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Illinois restricted driving permit (RDP) and undue hardship

When you receive a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) in Illinois, you face different types of driver’s license consequences. Your particular situation will govern where you go for driving relief and when.

At the time of a DUI arrest, the police will ask you to submit to testing to determine your blood alcohol level. If you agree to testing that discloses a level above .08, your driver’s license is subject to being suspended. If you do not agree to testing, you will also be suspended.

In either case, the suspense takes effect even if you are not convicted of the DUI charge. You avoid a suspension only if you take a test and blow under .08.

A suspension ends after a definite period of time. The length of your suspension depends upon your previous DUI record and upon whether or not you agreed to testing.

If you refused testing and you have not had a DUI arrest in the previous 5 years, you will be suspended for 1 year. If you refuse and have had a DUI in the previous 5 years, the suspension will run for 3 years. At no time during the 1 or 3 year suspension can you apply for any driving relief, including a hardship license.

If you agree to a test and have not had a DUI in the prior 5 years, your license will be suspended for 6 months. If you refuse to take a test and have not had a DUI in the previous 5 years, your license will be suspended for 1 year.

During the first 30 days of a suspension for someone who has not had a DUI in the previous 5 years, you are not allowed to drive. After that 30 days, you are eligible to receive an MDDP. As long as you qualify for an MDDP, the Secretary of State will issue it to you automatically without a hearing.

However, if you are convicted of the DUI, either before or after your suspension ends, your driver’s license will be revoked. At that point, you will be required to appear at an administrative driver’s license hearing before the Illinois Secretary of State in order to request a work permit (“restricted driving permit, or RDP). In other words, revoked driving privileges are not automatically restored. A hearing is necessary.


Notice that if you had a DUI in the previous 5 years, you cannot have a driver’s license hearing while your suspension is still in effect. Also notice that a conviction cancels and invalidates any MDDP that may have been in effect for someone who has not had a DUI in the prior 5 years. However, those people can have a Secretary of State hearing.

Once you are eligible to request a hearing, one issue is whether or not you are required to prove under hardship. If you are still within the 1, 3 or 5-year revocation period, you must prove that you have undue hardship.

Undue hardship means more than inconvenience to you. And the hardship must be to you, not to your employer or some other person.

Hardship permits can only be issued for work, school, medical appointments for you or a family member, attendance at AA meetings and for school or day care. Hardship permits are not available for the grocery store, shopping or child visitation.

The Secretary of State previously took the position that undue hardship could never exist if you were able to get to work, no matter what sacrifices that required of you or family members. The Illinois Appellate Court decidedly rejected this contention and gave a more reasoned interpretation to undue hardship in a case known as Clark v. White.