Penalties for Traffic Violations

Lake County Juvenile Criminal Defense AttorneyTraffic violations range in seriousness from a parking violation, carrying a maximum fine of $100.00 , to a felony offense resulting in a prison sentence of more than 10 years.   The penalties for all violations are set by the state, county or municipal government passing the law.

Violations established by county or municipal governments are contained in ordinances.  These are called quasi-criminal offenses.  If a person is found guilty of violating an ordinance the penalty is usually a fine.   However, in some instances an ordinance may provide for a jail sentence. 

Violations of state law are classified as either petty offenses, business offenses, Class A, B or C misdemeanor or felony offenses.  Felony traffic offenses are generally not heard in traffic court and therefore will not be discussed here.

The range of penalties for cases heard in traffic court are:

Petty Offense:  

Fine of $1 to $1,000
examples: speeding, disobeying a red light
Business Offense:  

Fine set by law creating each offense
example: driving without insurance

Class A:  Jail up to 364 days or fine of $1 to $2,500 or both
examples: driving under the influence, driving on a suspended or revoked license or speeding 40 or more miles over the speed limit

Class B:  Jail up to 6 months or fine of $1 to $1,500 or both
example: to advertise or distribute any information or material that promotes the selling, giving or furnishing of a fraudulent driver’s license or permit

Class C:  Jail up to 30 days or fine of $1 to $1,500 or both
example: third conviction for a petty offense traffic violation within one year 
In addition, a conviction of certain traffic violations will result in license sanctions.

If your ticket is marked “YOU MUST APPEAR” or “COURT APPEARANCE REQUIRED” that means the violator must appear in court on the date and time indicated.  The Illinois Supreme Court requires individuals cited for violations which create a great potential for harm or carry mandatory minimum penalties to appear in court to answer the charges.

These cases are scheduled by the police officer issuing the ticket in accordance with Supreme Court Rule 504.  The date selected must be not less that 14 days nor more than 60 days after the violation has occurred.

Traffic violations requiring a court appearance are distinguished in the following way:  (1) those for which the only punishment on conviction is a fine, and (2) those for which the punishment on conviction can be a jail sentence. 

Traffic violations that can result in a jail sentence are known as misdemeanors.

The court processes misdemeanor traffic offenses differently from traffic violations that are punishable by fine only.

Traffic Violations Punishable by Fine Only

The following is a list of the most frequently cited violations punishable by fine only that require a court appearance:

  • failing to secure a child in a moving vehicle
  • driving without a valid license or permit
  • driving an uninsured vehicle
  • passing a school bus while loading children
  • speeding in excess of 30 mph but not over 40 mph over limit
  • speeding in school zone when children are present
  • speeding in construction zone when workers are present
  • violation of cruising zones
  • using an alley as a through street in violation of signs
  • failing to yield to an emergency vehicle

Misdemeanor Traffic Offenses

Traffic violations classified as misdemeanors can be punishable by a fine, a jail sentence or both. Persons charged with such offenses should consult an attorney immediately.

The most commonly prosecuted misdemeanor traffic offenses include the following:

The initial court date for a traffic violation classified as misdemeanor is an arraignment date.  This is not a trial date.  Persons charged with a misdemeanor should appear in court with an attorney.

When a Driver Fails to Appear in Court on Misdemeanor Traffic Offenses

If a person is charged with a misdemeanor traffic offense and fails to appear in court, in most instances the following will occur:

  • the judge will issue a warrant for that person’s arrest;
  • the bail deposited will be forfeited and the case will be continued for the entry of a judgment of the bond forfeiture; and
  • the Clerk of the Circuit Court will notify the defendant of the new court date.

On the continued date, a judgment will be entered in favor of the People of the State of Illinois for the full amount of the bail.  For example, if the bail is set at $3,000.00 and is secured by a $300.00 deposit, the judgment will be for $3,000.00.  Similarly, if the defendant is released on an individual recognizance bond or I-bond, the judgment will be for the full value of the promised amount.

Notice of the entry of a judgment on a bond forfeiture is sent to the Illinois Secretary of State and has the same effect on driving privileges as a conviction after a plea or trial.  In other words, driving privileges will be suspended or revoked in the same manner as they would have after trial and conviction.

Those who have had a warrant issued against them may:

  • appear in court and request that the warrant be recalled; or
  • surrender at the local police station and post the required bail

ATTENTION:  After the warrant is issued, a defendant can be arrested at any time.  Do not wait until the judgment date to take action.