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Murdy v. Edgar





Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Fourth District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County, the Hon. Richard J. Cadagin, Judge, presiding.


Plaintiff, Dennis Murdy, filed an action in the circuit court of Sangamon County for administrative review of the decision of defendant, Jim Edgar, Secretary of State for Illinois (Secretary), denying his petition for reinstatement of driving privileges. The circuit court reversed the decision of the Secretary, and the appellate court affirmed (117 Ill. App.3d 1091). We granted the Secretary's petition for leave to appeal (87 Ill.2d R. 315).

There is but one issue: Was the Secretary's decision against the manifest weight of the evidence?

The record shows that on January 18, 1982, an administrative hearing was held regarding the November 1979 revocation of plaintiff's driving privileges. Following that hearing, the Secretary entered an order denying relief. Thereafter, plaintiff filed with the Secretary a motion for reconsideration and for a rehearing. He requested restoration of his driving privileges or, in the alternative, a restricted driving permit. The Secretary granted a formal rehearing, which was held on May 13, 1982.

At the rehearing, the Secretary introduced plaintiff's driving record, as evinced by an abstract. The abstract revealed that on April 27, 1973, plaintiff was convicted of driving while under the influence of liquor and for driving without a valid driver's license. For these convictions, his driving privileges were revoked from June 14, 1973, through September 27, 1974. It further indicated that on April 15, 1977, he was convicted of driving 16-24 miles per hour over the speed limit. The record shows that his last conviction occurred on November 1, 1979, for driving while under the influence of alcohol and causing property damage. His driving privileges were revoked pursuant to section 6-206(a)(1) of the Illinois Vehicle Code. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 95 1/2, par. 6-206(a)(1).) However, he was later issued a restricted driving permit during the period from July 27 through October 27, 1981.

Plaintiff testified that he was 30 years old, married with two children, and was employed as a "shipman" at the Caterpillar Tractor Company. He indicated that he needs his car for transportation to work (approximately 16 miles round trip) and also to side jobs he does as a carpenter. Plaintiff began driving when he was 16 or 17 years old, although he did not participate in a high school driver's education course. He further testified that at about age 16 he began drinking with his high school friends on weekends; that he was 21 years old when he was first convicted of driving while intoxicated and characterized himself at that time as "young and foolish." Plaintiff stated that his drinking increased after the first conviction, which he attributed to personal and financial pressures. He indicated that he did not believe at that time that he had a drinking problem.

Plaintiff related that, since the November 1979 conviction, he has recognized and controlled his drinking problem. He stated that he has not been intoxicated since mid-1980; that the last time he had a drink was a glass of wine on Christmas eve in 1981; and that at neither time was he driving an automobile. In addition, he enrolled in and successfully completed an alcohol-counseling program at the Tazwood Center for Human Services.

Numerous letters from friends, co-workers, plaintiff's pastor, and alcohol counselors were then introduced into evidence. These letters attested to plaintiff's good character and recommended that plaintiff's driving privileges be restored. One letter, from Todd Garrison, a counselor at the Tazwood Center, revealed that plaintiff successfully completed "DUI school" in April of 1982; that he does not currently have an alcohol problem; and that further counseling was not recommended. The letter also indicated that plaintiff "scored 15 points on the MAST [Michigan Alcoholic Screening Test]." The counselor's letter further related:

"From what Dennis has told me, I feel very positive about the changes he has made in his drinking. It seems that since the accident Dennis has taken responsibility for his behavior. The return of his license, I feel, would be a positive move."

A letter from Linda Berberich, another alcohol counselor at Tazwood, was also admitted into evidence. That letter read:

"Mr. Murdy's past experience with alcohol has definite signs that it was a problem, with, often times, an inability to control his drinking. Mr. Murdy, however, has remained sober for the past six to seven months. He seems to have gained a great deal of awareness in regard to his drinking behavior and has much support from his family in his sobriety. I feel confident that Mr. Murdy will make a continuous effort to remain sober, which would make him a safe risk on the highway." (Emphasis added.)

Kathleen Murdy, plaintiff's wife, was then called to testify. She indicated that in 1973 her husband's drinking was similar to a "partying teenager," but that he now has completely abstained from liquor. She further related that pressures, similar to those faced by plaintiff in 1979, are still present; however, he is "really handling it much better." Mrs. Murdy asked that the Secretary reinstate her husband's driver's license so as to relieve the hardship caused by its revocation.

After Mrs. Murdy testified, the administrative hearing was adjourned. We note that the Secretary, except for the driving abstract, offered no rebuttal either by way of contrary evidence or through cross-examination of plaintiff or his wife. The conclusions of plaintiff's alcohol counselors and the ...

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