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What Are Illinois Traffic Court Records?

Illinois traffic court records refer to the legal documents and case files created from the proceedings of the traffic courts in Illinois. These include records related to moving violations and non-moving under the motor vehicle code within the state of Illinois.

Are Illinois Traffic Court Records Public Records?

As is the case with all other states, Illinois traffic court records are public records under the public access to information law and may be accessed and viewed by members of the public, except where these records have been restricted from public access by a judge.

Getting a Traffic Ticket in Illinois

An Illinois traffic ticket also called a Uniform Traffic ticket, is usually a computer-generated long-form issued for traffic violations. This represents a sworn statement from the officer describing the infraction, misdemeanor, or felony observed. It is issued by a state or municipal police department officer and will be completed by the officer.

What’s contained in a Uniform Traffic Ticket?

Traffic tickets generally provide information about the individual and charge. It includes (but is not limited to):

  • The bio-data of the offender (full legal name)
  • Date of birth
  • Social security number
  • Physical & mailing addresses (if different)
  • Details of the license and vehicle involved
  • Nature of the charge being cited
  • The location where the alleged offense occurred
  • Date and time of the offense
  • Statute or ordinance the offender is accused of violating

Do All Traffic Tickets Require a Court Appearance?

Not all tickets mandate a visit to court. There are two boxes printed on every traffic ticket in Illinois: “Court Appearance Required” or “No Court Appearance Required.” When issuing a citation, a police officer is required to mark one of the boxes. If a court appearance is required, this will also be indicated on the ticket, along with the date and time of the appearance. This should be strictly adhered to, as failure to appear may lead to extra consequences, up to suspension and revocation of your license.

After receiving the ticket, you will be asked to sign the ticket, indicating an agreement to appear in court on a set date and time or comply with the terms of the ticket if no court appearance is required. 

Note that your signature may not be considered an admission of guilt; it usually indicates your willingness to appear in court or otherwise pay the required fine. A police officer may arrest you for a traffic offense, even if it is petty, but arrests usually only occur in cases of more serious offenses.

Illinois traffic tickets may have financial repercussions, including penalty fines and court fees. The offender may also have the conviction added to their driving record, which can lead to license suspension or revocation. Fines vary by violation (determined by presiding laws and statutes), so a fine for speeding above the designated limit will differ from a fine for a DUI. Court fees are applicable.

What are the Different Types of Traffic Violations?

Traffic violations are classified as moving and non-moving violations. Moving violations are traffic laws violated by a vehicle in motion, while Non-moving violations relate to parking or faulty violations. Non-moving violations also tend to occur when the car is moving, but they are differentiated by the treatment of the courts and Department of Licensing, as non-moving violations are not reported to the Department of Licensing.

How Long Do Traffic Tickets Stay on Your Illinois Driving Record?

According to the Illinois Secretary of State, traffic tickets for moving violations will stay on your Illinois driving record for four to five years from the date of conviction. Traffic tickets that result in a suspension or revocation will stay on your driving record for at least seven years from the date of license reinstatement. Convictions for alcohol and drug-related offenses (i.e. DUI) will permanently remain on your Illinois driving record. Only court supervision or dismissal will prevent a traffic ticket from appearing on your public driving record in Illinois.

What to Do When You Get a Traffic Ticket in Illinois?

After receiving a traffic ticket in Illinois, and if your traffic ticket indicates that you are not required to appear in court, you have three options:

  • Plead guilty and pay the traffic ticket without going to court, but this guarantees that you will receive a conviction on your driving record.
  • Plead guilty and request an order of supervision, pay the required fine, and attend traffic safety school.
  • Plead not guilty and request a trial.

If you choose to plead not guilty, you must notify the court. You will then receive a court date.

If you are cited for a more serious petty violation and your ticket indicates a court appearance is required, then your appearance in court is mandatory. Failure to do so will result in a verdict being rendered in your absence, which you must heed.

There is also the possibility of settling the violation before it reaches the court, i.e., before the due date indicated on the ticket; for this to occur, the driver may have to pay the fine and simultaneously admit guilt. This can be done at the scene with the ticketing officer. Proceeding in this manner may result in a conviction on the driver’s record for the citation.

How Do I find Illinois Traffic Court Records?

Traffic court records may be available online, on each county circuit court’s website, or on third-party websites such as CourtRecords.Us. In all jurisdictions, the public may gain access to physical court records by approaching the custodian of all such records, the circuit court clerk’s office. To view or obtain physical traffic court records from any court, the applicant may visit the court clerk’s office where the case was filed and the records were created. The applicant may be able to look through the records free of charge if they do not request a copy. Copying of court records may attract fees.

Publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:

  • The name of someone involved, providing it is not a juvenile
  • The assumed location of the record in question, such as a city, county, or state name

Third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.

What Information is Required to Obtain Illinois Traffic Court Records?

Any person interested in obtaining traffic court records must provide necessary information such as the first and last name of the person whose traffic court records are requested. Depending on the type of record required, whether an abbreviated or a complete abstract, the interested person may be required to provide valid identification for verification of their identity. Payment of court fees, if and where applicable, is also a prerequisite for obtaining court records in Illinois.

Are all Traffic Violations Handled the Same Way in Illinois?

The fines and penalties for various Illinois traffic violations and infractions differ depending on the nature of the offense. However, the process for handling a citation is executed in the same manner, regardless of the type or severity of the citation. So, while the fine associated with not wearing a seatbelt will probably be less than the fine for a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated), the process for responding to both citations and the subsequent processes will be the same.

Can Illinois Traffic Records be Sealed or Expunged?

Starting from January 1, 2010, it became impossible to expunge or seal most traffic tickets, as the ability to do this had been abused, primarily by commercial drivers. According to the new statute, “The court shall not order the sealing or expungement of records of minor traffic offenses unless the petitioner was arrested and released without charging”. Under the statute, a “minor traffic offense” is any petty offense, business offense, or Class C misdemeanor under the Illinois Vehicle Code or a similar municipal or local ordinance provision. However, it may be possible to seal or expunge more serious misdemeanors.

How Does One End Up in an Illinois State Traffic Court?

You end up in an Illinois state traffic court after receiving a traffic ticket from a ticketing officer, and he indicates on the ticket that a court appearance is required. This usually occurs when the offense is considered more serious than a minor traffic violation.

You can also end up in traffic court if the ticketing officer indicates no court appearance is required on the ticket and:

  • Choose to plead guilty but want to request an order of supervision or
  • Choose to plead not guilty and want to request a trial.

Both instances require an appearance in court to enter these pleas. Also, a notification must be sent to the court prior if you wish to plead not guilty. A date for the trial will be set at this stage, which you must be present for or risk having a verdict reached in your absence that will be binding on you.

Which Courts in Illinois Have Jurisdiction To Hear Traffic Violation Matters?

Traffic cases are assigned for hearing in the municipal district where the violation was alleged to have occurred. The Municipal Department of the county circuit court where the violation occurs hears all non-felony cases claiming violations of traffic laws.

Contesting a Traffic Ticket in Illinois

Contesting or fighting a traffic ticket means the defendant pleads “not guilty” to the charge(s). To enter this plea, the motorist has to request a contested hearing at the relevant court to enter this plea. In Illinois, most traffic cases involve bench trials where the judge alone hears the matter based on the presented facts. The motorist also has the right to a jury trial when accused of a traffic offense, regardless of how severe it is.  

What to Expect in Illinois Traffic Court

Witnesses, the arresting officer, and even the motorist must take an oath to tell the truth about the incident. The arresting officer and prosecution witnesses testify first; then the motorist and defense witnesses go next. Generally, the burden of proof lies on the prosecution, but in the case of municipal ordinance violations like speeding on local roads, the standard is the weight of the offense. So, it is more likely for the motorist to be found guilty of the offense. However, in the case of violations of state law, the burden of proof on the prosecution is beyond a reasonable doubt.  

After hearing from both sides, the judge or jury decides whether the prosecution proved its case. If the court finds the motorist guilty of a minor traffic offense, the sentence may consist of a fine, court costs, and traffic school under a court supervision order. If the motorist is found guilty of a severe traffic violation, the sentence may involve community service, probation, or jail time. At the point of sentencing, the court sets a date for paying fines and other fees.

How to Prepare for Illinois Traffic Court

Ticketed motorists are advised to consult a traffic attorney before deciding on a traffic ticket. This may be considered the most critical aspect of preparing for traffic court. After assessing the situation and implications of the incident, an attorney may advise the person on the next best steps to take. Getting legal representation for even the smallest traffic offenses can make a huge difference in a person’s case. Going to court without understanding the consequences of a conviction or the available options has serious legal implications. In addition to this, the individual may prepare evidence, witnesses, and any arguments that may support the case.

Illinois Traffic Court Records
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