This article was updated: Feb. 20th, 2023

If your Illinois driver’s license is suspended or revoked, it affects all aspects of your life. It affects your ability to work, go to the grocery store, drop your children off at school, or go to doctor appointments.

So it is easy to see why someone with a suspended or revoked license wants to get their license back. But the process can be very confusing and very difficult in Illinois.

It seems like friends, family, the Illinois Secretary of State, and lawyers all have different suggestions. While it is impossible to cover all scenarios, the purpose of this article is for our suspended license lawyers to clear up some of that confusion and put you on the path to figuring it out once and for all.

Is Your License Suspended or Revoked?

A suspension is for a defined period of time. For example, a suspension may be for 3 months, 6 months, or 12 months. At the end of that suspension, the driver may pay a reinstatement fee and get their license back.

Common causes of a suspension in Illinois are:

  • Too many traffic tickets within the past 12 months
  • Failure to Pay tickets
  • Failure to Appear in court when required
  • Suspended for a DWLS conviction
  • A recent DUI arrest

A revocation is for an indefinite period of time. In other words, the license is gone and there is no scheduled date where it is coming back.

Common causes of a revocation in Illinois are:

It is important to know that your license may be suspended and/or revoked for more than one reason. All issues must be cleared up before the license can be reinstated or the driver can be eligible for a hearing.

Review Your Driving Record

The best way to determine your driver’s license status in Illinois is to obtain your Illinois Secretary of State Court Purposes Driving Abstract. The cost is $12.00 and you can obtain it from any DMV facility. Our office can also obtain it for you for an additional fee.

The abstract gives 3 important pieces of information:

  1. The status of the license – suspended or revoked.
  2. The exact reasons for the hold.
  3. The date the driver is eligible for reinstatement or a hearing.

Reading a driving abstract can be difficult. We recommend providing it to your attorney so they can guide your through the exact steps that are necessary to obtain your license.

Fixing A Suspended License

If your Illinois license is suspended, you generally have two options:

  1. Wait out the suspension until you can be reinstated; OR
  2. Undo the things that caused the suspension in the first place, if possible.

Most people would prefer to eliminate the suspension in the first place. That may be possible, depending on the reason for the suspension.


Suspended for too many traffic tickets

A driver over 21 will have their Illinois license suspended if they receive 3 convictions within a 12 month period.

A driver under 21 will have their license suspended if they receive 2 convictions within a 24 month period.

Depending on the county, the date of the offense, and the way the ticket was handled, it may be possible to file a Motion To Vacate the conviction. When this is done, the case is reopened.

If your attorney can then resolve the case in a way that avoids a conviction, you have one less conviction on the record. That may place you under the threshold of suspension. This would cause the suspension to be lifted as soon as the Illinois Secretary of State’s records are updated.

Failure to Pay tickets

If a driver is required to pay fines or fees to the court and fails to do so, the County Clerk may notify the Illinois Secretary of State that the driver has failed to pay. As a result, the Secretary of State will suspend the driver’s license status in Illinois.

The driver can often just pay that fine and ask that the Clerk update the SOS. That may end the suspension.

If the fine is too large or there are other issues, it may be more beneficial to reopen the case (i.e., file a Motion to Vacate) instead of just paying. A skilled traffic attorney can advise you of this.

Failure to Appear in court when required

If a driver gets a ticket that says “Court Appearance Required” and does not appear (or send an attorney in their place), the court may enter a “Failure To Appear” on the file. The Illinois Secretary of State gets notified of this and may then suspend the driver’s license.

Typically, the only way to fix a “Failure To Appear” is to reopen the case by filing a Motion To Vacate and appearing in court. Often times, your attorney can appear on your behalf. Your attorney may also be able to resolve the case in a way that avoids a conviction and/or reduces fines and fees.

Once the Secretary of State is notified that the “Failure To Appear” was removed from the ticket, the suspension should be lifted.

Suspended for a DWLS conviction

If your license is suspended and you are caught driving, you will be charged with Driving While License Suspended (DWLS). This is a criminal offense.

If the driver is convicted, the Illinois Secretary of State will extend the suspension period. This additional suspension period is often for a year, or even more. Unfortunately, it is often not possible to shorten this suspension period if the conviction has already occurred. For this reason, it is extremely important that you retain an experienced traffic lawyer and know your defenses if charged with Driving On A Suspended License.

