Many people in Illinois will get pulled over for one offense or another, and assume that if the officer gives them a ticket, he must have seen them do something illegal. But getting a ticket is not an admission of guilt, it is just an accusation.
Many residents of Springfield will just pay the fine, which essentially is an admission of guilt. But if a driver chooses to show up in court, they are banking on the possibility that the officer will be a no-show. Sometimes it is worth it to fight the charges, depending on the nature of them, the severity of the penalties and how the violation could affect your driver record or insurance premiums.
What happens in traffic court?
Although some appearances in traffic court are mandatory for accusations of DUI, reckless driving and other offenses, a driver who chooses to appear in court for a more minor offense is exercising their right to confront the ticketing officer. If the officer does not show, the judge will likely dismiss the charges.
The driver also has the right to an attorney, and they may wish to go this route if the penalties on conviction will include jail time, fines and community service, all of which would negatively impact their driving record.
In Illinois, the two main categories of traffic charges are petty or misdemeanor offenses. There are three classes of misdemeanor charges, and the penalties can range from 30 days to one year in prison and fines of up to $2,500. The violation can include:
- aggressive speeding
- driving on a revoked or expired license
- repeated moving violations
A petty offense incurs a fine only, and may be for violations such as speeding, running a red light, or an illegal lane change. If the individual has a good driving record, they may undergo a period supervision, during which they pay the fine and attend traffic school, after which the court will dismiss charges and the conviction will not appear on their driving record.
How can I fight the charges?
As mentioned earlier, drivers who show up in court may get lucky if the officer isn’t there, as the judge will most probably dismiss the charges. There are some charges, such as following too closely or driving just above the speed limit, where the driver may challenge officer’s subjective judgement. For a stop sign or red-light violation, a successful defense may be to suggest that the officer was not at a vantage point to clearly see if it was a rolling stop or a yellow light. These and other defenses can make it worthwhile to fight the charges.