What Happens at a Secretary of State Hearing?

Posted on in Criminal Law

Secretary of State, hearing, Kane County DUI defense attorneyWhen you are charged with DUI in Illinois, the only way to keep your driver's license from being suspended or revoked, even on a limited basis, is to demand a Secretary of State hearing. There are a number of myths about this proceeding, but the simple fact is that you have nothing to lose at a Secretary of State hearing, and everything to gain.

Common Misconceptions

Some people believe that the must say they are alcoholics at a Secretary of State hearing. There is a kernel of truth in this belief, in that most hearing officers want to hear the applicants say they are sorry for their behavior, and not just sorry they got caught. But there is no need for an unwarranted emotional confession; frankly, most hearing officers do not care.

Other people are at the opposite end of the spectrum, and they are afraid that the officers will be shocked by their habits and deny them relief on that basis. Whatever your story may be, rest assured that the hearing officer has probably heard worse.


First-time offenders have the option of an informal hearing. Attorneys are not allowed at these sessions, but a lawyer can review the questions that the hearing officer will ask, because they are nearly always the same. Informal hearings are conducted on a walk-in basis, and while there is no right to appeal, you can have an informal hearing every 30 days.

As the name implies, a formal hearing is like a trial, with lawyers present and a record made. But, there are very few rules of evidence, since these hearings are not technically "criminal" proceedings. The decision is appealable to the circuit court, and you are entitled to a rehearing every three months.

In both these instances, the hearing officers must give a written explanation for their decisions, so if you are denied, you have a roadmap for approval at the appeal or at a subsequent hearing. These hearings are divided by risk level, and each classification has a minimum requirement:

  • Level I (first offense with BAC under .15): a ten-hour Driver Risk Evaluation (DRE) course;
  • Level II Moderate Risk (first offense with BAC over .15 or a BAC refusal): DRE plus 12 hours of alcohol counseling;
  • Level II Significant Risk (subsequent offense, or any offense with BAC above .20): DRE plus 20 hours of alcohol treatment plus aftercare;
  • Level III Alcohol Dependent: This determination is made by a therapist. These persons must complete 75 hours of outpatient counselling or an inpatient program, demonstrate abstinence for at least 12 months, and verified compliance with an Alcoholics Anonymous-type program; and
  • Level III Non-Dependent: These people have three or more DUI convictions and three or fewer dependency symptoms; they must complete the Level III outpatient or inpatient treatment, but do not need to prove 12 months of abstinence.

These are all minimum requirements; the hearing officer may want to see more. Typically, if approved, the officer grants the applicants a restricted drivers’ license that allows them to drive in certain places and at certain times.

For prompt assistance in this area, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Arlington Heights today. Call Scott F. Anderson at 847-253-3400.