Are Traffic Fines a Scheme for Governments to Make Money?
Have you received a traffic ticket recently that you think is unfair? You are not alone. Fines generated by traffic violations are a major source of revenue for governments, and some of these fines, often in places that are set up as speed traps, may not only be unfair, they may even be depriving people of their civil rights.
According to an article in the Washington Post, a recent lawsuit filed by The Institute for Justice against an Atlanta suburb raised the issue of how routine traffic tickets and code violations can be used unfairly to raise government revenue. In this case, it was alleged that the city of Doraville imposed excessive fines and fees, such as charging a driver $215 because she switched from one lane to another.
Doraville, like many other municipalities, had a practice of budgeting for and expecting a certain amount of revenue from fines and fees. The lawsuit noted that these types of arrangements create incentives to target, charge and convict people, sometimes for trivial violations, and thus deprive people of their constitutional right to due process. The situation has been found to be worst in financially strapped jurisdictions with narrow tax bases, including some with large populations of African Americans and Hispanics or low-income residents.
This allegation was backed up by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which examined the way municipalities can rely on fines and fees to the detriment of their citizens. In a 2017 report, the commission found 17 U.S. municipalities that received a larger share of their revenue from fines and fees than Ferguson, Mo. – the city which brought the issue of systemic financial incentives and overzealous law enforcement to national attention after the August 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown. While the U.S. Justice Department ruled that the shooting was justified, the department also documented systemic racial discrimination and abuse by law enforcement that turned local police into tax collectors.
If you have been given an unfair traffic ticket, fine, or fee in Illinois, you can get legal assistance to reduce or eliminate it. The experienced and compassionate Illinois traffic ticket attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd., offer aggressive representation for clients facing unfair charges. We have a proven track record of success defending clients, and we will do everything possible to vigorously fight for your rights.
We offer a free initial consultation, so contact us today online or by calling our offices.
Fighting Traffic Fines in Illinois
Your best chance of fighting a ticket in Illinois is to hire an attorney to represent you. Otherwise, you will have to represent yourself in court, which may involve several trips to the courthouse. Specific details vary according to county, but your ticket will have information as to which court you need to go to and how to inform the court that you wish to contest the violation.
You will then be issued a court date to have an arraignment where you will plead “not guilty.” If you do, you should be able to provide some evidence to substantiate your claim when you go to trial.
At a trial, you or your attorney will be able to present the evidence, bring in witnesses, question the officer who gave you the ticket and argue the law. At the end of the trial you will be found guilty or not guilty. If you are found not guilty, you will not have to pay the fine. If you are found guilty, you will have to pay the original fine, plus court fees and face additional penalties such as additional court fines and a higher auto insurance rate. Depending on how severe your offense was, you could also get points on your license and even have your license suspended.
Strategies to Fight Traffic Tickets
The following are some strategies that may be useful in fighting traffic tickets:
- Dispute the police officer’s personal opinion or presentation of evidence. If your ticket involved subjective personal judgment from police, you may be able to challenge that judgment. In some situations, you may have eyewitness statements, photographs or diagrams that can confirm your version of what happened.
- Convince the court that your driving was justified or necessary to prevent harm. Show circumstances that necessitated your driving that way — for example, swerving to prevent hitting a pedestrian.
- Get legal assistance. An experienced traffic law attorney can help fight your ticket, and may be well worth any fees.
Put Your Trust In Us — Contact Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. For A Free Consultation
A traffic ticket can cause major problems, especially if it increases your auto insurance, puts points on your license, or leads to a license suspension, so it makes sense to have the experienced Illinois traffic law team at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. on your side. We know the judges and the court system and will aggressively explore every avenue for your defense. We examine the facts, the individuals involved, and the evidence available, and can greatly increase your chances of getting the best results possible.
Don’t delay — call or contact us online for help today for any traffic ticket problems. Our lawyers represent clients in DuPage County, Will County, Naperville, Aurora, Wheaton, Downers Grove, Bolingbrook, and the Greater Chicagoland area.
Your initial consultation will be free.