To understand when you are eligible for an RDP with the Illinois Secretary of State, you must be clear about the difference between a suspension and a revocation. A suspension related to a DUI occurs because your driving record shows that you either took a blood or breath test and registered above the legal limit of .08 or refused to take a test when offered. At the end of the suspension period, your driving privileges are automatically restored unless you are convicted of the DUI charge.
Length of suspension
If this is your first DUI arrest or if any previous DUI arrests occurred more than 5 years ago, the length of your suspension will be: 6 months if you took and failed the test, or 12 months if you refused the test. During the time that your suspension is in effect, you cannot apply for an RDP. However, 30 days after your suspension takes effect, you are eligible to request an MDDP, a permit that is issued through the courts. If you had a previous DUI arrest less than 5 years ago, your suspension will be: 12 months if you took and failed the test at the time of the latest arrest, or 36 months if you refused to take the test at the time of your latest arrest. During the time that your suspension is in effect, you cannot apply for an RDP or an MDDP. You therefore cannot legally drive.
If you are convicted of the DUI charge itself, your license will be revoked. A revocation cancels any MDDP that you may have been issued. During the period of the revocation, you cannot apply for a driver's license or an MDDP. However, you may request an RDP through a hearing process involving the Secretary of State (I discuss that process in another article on my AVVO profile). Once the revocation period is over, you can apply for your full license through the Secretary of State. Notice that unlike a suspension, that ends automatically, undoing a revocation requires a hearing.
Length of revocation
Periods of revocation: If this is your first DUI conviction, the period of revocation is 1 year, unless you are under 21. In that case, it is 2 years. After the first year, you can apply for an RDP. If this is your second DUI conviction within 20 years, your revocation period is 5 years. If the convictions occurred more than 20 years apart, the revocation period is 1 year. If this is your third or more DUI conviction, regardless of how far apart they occurred, your revocation period is 10 years. But there is one important exception: if you have more than 3 DUI convictions and any of the convictions occurred as a result of a DUI arrest after January 1, 1999, you can never drive again in Illinois for any reason. All driving privileges are revoked for life. If you are convicted of reckless homicide, you cannot apply for an RDP or a full license until you have been out of jail or prison for 2 years. In any of the above situations, out of state convictions are included.