A recent DUI arrest

It is common for an IL driver’s license status to be suspended after they are arrested for DUI. If the driver took a chemical test (breathalyzer, blood test, or urine test) and was over the legal limit, their license will likely be suspended for a 6-month period.

If the driver refused to take a chemical test, it may be suspended for 12-months.

If this is not the driver’s first time being charged with DUI, the suspension period may be even longer.

If your license is suspended because of a recent DUI arrest, it is strongly recommended that you consult with a DUI attorney. There are still ways to drive legally after a DUI, but your attorney will be able to recommend the best course of action for your situation.

Fixing A Revoked License

Typically, the only way to get back a revoked license is to have a successful hearing with the Illinois Secretary of State. Essentially, that requires the driver to petition the Illinois Secretary of State and convince them to grant the license back.

A hearing can be a very long and detailed process. There are three different types of hearings – formal, informal, and out of state.

A DUI Conviction

If the Illinois license was revoked because of a DUI conviction or other drug/alcohol-related charge, the driver will need an updated Drug & Alcohol Evaluation. They will be required to show proof of treatment, lifestyle changes, and control of any alcohol or drug abuse problems. They need to show that they have changed and are not at risk of getting another DUI.

Illinois Secretary of State hearings can be very difficult. Questioning can last over an hour. The petitioner will be required to answer very specific, very detailed questions about their arrest(s) and their history. Additionally, they must provide an evaluation and supporting documentation that bolsters their case.

While it is possible to have a successful hearing on your own, the vast majority will require a lawyer. Your lawyer will assist in the preparation, paperwork and questioning. If you require an Illinois Secretary of State hearing, we strongly recommend you contain an experienced lawyer to prepare and represent you at the hearing.

The Illinois Secretary of State’s hearing process is extremely detailed and technical. This article does not even begin to cover all the possible scenarios and requirements. We recommend you contact a lawyer experienced with conducting hearings to discuss your specific situation.

Other criminal convictions

It’s not just a DUI conviction that can cause your license to be revoked. You can also get revoked if you are convicted of:

Having A Hearing While You Have An Open Case

The Illinois Secretary of State does not permit a driver to have a hearing if they have an open or pending ticket or case. More specifically, they typically let them have a hearing, but the driver will never be approved if they have a pending case.

With that in mind, a driver must make sure of two things before scheduling a hearing:

  1. The driver cannot have any pending traffic or driving-related criminal cases;
  2. The driver must determine their hearing eligibility date.

Determining Your Hearing Eligibility Date

When someone’s license is revoked, the Illinois Secretary of State sets a hearing eligibility date. The driver can only have a hearing on or after that date.

The purpose of this is to ensure the driver spends some period of time being revoked. They are typically not immediately available for a hearing. The eligibility date can be found on the driving abstract.

Many Illinois drivers run into the problem of getting a new traffic case – typically Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (DWLS/R) – while waiting for their eligibility date. Of course, this means they now have an open case and are again ineligible (even after their eligibility date). If the driver is then convicted of DWLS/R, their eligibility date will be extended out to a later date in the future.


The deck is stacked against a driver with a suspended or revoked driver’s license. The process is confusing and difficult to navigate.

This is likely the first time you have ever dealt with a situation like this. Our office works on these things everyday.

Here is what some of our clients have said in Google and Yelp reviews:

Great team work with me to get my license back and always took my calls when I had any questions never made me feel like I wasn’t important

★★★★★ Edward C. on Yelp

I must say they are very professional, and polite, and they took time to listen to detail which is very important! You can’t go wrong with these guys! ! Trust when I say this, YOU WON’T BE MAD YOU HIRED THEM!!

★★★★★ Jesse S. on Google

I give you guys 5 stars! I’m so thankful for the work you guy put into my traffic case. I haven’t had my license in 7 years and now thanks to Driver Defense Team I am now legally able to drive. You guys are the best thanks a whole bunch.

★★★★★ BeautywithnMe B. on Yelp

Since mistakes can cost time, money, and can further affect your record, it is best to leave this to the professionals. Please give us a call today to discuss your specific situation.