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Illinois driver’s license hearings following a fatal crash

At some point in the early 1980’s, two people died in Illinois as a result of being struck by a drunk driver. Records showed that the driver had previously lost his license due to a DUI arrest. His license had been reinstated following a Secretary of State driver’s license hearing.

In those days, the hearings primarily consisted of the revoked driver explaining how the loss of his license was causing him hardship. He would swear to never drink and drive again and would submit letters or affidavits from 3 people attesting to his good character. Reinstatement was almost automatic.

After this information became public, Jim Edgar, a state representative from the Charleston area, vowed to take on the liquor lobby. He rode the political wave to huge electoral success as Illinois Secretary of State (and later became Governor).

Thus was born the more rigorous Secretary of State administrative hearing process. Suffice it to say that the Secretary of State takes any driving-related fatality, particularly those involving alcohol or other drugs, very seriously, as does the Illinois General Assembly.

Until January 1, 2011, the Secretary of State (SOS) could, but was not required, to suspend or revoke the driving privileges of an at-fault driver who was involved in a non alcohol-related fatality. 625 ILCS 5/6-206(a)(4); 92 Illinois Administrative Code (IAC) §1040.46. The driver’s license sanction the SOS imposed depended upon the number of points accumulated on the driving record, in accordance with this administrative rule.

In 2009, a young lady, while texting and driving, struck and killed a bicyclist. Her offense was minor enough that the SOS did not impose any driver’s license sanctions.

Outrage ensued. She killed someone, how can this be! As a result, the law and administrative rules now provide that if you are convicted of a traffic offense that caused a fatal accident, the SOS is required to revoke your driver’s license and you must have a hearing with his office in order to restore your license. 625 ILCS 5/6-205(a)(16); 92 IAC §1040.46(a) and (h).

If you are arrested for DUI, the SOS is required to revoke your driver’s license if you are ultimately convicted. If the DUI involved death, you may have been convicted of reckless homicide or aggravated DUI.

The Illinois Supreme Court found that the reckless homicide statute was unconstitutional. People v. Pomykala 203 Ill. 2d 198, 784 N.E.2d 784, 271 Ill. Dec. 230 (2003) However, for those already convicted of reckless homicide, as well as those convicted of aggravated DUI with a death, the statute and administrative rules and the special requirements they impose for those convictions apply.

Most importantly, a conviction for reckless homicide results in a two-year revocation of driving privileges. The two years does not start to run until the offender has been released from incarceration. 625 ILCS 5/6-105(15). This is another instance of a law that was passed for no other reason than political expediency brought on by outrage that someone who spends years in prison has not waiting period upon being released.

Once the two years have passed, the SOS requires special documentation before he will provide a hearing. either a copy of the Order of the circuit court that states the sentence received upon conviction, certified by the Clerk of the Court, or a document from the Department of Corrections that reflects: the offense for which the petitioner was imprisoned; the date of release from imprisonment; and the terms of release or parole. 92 IAC §§ 1001.420, 430.

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