It’s no surprise that you can lose your license if you drink and drive, but the details can be confusing because in Illinois there are two different ways in which you can lose your license. There is what’s called a “statutory summary suspension” from the secretary of state, and then there potentially is a separate license suspension or revocation if you are found guilty of driving under the influence.

Statutory summary suspension

The main thing to know about Illinois’ statutory summary suspension is that it’s automatic. If you are arrested and a blood alcohol test at the police station confirms that you were intoxicated beyond the legal limit (.08), the secretary of state automatically suspends your license for six months. If you refuse the test, you will get an automatic one-year suspension. These are for first offenses. For a second offense, the statutory summary suspension for testing above the legal limit is one year, and for refusing testing it’s three years. There is no penalty for refusing a field sobriety test at the side of the road.

A statutory summary suspension does not begin right away. It actually starts 45 days after your arrest. The suspension is not based on guilt or innocence. It’s an administrative and automatic penalty for failing a chemical test or refusing a chemical test. You can, however, go to court and ask the judge to cancel your suspension by proving that your arrest was unlawful or based on some other reason why your license should not have been suspended.


If you are convicted of a DUI, your license can be revoked for a year or more. Unlike the suspension described above, a license revocation is a criminal penalty that applies if you are proven guilty. If you receive court supervision as the outcome after a DUI, you may not face revocation. For second, third or further offenses, license revocation can last anywhere from five years to life.

If you drive on a suspended or revoked license you can face felony charges. After the period of suspension, you have to pay a fee for reinstatement. After revocation, you may have to go to a hearing. Be certain that your license is properly reinstated before you start driving again.

 Other things to keep in mind: If your driving privileges are suspended or revoked in Illinois, then they are suspended and revoked in other states, as well. Also, the above rules and timelines can be different for drivers who are under 21. First-time offenders might be eligible to drive during suspension if they get a monitoring device.

Written by Michael Helfand