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Is DUI court different from a driver’s license suspension hearing at the Illinois Secretary of State?

A charge of Driving Under the Influence (DUI or drunk driving) is considered an offense against the people of the state of Illinois. In other words, it is a crime. 625 ILCS 5/11-501

A person charged with a crime must respond to the charges in a court of law. Because the consequences of a DUI conviction include fines and even possible incarceration (jail) (730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-5.5), in the United States, the accused does not have to prove his innocence. Rather, the state has the burden of proving the accused guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The defendant is also entitled to a trial by jury, to review, in advance, the evidence the state intends to present against him, and the right to appeal any conviction. You cannot be forced to testify, and if you are found not guilty, the state may not try you again (double jeopardy) Finally, the accused is afforded certain Constitutional protections against violations of his rights, primarily under the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

As a result of these protections, especially the requirement that the accused is not required to prove anything, it is to a DUI defendant’s benefit to downplay any actions that might reflect negatively upon him. In other words, “prove it” is a necessary and appropriate response.

Another consequence of a DUI arrest is an Illinois driver’s license suspension. If the arrest leads to a conviction, your driver’s license would be revoked.

The main difference between a suspension and a revocation stems from the fact that after being revoked you must go back and ask the Secretary of State to return your driver’s license to you. If you are only suspended, your license will be returned to you without needing a hearing.

When it comes to the driver’s license hearing, it’s an entirely different ballgame. You have already been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Therefore, your conviction is assumed to be valid and to attend a hearing and claim you were not guilty of the DU is a losing strategy. That’s because you, as the applicant, carry the burden of proof. 92 Illinois Administrative Code §1001.430 a) The standard is clear and convincing evidence. 92 IAC §1001.400


The hearings themselves are not held in a courtroom. There is no judge, but instead a hearing officer, who does not wear a black robe, have a gavel or sit up high on a bench.

There is no jury or bailiff. Rather than a court reporter making a record of the proceedings, the Secretary of State provides digital recording devices.

Not only is the process different but also the approach. Since you are assumed to be guilty, you do not benefit from downplaying your conduct or from remaining silent. Quite simply, if you do not say and do as they wish, they will deny you.

You do have a right to appeal. But on appeal the appeals court will overturn the Secretary of State decision only if it is against the manifest weight of the evidence. That pretty much means that if anyone not totally out of it could have made the same decision, the decision will stand and you lose.

There is no right to raise Constitutional issues (Fourth Amendment etc) because the place to do that was in court. And Double Jeopardy does not apply because driver’s license hearings are administrative not criminal.