JOLIET – Court records show a former Joliet high school driving instructor avoided having his license suspended over a driving under the influence charge in 2014.
But Nowak's 2014 arrest on a DUI charge has raised questions over how that could’ve slipped past the notice of Joliet Township High School District 204 or Illinois State Board of Education officials.
The Illinois Secretary of State issued Nowak a suspension of his driver’s license following his 2014 arrest. But before the suspension could take effect, Nowak’s attorney sought to rescind it, arguing Nowak was not properly placed under arrest or warned, and that he did not refuse to submit or complete a chemical test.
A Will County judicial review ruled in favor of Nowak because of a due process violation and directed the Secretary of State to rescind the suspension of his driver’s license. Nowak, a Shorewood resident, was placed under court supervision for a year, fined $1,250 and ordered to attend a victim impact panel and counseling.
The suspension of Nowak's license might’ve been flagged by the Illinois State Board of Higher Education. The state agency verifies if an instructor’s license is valid and in good standing unless it is revoked, suspended, expired, canceled or has restrictions placed on it.
District 204 officials have said that since they’ve found they cannot rely on ISBE’s driver instructor eligibility system, they will run motor vehicle background checks on driving instructors every semester.
ISBE Spokeswoman Jackie Matthews said in an email the eligibility system is “not a background check system.”
The system uses driver’s license information from the Secretary of State. ISBE updates the system if there’s a change to the instructor’s driver’s license, Matthews said.
ISBE deactivates the instructor in the system if they are identified as having an invalid license and notifies the district superintendent they are not permitted to provide driver education instruction, she said.
Secretary of State spokesman Dave Druker said a school district would be able to know about an instructor’s record if they either review the instructor’s court records or request the instructor to provide a private driving abstract, which in Nowak’s case would have shown the rescission of his driver’s license suspension.
In Nowak’s 2014 case, his attorney also sought to suppress evidence gained from Nowak’s arrest, which his attorney argued was illegal and made without a valid arrest warrant or probable cause.
According to New Lenox police’s citation for Nowak’s arrest, the arresting officer described him as having bloodshot eyes, a strong odor of alcohol emitting from his breath and confused speech.