(Last updated March 12, 2019)

If you are charged with DUI in Illinois, the Secretary of State can automatically suspend your driver’s license—but only if you were on a “public highway.”

The law defines a “public highway” as “The entire width between the boundary lines of every way publicly maintained when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel or located on public school property.” (625 ILCS 5/1-126.)

A parking lot may be a public highway even if it is on private property. For example, a Metra train parking lot, maintained by a municipality, is a public highway. However, a grocery store parking lot is not a public highway if the lot is privately owned and is not maintained by the municipality. A restaurant lot is also not a public highway where it is fenced and privately maintained and signs indicate parking is for patrons only.

The defendant has the burden of proving they were not on a public highway. In People v Helt, the driver lost because she did not present evidence as to whether the Jewel grocery store parking lot was publicly owned or maintained. Again in People v. Relwani, the defendant failed to show proof that a Walgreen’s parking lot was either publicly owned or maintained. The court reasoned that “Something
as simple as evidence of a posted ‘private property’ sign may, in the proper
circumstances, suffice to satisfy the prima facie burden of proof in a rescission
action, shifting the burden to present evidence on the lot’s ‘public highway’ status
to the State.”

If you are charged with DUI, you should consult an experienced DUI attorney immediately. An attorney can file a petition seeking to overturn your automatic driver’s license suspension. If the petition is granted, then you will not lose your driving privileges. While the petition may be a long shot, the odds of success depend on how quickly you act after your DUI arrest.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

About mdkeenan

A criminal and school law attorney with over 17 years of experience, I have successfully represented clients all over the Chicago area. My practice includes DUI, felony, criminal, misdemeanor, homicide, internet crime, retail theft, traffic offenses, cyberstalking, drug crimes, weapons violations, domestic battery and juvenile crime. I also represent families involving school cases. My clients come from all over the Chicago area including Skokie, Wilmette, Niles, Northbrook, Glenview, Evanston, Winnetka, Highland park, Northfield, Park Ridge, Des Plaines and Mount Prospect. I am a member of the ACLU and the Illinois State Bar Association. I serve as a volunteer for First Defense Legal Aid. Se habla espanol.
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