You got a speeding ticket. Now what?

Even the most cautious drivers get “caught” from time to time. We get distracted. We’re running late. Moving violations happen, and speeding is one of the most common moving violations we see.

Dealing with a speeding ticket – especially if you have never had one in the past – can be a mystery. How do I pay? Do I need to go to court? Will this go on my record? Will I lose my license? This article is meant to answer some of the most common questions we hear from traffic clients in order to help “demystify” what can be a confusing process.

Who issues tickets? Tickets can be issued by either the county in which it was received or by the municipality (city/town) served by the officer. You can tell the difference by looking at the top of your ticket. If “People of the State of Illinois” is checked, it was issued by the county and the prosecutor will be from the office of the State’s Attorney. If there is a municipality indicated, it is a “local” ticket, and the prosecutor will either be a private attorney contracted by that city, or the actual city attorney.

What’s the punishment for speeding? Speeding tickets are classified as either petty offenses (1-24 miles per hour over the limit) or misdemeanor offenses (25 or more miles per hour above the legal limit). Petty offenses are generally punishable by fines and court costs and a period of court supervision. Misdemeanors carry a maximum penalty of up to one year in county jail, fines and costs up to $2,500.00, and the possibility of other penalties, such as traffic school or community service. Unless you have a recent history of traffic tickets or convictions, in most cases, even for more serious speeding tickets, the penalty imposed can be limited to fines and a period of court supervision or conditional discharge.

Do I need to go to court? Some speeding tickets – especially petty offenses – do not require a court appearance. On the bottom of most tickets, there will be a section that will tell you whether a court appearance is required, and where and when that court appearance will take place. If the “must appear” box is checked, you have no choice but to appear in person at the location listed on the ticket on the specified time and date.

If your ticket indicates that “No Court Appearance” is required, you can resolve the ticket through the mail. One choice is to follow the instructions on your ticket to pay by mail. While more convenient and less expensive than appearing in court, you will NOT be able to get court supervision – even if you are eligible for it – if you pay by mail and do not appear in court. Conditional discharge is the only option when paying by mail, and a conviction for speeding will appear on your driving record. Depending on your driving history, this could result in points against your license, and could ultimately affect your insurance rates or ability to obtain a job for which driving is a requirement. It is important to not acquire too many points against your license as this could lead to a suspension of your driver’s license.

Even for tickets that do not require a court appearance, you still have the right to appear in court – either on your own behalf, or with the assistance of an attorney. Appearing in court will result in additional costs – and sometimes those costs will be more than double the actual fines imposed for the offense alone. However, for those with either no history of traffic offenses, or for those who have not had a ticket in over a year, the benefits of appearing in person could outweigh the additional court fees.

Most speeding cases will NOT involve a trial. Rather, either you or your attorney will work with the prosecutor to come up with a deal to resolve your case. One of the benefits of appearing in person in court is the ability to “negotiate” with the prosecutor. For example, the prosecutor may offer a sentence of court supervision, a fine, and traffic school in exchange for a guilty plea.

Will this go on my driving record? The easy answer is that it depends on the type of sentence you receive. Certainly, if you have an extensive history of speeding or other traffic offenses, any new offenses are likely to count against you. However, if this is your first speeding ticket, or if you haven’t had one for a while, you may be eligible for a sentence that protects your driving record.

There are two common sentencing options for speeding tickets – court supervision and conditional discharge.

Court Supervision:
Court supervision is a sentencing option in which the court designates a set period of time – usually three to six months – for you to complete the terms of your sentence. During this time, you must complete any other terms of your sentence (pay fines, attend traffic school, perform community service, etc.). Assuming all terms of the sentence are satisfied, at the end of the supervision term, you will be discharged and no conviction will enter on your driving record. NOTE: court supervision does not “erase” the ticket from your record. Law enforcement, some employers, and other official sources will still be able to see a record of the term of supervision. However, the term will not appear in public searches and will not add points to your driving record.

Conditional Discharge
For all intents and purposes, conditional discharge functions in the same way as court supervision. Both set a fixed term for you to complete all sentence conditions. More importantly, you must NOT have any other infractions – driving or otherwise – during the period of court supervision or conditional discharge. However, unlike court supervision, a sentence of conditional discharge will appear on the driver’s record as a conviction. This can add points to your license, be visible to employers and insurance companies, and in some cases, can lead to a suspension of your license.

Do I need a lawyer? In situations where a conviction could cost you, having an experienced traffic attorney in your corner is always beneficial. An attorney knows the questions to ask, and how to present your case in a way that will get you the best “deal” possible for resolving your speeding ticket. This is especially true if you have had tickets in the past, have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), if you drive for a living, or if you are under the age of 21. An attorney can work with the prosecutor to try to “amend” the original charge to help you keep your license, your job, or both.

How can we help? Our experienced traffic attorneys are ready to speak to you and answer any questions about your case. Consultations are always free, and we will review your specific situation and advise you on how to get the best possible outcome for your case. If you would like to set up a consultation, please contact our offices at (224) 655-7179, or via email at Info@Arteaga.Law.