. I have about a 95% success ratio at informal hearings and am successful approximately 98% of the time with out-of-state packets.

These numbers are significantly higher than the average, which is approximately 50%. Nevertheless, past results are no guarantee of future success. The ultimate outcome depends upon factors beyond my control.

Having said that, there are definite benefits a lawyer such as myself who concentrates in driver's license hearings would provide you. For instances, having the minimum required paperwork does not come close to guaranteeing that the Secretary of State will be satisfied, after hearing your testimony, that your evaluation and other paperwork is adequate.

The evaluator, working with me, should play a critical role in making certain that the paperwork is the highest-quality necessary to increase your chances of obtaining driving relief. Unfortunately, just as in all other walks of life, a good evaluator will make the extra effort; an ineffective evaluator will do the minimum necessary to get by.

I regularly work with a number of quality evaluators throughout the state. I am therefore often in a position to recommend a specific evaluating agency to you.

Of course, sometimes I may not be familiar with any evaluators in your geographic area. Or, the process may be too far along for me to work with one of the evaluators that I know.

Even in these circumstances, I can provide the evaluator with guidance and/or decrease his or her workload. I have found that most evaluators are willing to work with me once they realize that I am willing to do whatever is possible to help you.

Another critical step in the process is the actual hearing. Before the hearing, you and I will meet to prepare your testimony. At the end of our meeting, I will have asked you, and we will have discussed your response to, every question you will be asked at the hearing, or at least every question that is important to your case. However, I cannot control your performance at the hearing.

The hearing officer who will hear your case is chosen at random. Because of my extensive familiarity with the hearing officers, I have a fairly good idea how each one will react to a particular fact pattern. I know that certain hearing officers will not be receptive to particular situations, and in those instances, I will discuss with your our options for working around that hearing officer.

The hearing officer is paid the same whether or not he or she has to take the time to hear your case and write the decision. Some of the hearing officers are lazy and will find any possible reason to cancel your case, usually by uncovering some supposed "deficiency" in your paperwork.

If I am with you, they will only attempt to cancel if there is a valid problem, because they know that I know the rules. If you decide to cancel the hearing under those circumstances, you will be satisfied in knowing that the cancellation occurred on my advice and for a legitimate reason.

So, there you have it.  I will not promise you victory although one fee option includes representation at an unlimited number of hearings.

I will, however, guarantee that: your paperwork will be prepared by a capable evaluator and will be in good order; you will be prepared for the questions and answers; you will be present with a lawyer who has an enormous amount of experience dealing with a process completely unfamiliar to you; you will not be on your own when taking on the Secretary of State's lawyer; the hearing officer who hears your case will be reasonably open-minded; and you will not be strong-armed into postponing your hearing.

Why You Should Not Attend Your First Hearing Alone

There is a common belief that you will automatically be denied at your first hearing. The theory goes that you hire the lawyer after the first denial. That thinking is faulty.

To start with, while it generally is true that your case will be looked at more closely the first time through, a first hearing denial is far from automatic. Over 80% of my clients receive at least a permit when I represent them at their first hearing. Those who are not represented at their first hearing receive driving relief about 10-15% of the time.

But being represented at a first hearing is important even if you lose. That is because your presentation at the first hearing sets the table for every hearing that follows.

If your paperwork is not up to par, the Secretary of State is, at future hearings, more likely to be suspicious of the competency of your evaluator. Those suspicions may be completely unfounded, but that does not help you.

More important than the Secretary of State's impression of your evaluator is his impression of you. When you attend these hearings, you provide the Secretary of State with evaluations, treatment documents and possibly letters. The Secretary of State will also have his own documents, including your complete driving record, as well as the arrest reports, tickets and court disposition sheets from all your DUIs.

At the hearing, you will be placed under oath and be required to answer numerous questions from the Secretary of State's lawyer. You will be questioned about the contents of your, and the Secretary of State's, documents. They will expect your responses to their questions to be consistent with all that paperwork.

If everything does not match up to his expectations, the hearing officer will, in his decision, essentially brand you a liar. That label will drag you down at every hearing.

