What is The Difference Between a License Suspension and Revocation

After all my years of practicing DUI defense one of the concepts that clients find the most confusing and is most commonly misunderstood is the difference between a license suspension and a license revocation. Even more specifically, how does a DUI disposition effect a person’s license? The purpose of this article is to help the layperson better understand the difference between a license suspension and a license revocation and how what disposition they receive on a DUI plays into whether their license ends up being suspended or revoked.

When an a person is arrested for a DUI they will receive from the Illinois Secretary of State a suspension of their license under Illinois’ Implied Consent Law. All people driving in Illinois have impliedly agreed by the mere virtue of exercising the privilege to drive a motor vehicle on the public roadways of Illinois, to submit to the chemical testing of their breath, blood or urine to determine whether they are impaired. Illinois’ implied consent law is generally found at 635 ILCS 5/11-501.1 of the Illinois Motor Vehicle Code.  Normally, if the arresting officer turns in his sworn report to the Secretary of State in a timely manner, this suspension will become effective on the 46th day after the person’s arrest for DUI. This suspension is called a summary suspension.

For Illinois’ implied consent law to apply and for there to be a legal basis for a summary suspension a person must have been driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle on a public roadway. A person can still receive a DUI on private property but cannot legally receive a summary suspension of their driving privileges for driving while under the influence on private property.

A driver is considered a first offender for implied consent purposes if he or she has not had a DUI in the last five years. However, for the purposes of the criminal DUI statute, a person is only considered a first offender if he or she has never had a prior DUI in their lifetime.

If a person is a first offender for the implied consent law’s purposes, i.e. no DUI in last five years, he or she faces a 6 month suspension of their driving privileges if they comply with the officer’s request to take chemical testing of their breath, blood or urine. Should an individual refuse to comply with the officer’s request for chemical testing they will receive a 12 month suspension of their driving privileges. If a person is not a first offender for the implied consent law’s purposes, i.e. they have had a prior DUI within the last five years, their license will be suspended for a minimum of 12 months if they took the test and 36 months if they refused the test.

A summary suspension is considered a civil and not a criminal penalty. The outcome of the criminal case does not automatically entitle the driver to a rescission of his summary suspension. For example, a person can be found not guilty of a DUI at trial and that will not result in the summary suspension being lifted because the issue for the summary suspension is whether an individual complied with testing and if they did comply whether they were over a Breath Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08. Additionally, if the State decides to dismiss the charges, the dismissal does not result in an automatic rescission of the statutory suspension.

In most circumstances, In order for a motorist’s summary suspension to be rescinded they must file a petition to rescind summary suspension with the court and argue statutory, as well as, appellate case grounds for why their summary suspension should be rescinded. (As this subject is complex and merits an article of its own it will be covered in a separate blog).

What is a revocation and how does it differ from a suspension?

A revocation is the permanent loss of a motorist’s privilege to drive. A motorist who has had his driving privileges revoked cannot return to driving normally until he has gone through hearings with the Secretary of State after the date where he is eligible for full reinstatement has occurred. Reinstatement is far from automatic when a person’s privileges have been revoked. If a motorist is CONVICTED of a DUI they will have their driving privileges revoked. The disposition on the criminal case in the DUI does not impact the summary suspension but can make the difference in whether a motorist has his driving privileges revoked and must go through costly and time consuming hearings in Springfield Illinois or Chicago. Avoiding a conviction on a DUI will allow the motorist to return to driving normally and full reinstatement of their driving privileges once the term of their summary suspension is completed and they have paid the reinstatement fee to the Secretary of State.