Minor Traffic Tickets

Waukegan Traffic LawyerMinor Traffic Tickets and Suspended Licenses the Basics
– Dave Winer

The vast majority of drivers who receive minor traffic tickets simply go to Branch Court and plead guilty. Ordinarily, the judge will give supervision with a fine and/or traffic school.  On minor traffic violations this disposition is not sent to the Secretary of State and will not affect driving privileges or insurance rates.  However, if the driver mails in the fine, pays the ticket over the counter to the Clerk or fails to appear in court a conviction is entered.  The Clerk sends the conviction to the Secretary of State where it is permanently entered on the driver’s record.  These convictions may ultimately result in a suspension of their driver’s license.

There are several ways a license can be suspended by the Secretary of State.  The most common is to receive three convictions in one year.  If the driver is under 21 years old, two convictions in two years will lead to a suspension.  Other common examples arc not appearing in court, involvement in an accident and not paying the damages or failure of an emission test.  Driving on a suspended license is a Class A misdemeanor with a potential punishment of one year in jail and a fine of $2,500.00.  A driver stopped with a suspended license is arrested, booked and their car subject to being towed.  Although it is rare that a person is sentenced to jail on a suspended license, if they do not stop driving or obtain a hardship license they will continue to be arrested, ultimately be sentenced to jail and have great difficulty in restoring their driving privileges.  Many police officers in the smaller municipalities actually know which residents have suspended licenses and under prevailing law they can stop a person and arest him if the officers are aware of the suspension.  Also, an officer can run a license plate on his computer and if the owner is suspended and matches the general description of the registered owner, the officer can stop the car.

If a person receives a conviction for driving on a suspended license, the Secretary of State will double the length of the suspension. For example, an adult driver who is suspended for three months and receives a conviction for driving on a suspended license may have his suspension extended to six months. If he receives another ticket during that suspension, the time will double to one year, and so forth. I recently saw an abstract with a suspension termination date in the year 2007.  There are major differences between a suspended and revoked license. With a suspended license the Secretary of State sets a date when the suspension begins and when it ends. The type of offense and the extent of the person’s driving record determine the length of suspension. When the period of suspension is over, the driver must simply pay a reinstatement fee to the Secretary of State to have driving privileges restored. If the reinstatement fee is not paid, the license will remain suspended although the period of suspension is over. A revoked license is ordinarily based on more serious offenses such as drunk driving, reckless driving, hit and run or an accumulation of minor traffic offenses. With a revocation, there is no termination date and the license is revoked indefinitely until the driver petitions the Secretary of State for a restricted driving permit or reinstatement. Depending on the basis of the revocation, these hearings are either conducted at the Secretary of State’s office in Chicago or at a local facility. With a suspended license, the petition for a hardship license takes place at a local facility.

Often a person finds out he is suspended only after being stopped by a police officer for a minor traffic violation or after his plates have been subject to a random computer check. Although the Secretary State is mandated to send a Notice of Suspension, many people fail to receive the notice because they did not send the Secretary of State their current address. Consequently, many people learn of the suspension only after being arrested.  It can be quite an embarrassing and inconvenient experience. In fact, just a few years ago a Lake County lawyer and good friend (sorry, no names here) was returning from Woodstock one afternoon and was stopped in McHenry county for speeding. He was handcuffed, arrested and taken to the police station because of a suspended license. He was unaware that his license was suspended and had to call a friend for bond money.

All attorneys who practice traffic law must be well versed in deciphering a driving abstract, be aware of the consequences of a conviction on all different types of tickets and be familiar with the procedures in vacating the suspension or obtaining a hardship license. Ordinarily, if a driver becomes suspended after receiving a third conviction for paying the fine to the Clerk, failing to appear in court or pleading guilty pro se their attorney can file a 2-1401 Petition to Vacate the conviction and request supervision. If the Petition to Vacate is granted the Secretary of State will remove the ticket and suspension from the driving record. There was recently a local rule enacted governing this procedure. In addition to the above, there are a myriad of ways a license can become suspended or revoked, but there are several strategies and procedures available to remove a suspension or receive a hardship license. The Secretary of State’s office in Springfield is very helpful and knowledgeable, but be patient as you are often put on hold for several minutes.