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Legal Help for your Traffic Violation In Chicago

What is a Traffic Violation?

Traffic Violations in ChicagoA traffic violation, generally, is any offense that is charged under the Illinois Vehicle Code, or under one of many local ordinances (local laws for cities such as Chicago, which often look identical to sections of the Illinois Vehicle Code). As one might expect, traffic violations involve the movement of cars, trucks, and motorcycles, although the code also covers other types of motorized vehicles as well. Most traffic violations also require that the motor vehicle be on a public highway, which is defined as any publicly-maintained roadway, street, alleyway, etc.

Speeding, disobeying traffic control devices, driving without a valid license, driving with a suspended or revoked license, and a host of other violations are all examples of traffic offenses that must have occurred on a public highway in order for a police officer to legally pull you over and for you to be prosecuted in court.

Since 1990, former traffic prosecutor Mitchell Sexner and his legal team have successfully defended thousands of traffic matters. Call today for free information at (800) 996-4824.

Do You Have to Drive on a Road to Get a Ticket?

Not all violations under the vehicle code require the driver to be on a street, and some relate to the use of motor vehicles in areas that are not even considered "public." These types of tickets can often be successfully prosecuted against you in court as long as the offense is alleged to have occurred within the State of Illinois.

The most common offense that doesn’t need to be on a public road is Driving Under the Influence (DUI). It is unlawful to be operating or in actual physical control of an automobile anywhere within the State of Illinois. This includes your own land or place where you live or stay. In fact, in Illinois, you don’t even have to be actually driving an automobile to be charged with a DUI! You only need only be in "actual physical control." Generally, this means being inside the automobile with the ignition keys accessible, so that you could simply start up the car and drive at any moment. As a matter of fact, there are even instances where a driver might be considered "in actual physical control of a car" when not even inside, depending on circumstantial evidence (such as when the car is in a ditch, and a lone person is walking away with all appearances that he or she must have driven the car into the ditch). Believe it or not, you can be charged with a DUI for being drunk while sleeping in the back seat of your car (which is not even running) when it’s parked on the front lawn of your own house! Strange but true!

There are other traffic offenses in the code that do not require being on a public road, mostly related to vehicle registration violations and possession of unassigned or incomplete title certification.

Does the Police Officer Have to See Me Driving?

The vast majority of traffic violations result from a police officer personally witnessing an incident and immediately affecting a traffic stop. But some charges are brought later based upon:

  • An after-the-fact investigation that leads to an arrest.
  • An accident scene investigation and interview of witnesses.
  • An alert from another citizen identifying a driver and/or a vehicle that then leads to arrest.
  • An anonymous tip to 911 that a specific car appears to contain an intoxicated motorist.
  • Video evidence, either from traffic control cameras or "bad neighborhood cameras" (those blue box cameras posted in high-crime areas, like around Chicago).
  • Squad car cameras (if the driver got away from police at the time).

Who Will Be the Prosecutor on My Traffic Violation?

When you’re been charged with a traffic violation, the prosecutor (who is the government attorney trying to punish you in court) may be either the State’s Attorney’s Office for that county or a local prosecutor. The State’s Attorney is usually the prosecutor and usually prosecutes all serious criminal and traffic cases, but not always.

Some cities like Chicago have what is called "home rule," which allows for the local governmental authority to prosecute such matters themselves with their own "local prosecuto" and with their own book of laws called "local ordinances" as an "ordinance violation." But it also gives them the option to charge you under provisions of the Illinois Vehicle Code. Some believe that a factor in deciding whether to prosecute locally is revenue production, as local jurisdictions collect a greater percentage of fines imposed under their own laws than under state law.

However, there are some limitations. For example, if a person has been arrested for what would be his third or subsequent DUI offense, before a local authority can charge it as a misdemeanor ordinance violation, they must obtain a release from the State’s Attorney’s Office. This is because a third or subsequent DUI under Illinois Vehicle Code provisions is a Class 2 felony or higher, punishable by imprisonment with mandatory periods of incarceration. Municipalities may not bring felony charges by way of a local ordinance; they may only charge petty and misdemeanor offenses in that manner. Therefore, a local authority may not charge what might otherwise be a felony DUI as a local misdemeanor without the consent of the State’s Attorney’s Office.