First impressions are the most lasting. Therefore, even if you hire me after a denial, you, your evaluator and I will spend a great deal of time and energy explaining the answers you provided at previous hearings.

Your chances of winning are better if I am with you. Do not lose sight of the fact, however, that if you are not successful in our first attempt, the issues that led to the denial will almost certainly be more manageable than if you attend your hearings without me.

This claim may sound self-serving because it encourages you to hire me earlier rather than later. However, my experience has been that the people who have to pay me to attend the most number of hearings are those who hire me to straighten out the mess they made by going it alone at a previous hearing or hearings.

Breath Alcohol Interlock Ignition Device (BAIID)

BAIID (Breath Alcohol Interlock Ignition Device) is a machine that is installed in your vehicle. You must blow into a mouthpiece before your vehicle will start. The machine analyzes your breath and records the results.

The Secretary of State analyzes those results to determine if you consumed alcohol before starting your vehicle. In addition, the machine will require you to take tests while you are driving down the road (rolling test) in order to determine if you consumed any alcohol after starting your vehicle.

If you have been arrested more than once for DUI, you will probably be required to have a BAIID. Most people required to have a formal hearing are subject to the BAIID program.

In most cases, the BAIID is required only for individuals who are granted an RDP rather than full reinstatement. However, if you have been convicted of DUI on 2 or more occasions (not simply arrested, but actually convicted and had your license revoked), you are a multiple BAIID offender and must have the BAIID RDP for five years.

Furthermore, a multiple BAIID offender must have the BAIID on every vehicle that is titled in his name, either solely or with someone else, such as a spouse or child. My advice to multiple BAIID offenders whose name is on more than one title is to remove your name, which is a perfectly legal, legitimate and recognized means of avoiding having to install the device on every vehicle.

There are costs associated with the BAIID, all of which are your responsibility. The Secretary of State collects a BAIID administration fee up front. The BAIID servicing agent (oftentimes a mechanic or filling station) charges to install and remove the machine. The BAIID rules also require you to have the machine read and calibrated by the servicing agent on a periodic basis, something for which the servicing agent will charge you.

There are work vehicle exceptions to the BAIID requirement. If you are required to drive a work vehicle on the job and other employees also drive that vehicle, you will probably only have to install the BAIID on your personal vehicle.

SR-22 High Risk Insurance

Another requirement is that you obtain SR-22 insurance, also known as high-risk insurance. It is not necessary that you have the insurance in place in order to proceed with a hearing. You must carry the SR-22 insurance for 36 months. You may purchase the insurance at any time, even if you do not own a car or have a license or permit.

How Suspensions and Revocations Differ

Suspensions:

The Secretary of State will suspend your license following a DUI arrest if you refused to take a chemical test, or registered .08 or higher after taking the test. The suspension that results from a failure or a refusal is known as a Statutory Summary Suspension (SSS).

The SSS will be in effect for 6, 12 or 36 months as discussed in the next topic ("Length of Chemical Test Suspension"). Provided that there are no other holds on your license, at the end of the suspension time, you are free to drive upon satisfying some minor requirements for the Secretary of State and upon payment of the reinstatement fee.

Revocations:

For a first DUI conviction, the revocation period runs for a minimum of one year. If there is a second DUI conviction within 20 years of the first conviction, the second revocation will be for a minimum of 5 years. 

For a third conviction, the revocation is for a minimum of 10 years. If you have four or more DUI convictions, any one of which resulted from an arrest that was made after January 1, 1999, then as of January 1, 2016, driving relief is available under these conditions.

The length of the revocation represents the minimum period of time you will be revoked. The end of the 1, 5 or 10 years means nothing more than that you are entitled to request reinstatement of your driver's license if there is no SSS still in effect.

You should not interpret this right to request reinstatement as meaning you will automatically receive a permit or be reinstated. You must first undergo the hearing process with the Secretary of State that is described earlier in this article.

