How do I Fight a Red Light Ticket in Illinois?

Red Light Traffic Cameras have been popping up all over the country, but these cameras have particularly faced a lot of backlash in Illinois, and while the Illinois House Committee passed a bill to ban red-light traffic cameras statewide, they are still currently legal and active. Red Light Traffic Cameras are automated cameras that are activated when movement is detected passing over the stop-bar or entering an intersection during a yellow or red light, that take pictures and videos of alleged red light violations. These tickets are not given to drivers by a police officer, the photos and videos are normally reviewed by municipal employees before the fines are sent out to drivers.

What does this mean for the average driver in Illinois? In the last decade, these cameras have cost Illinois state residents over $1 billion in fines and light tickets. Fines against drivers can increase if they are unpaid, and cause undue financial hardship on vehicle owners. While “t-bone” crashes were found to have decreased after the installation of red light cameras in Houston, the rates of rear-end crashes, from drivers slamming on their breaks to avoid tickets, increased.

These cameras have also been riddled in controversy, from bribery to unethical red light ticket collection, and unnecessary red light cameras being placed at intersections that had very low rates of violations and accidents. While the purpose behind these cameras is “public safety”, or traffic safety, The Chicago Tribune found that more often than not accidents and rear-end crashes increased in the intersections that red light cameras were placed in.

Many people feel passionately that these cameras, and the red-light camera industry as a whole, should not exist. Susana Mendoza, the Illinois Comptroller, has spoken out about the red-light camera industry, “unethical” red-light camera ticket collection, and her office is no longer assisting municipalities in the collection of red light ticket fines.

Thankfully, these red light violations are not always set-in-stone, and there are options for vehicle owners who feel as though they were wrongfully fined, or if the registered owner of the vehicle was not in possession of the vehicle at the time of the violation. If you are facing red light tickets call our Illinois traffic lawyers today at (708) 465-1040 to learn how we can help.

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You’ve Received a Ticket, What Now?

If you’re worried about losing your license, an impact on your clean driving record, or your insurance rates, you can take a deep breath. Red Light Tickets are considered administrative violations in Illinois, not traffic violations, and will not add points to your license or raise your annual rate with your insurance. These violations are also not considered a criminal offense. This is different from a traffic ticket, such as a speeding ticket, which can affect your license and insurance annual rate, and ruin a clean driving record.

The state of Illinois allows you to view camera footage of the alleged incident online. This should be your first step after receiving your ticket in the mail. After you have viewed the footage of your alleged incident, you can decide to pay the fine or to appeal the red light ticket. You can also request additional copies of your ticket, which can be helpful if you are planning on hiring a traffic attorney in Chicago to help you appeal your ticket.

How do I Fight a Red Light Ticket in Illinois?

The starting rate for a red light violation in Illinois is $100. Red light violation tickets are mailed to the registered driver of the vehicle involved within 5-7 business days of the alleged incident. Payment of the red light ticket is due at the time listed on the Notice of Violation, normally 25 days from the date of the violation. If you are not planning on appealing your ticket, it is imperative that you pay your ticket before or on the due date. Unpaid tickets can double in amount, the offending vehicle can be booted, or even impounded by the police department in some situations.

Fighting a Red Light Ticket

If you decide to appeal your ticket, you will need to notify the Traffic Court Clerk that you wish to appeal the ticketed violation. You only have 21 days from the date of issuance on your red light violation notice to request an appeal. If you do not request an appeal within the 21 day window, you will be issued a Notice of Determination, and found guilty by default.

If this happens, you will have another 21 day period in which you may be able to appear in person in front of a judge to argue your case. If you lose your appeal, you will be required to pay your fine. You can choose to fight your red light violation via mail, or an in-person hearing.

Approved reasons for appealing a red light violation notice, or Notice of Violation, include:

  • If you received a Uniform Traffic Citation for speeding within 15 minutes or 1/4 mile of the red light violation
  • The alleged violation is inconsistent with facts or the law
  • You were not the registered vehicle owner of the offending vehicle at the time of the red light violation
  • The offending vehicle is a registered emergency vehicle
  • The vehicle had been reported stolen at the time that the violation happened

If you choose to appeal your red light ticket by mail, you must fill out the form attached to your Notice of Violation, include any evidence you wish to present to the deciding authority, your full written out defense, and place all of this information inside of the provided envelope, and mail it back to the Traffic Court Clerk.

If you choose to appeal your red light violation in person, you will need to notify the courts via mail or online, within the 21 day window for starting an appeal to receive a Traffic Court hearing. You will be mailed a notice informing you of the week you are allowed to appear in court. You can pick any of the 5 available days to show up in person, whichever day of the approved week is most convenient for you. You must bring in all the evidence for your case, including any pictures, videos, documents, or police reports relevant to your case.

You do not have to represent yourself. If you are unable to attend an in-person Traffic Court hearing, there are two options if you wish to have someone else represent you: a person with a valid notarized letter, or a credentialed attorney. In most cases, it is best to have an attorney represent you if you cannot represent yourself.

Whichever way you choose to appeal your ticket, you must build a defense. This can be through video and photo evidence, legal documents such as a Bill of Sale if you were not the rightful owner of the vehicle at the time of the alleged incident, or even police reports if the vehicle was stolen prior to the date and time of the alleged incident. Every case and appeal is different, and the more complex your case, the more likely it is you will need an attorney to help you win your case.

Preventing Future Tickets

Once your red light violation is settled, either cleared through appeals or paid in full by the registered owner of the violating vehicle, it is important to familiarize yourself with traffic laws so that you don’t receive another Notice of Violation. Red light cameras pick up any motion crossing the stop-line or in the intersection during a red light.

Potential violations include vehicles still in the intersection when the traffic signal turns red, and vehicles making a right hand turn while the traffic light is red. Remember to come to a complete stop when executing a right hand turn at a red light, and to come to a complete stop at the stop-line if you do not have enough time to make it through the intersection before the light turns red. If you are not sure how much longer a yellow light will last, it is best to slow down in advance and wait out the light than to receive a red light violation or risk causing a rear-end crash by hitting your brakes at the last second.

Red light violation tickets are always sent to the registered owner of the offending vehicle. If you allow other people to drive your personal vehicle often, their driving history is something you should consider. If the person asking to borrow your car has been involved in multiple accidents or alleged traffic and red light violations, you may wish to refuse their request.

While you aren’t responsible for paying the tickets of drivers borrowing your vehicle, you will have to prove in court that you were not driving the vehicle at the time of the incident and this can be a drain on your time and money. If you are facing a red light ticket or other moving violation in Illinois our attorneys are here to help. Call our Chicago traffic law firm today at (708) 465-1040 for a free consultation.

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