Chicago Speeding Ticket Attorneys
For a motorist who is traveling above the posted speed limit, flashing lights in the rearview mirror are never a welcome sight. At a bare minimum, a traffic stop for speeding will likely lead to a costly citation that may raise your insurance rates. In addition, as a result of recent changes to the law in Illinois, a stop for excessive speeding in Chicago may in some circumstances lead to criminal charges being filed against you. If you were recently charged with what is commonly referred to as “aggravated speeding” in Chicago or elsewhere in Illinois, it is imperative that you understand the potential consequences for such a violation.
How Does Aggravated Speeding Affect my License?
To understand the aggravated speeding law in Illinois, it helps to first gain a better understanding of basic traffic law concepts. Most traffic violations are called infractions or petty offenses, meaning they are punishable by a fine only. Even if you have an absolutely terrible driving record, with literally dozens of violations stretching back many years, and even you have serious violations in your past as well, and even if the judge clearly doesn’t seem to like you, a petty offense is still only punishable by a fine. It’s impossible to be sentenced to jail on a case such as this. Some examples of moving violation petty offenses include:
- Speeding less than 26 mph over the limit
- Speeding in a construction zone less than 26 mph over the limit
- Improper lane usage
- Failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident
- Driving without insurance
- Speeding too fast for conditions
Moving Violations and Non-Moving Violations
Traffic violations are typically separated into two categories — moving violations and non-moving violations. Failure to yield and speeding for example, are moving violations while an expired registration or a broken taillight are non-moving violations. Although most moving violations are only punishable by the imposition of a fine, this certainly doesn’t mean that are to be ignored or are not serious. To the contrary, traffic violations can lead to loss of driving privileges, referred to as license suspensions and license revocations. Just like in most other states, if a person is convicted of a moving violation, there is a point value assigned to that ticket. The more serious the violation, the higher the point value.
Modified Point System in Illinois
But the way this works in Illinois is different from most other states. Most other states have what’s called a pure point system which means that for every speeding (or other violation) conviction you receive, points are assigned and then when you hit a certain level of points, something bad happens to your driver’s license, whether it’s a suspension or a revocation for certain period of time.
If you have an Illinois license however, we have what’s called a “modified” point system. What this means is that in regard to a normal moving violation, no adverse action is taken against your driving privileges unless or until you reach a certain number of convictions over a certain period of time. This maximum limit is:
- Under age 21 – Being convicted of two or more moving violations over a 24-month period of time before reaching the age of 21.
- 21 and older – Being convicted of three or more moving violations over a 12-month period of time.
Aggravated Speeding Tickets Have a High Point Value
In computing whether a driver has exceeded his/her maximum allowance for convictions during this period, the Secretary of State (SOS) uses the date of arrest (date you were issued the ticket) as the operative date. So, no matter how long you continue your case, if you get convicted, the SOS will still use the arrest date, not the date of conviction.
Only when you reach your limit of tickets during that time period will the SOS then add together the point value of each ticket to compute your penalty. In the case of speeding tickets, the Secretary of State assigns the following point values for speeding tickets:
- Speeding 1-10 mph over the limit 5 points
- Speeding 11-14 mph over the limit 10 points
- Speeding too fast for conditions 10 points
- Speeding 15-25 mph over the limit 20 points
- Speeding in a school zone 20 points
- Speeding in a construction zone 20 points
- Aggravated Speeding 26-34 mph over the limit 50 points
- Aggravated Speeding 35+ mph over the limit 50 points
- Aggravated Speeding in a Construction Zone 55 points
- Aggravated Speeding in a School Zone 55 points
If the final total is not high, suspensions may run be as short as one month in length. But depending on the total number of points, a driver may also suffer a suspension as long as a year or even a revocation of his/her license for point totals that are very high. Because Aggravated Speeding tickets of any sort tend to have point values of 50 points or greater, a long suspension or revocation is highly likely if the Secretary of State must assign a loss of driving privileges.
