Formal vs. Informal Hearing in Illinois: What's the Difference?

Even minor traffic offenses can leave you with a suspended or revoked license

So how are you supposed to get it back?

Depending on your circumstances, you'll either need to request a formal hearing or go to an informal hearing. Not sure how those two hearings are different?

We'll lay it out for you. 

What is a Formal Hearing?

If your license has been revoked due to severe traffic offenses, you may need a formal hearing. These offenses might include an accident involving death, or multiple DUI dispositions or leaving the scene of an accident. 

A formal hearing will include relevant testimony and evidence. 

Where Can You Get a Formal Hearing?

In Illinois, there are four facilities that provide formal hearings. You must be able to go to one of these four places during your hearing. 

The four locations include the following: 

  • Chicago: 17 N. State St., Ste. 1200, Chicago, IL, 60602
  • Joliet: 54 N. Ottawa St., 4th Fl., Joliet, IL, 60432
  • Mt. Vernon: 218 S. 12th St., Mt. Vernon, IL, 62864
  • Springfield: Howlett Bldg., Rm 212, Springfield, IL, 62756

It's a good idea to pick the location closest to you if you can. Since getting around without a license can be challenging, a closer location will make the process easier. 

How to Schedule a Formal Hearing

You have to schedule a formal hearing in advance. To do this, you have to fill out a Formal Hearing Request form and send it to the Office of the Secretary of State Department of Administrative Hearings via mail. If you send the form through fax or email, it won't get accepted. 

Here are a few things you need to include in this form: 

  • First name, last name, and middle initial 
  • Date of birth
  • Residential address
  • Phone numbers
  • Social Security number
  • Driver's license number
  • Email address

You must also include a $50 non-refundable payment with your hearing request form. 

After receiving your request form, the Secretary of State will mail you a hearing notice. This notice will have the date of your hearing, which will be within 90 days of your original request. 

If you don't show up to your formal hearing, you will get a default order denying driving relief. You can then request another hearing 90 days after the one you missed. 

You can also withdraw your hearing request if you don't feel prepared for your hearing. Make sure you do this before the scheduled hearing to avoid an order of denial. 

Remember, the $50 payment is non-refundable. So, if you withdraw the  request, you won't get your money back. You'll also have to pay another $50 the next time you request a formal hearing. 

Who is Involved in a Formal Hearing?

The people involved in a formal hearing include the hearing officer (appointed by the Secretary of State), an attorney for the Secretary of State, the Petitioner (you), and the Petitioner's attorney if he/she choose to bring one. 

You should have an attorney during your formal hearing. It is a legal proceeding and having an experienced attorney gives you the best chance at success.

During the hearing, the hearing officer will consider the evidence, testimonies, and arguments. They will then make a formal decision after the hearing, but you won't get this decision on the day of your hearing. 

It can take as long as 90 days to receive the official  ruling.  

What Happens if Relief is Denied?

The hearing officer can deny your request for driving relief. If this happens, you have to wait 90 days from the date of the original hearing before you can  go to another hearing. 

The best way to avoid this is to make sure you have all the necessary information when you go to your first hearing. If you don't feel prepared for you're hearing, it's a better idea to withdraw your request and wait until you're ready. 

What is an Informal Hearing?

You can qualify for an informal hearing if your traffic offense was minor. Getting a single DUI disposition still qualifies for an informal hearing. There are other situations in which an informal hearing is appropriate. An experienced attorney will know if your situation qualifies.

Unlike formal hearings, you don't have to schedule an appointment in advance. Instead, these hearings are served as walk-ins. All you have to do is go to the closest Driver Service facility that has an informal hearing officer.

Depending on your circumstances, you can get a Restricted Driving Permit  after the hearing. Sometimes, you can even get your license reinstated.  However, just like a formal hearing, you must wait for a decision in the mail. The normal wait time is 6-12 weeks. 

You might have to go through an alcohol evaluation or complete other treatments before you can get any type of driving relief. 

Formal vs. Informal Hearing in Illinois: What's the Difference?

So, what's the difference between a formal hearing and an informal hearing in Illinois?

Formal hearings are required for severe traffic offenses, which may include death or multiple DUIs. Informal hearings are required for minor traffic offenses. 

You should never show up to your hearing unprepared. If you don't have all the correct information on hand or don't have an attorney, it's better to withdraw your request and seek the help of an experienced attorney. 

While you'll lose $50 for withdrawing from the formal hearing, you won't have to wait 90 extra days to make a second request if the driving relief is denied. Trying to get through a hearing without being prepared will only make the process take longer. 

Did you just get your first DUI? Click here to learn more about what will happen at your first DUI court date and how you can be prepared. For more information on how to have your IL driver’s license reinstated contact John M. Quinn & Associates, Ltd to set up a consultation.