By Attorney Angie Reed
In Cook County, there are various traffic citations for moving violations that require drivers to appear in court. Drivers often believe that showing up to court and paying the fine is the end of their responsibility. Some drivers think that the time invested in fighting a traffic ticket isn't worth it; they would rather plead guilty, pay the fine, and be on their way. Although many people are aware that tickets can cause “points” on their driver's license, there are additional consequences from the Illinois Secretary of State that motorists may not know about.
When a driver receives a traffic citation, two systems are in play: the court and the Secretary of State. While these are intertwined in some sense, it is a driver's responsibility to make sure they are driving on a valid license after a court appearance and/or a guilty plea. What happens in court can impact whether your driver's license is valid with the Secretary of State, and judges are usually not eager to explain the separate consequences.
The court is also not obligated to explain to drivers how to rectify those consequences. For instance, many people are cited for driving without car insurance. Perhaps coverage lapsed, a payment was forgotten, or coverage wasn't appropriately moved to a different vehicle. A driver may think, “I'll just plead guilty, pay the ticket, and be done with it.” Once this happens, the Secretary of State is notified of a conviction for driving without insurance. This triggers an automatic license suspension, and now the Secretary of State will require a reinstatement fee and additional financial responsibility insurance (SR22). If a driver is not informed about what certain convictions entail, they could potentially be driving on a suspended license, which is a misdemeanor offense.
There are additional ways to get an automatic license suspension, including racking up 3 traffic convictions in one year – and the tickets don't even have to all be from Illinois. It's easy to see how, despite going to court and paying a fine, a driver can find themselves in a situation that has snowballed into a much bigger (and sometimes criminal) problem. It's important to have an attorney advise you about consequences of seemingly minor traffic offenses, and to avoid convictions altogether when possible.
If you need assistance with traffic violations, or any legal matter, call CTM Legal Group at 312-818-6700.