Regular Speeding vs Camera Speeding Tickets in Chicago
Although all motorists know that driving above the posted speed limit is a violation of the traffic laws, most people think of speeding as a relatively minor violation. It’s often viewed as something that “everyone does.” Although there’s definitely much truth to the viewpoint that a lot of people do speed (if you’re going the speed limit on the highway, sometimes it seems like you’re the only person obeying the law), recent changes to Illinois’ speeding laws mean that an aggravated speeding ticket in Chicago or elsewhere in Illinois can result in a jail sentence. For that reason alone, excessive speeding should no longer be considered just a minor violation. Whereas operating a motor vehicle up to 25 miles per hour over the posted speed limit remains an infraction punishable only by a fine, as of January 1, 2016, operating a motor vehicle 26 miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit is a jailable misdemeanor offense in Illinois.
Whenever you’re pulled over on the street by a police officer, you should definitely assume that whatever happens to your traffic violation in court will find it’s way onto your driving record. But what about when you’re not pulled over, but instead get a ticket in the mail for a camera speeding violation, red light ticket or such? If you pay such tickets, will they go on your driving record? The answer is that it often depends on what city has issued you this ticket.
Usually, this kind of ticket will come in the mail with a photo or video link intended to prove that you committed this violation. Typically, this type of ticket will then encourage you to pay it by mail, although it will give you an option of creating a court hearing to contest it. In the last decade, these types of camera tickets have become much more common as cities like Chicago have struggled to generate revenue ($$$) to run their cities.
Chicago Camera Speeding Tickets Usually Don’t Hurt Your Record
Examine your camera ticket closely and read all the small print. Most such tickets will say something about how paying this ticket doesn’t go on your actual driving record. At the time of this article, this is true about cities like Chicago. They’re not really interested in hurting your driving record; they just want you to pay them some money. In that way, it’s much more like a parking ticket. Besides, it’s very difficult to determine from videos and photos exactly what person was driving when the speeding or red light violation occurred. Cities cannot report negative driving information to the Secretary of State simply based on the fact that a car was speeding—they need to prove which human being was doing the driving.
But this isn’t true of all cities, so read the ticket carefully. Some cities in DuPage County and elsewhere not only want your money but also want to put negative information on your driving record by determining who was actually driving. So, read your ticket carefully and if in doubt, contact the city to ask whether this will go on your record if you pay it.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Chicago Speeding Tickets?
The fact that a city typically won’t damage your record by paying a camera ticket is not the same question as whether they can damage your record by not paying such tickets. If multiple camera tickets (or parking tickets) are left unpaid, the city can in fact notify the Secretary of State of this problem and your driving privileges can become suspended from this. That’s because even though they may not be able to prove who was speeding, it’s the car owner’s responsibility to make sure whomever drives the car is responsible for paying such tickets.
In short, you really don’t need to hire a lawyer for a camera ticket unless you learn that paying it will damage your driving record (which usually isn’t the case).
What is Aggravated Speeding?
Regular speeding tickets that you receive by being pulled over however, are an entirely different matter and can definitely affect your driving privileges. In Illinois, Section 625 ILCS 5/11-601.5 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes governs what is commonly referred to as “aggravated speeding” and in large part reads as follows
- Any person who drives a motor vehicle on any highway in Illinois at a speed that is at least 26 miles per hour, but less than 35 miles per hour over the applicable maximum speed limit established under state law or a local ordinance commits a Class B misdemeanor.
- Any person who drives a motor vehicle on any highway in Illinois at a speed that is at least 35 miles per hour over the applicable maximum speed limit established under state law or a local ordinance commits a Class A misdemeanor.
So, in contrast to speeding offenses of under 26 mph over the posted speed limit, violations of 26 mph or greater subject the driver to misdemeanor penalties which are:
- Class B misdemeanor – punishable by up to 6 months in jail and up to $1500 in fines
- Class A misdemeanor – punishable by up to 12 months in jail and up to $2500 in fines
Does “Jailable” Mean I’m Going to Jail for Aggravated Speeding?
