Suspended Driver’s License: How to Fix It

You just opened your mailbox to find a written notice from the Secretary of State: they’re requiring you to surrender your license. What caused this? How will you get to work with this kind of penalty? Here are the common reasons why the Illinois Secretary of State can suspend or revoke your driver’s license:

  • Unpaid parking tickets (10 or more)
  • Too many traffic violations (3 moving violations within 12 months)
  • Failure to pay child support (under the Deadbeats Don’t Drive Act, you can have your license suspended for non-payment of court-ordered child support)
  • Tollway violations for failure to pay toll fines (5 or more violations)
  • Driving without insurance
  • Auto emissions test failures
  • Failure to appear in court (or resolve the issue before the court date)
  • DUI (Driving under the influence of alcohol or an illegal substance—this includes driving while impaired by medication)

If receive notice of a suspended driver’s license (or revoked one), don’t ignore it, even if it’s hard to understand.


Let’s get terms clear to help you understand the process. According to the Drivers’ FAQs:

A suspension is different than a revocation. With a suspension, you temporarily lose your driving privileges for a designated time. With a revocation, your driving privileges are taken away for an unspecified time. If revoked, you can’t re-apply for a license for at least a year.

A Statutory Summary Suspension has to do with DUIs, and results from refusal to submit to a police request for chemical testing for driving while drunk or under the influence of drugs (resulting in a 12 to 36 month suspension). A statutory summary suspension can also occur after submitting to the test if results show a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or more, and/or the presence of drugs (6 to 12 month suspension).

Zero Tolerance Suspension is when a driver under age 21 refuses to submit to chemical testing (yields a 6 to 24 month suspension) or submitting to the test and having a blood alcohol level of more than 0.00 (leaving you with a suspension of 3 to 12 months).

A Probationary License is allowed for some people, after a period of time.

To be eligible for a probationary license you must have been suspended for only 3 months or less for 3 moving traffic violations in one year. To apply for a probationary license, you must be at least 21 years of age, bring an unexpired driver’s license, and show that you’ve attended an 8 hour Defensive Driving Class.

Steps for Removal of Suspension

There are important steps in handling a suspended license. Don’t ignore any of them.

First, don’t drive with a suspended license. It is a criminal offense, either a misdemeanor or a felony—a very serious matter. It could result in as much as 364 days in jail, fines of up to $2,500, and conviction of a class “A” misdemeanor. If the suspension is from a DUI, driving on a suspended license could result in being charged with a felony, with to 7 years in prison and fines of up to $25,000. Even a misdemeanor means fingerprints, a criminal arrest record, and reports going to the state police and the FBI. You’ll have to have bond posted to be released from police custody, with a felony or a misdemeanor. Don’t drive on a suspended license.

Driving on a suspended license is a criminal offense in all 50 states. You may not drive (for example) in Florida while vacationing, with a suspended license from Illinois. “Driving” with a suspended license would also include just sitting behind the wheel in the driver’s seat in a parked car, with the ignition on.

Next, find out why the license was suspended. This can be done by requesting a driving abstract (your driving history) from the Illinois Secretary of State.

Then, the key is to clean up the driving record. Take care of any penalties for traffic tickets, child support, parking fines and Tollway violations. Every time you get in trouble again, or blow off another parking ticket, the end date for the suspension pushes out further. A knowledgeable attorney can help you understand exactly what needs to be done. An attorney can have your case brought before the court and a conviction can be removed. This could speed up the driving record “clean up” process.

The End in Sight—Termination of Suspension

There are a number of steps to the administrative hearing process and the reinstatement process: apply for reinstatement, request a formal hearing, request results of the formal hearing, pay reinstatement fees, and more. Termination of suspension ends when the required time period has passed, the previous violations have been paid (or had the convictions vacated) and the necessary reinstatement fees have been paid.

Contact me if you need legal assistance with a suspended license. I can often save you the frustration of figuring out the steps on your own, and shorten the process.

Image courtesy of mapichai /


This post is also available in: Spanish

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