Therefore, do not act under the mistaken impression that if you are convicted of DUI, you will be revoked for a year and then automatically be able to obtain a license or permit from the Secretary of State. A permit, let alone driver's license reinstatement after a DUI revocation, is anything but automatic.

Sometimes there is a confusing interplay between an SSS and a DUI revocation. You may be revoked for 12 months. At the same time, you may be suspended for 3 years. Only once the suspension ends are you entitled to request reinstatement of your driving privileges.

During the SSS, you may request a permit from the Secretary of State. However, you cannot request reinstatement during the revocation disqualification period. While the revocation window is still in effect, in order to receive an RDP, you must prove "undue hardship", discussed later in this article.

Length of Chemical Test Suspension:

If you refused or failed the breath test offered to you at the jail or police station (the "chemical test"), your license will be suspended. The length of the suspension depends upon whether you took or refused the test and whether you are a "first offender".

First Offender:

For purposes of determining the length of the suspension for the most recent DUI arrest, if you have not been arrested for DUI in the previous 5 years, you are considered a first offender, even if there are other DUIs that are older than 5 years. A first offender who takes and fails the chemical test will be suspended for 6 months. A first offender who refuses to take the chemical test will be suspended for 12 months.

Non-First Offender:

If you had a DUI arrest within the previous 5 years, and if for the most recent DUI you failed the chemical test, your license will be suspended for 12 months. If you had a DUI arrest within the previous 5 years, and if for the most recent DUI you refused the chemical test, your license will be suspended for 3 years. 

In determining whether or not you are a first offender, a previous DUI arrest within the previous 5 years that resulted in dismissal of the DUI but entry of a breath test suspension on your record prevents you from being a first offender if you refused the test for the previous DUI. Only if you took the test for the previous DUI following a trial and were found not guilty of the previous DUI would you qualify as a first offender.

Eligibility for Work Permit

Monitoring Device Driving Permit:

A Monitoring Device Driving Permit (MDDP) is available only to first offenders, as defined earlier in this article. A first offender can obtain an MDDP to drive anywhere, anytime, for any reason.

An MDDP is not an option if the first offender:

1.  Has an otherwise invalid driver's license (thus, a conviction resulting from the
     underlying DUI would invalidate the MDDP).
2.  Was charged with a DUI that resulted in death or great bodily harm.
3.  Has a previous conviction for reckless homicide.
4.  Is less than 18 years of age.

In exchange for the MDDP, the permitee must agree to install and pay for a BAIID, which was discussed earlier in this article. It is a machine that registers breath alcohol content prior to starting the vehicle.  During rolling retests, the user must also blow at random intervals in order for the vehicle to remain operable. The results of those breath samples are stored on computer chips and downloaded to the Secretary of State.

The BAIID results are furnished to the Secretary of State, whose office monitors compliance with the program and conducts hearings on alleged violations.  Violations include:
  • BAC of .05 or more
  • Failing a running retest or failing to retest
  • Removing the BAIID
  • Tampering with the BAIID
  • At least 10 unsuccessful starts in 30 days
  • 5 or more unsuccessful starts in 24 hours
  • Failing to take the device to the installer for the purpose of obtaining readings.
The user must keep a journal. The journal must note any unsuccessful start-up attempts, any failure to successfully complete a running retest and any problems with the machine (malfunctions, dead batteries etc).

A first or second violation of the MDDP program will result in an additional 3-month suspension. Upon a third violation, the driver’s vehicle may be seized for 30 days. A fourth violation might result in forfeiture (sold at auction) of the vehicle.

If a driver is caught driving during the suspension period and did not elect the MDDP program, it is a Class 4 felony punishable by up to 1-3 years of imprisonment.   If an offender who has an MDDP operates a vehicle that does not have the BAIID device, it is a Class 4 felony.

The Secretary of State receives, in advance, a monthly administration fee of $30.00 multiplied by the maximum number of months that the permitee can drive with the MDDP.  The permitee must also pay the BAIID installer whatever amount the rental agreement calls for (typically in the range of $100 a month).

