Illinois Driver's License
With a Wisconsin DUI Case?

Illinois Drivers Can Get Hammered

By Andrew Mishlove, Milwaukee Wisconsin DUI OWI Lawyer

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Here's a scenario that I've seen too many times.

An Illinois driver gets arrested in Wisconsin for first offense DUI (or OWI in Wisconsin-speak).  He asks the cop who arrested him what will happen to his Illinois license.  The cop tells him that since he has an Illinois license, the Wisconsin case won't matter. 
The Illinois driver then talks to a Wisconsin lawyer, who tells him that he only needs to have an Illinois lawyer handle the Illinois consequences of the case - or worse he tells the Illinois driver that the Wisconsin conviction won't matter in Illinois.
The truth of the matter is, these answers are totally wrong.  Sadly, this happens because some Wisconsin lawyers are willing to represent Illinois drivers, when they really don't understand how a Wisconsin case affects an Illinois driver's license.
It's critical that an Illinois driver be properly represented in Wisconsin, or he will find himself being hammered by the Illinois Secretary of State.

Here's why.  

The Wisconsin system and the Illinois system are very different and they don't match up with each other. Illinois imposes severe penalties for a Wisconsin first offense case. 
So, a Wisconsin case is far worse for an Illinois driver than an Illinois case would be; and it is far worse for an Illinois driver than it would be for a Wisconsin driver.

The Illinois DUI System

In Illinois, a person who is charged with first offense DUI routinely gets a plea-bargain.  This may be a reduction of the charge or "court supervision."  Court supervision is a deal in which the defendant's driver's license is suspended for few months, he's ordered to go to some classes and if he does those things successfully, the case is dismissed.  There is no DUI conviction on his record in this scenario.1   Also, he can have a work permit (called a Restricted Driving Permit, or RDP, in Illinois) to drive during the suspension.  So, by the time an Illinois person gets his first official DUI conviction he will have had at least one and possibly two or more prior DUI arrests.  This is why the Illinois driver's license consequences for a first conviction are quite severe.
 Specifically, the first consequence is a driver's license revocation of an indefinite period of one year to life.  That is, the Illinois driver can apply for reinstatement after one year, but he may not get it. 
In fact it often takes three to five years to get a reinstatement.  During the revocation period, he may be able to get an RDP (restricted driving permit) that allows minimal driving for work, but it can be difficult.  
To get an RDP, often takes at least three to five weeks, and the application are often deferred for months.  Plus, there are counseling and other requirements.  It is not unusual for it to take six months to a year to obtain an RDP.
In Illinois, therefore, it's important to remember that the first DUI conviction is almost never the first DUI arrest.

The Wisconsin DUI OWI System

The Wisconsin system is very different.  First and foremost, plea-bargaining in a Wisconsin DUI case is very rare.  That is, it is extremely unusual for a DUI charge in Wisconsin to be reduced to a lesser charge. 
Also, there is no system of "court supervision" in Wisconsin.  So, in Wisconsin, a defendant's first DUI conviction will almost always be his first DUI arrest (unless he fights the case and wins, as do a good number of my clients). 
The practical consequence of a first offense conviction to a Wisconsin driver, however, is very similar to that of Illinois court supervision to an Illinois driver.  The Wisconsin penalty is a six to nine month loss of driver's license with immediate automatic eligibility for a work permit (called an occupational permit in Wisconsin).  There is also a fine to pay and an "assessment" or mandatory counseling.
Unfortunately, many an Illinois driver has left a Wisconsin courtroom, having heard the Wisconsin judge impose the Wisconsin penalty, and believed that was the penalty he received for the Wisconsin case.  
However-and this is extremely significant--the Wisconsin penalty applies only inside the borders of the State of Wisconsin. 
A Wisconsin court cannot revoke an Illinois driver's license; it can only revoke the right to use that license in Wisconsin.  Technically, the Illinois driver with a Wisconsin DUI revocation still has a valid Illinois license that can be used anywhere but Wisconsin, until and unless the Illinois Secretary of State says otherwise.
This may seem like a big loophole, but actually this is what leads to the problem of the Illinois driver being hammered. 
To close this loophole, Wisconsin, like all states, will report the conviction to the "home" state, in this case Illinois.  Then, Illinois will issue a reciprocal revocation order.  It takes about a month, but the Illinois driver with a Wisconsin conviction is sure to get a letter from the Illinois Secretary of State revoking his driver's license. 
Illinois treats an out-of-state Wisconsin conviction as though it were an in-state Illinois conviction.  So, even though the Wisconsin case resulted from the first DUI arrest, it is treated the same as a second or third arrest in Illinois.  The Illinois authorities will issue an indefinite revocation order of one year to life, with limited and discretionary eligibility for an RDP.

There Is Still Hope

If you are an Illinois driver with a Wisconsin first offense DUI case, it is critical that you get a Wisconsin lawyer familiar with the Illinois-Wisconsin problem. 
There are a number of strategies that may work to soften the blow to an Illinois driver.  These sometimes involve using the Wisconsin refusal laws or even changing residency to the State of Wisconsin. 
Also, you may also need an Illinois lawyer familiar with the Illinois RDP system, so you have the best chance of getting a work permit.  In addition, Illinois drivers often need to fight a case that would not be contested by a Wisconsin driver.  So, if you're an Illinois driver with a Wisconsin first offense DUI case, make sure that you have the best possible advice and representation.
At the Andrew Mishlove Law Offices you'll find that we have the knowledge, skill and experience to handle these complicated interstate issues, and we work closely with the very best lawyers in Illinois to ensure the best possible results for you.

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