Fight Traffic Ticket in IllinoisPage Overview
(Plead Guilty or No Contest)
- Pay the fine
- Potential option to plea bargain and lesser penalties
- Potential option to attend traffic school to avoid the conviction
- Incur points on your driving record (could lead to license suspension/revocation)
- Possibly incur increase on auto insurance rates
Learn more about
Paying your Traffic Ticket »
(Plead Not Guilty)
- Contest traffic ticket at a hearing
- Hire an attorney or represent yourself
- Possibly lose option to plea bargain for lesser penalties
- No penalties if found guilty, but must pay court/attorney fees
- Possibility to attend traffic school to avoid incurring a violation and points on your driving record
Pleading not guilty and fighting your traffic ticket means making a case for your innocence in court. The exact steps will vary depending on where you received the ticket and the nature of your violation, of course, but basically you’ll work to convince the judge you’re not guilty.
Some judges give drivers who plead guilty the option to plead to lesser charges (thus, deal with lesser penalties), and some drivers are allowed to attend traffic school in order to avoid a conviction on their records. Even though this option isn’t standard (it’s decided on a case-by-case basis), you should be aware that pleading not guilty and requesting a hearing generally voids any potential for the option.
Pleading Guilty or No Contest
As long as there are no extenuating circumstances (alcohol, controlled substances, or an exorbitant number of driving record points), most moving violations can be handled with a quick guilty plea and fine payment. You may or may not have to appear in court.
Some judges allow drivers who plead guilty to attend traffic school to avoid convictions on their records.
Check our section on paying your traffic ticket to learn more.
Avoid Additional Charges
You’ll be given a specific amount of time to respond to your traffic ticket; typically, this is about 30 days, though the courts often advise you to allow anywhere from seven to 10 days for processing.
Generally, failure to respond within the allotted amount of time means an automatic guilty verdict. You won’t get back any bond you posted, and your license likely will be suspended. You’ll have to pay your traffic ticket fine, as well as any additional late fees.
If your ticket doesn’t state how much time you have, contact your court.
Determine Where to Plead
Usually, tickets include detailed information about where to plead, i.e. which court to schedule a hearing with, but Illinois provides online information about the various courts, including their addresses and contact information.
If you’ve lost your ticket and aren’t sure how to respond, visit our Lost Traffic Ticket section.
Inform the Court
Again, your ticket will most likely include information on how to inform the court of your decision to contest the ticket. Typically, you’ll select a box marked “Plead Guilty and Request Date for Trial,” or something similar, and mail the ticket to the court. You may be required to make a phone call or appear in person, though.
Once the court receives your plea, it will provide you with a court date.
Rescheduling or Postponing Your Hearing
It’s not common for courts to grant continuances on hearings for traffic tickets punishable by fines only; requests are typically handled on a case-by-case basis and must be made in person at the court. Most courts suggest retaining the services of a traffic ticket attorney when making a continuance request.
Penalties can vary by county, but generally if you fail to appear in court on your scheduled hearing date, you’ll receive an ex parte judgment of conviction. Basically, you’re found guilty and will have to pay your fines. The court will notify you of this decision, as well as provide you with information about how long you have to pay your fine and how you can file a motion to vacate an ex parte judgment.
Even if you don’t need assistance rescheduling your court date, it’s a good hire a traffic ticket attorney. A skilled attorney with experience in traffic law cases can help you better make your case to the judge.
Once you know your hearing date, it’s time to start preparing your case.
Generally, traffic court hearings involve testimonies, evidence, and witnesses from both you and the police officer who cited you. Use your time wisely to collect evidence that proves you’re innocent, talk with any witnesses who were present, and prepare your own testimony.
At the hearing, both you and the police officer will be given opportunities to make your cases. Generally, you can present evidence, witnesses, and testimonies. If you aren’t comfortable speaking in court, your hired traffic ticket lawyer can speak on your behalf.
After everyone has made his or her case, the judge will make a judgment. A not guilty verdict typically means you can go home and put the whole thing behind you; however, if you’re found guilty, the judge will notify you of all applicable ticket fines and penalties.
Filing an Appeal
Most drivers are given the opportunity to appeal a judgment. If you receive a guilty verdict, your judge, clerk, or attorney will provide you with information about filing an appeal with the court.
No matter the verdict, it’s a good idea to check your driving record to make sure no points were added (in the case of a not guilty verdict) or that the appropriate number of points were added (if you were found guilty).
Our section on the IL point system explains how points can affect your driving record―and privilege.
Traffic tickets are a common reason for auto insurance companies to increase rates, so if you were found guilty, talk with your provider about how the verdict might affect your insurance costs, and then start comparing auto insurance rates online to find a better deal.Other Topics in This Section