Appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon.
Richard E. Mann, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE WEBBER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
The Secretary of State (Secretary) appeals the order of the circuit court of Sangamon County upon administrative review which reversed the decision of the Secretary denying the plaintiff a restricted driving permit. The circuit court further ordered the Secretary to restore the plaintiff's license and driving privileges.
On September 19, 1978, plaintiff was arrested for operating a motor vehicle without a valid driver's license, improper traffic lane usage, and driving while under the influence of alcohol (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 95 1/2, pars. 6-101, 11-709(a), 11-501). Before a hearing was held on these offenses, plaintiff was again arrested on October 20, 1978, for driving while under the influence of alcohol. Plaintiff was convicted of the two non-alcohol-related charges on October 31, 1978. The two charges of driving while under the influence of alcohol were heard together on December 5, 1978. Plaintiff pleaded guilty to both charges and was convicted. On December 22, 1978, two orders were issued revoking plaintiff's license and driving privileges 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)). The driving privileges of plaintiff have not been restored since the entry of the orders. Subsequently the orders revoking plaintiff's license and driving privileges were extended effective July 30, 1980, because of plaintiff's conviction on June 16, 1980, for driving while his license was revoked. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 95 1/2, par. 6-303.
Plaintiff made application for full reinstatement of driving privileges in 1982 and 1983 and made written requests for formal hearings thereon. The hearings were held on June 10, 1982, and August 11, 1983. Both requests were denied by the Secretary.
Plaintiff made written application for a restricted driving permit in the fall of 1984. Shortly thereafter, by letter dated October 22, 1984, plaintiff's attorney requested a formal hearing "to determine whether or not [plaintiff's] driving privileges should be reinstated." The cause was set for hearing on December 12, 1984. Plaintiff's counsel had a conflict on the day of the hearing, and plaintiff elected to proceed pro se in spite of the opportunity for a continuance offered by the attorney for the Secretary. At the hearing plaintiff's driving record was admitted, and the hearing officer took judicial notice of the files of the two previous hearings in 1982 and 1983. Plaintiff presented his testimony and introduced an alcohol assessment from the Jacksonville Area Council on Alcoholism (JACOA), a letter certifying completion of the Libertas Chemical Dependency Program of St. John's Hospital, and several recommendation letters from relatives, work supervisors, and fellow members of the local Alcoholics Anonymous chapter (AA). In a written order dated February 14, 1985, the Secretary denied plaintiff's application for a restricted driving permit but made no decision regarding reinstatement of plaintiff's driving privileges. In the findings and recommendation of the hearing officer, the hearing officer recorded the requested relief as a restricted driving permit and recommended denial of the same.
On July 18, 1985, the circuit court, upon administrative review, reversed the Secretary's decision and, further, ordered the Secretary to restore the license and driving privileges of plaintiff. The Secretary filed notice of appeal on August 16, 1985. The Secretary moved to stay the circuit court's order pending appeal, but the circuit court denied the motion. The Secretary appealed the denial, and we stayed the order of the circuit court until further order.
The two issues raised on appeal are (1) whether the Secretary's decision to deny plaintiff a restricted driving permit is against the manifest weight of the evidence and (2) whether the failure of the Secretary to consider the restoration of full driving privileges to plaintiff at the hearing is error such that the lower court was justified in ordering reinstatement of plaintiff's license.
The law in the State of Illinois is clear that once a person's privilege to drive has been revoked the restoration of that privilege is not an automatic matter. (People v. Turner (1976), 64 Ill.2d 183, 354 N.E.2d 897.) The Secretary of State has considerable discretion in issuing licenses to persons whose licenses have been revoked:
"Any person whose license or permit or privilege to drive a motor vehicle on the highways has been revoked shall not be entitled to have such license or permit or privilege renewed or restored * * *.
* * * [T]he Secretary of State shall not issue such license unless and until he is satisfied after investigation of such person that to grant the privilege of driving a motor vehicle on the highways will not endanger the public safety or welfare." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 95 1/2, par. 6-208(b).)
The preeminent interest in public safety applies equally to the issuance of a restricted driving permit: "[T]he relevant inquiry before issuing a restricted driving permit is the danger to the public safety and welfare." Murdy v. Edgar (1984), 103 Ill.2d 384, 392, 469 N.E.2d 1085, 1089.
Because we consider the issue of whether the Secretary's decision is against the manifest weight of the evidence, we must look in detail at the facts in the record.
At the hearing on December 12, 1984, the Secretary offered plaintiff's driving record as evidence, that record showed a conviction for illegal transportation of alcohol in May 1977, two convictions for driving while under the influence of alcohol in December 1978 as well as two convictions for non-alcohol-related offenses arising out of the circumstances surrounding one of the driving-while-under-the-influence-of-alcohol convictions, and a conviction in June 1980 for driving while his license was revoked. Along with this evidence, the ...