In Illinois, traffic tickets are issued by the thousands each year. Depending on the alleged traffic violation, drivers can expect to pay hundreds of dollars in fees and court costs, and in some situations could face potential jail time. Contrary to popular belief, traffic violations result in convictions that are reported on your driving record, and these convictions can have serious administrative and criminal consequences.
Traffic Violations: There are different kinds of traffic violations in Illinois. You can be stopped and ticketed for violating either a municipal ordinance or state law offense. Municipal ordinance violations are usually those written and enforced by the municipality or county and are penalized by a fine. State law traffic violations are those regulated by the state and can carry severe penalties. Traffic violations at the state level are broken into several categories—petty offense, business offense, misdemeanors and felonies.
Petty Offenses: Petty offenses include most speeding tickets, lane change violations, tickets for failing to stop at a stop sign and red-light violations. Petty offenses will result in a fine, but a judge may also issue an order of supervision (usually if the driver has a good driving record) where the driver may, in addition to paying a fine, have to attend traffic school, and comply with other conditions for a specified period of time. If the driver complies, then his or her case will be dismissed and no conviction will be reported on his or her driving record.
Misdemeanors: Like in criminal cases, traffic violations are categorized as either Class A, Class B or Class C misdemeanors.
- Class A Misdemeanors: The most serious classification under this category and often include DUI cases, driving 35 mph or more over the posted speed limit, and driving on a suspended or revoked license. The potential sentencing range for a Class A misdemeanor includes up to 364 days in county jail, two-year’s probation, conditional discharge or supervision, as well as a maximum fine of $2,500.
- Class B Misdemeanors: Includes offenses like driving on a license that has been expired for over a year and driving between 26 and 35 mph over the posted speed limit. Potential sentencing range for a Class B misdemeanor includes up to six months in county jail, two-year’s probation, conditional discharge, or supervision, as well as a maximum fine of $1,500.
- Class C Misdemeanors: Include offense like intentionally damaging or removing an official traffic sign. The potential sentencing range for a Class C misdemeanor includes up to 30 days in county jail, two-year’s probation, conditional discharge or supervision, as well as a maximum fine of $1,000.
Felonies: Traffic violations that are categorized as felony offenses are typically the more serious traffic offenses including those that resulted in serious bodily harm or injury and death. These cases are typically not handled in traffic court, and are heard in criminal court.
It is important to note that there are some situations where an individual’s driving privileges can be suspended or revoked, including when a driver has been convicted (including convictions for both petty and serious offenses) of three moving violations within a twelve-month time period. A driver can also lose his or her driving privileges for not paying fines or being convicted of repeated traffic violations.
Traffic Stop: If you are stopped by a police officer for violating a traffic law and are issued a ticket, the ticket must include:
(1) the nature of the charge;
(2) the date, time and location of the alleged violation; and
(3) the statute or ordinance you are accused of violating
The police officer will ask you to sign the ticket agreeing to appear in court on a set date and time or comply with the terms of the ticket if no court appearance is required. Some traffic offenses require your appearance, but most other traffic offenses, can be handled outside of the courtroom by paying the fee and simultaneously admitting guilt. Your signature is not an admission of guilt, rather it indicates your willingness to appear in court or otherwise pay the required fine. A police officer has the discretion to arrest you for a traffic offense even if it is for a petty offense, but arrests usually occur in cases involving more serious traffic offenses.
Traffic Court: Your ticket will indicate whether you have to appear in court, or if no appearance is required. If no appearance is required then you can either:
(1) Plead guilty, pay the fine and take the conviction;
(2) Plead guilty, pay the fine and request an order for supervision which willnot result in a conviction (assuming all conditions of supervision are met); or
(3) Plead not guilty and request a trial
Your ticket will have specific instructions for each option, so do not lose your ticket. If you request a hearing, it is wise to consult with an attorney before your initial court date. Like criminal cases, defendants are afforded certain rights in traffic cases including the right to an attorney, the right to a jury trial, the right to confront witnesses against you, the right to remain silent, and the right to appeal the judge’s decision. Consulting with an experienced traffic law attorney who can explain the penalties involved, assess your case and advise you of your options, makes you better prepared when you have to appear in court. In almost all situations, it is better to have an attorney present with you to help negotiate a deal with the prosecutor or represent you at trial. There is no need to tackle these types of cases on your own, and regardless of the classification, no one wants or should have a conviction on their driving record. If you are at risk of losing your driving privileges or wish to fight a ticket in court, Ana M. Mencini & Associates, P.C. is here to fight alongside you.