Should I get a lawyer for an informal hearing?

“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Specifically, the caller, whose driver’s license had been revoked after a DUI conviction, was referring to an informal hearing to request reinstatement.

For the uninitiated, if your Illinois driver’s license has been revoked because of a DUI conviction, you can only obtain reinstatement through a hearing process with the Illinois Secretary of State.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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

8 thoughts on “Should I get a lawyer for an informal hearing?

  1. I was arrested for a DUI in McHenry County. My sentence was probation for 1 year along with all the applicable DUI classes which I completed. Since I satisfied the court and did not get into any trouble and the judgement was withheld, Why was my license suspended.

    I mean if I was never convicted how can they – The Secretary of State impose a reinstatement fee? Please let me know.

    Illinois is a sad pathetic state and I’m glad I left, however why did I even pay for a lawyer when my judgement was withheld and now my license is suspended. I just don’t get it.

    • Illinois, like all states, has a license suspension that is independent of the DUI arrest. It is called a statutory summary suspension, and for first time offenders, it is for six months if you fail a breath, blood or urine test, or one year if you refuse or are unable to complete the test. At the end of the suspension a reinstatement fee must be paid to “reactivate” your driving privileges. You should be aware that had you not received the supervision sentence for your DUI, and been convicted instead, you would have had your license revoked in addition to the suspension.

  2. Hello,
    About a year and a half ago I was convicted of a DUI. This is my first DUI. In my case I had no intoxicating compounds of any kind in my bloodstream. I was in a bad accident running into a tree head on at 35 mph. I was the only one in the vehicle. They did urine & blood tests and I had nothing in my system to prove I was under the influence of any kind. The only reason I received a DUI is because I admitted to the officer at the scene that I was drinking at the time I was driving. They found two empty beer bottles and some Whip-it (nitrus) canisters within the inside of my vehicle. When the blood and urine were returned to the crime lab it proved I had a 0.0 alcohol level, no marijuana or other drugs or the nitrus that I was using in my blood stream.

    I never had a statutory summary suspension because my system was completely and utterly clean. And I am almost done waiting the full year since my conviction date. Should I expect a formal or Informal Hearing? In Champaign Illinois from what my lawyer told me, they have strict laws and look at DUI’s rather seriously.

    What steps do I need to take to get my license reinstated and what kind of hearing will I most likely get.

  3. Hi in 2011 I had got my first DUI I got court supervision I completed it Did my classes and paid my reinstatement fee and in 2014 I got another DUI I’ve been good since then but since I completed my court supervision for my first DUI I WOULD THINK I SHOULD ONLY NEED A INFORMAL HEARING FOR MY DUI I GOT IN 2014 right or wrong?

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