Restricted Driving Permit:
Non first offenders cannot request or obtain an MDDP.  They must apply to the Secretary of State for a Restricted Driving Permit (RDP).  That process, which is much more involved than the process for obtaining an MDDP, is discussed in detail earlier in this article.

Undue Hardship

You may be required to prove that you have a driving-related hardship. For a work permit (RDP), we must show that your inability to drive has affected your job and/or your income.

Some examples of undue hardship would exist if, because of your inability to drive , you have been:

  • Absent from, or late arriving to, work on a frequent basis;
  • Deprived of the chance to earn overtime pay;
  • Threatened with being fired if you do not obtain an RDP;
  • Disciplined;
  • Passed over for a promotion or for a better-paying job; or,
  • Fired from, or been unable to accept, a job.

If you are a member of a Union, hardship would exist if you missed jobs available through the Hall because you could not drive to the jobs, or turned down so many jobs that the Hall has stopped calling you or calls you only as a last resort.

Another type of hardship exists if an employer has promised to hire you if you obtain a permit. Those are called prospective employers.

It is not enough that someone, whether you or another person, or both, has been inconvenienced because you cannot drive. Nor is it enough that your boss says your not having a license is a hardship on the company, or that you are "worried" about your job.

It is helpful for you to obtain a letter from your employer (or Union) supporting your claim of hardship. Letters that sing your praises, comment about your reliability, etc. are NOT what the Secretary of State wants. I have developed a form that will help an employer (or Union) create a hardship letter.

Why You Do Not Want to be Caught Driving on a Suspended or Revoked License

If your license is suspended or revoked due to a previous DUI, and if you are caught driving, you have a number of problems with which to deal. In the first place, it is difficult to defend such a charge. All the State's Attorney need prove is that the police officer observed you driving and at that time you were driving, you were suspended or revoked.

Upon being convicted for driving on a suspended or revoked license due to a previous DUI, you are in theory eligible for court supervision once every 10 years. However, most judges are extremely reluctant to grant court supervision for this offense.

You can expect to serve 10 days in jail, with no good time credit, upon being convicted. Sentencing alternatives such as work release or weekends are not available during these 10 days. It is all straight time.

A possible option is 240 hours of community service. The problem with this sentence is that it requires such a time commitment. In any event, many judges are opposed to community service of that length because the majority of individuals do not complete the community service within the time allowed.

In addition to jail, you will face a new suspension or revocation equal in length to the original suspension or revocation. For example, if you were originally suspended for a year, the driving while suspended conviction will result in a suspension for an additional year.

You do not have to be breaking the law in order to be caught driving on a suspended or revoked license. If you are hit from behind in an automobile accident, the police will be called to the scene and you will be arrested for driving while suspended or revoked.

If the police stop you because your license plate light is burned out, you will be ticketed for driving while suspended or revoked and be hauled off to jail. If you happen to encounter a police roadblock, you will be ticketed and jailed. If an officer recognizes you as being revoked, you will be ticketed and arrested.

With modern day communications and computers, it is easy for the police, when they have nothing else to do, to run your license plates. As you can see, in none of these scenarios have you engaged in any bad driving, but you would still find yourself in trouble.

The payoff for being legal is easy to see. The penalties for being caught are too severe for you to risk driving illegally.

Also keep in mind that even if you are only suspended, you are not legally entitled to drive until you pay the reinstatement fee to the Secretary of State. If you are caught driving before you have paid the reinstatement fee, even if your suspension has ended, you will be driving illegally and probably will be ticketed for driving on a suspended license.

Fees

Because of our experience, our quality staff and our flexible fee schedule, you receive the utmost value for your money. You will also be afforded the respect, dignity and confidentiality you deserve. We are not here to judge you. We are here to help you.

You need a license to enjoy better employment opportunities, to be able to drive yourself around, and to get on with your life. It is an investment in your future, and that of your loved ones. Having a driver's license is too important for you to take chances.

To find out more about our Fee Options, please contact our office directly and speak with our Driver's License Administrative Specialist.  Keep in mind that hearings are scheduled several months after a request is submitted.  The delay presents an opportunity to budget for the final fee payment due before each hearing.

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