Can a Person with Special Needs Keep His Driver’s License Even If He Has a Guardian?

Can a Person with Special Needs Keep His Driver's License Even If He Has a Guardian?

Maintaining independence and stability for people with special needs strongly motivates many decisions about their lives, including the most appropriate form of transportation. People who have special needs and their families should be aware that guardianships can significantly change their ability to keep a driver’s license and operate a motor vehicle.

If you and your family are considering a guardianship to oversee personal and financial affairs for a family member with special needs, know that people subject to plenary guardianships – meaning that a guardian makes all decisions for them in the personal and/or financial realms – cannot hold a driver’s license under Illinois law. If the person with special needs holds a driver’s license at the time the guardianship goes into effect, it becomes void, and he or she cannot seek to obtain one later.

In contrast, people subject to limited guardianships may hold licenses. Many families choose a limited guardianship so that the family member with special needs can continue to drive. As an example, a limited guardianship might permit decision-making only as to medical and financial affairs, and driving is outside that scope. However, courts are often reluctant to grant limited guardianships when the list of “limited” affairs that the guardian decides is more than a few items.

Illinois law has a few other restrictions on holding driver’s licenses that impact people with special needs. You must disclose any physical and mental conditions that may affect your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle to the Secretary of State’s office when you apply for or apply to renew a license. The Secretary of State will then require you to submit a medical report from your doctor. This report determines whether you can receive the license or whether you should have restrictions placed on your license. You must pay for the doctor visit and the report.

If the medical report raises any questions about your ability to drive safely, the Illinois Medical Advisory Board reviews the application and medical report. The board physicians then decide which restrictions should be put in place. You may need to carry a medical restriction card, such as if you use prosthetics or hand controls to operate a vehicle, or sign a medical agreement, such as if you must remain under doctor’s care for a medical condition to maintain your license.

Rubin Law is the only law firm in Illinois exclusively limited to providing compassionate special needs legal and future planning to guide our fellow Illinois families of children and adults with intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, or mental illness down the road to peace of mind. For more information, email us at or call 866-TO-RUBIN.