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Regardless of whether you believe the Illinois Secretary of State had a legitimate reason for suspending your driver’s license, you must honor any suspension of your driver’s license and seek to have your license reinstated before you resume driving a motor vehicle. In People v. Elliott, the Supreme Court of Illinois upheld a conviction for driving on a suspended license during a statutory summary suspension even though the summary suspension was subsequently rescinded. 2014 IL 115308. In doing so, the Court held that, in relation to the crime of driving on a suspended license, a summary suspension rescission is prospective-only. 2014 IL 115308, ¶ 21.

People v. Elliot Facts

In Elliott, the defendant was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol on August 26. In connection with the arrest, the defendant received a notice of statutory summary suspension of his driver’s license. On September 1, the defendant filed a petition to rescind statutory summary suspension of his driver’s license. On October 11, the defendant’s statutory summary suspension began. Two days later, on October 13, the defendant was arrested for driving on a suspended license.

On October 19, the circuit court where the defendant’s driving under the influence case was pending entered an order granting the defendant’s petition to rescind statutory summary suspension. Four days later, on October 23, the Illinois Secretary of State entered a notice and order of summary suspension rescission thereby removing the defendant statutory summary suspension from the defendant’s driving record. Thus, the charge of driving on suspended license arose from conduct that occurred after the commencement of but before the rescission of the defendant’s statutory summary suspension.

People v. Elliot Analysis

The issue as presented in the Supreme Court was whether a subsequent order of summary suspension rescission renders a charge of driving on suspended license invalid. The Court began its analysis with the language of the Section 6-303 of the Illinois Vehicle Code which states that driving on a suspended license is committed when a person “drives or is in actual physical control of a motor vehicle on any highway of this State at a time when such person’s driver’s license . . . is revoked or suspended as provided by [the Code].” 2014 IL 115308, ¶ 10 (emphasis added). After finding no direction from the statute, dictionary definitions of the word “rescind,” or the Illinois Compiled Statutes as to whether a rescission is retroactive or prospective-only, the Court explained several reasons for its holding that a summary suspension rescission is prospective-only.

First, the Supreme Court reasoned that the purpose of statutory summary suspension is to ensure that drivers charged with driving under the influence are removed from the roads not just hopefully or eventually, but certainly and swiftly, and a prospective-only reading of “rescind” accomplishes this purpose far better than a retroactive one. 2014 IL 115308, ¶ 16.

Second, the Supreme Court reasoned that the legislature’s use of the phrase “at a time when” suggests that the dispositive fact in determining whether this offense has occurred is not the ultimate validity of the underlying suspension but rather the existing status of the driver’s license at the time of the arrest. 2014 IL 115308, ¶ 17.

Third, the Supreme Court reasoned that a prospective-only reading of “rescind” builds certainty and efficiency into the system and makes the legislative scheme very easy and very convenient to enforce, as there is only one question to ask – what was the actual status of the driver’s license at the time of the arrest, valid or suspended? The answer to this question will never change and will be readily available to the driver, to the officer on the scene, and to the court charged with adjudicating the offense. 2014 IL 115308, ¶ 18.

Fourth, the Supreme Court reasoned that a prospective-only reading of the term “rescind” is consistent with the way the Court characterized the statutory summary suspension scheme in People v. McClure. In McClure, the Court held that a defendant may file a petition to have a statutory summary suspension “lifted,” which betrays an assumption that the legal consequences of rescission would be prospective-only and would not reach back to the time of arrest. 218 Ill.2d 375 (2006).

People v. Elliot Holding: Summary Suspension Rescission is Prospective-Only

As previously stated, the Supreme Court concluded that in relation to the crime of driving on a suspended license, a summary suspension rescission is prospective-only. The Court affirmed the defendant’s conviction for driving on suspended license. 2014 IL 115308, ¶ 21.

Although the Supreme Court’s holding relates only to a summary suspension rescission, it appears to stand for a much broader principle that any actual revocation or suspension of driver’s license, regardless of the underlying validity, is sufficient to support a conviction for driving on a revoked or suspended license. It is no defense that your driver’s license was invalidly revoked or suspended. All the prosecution must prove is that a person was driving or was in actual physical control of a motor vehicle on any highway of this State at a time when such person’s driver’s license was revoked or suspended. As such, you must have your license reinstated before you resume driving a motor vehicle.