“Should I get a lawyer for an informal hearing?”. That was a question I received today.
Specifically, the caller, whose driver’s license had been revoked after a DUI conviction, was referring to an informal hearing to request reinstatement.
For the uninitiated, if your Illinois driver’s license has been revoked because of a DUI conviction, you can only obtain reinstatement through a hearing process with the Illinois Secretary of State.
Informal hearings are for people who have only had one loss of driving privileges; formals are for everyone else.
Informal hearings are held on a first come, first served basis at certain Secretary of State hearing locations.
When you arrive at the location, a hearing officer will screen you to make sure that you are eligible and have all the required documents that are necessary for a hearing.
After determing that your documents are complete and adequate, the Hearing Officer will question you (usually off a pre-printed questionnaire) about your alcohol and/or drug use history. You will get the results of your hearing by mail.
There is no rule requiring you to have an attorney at this hearing. Many people attempt to do it themselves. I don’t know what the percentage is of people who are successful doing it this way, but I know that I get many calls from people after they attempted this route but ended up denied.
So, why should you have an lawyer for an informal hearing?
- An attorney will be able to review your documents to make sure that they are complete and correct. Unfortunately, it is very common to find mistakes in these papers. If your paperwork is unsatisfactory, you will be denied.
- An attorney will be able to review your documents to make sure that they make sense. If your evaluation says that you had three beers over two hours on the night of your arrest, and you blew 0.14, you will be denied. Talk to an attorney if you can’t figure out why.
- An attorney will be able to counsel and guide you through this process. The Secretary of State hearing process is confusing for many people. It is worthwhile to hire an attorney just to answer your questions and make sure that you are doing everything correct. As a bonus, an attorney experienced in these matters can give you helpful information to deal with alcohol and/or drug issues — which is ultimately more important than your license.
- An attorney will be able to help you prepare for your hearing, by advising you of the likely questions that will arise, and helping you to understand the terminology and phrases that will come up. For example, I can’t begin to tell you how many have been denied because they thought that they had “lost control of their drinking” when they overdrank on the night of their DUI.
- It is good to have an attorney at your side at the hearing to keep you calm, clarify any confusing questions, remind you of anything you forgot and help you with any decisions that you may have to make.