What Are Penalties for Traffic Violations?

Among the various types of traffic violations that can be brought, there are petty offenses, misdemeanors, and felonies.

Petty offenses are only punishable by a fine and no period of incarceration may be imposed.

Misdemeanors can be punished by a period of jail time up to 364 days in jail for a Class A misdemeanor, six months for a Class B, or 30 days for a Class C. They are also punishable with periods of probation, conditional discharge, or court supervision, all of which might include fines, court costs, assessments, community service, traffic school, risk assessments, education, counseling, attendance at a victim impact panel, etc.

Felonies are punishable by a period of imprisonment in an Illinois Department of Corrections prison facility for a period of one to three years for a Class 4; up to six to 30 years for a Class X felony. Other than Class X felonies and certain offenses designated as "non-probationable" (multiple-offense DUI, for example), felonies may also be sentenced to probation or conditional discharge with like conditions. Felonies are never eligible for court supervision.

Supervision is a disposition allowed for most traffic violations and does not constitute a conviction that appears on one’s public driving record. Under Illinois law, a motorist is eligible to receive supervision for up to two separate moving violations within a 12-month period, but after that, a third or subsequent moving violation would require a mandatory conviction. In the case of people who possess a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), any finding of guilty on a moving violation that resulted in fines, court costs, community service, or other penalties constitutes a "conviction" that appears on their public records, even where they received court supervision and even when they were off-duty, driving a standard automobile.

How Do Equipment Violations and Moving Violations Differ?

When referring to petty offenses, there are basically two types: moving violations and equipment violations. Moving violations involve the actual operation of (or "physical control of" in the case of DUI and Driving While License Suspended or Revoked cases) a motor vehicle. A conviction for a moving violation will be entered onto one’s public driving record for insurance companies and potential employers to see. For persons under the age of 21, two separate moving violation convictions committed within 24 months of each other will result in a suspension of driving privileges for anywhere from three to 12 months. If the violations were severe enough, a revocation of privileges for a minimum of 12 months might occur. For those over the age of 21, it takes three separate convictions within a 12-month period to achieve the same suspension or revocation.

Equipment violations involve a violation of equipment requirements on vehicles being owned and operated in Illinois, such as having broken windshields, unsafe tires, non-working headlights and taillights, improper registration, and so on. Failure to wear a seat belt is an equipment violation. The great benefit of receiving an equipment violation instead of a moving violation is that a conviction, or even two or three such convictions, will not ordinarily cause any suspension or revocation.

Operating an automobile while using a hand-held cellular device, on the other hand, is a moving violation. In instances where a driver is not eligible for supervision on a moving violation or where the driver possesses a CDL, it is infinitely preferable to seek a disposition on an equipment violation, even for a conviction and heavier fine, than to take the conviction on a moving violation.

As for felony and misdemeanor violations, they all have a profound effect on one’s driving privileges, typically a suspension or revocation of those privileges.

Get Top-Rated Legal Assistance from a Chicago Traffic Violation Lawyer

Whether you are charged with a petty offense, misdemeanor, or felony traffic violation, the Chicago defense attorneys at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC have the knowledge, experience, and determination to aggressively defend your case. Even where the evidence against you appears to be strong, our lawyers will look into all of the underlying facts to determine whether a defense exists.

Perhaps the police lacked sufficient "probable cause" to stop or arrest you. Perhaps the unlawful stop or arrest led to the discovery of evidence that the State will seek to use against you. In those instances, we will pursue a motion to suppress and bar anything and everything obtained in violation of your rights. In other instances, the prosecution’s case may have gaps that allow for reasonable doubt. In those instances, our lawyers will aggressively defend you at a trial on the merits. Even in cases that appear to be "unwinnable," our lawyers have a track record of obtaining the best possible results for our clients.

So if you are charged with a traffic violation or any other criminal matter, call the Chicago criminal defense lawyers at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at (800) 996-4824. We offer a free initial consultation, and with offices located in Chicago and Arlington Heights, a confidential, no-obligation appointment is just one phone call away.

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