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Franz v. Edgar

OPINION FILED MAY 20, 1985.

WALTER R. FRANZ, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

JIM EDGAR, SECRETARY OF STATE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon. Jerry S. Rhodes, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE TRAPP DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The defendant, Secretary of State of Illinois (Secretary), appeals from an order of the circuit court of Sangamon County, sitting in administrative review (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 110, par. 3-110 et seq.), reversing an order of the Secretary which denied the reinstatement of the plaintiff's driver's license and, in the alternative, a restricted driving permit.

On August 17, 1981, the plaintiff was arrested and charged with driving while under the influence of alcohol (DUI) (see Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-501). He was convicted of this charge on April 21, 1982, and on June 9, 1982, his driver's license was revoked pursuant to section 6-205(a)(2) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (Code) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 95 1/2, par. 6-205(a)(2)).

On May 31, 1983, the plaintiff requested a formal hearing under section 2-118 of the Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 95 1/2, par. 2-118) on application for full reinstatement of driving privileges or, alternatively, for a restricted driving permit (RDP). A hearing was subsequently conducted on June 20, 1983. The plaintiff's driving record was admitted and his testimony was presented, as was the testimony of Dean Downing, a business associate of the plaintiff. Plaintiff also introduced into evidence some 30 letters from persons in his community, a certificate showing successful completion of the traffic court driver improvement program (alcohol division), and an alcohol assessment and remedial education evaluation form completed by Ray Weddle, alcoholism counselor at the Logan Mason Mental Health Center in Lincoln.

Plaintiff testified that he was 55 years old, had driven for many years, and lived alone on a rural route outside New Holland. He worked as a self-employed farmer, renting 990 acres of land. The plaintiff testified that his son had more than 500 additional acres, and that together they worked the entire acreage, some of the properties being 10 miles apart. His mother lived in Lincoln and depended on him to conduct certain of her affairs. He testified he had abstained from drinking alcohol for the past year, although he had been at meetings and social events where it was available. He said that on rainy days he had previously joined other farmers for drinks after transacting business in town, but said he had now learned his lesson and would not drink and drive in the future. On further questioning about his prior drinking, the plaintiff said he quit drinking "cold turkey." He denied ever having missed work, blacked-out, passed out, gotten sick, or gotten into fights as a result of drinking, said he never began drinking in the morning, and there was no history of alcoholism in his family. Asked about a statement on the alcohol evaluation regarding "occasional times of abuse of beverage alcohol during middle and later periods of this span [from age 20 until DUI], and sometimes daily drinking," the plaintiff said there had not been any period when he drank more than a six-pack of beer in a day. He further testified as to the difficulties posed by not having a driver's license in checking his crops, getting to seed and implement dealers and taking care of other matters.

Downing testified he had known the plaintiff for 10 years and had taken him to several business meetings and events in the past year where alcohol was available, but that he had not seen the plaintiff drink alcoholic beverages during that time.

Plaintiff's driving record disclosed the following:

(a) April 24, 1978, convicted for speeding, driving 11 to 15 miles above the speed limit.

(b) April 3, 1979, arrested for DUI; refused to take breathalyzer test; convicted October 18, 1979.

(c) In connection with (b), plaintiff's license was suspended from July 3, 1979, to October 3, 1979, for refusal to take a breathalyzer test.

(d) The plaintiff was issued a restricted driving permit on July 10, 1979, which expired on November 2, 1979. He did not violate the permit.

(e) His license was revoked effective November 3, 1979, pursuant to section 6-205(a)(2) of the Code, and reinstated on November 17, 1980.

(f) August 17, 1981, petitioner was arrested for DUI; convicted on April 21, 1982; and discharged from probation on April 8, 1983. In connection with this offense plaintiff's license was revoked effective June 9, 1982, pursuant to section 6-205(a)(2) of the Code. No restoration had occurred.

The hearing officer's findings of fact included the following:

"3. [Plaintiff] submitted evidence of completion of an alcohol related driver remedial course from Ray Weddle, Alcohol Counselor, Alcohol Driver Education, dated June 7, 1982. He also submitted an updated alcohol evaluation performed by Ray Weddle, * * * dated May 3, 1983.

4. The Evaluator reported the Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (a diagnostic tool to determine the existence of an alcohol problem) was administered and the results indicate [plaintiff] `probably has had an alcohol abuse problem in the past'. [Plaintiff] reported to the Evaluator, `this problem has now been corrected' and further reported to the Evaluator he currently is refraining from the use of alcohol.

5. The alcohol evaluation suggests a possible drinking problem with no documented proof of treatment or intervention. The [plaintiff's] driving ...


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