For most people the most common experience with the legal system is a traffic violation or an auto accident. If you are not familiar with your rights and how these events might affect your driving privileges, it can be very costly; especially for young drivers.
The following is a brief discussion of the policy and procedures surrounding most traffic tickets in Illinois. The law may vary in other States.
In most cases, if you pay a ticket by mail or plead guilty in court, a conviction is entered upon your driving record. A record of all convictions is maintained by the Secretary of State. Most States report any convictions to the State that issued your license. Therefore, even out-of-state tickets or accidents may affect your driving privileges.
If you receive three or more violations within a 12-month period, your license may be suspended. Even one serious violation could cause a suspension and/or revocation of driving privileges.
If you are under 21 and receive two or more violations within a 24-month period, your license may be suspended. Again, even one serious violation or alcohol-related offense may cause a suspension and/or revocation of your driving privileges.
Your driving record may be obtained by your insurance carrier. Most, if not all, insurance companies rate insurance premiums based upon the number of accidents and tickets you have had. Therefore, if a conviction is entered, this most likely will cause you to pay significantly higher insurance premiums for several years; particularly if the conviction involves a young driver.
Several local courts (circuits) have established a procedure to request Court Supervision by mail with the payment of a fine provided you have not had any other tickets for the past 12 months. You do not need a lawyer nor do you need to appear in court for this. However, you must read the eligibility requirements very carefully. If you apply for it but do not qualify, a conviction is usually entered without further notice to you. This will then be reported to the Secretary of State.
Court Supervision is a procedure whereby the court allows you to plead guilty to the offense butdoes not enter a conviction.
The major advantage of “supervision” is that no report is made to the Secretary of State, therefore, your official driving record remains “clear”.
As indicated above, if you have not had prior tickets, you usually can apply for “supervision” by mail without a lawyer. If, however, an accident or a serious violation is involved or if you have had “supervision” previously, you should immediately consult an attorney before you pay the ticket or even appear in court.
Even if you feel you are guilty or have received supervision previously, an experienced attorney may be able to negotiate for supervision again. This would still keep your record “clear”. Often times the fee assessed by the attorney will be more than justified by the savings in lower insurance premiums.
Consult a Lawyer
If an accident is involved, you should never plead guilty without consulting a lawyer. Although you may feel responsible or the police may even believe you are responsible, this is not necessarily the case. A plea of guilty in traffic court might make you legally liable for any claims for personal injury and/or property damage made at a later date.
It is best to consult with an attorney when possible before making any statements, regarding the accident, to anyone (even your own insurance provider).
We do not charge an initial consultation fee, therefore please do not hesitate to contact our office if you have any legal questions. Although we handle most legal matters, even if we do not assist you personally, we will always attempt to find someone who is knowledgeable and competent in the field to represent you.