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Sheldon v. Edgar

OPINION FILED FEBRUARY 26, 1985.

EARL L. SHELDON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

JIM EDGAR, SECRETARY OF STATE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. James C. Murray, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE BILANDIC DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff, Earl L. Sheldon, filed an action in the circuit court of Cook 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, finding the Secretary's determination to be against the manifest weight of the evidence. On review, the Secretary maintains that the entry of this reversal order was erroneous. We agree.

The record shows that on May 18, 1978, plaintiff was convicted for the third time of driving while under the influence of an intoxicating liquor. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-501(a).) His first conviction occurred in October of 1973; his second conviction occurred in November of 1975. Following plaintiff's third conviction, his license was revoked pursuant to section 6-205(a)(2) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 95 1/2, par. 6-205(a)(2)).

On March 7, 1980, plaintiff was issued a restricted driving permit for a period of one year. Plaintiff's application for reissuance of this permit was denied by the Secretary on December 15, 1981. Thereafter, plaintiff filed a petition for administrative review of the Secretary's refusal to reissue the restricted driving permit. Following a hearing held on March 11, 1982, the circuit court reversed the Secretary's decision and remanded the cause for a reevaluation of plaintiff's application for reinstatement of his driving privileges.

Pursuant to the court's mandate, a formal hearing was held before the Secretary on April 12, 1982. During this hearing, plaintiff was asked to submit to an alcohol evaluation, as well as to enroll in an alcohol-related driver remedial course. Plaintiff's initial response to this request was, "I would, if I could get there, but I have no way of getting there." Plaintiff later admitted, however, that he eventually refused to comply with the Secretary's request. As a result, on July 13, 1982, the Secretary denied plaintiff's application for reinstatement of his driving privileges.

On August 10, 1982, plaintiff filed a second petition for administrative review. Following a hearing held on March 3, 1984, the circuit court again reversed the Secretary's determination and remanded the cause for purposes of reinstating plaintiff's driving privileges. It is the propriety of this reversal order which the Secretary now contests on appeal.

I

• 1 The initial question for resolution is whether the circuit court erred in ruling that the Secretary's refusal to reinstate plaintiff's driving privileges was against the manifest weight of the evidence.

Section 3-110 of the Administrative Review Law provides, in pertinent part, that "the findings and conclusions of the administrative agency on questions of fact are to be considered prima facie true and correct." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 110, par. 3-110.) "This statute has been construed to mean that courts may not interfere with the discretionary authority vested in administrative bodies unless that authority is exercised in an arbitrary or capricious manner [citation] or the administrative decision is against the manifest weight of the evidence [citations]." (Murdy v. Edgar (1984), 103 Ill.2d 384, 391, 469 N.E.2d 1085.) Consequently, a court of review is not to reweigh the evidence or make an independent determination of the facts; rather, our sole function here is to ascertain whether the final decision of the administrative agency is just and reasonable in light of the evidence presented. Odell v. Village of Hoffman Estates (1982), 110 Ill. App.3d 974, 980, 443 N.E.2d 247; Nendza v. Board of Review (1982), 105 Ill. App.3d 437, 442-43, 434 N.E.2d 470.

The key inquiry in the case at bar turns on whether the Secretary's denial of plaintiff's petition for reinstatement of his driving privileges was just and reasonable in light of the requested objective evidence that was not presented by plaintiff prior to such denial.

The evidence submitted by plaintiff at the April 1982 hearing was substantially the same as that submitted by him at the October 1981 hearing. It consisted of his own testimony that the last time he drank an alcoholic beverage was in September of 1977; *fn1 that he had joined Alcoholics Anonymous in March of 1978, but dropped out in October of 1979 because the meetings depressed him; that he was gainfully employed as a bartender and handyman at a local club; and that during the one-year period in which he was allowed to operate a motor vehicle under a restricted driving permit, he did not have any traffic violations. Moreover, several of plaintiff's friends submitted letters stating that, in their opinion, he has maintained a condition of sobriety and, in fact, no longer drinks alcoholic beverages.

The evidence introduced by the Secretary at the hearing consisted of plaintiff's driving record which indicated that he had been convicted of driving while under the influence three times in a five-year period. The first conviction occurred on October 16, 1973; the second conviction occurred on November 13, 1975; and the third conviction occurred on May 18, 1978. Other than his attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous and his hospitalization for approximately one month at some point subsequent to his first driving while under the influence conviction, plaintiff conceded that he had never received any formal or informal treatment or counseling for alcohol abuse.

The secretary, through his hearing officer, requested that plaintiff submit to an alcohol evaluation and enroll in an alcohol-related driver remedial course pursuant to the prevailing policy. (See Secretary's Procedures and Standards sec. III(B)(1) (1981), eff. Jan. 1, 1982.) Plaintiff initially assented, indicating only an unavailability of transportation; however, as he admitted in his second petition for administrative review, he thereafter refused to comply with the hearing officer's request. As a result, the Secretary entered an order on July 13, 1982, denying plaintiff's application for reinstatement of his driving privileges. Plaintiff now asserts that since he drove on a restricted permit for one year without any traffic violations, he should at least be entitled to a renewal of said permit. *fn2

The Illinois Vehicle Code, which grants the Secretary the authority to either reinstate driving privileges or to issue restricted driving permits (see Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 95 1/2, pars. 6-206, 6-208), has been construed by our supreme court to make "it clear that, once driving privileges are revoked, the restoration of such privileges is not automatic." (Murdy v. Edgar (1984), 103 Ill.2d 384, 391, citing People v. Turner (1976), 64 Ill.2d 183, 186, 354 N.E.2d 897.) Rather, it is up to the Secretary, "after investigation," to make the determination "that to grant the ...


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