Driving while license suspended is a criminal offense in the state of Illinois. The offense is typically charged by a police officer by issuing a traffic ticket and releasing the defendant at the police station. This practice is deceiving because it does not accurately represent the seriousness of the offense.
The statute for driving while license suspended is found in the vehicle code at 625 ILCS 5/6-303. The ticket issued by the arresting officer may cite IVC, which is short for Illinois Vehicle Code. It may also say DWLS for driving while license suspended.
The vehicle code says that driving while suspended is a Class A misdemeanor. The possible penalty can be up to one year in jail and a fine of $2,500.
When a person’s license is suspended for a summary suspension, however, special problems come into play. Even though the driver may not be under the influence, the case relates back to the original DUI, and the penalties are enhanced.
First, some background on summary suspensions.
During an arrest for DUI, a first offender who blows a breathalyzer result of 0.08 or more, or whose blood or urine analysis tests positive for drugs, will suffer a summary suspension for 6 months.
A first offender who refuses the test will lose his license for 12 months.
Anyone who has a prior DUI or summary suspension in the last 5 years will get suspended for 12 months for blowing a 0.08 or higher (or testing positive for drugs), while refusing the test will cause a summary suspension lasting 36 months.
The suspension will last until BOTH of the following take place:
- The termination date of the suspension, AND
- The person pays the reinstatement fee to the Secretary of State.
Many people believe that the suspension is temporary, and that once the end date has come, their licenses will be validated automatically. This belief is tragically mistaken. The suspension continues indefinitely. The term date, for all practical purposes, means nothing. The reinstatement fee must be paid or that person’s license will not be reinstated.
Many, many people have been arrested for 625 ILCS 5/6-303 because they failed to pay their reinstatement fees. Lawyers have fought these cases on grounds that since the termination date had already passed on the date of the offense, they should not be legally suspended. A few judges agreed and found the defendant not guilty. But the state legislature passed a law in response saying that the suspension lasts until the reinstatement fee is paid.
So, if the summary suspension is still in effect, or it has passed without the person paying a reinstatement fee, the offender is treated the same.
The offense of DWLS due to a summary suspension that is still in effect has a penalty of 10 days jail or 30 days community service. This is a mandatory minimum sentence, which means the court cannot sentence the defendant to anything less.
The 10 days jail must be served for 10 days. It is not reduced for good-time credit or day-for-day credit.
And the 30 days community service involves 30 days work days, meaning 30 8-hour days of community service. The total hours is 240.
A conviction for DWLS will also cause the summary suspension to be extended.
It is critical to obtain legal counsel in a case such as this.