Fight Traffic Ticket in Illinois

SUMMARY: How to Fight an Illinois Traffic Ticket

If you are going to fight your IL traffic ticket, you'll need to submit your " not guilty" plea in court. Your traffic ticket will have complete instructions, or you can the appropriate county court directly for information.

Fight Your Illinois Traffic Ticket

Pay Ticket
(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 »

Fight 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.

What It Means to Fight Your Illinois Traffic Ticket

In Illinois, pleading "not guilty" and fighting your IL 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 moving 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 IL driving 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 in Illinois

As long as there are no extenuating circumstances ( alcohol, controlled substances, or an exorbitant number of driving record points), most moving violations in Illinois can be handled with a quick "guilty" plea and fine payment. You may or may not have to appear in IL traffic court.

Some judges may allow you to attend traffic school to avoid a conviction on your driving record if you plead "guilty."

Check our section on paying your Illinois traffic ticket to learn more.

Avoid Additional Charges

You'll be given a specific amount of time to respond to your traffic ticket in IL.

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 driver's license likely will be suspended. You'll have to pay your traffic ticket fine, as well as any additional late fees.

If your traffic ticket doesn't state how much time you have, contact the Illinois court handling your case.

Notify the Illinois Traffic Court

Determine Where to Plead

Usually, traffic tickets include detailed information about where to plead; i.e., which court to schedule a hearing with. In Illinois, you can also check online for court addresses and contact information.

If you've lost your traffic ticket and aren't sure how to respond, visit our Lost Traffic Ticket section.

Inform the Traffic Court

Again, your IL traffic ticket will most likely include information on how to inform the court of your decision to fight 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, you will be provided with a court date.

Rescheduling or Postponing Your Court Hearing

It's not common for traffic 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 in court. Most courts suggest retaining the services of a traffic ticket attorney when making a continuance request.

Penalties can vary by Illinois 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.

Hire an Illinois Traffic Ticket Attorney

Even if you don't need assistance with rescheduling your court date, it might be a good idea to hire a traffic ticket attorney. A skilled attorney with experience in Illinois traffic law cases can help you better make your case to the judge.

Prepare Your Case

Once you know your court hearing date, it's time to start preparing your case.

In Illinois, traffic court hearings generally 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.

Plead Your Case Before a Judge or Jury

At the hearing, both you and the police officer will be given opportunities to make your cases. Typically, you can present evidence, witnesses, and testimonies. If you aren't comfortable speaking in traffic 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 in Illinois

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.

Check Your IL Driving Record

No matter the verdict, it's a good idea to check your driving record in Illinois 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.

Shop for Better Auto Insurance Rates

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.

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