Out of State DUI with Illinois License

Police officer asking for ID

It can be very confusing and scary if you find yourself in a position of getting accused of a DUI out of state while you have an Illinois license. You are forced to deal with not one, but two different state laws. You should always consult with an Illinois lawyer, in addition to a lawyer in the state where you have the case.


  • If you have an Illinois license, Illinois controls your right to drive in every state.
  • If the other state suspends your driver's license, that only applies to that state unless Illinois ALSO takes action.
  • Refusing a breath test in another state will suspend your Illinois license for 1 year in addition to whatever penalties that other state imposes
  • If you are charged with a crime like DUI in another state, only that state can punish you criminally (things like jail, alcohol classes, and fines.)


Abby Smith has an IL license but gets a DUI in Wisconsin while visiting friends and refuses the breathalyzer test. The prosecutors in Wisconsin are offering to let her plead guilty to the DUI in exchange for doing some classes and paying a fine. Wisconsin will also suspend her for 60 days as punishment.


Like I discussed above, only Wisconsin can punish her criminally (so the classes and fines they want her to pay.) Illinois will not impose any other criminal penalties.

However, don’t be fooled by the 60-day suspension. That only applies IN Wisconsin. Why? Because Wisconsin can only limit her ability to drive in their state. It is up to Illinois to determine her right to drive everywhere. Many people don’t talk to an IL lawyer when they have an out of state DUI and think the 60-day suspension is all that will happen. This is almost never correct. Wisconsin will report the refusal of the breathalyzer to Illinois who will ALSO take action. And Illinois is a lot harsher. Illinois will suspend Abby’s driver's license for 1 year – and this applies to her right to drive everywhere.


Some states like Wisconsin make it a crime to refuse the breathalyzer or blood tests. Illinois does not. As a result, if you plead guilty to a refusal in another state, Illinois will suspend your license for 1 year for your first offense. This sounds harsh, but given the alternatives listed below, it may not be the worst-case scenario. It’s always best to talk through these options with an Illinois lawyer.


Sadly we get a lot is phone calls from people who have pled guilty to a DUI in another state and thought they got a good deal. Then low and behold about 45 days later they get a letter from Illinois Secretary of State saying their license is revoked! This is because they did not consult with an Illinois lawyer before pleading guilty in the other state.

Usually, the other state is offering what seems like a great deal: do some classes, pay a fine, have a short license suspension. However, these lawyers don’t know what Illinois will do and only and IL lawyer can tell you. Sometimes the state will even have a reduced DUI like driving while impaired, so this sounds like a good deal. It’s not always as good as it sounds! Once you plead guilty, even to a reduced DUI like driving while impaired, that gets reported to Illinois. A conviction for DUI gets entered on your driving record and that revokes your ability to drive by Illinois.


There’s a big difference between a revocation and a suspension of your driver's license in Illinois.

A revocation is much worse. With a revocation, there is no guarantee you will ever have a driver's license again. There is a minimum period of time you must wait (a year at a minimum) before you are eligible to apply to be reinstated. Reinstatement is a complex process that involves an evaluation, classes and testifying well at a recorded hearing before a hearing officer and a prosecutor. It takes 90 days after a hearing to get a decision.

A suspension is for a finite period of time. It has a start and end date. As long as you don’t violate the suspension, you will automatically have your driving privileges back at the end once you pay a reinstatement fee.


You may be eligible for a permit to drive during your suspension or revocation as a result of an out of state DUI. However, you must be able to prove a hardship in getting to work, school, child care, health care or support meetings like AA. There will definitely be a period of at least 3 months where you will not be able to drive at all, so you must be able to show at a hearing why the ways you’ve been getting to work/school/child care/health care/support meetings cannot continue.


It is never advisable to try to have an informal or formal hearing without a lawyer with you. The requirements are complex, and although the questions they ask you may seem obvious, they are looking for specific information in your answers. If you lose your hearing and get denied, you not only have to repeat the same process, you will have MORE requirements for your next hearing to address the things you did wrong. The hearings are recorded, and they refer back to what you’ve said in the past, making it harder to get relief if you’ve previously been denied. Start off on the right foot the first time and hire a lawyer to help you through the entire process and go with you to the hearing.