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Gruchow v. White

August 22, 2007

ISAAC C. GRUCHOW, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JESSE WHITE, SECRETARY OF STATE, STATE OF ILLINOIS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County No. 06MR61 Honorable Patrick J. Londrigan, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Knecht

Published opinion

Defendant, Secretary of State Jesse White (Secretary), appeals the order of the Sangamon County circuit court mandating he issue to plaintiff, Isaac C. Gruchow, a resident of North Carolina, a letter clearing Gruchow's Illinois driving record. On appeal, the Secretary argues section 6-208(b)(4) of the Vehicle Code (Code) (625 ILCS 5/6-208(b)(4) (West 2004)) prohibits him from giving Gruchow, who has four driving-under-the-influence (DUI) convictions, driving privileges for life. We agree and reverse the circuit court's order.

I. BACKGROUND

At one time, Gruchow was a licensed driver in Illinois. In November 1996, Gruchow was arrested in Illinois for DUI. He refused the chemical test and was granted court supervision. In January 1999, Gruchow's Illinois driver's license and driving privileges were revoked after he was convicted of two other DUIs. Gruchow later had two DUI convictions in South Carolina in August 2001 and July 2003.

Gruchow, now a resident of North Carolina, applied to the Secretary for clearance of his Illinois driving record and reinstatement of his driving privileges. Gruchow sought such relief so he might apply for driving privileges in North Carolina. South Carolina issued Gruchow such a letter.

After a hearing on Gruchow's Illinois application, the hearing officer found Gruchow satisfied the requirements for reinstatement and recommended reinstatement of his full driving privileges. The Secretary rejected the recommendation and denied Gruchow's petition. The Secretary noted Gruchow's four DUI convictions and concluded under section 6-208(b)(4) of the Code (625 ILCS 5/6-208(b)(4) (West 2004)), Gruchow was not eligible for reinstatement of Illinois driving privileges during his lifetime.

Gruchow petitioned the circuit court for administrative review of the Secretary's decision. The court concluded the Secretary erred in denying reinstatement of Gruchow's full driving privileges. The court found Gruchow satisfied the requirements for reinstatement and ordered the Secretary to issue a clearance letter to Gruchow.

This appeal followed.

II. ANALYSIS

On appeal, the Secretary contends section 6-208(b)(4) prohibits him from reinstating Gruchow's driving privileges. Gruchow disagrees. First, Gruchow maintains section 6-704 of the Code (625 ILCS 5/6-704 (West 2004)), part of the Driver License Compact, applies to him, a nonresident seeking reinstatement of driving privileges. Second, Gruchow contends section 6-208(b)(4) prohibits issuing him a driver's license, but allows reinstatement of driving privileges.

We begin with the governing standard of review, an issue the parties dispute. The Secretary contends his decision involved a mixed question of law and fact and should be reviewed for clear error. Gruchow contends the issue on appeal is purely a question of law to be reviewed de novo.

A mixed question requires consideration of whether the administrative agency properly applied the facts to undisputed law. See AFM Messenger Service, Inc. v. Department of Employment Security, 198 Ill. 2d 380, 391, 763 N.E.2d 272, 279 (2001). This case, however, does not present a mixed question of law and fact. The issue is not whether the Secretary properly applied the law to the facts. The issue on appeal is whether the Secretary correctly interpreted the law, particularly sections 6-704 and 6-208. Such matters involve statutory construction and are reviewed de novo. See In re Marriage of Waller, 339 Ill. App. 3d 743, 747, 791 N.E.2d 674, 678 (2003).

Our task in construing a statute is to ascertain the legislature's intent. Department of Public Aid ex rel. Schmid v. Williams, 336 Ill. App. 3d 553, 556, 784 N.E.2d 416, 418 (2003). "[T]he surest indicator" of such intent is the language of the statute. Williams, 336 Ill. App. 3d at 556, 784 N.E.2d at 418. In addition to the language of the statute, this court should consider "the reason for the law, the problems to be remedied, and the objects and purposes sought." General Motors Corp. v. State of Illinois Motor Vehicle Review Board, 224 Ill. 2d 1, 13, 862 N.E.2d 209, 219 (2007). If there is reasonable debate as to the meaning of these statutes, this court will give deference to the Secretary's interpretation. General Motors, 224 Ill. 2d at 13, 862 N.E.2d at 219 ("The construction of a statute by an agency charged with its ...


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