Getting Back on the Road After a DUI Conviction

Some people erroneously assume that once they are eligible for driver's license reinstatement following DUI convictions, they can assemble their paperwork, make an appointment with a nameless bureaucrat, say they have “learned their lesson” about the dangers of drinking and driving, briefly explain their hardship, pay a reinstatement fee, and drive off the parking lot.

However, it is not that easy, at least in most cases. The counseling and education requirements are only the bare minimum necessary for reinstatement, so there is almost no margin for error. Furthermore, the Secretary of State does more than wield a rubber stamp. The SOS has the power to either grant or deny the revocation request in absolute terms. Finally, as almost anyone will attest, it takes much more than a remorseful look and a hard-luck story to help ensure a positive result in these cases.

Types of Hearings

An informal hearing is typically a good option in most Level I cases and a few Level II cases. Most local offices hold their informal hearings on a first come, first served basis, and no appointment is needed. There is no record made and, if the hearing officer denies the request for license reinstatement, the denial is explained in a brief letter. The bad news is that there is no right to appeal the decision, and the applicant must wait thirty days for another informal hearing, which will probably be presided over by the same person who denied the initial request.

Most Level II and all Level III cases involve formal hearings. These are scheduled only upon written requests. A record is made and a lawyer from the Secretary of State is there to contest license reinstatement. If the hearing officer denies the request, the officer issues a detailed reason for the denial. Although the applicant must wait three months for another hearing, the outcome is immediately appealable to the Circuit Court.


License reinstatement requests are divided into three different levels, and two of them have their own subparts. After undergoing an initial evaluation, the applicant is classified as:

  • Level I: These drivers have only one DUI arrest (as opposed to one DUI conviction) and no higher than a .15 BAC; these drivers must complete a ten-hour Driver Risk Evaluation (DRE) course prior to the hearing.
  • Level II Moderate Risk: First-time arrestees who either refused to provide chemical samples or had a BAC between .15 and .19 must complete twelve hours of alcohol counseling in addition to the DRE course.
  • Level II Significant Risk: Any arrestee with a BAC of above .20, or who has a prior DUI arrest, must complete the DRE, twenty hours of counseling, and any required aftercare.
  • Level III Nondependent: Persons with three or more DUI arrests in ten years, but three or fewer symptoms of dependency, must complete seventy-five hours of alcohol counseling and demonstrate twelve months of responsible alcohol use, which normally means no alcohol-related arrests or motor vehicle collisions.
  • Level III Dependent: Persons with more than three dependency symptoms, regardless of the number of arrests, have the steepest mountain to climb. In addition to completing seventy-five hours of alcohol counseling, they must show twelve months of abstinence from alcohol or drugs; the applicant’s testimony is normally sufficient, unless the Secretary of State has evidence to the contrary. Moreover, Level III Dependent applicants must be involved in Alcoholics Anonymous or another support group. Three letters from AA members is normally sufficient to prove participation in this support group, but meeting logs alone are not enough. For non-traditional support groups, such as church accountability groups, the hearing officer must be convinced that the applicant is committed to the program and that the program is effective.

If successful, the hearing officer normally issues a restricted driving permit that allows the defendant to drive to and from work, school, the grocery store, and so on. After about nine months, many applicants are normally eligible for full license reinstatement.

Rely on Experienced Attorneys

Driver's license reinstatement requires careful planning and aggressive representation. For a confidential consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Schaumburg, contact Glasgow & Olsson. Convenient payment plans are available.

(photo courtesy of Josh Rogan)

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