No. Although every misdemeanor is technically punishable by a period of jail time, as a practical matter, the vast majority of speeding offenders need not worry or lose any sleep about this possibility (although every case is different, so please consult an attorney about the possibilities for your particular case).
Because Aggravated Speeding tickets are misdemeanors though, it’s highly advised that you hire an attorney before your first court appearance. As a general rule, Judges will almost always tell un-represented defendants to hire an attorney for this type of case. They will typically admonish the defendant that this is a misdemeanor which is punishable by high fines and/ or jail time, then give him/her another court date and tell them that they need to return on that future date with a traffic attorney.
Why do Judges Say to get a Lawyer for an Aggravated Speeding Violation?
Here’s why (and It’s not because the judge is strongly considering sending you to jail): It’s because whenever a person is charged or accused of a crime (which Aggravated Speeding is) that holds the potential for a term in jail (which Aggravated Speeding does), it’s the judge’s duty to impress on the person just how serious this can be under certain circumstances and strongly suggest the use of an experienced attorney. Most of time, if a defendant then returns again to court without an attorney, the judge will send him / her away again and tell them once more who important it is to find an attorney.
Do some people actually go to jail for high speeders? Yes, but it’s not that common in most Northern Illinois counties such as Cook, Lake, Kane, DuPage, Will or McHenry. Keep in mind that when a judge tells a defendant to go hire a lawyer, it’s not really because the judge has some inside information or intention of sending that person to jail later. Judges typically are not allowed to read a person’s driving record before sentencing on a violation. That’s because it’s not considered fair for a judge to know a person’s background before a trial. So, when a judge tells you to go get a lawyer, he or she usually has no idea whether your driving background is incredibly terrible or tremendously clean. In other words, don’t “read” too much into it.
What Circumstances Make Jail More Likely on Aggravated Speeding?
Even though the vast majority of people never are sentenced to even one day in jail for an aggravated speeding ticket, there are certain circumstances that may make a jail sentence more likely, such as:
- Excess speed contributing to an accident with severe bodily injury or death
- Prior aggravated speeding tickets, especially multiple ones
- Aggravated speeding in a construction zone especially with workers present
- Aggravated speeding in a school zone especially with children present
- Speeding in a residential neighborhood
- A consistently poor driving record with serious prior tickets or DUIs
- Speeding more than 50 mph over the posted speed limit
- Speeding well in excess of 100 mph
But even if your case includes some of these circumstances, an experienced traffic lawyer can often avoid jail time and preserve your driving privileges.
Should I do a Trial or Take a Plea on Aggravated Speeding?
When charged with a Class B or a Class A speeding misdemeanor, a defendant has only two choices: either work out a deal with the prosecutor or plead not guilty and then do a trial – either a “bench” trial where a Judge will render a verdict, or a “jury” trial where a group of 12 men and women will decide.
Doing a Trial for Aggravated Speeding
If you decide to do a trial and you’re found not guilty, the case is over. There is no sentence, no further court dates, and any bond money you posted will be refunded to you. If on the other hand, you’re found guilty after a trial, then the next step is for you to be sentenced.
When a defendant takes part in a trial, it’s said that “all bets are off”, meaning that whatever previous negotiation plea or deal that may have been offered by the prosecutor or State’s Attorney is withdrawn. After a trial, the prosecutor is then free to ask for whatever sentence he or she wants, even if it’s greater than whatever deal he or she may have offered before the trial. Of course, the Judge is under no obligation to agree with the prosecutor and your attorney will undoubtedly ask for a lower penalty than whatever the prosecutor has requested. Once the Judge hears from the lawyers and gives you an opportunity to speak if you wish, the Judge then sentences the defendant. Whatever the Judge gives you is what you get (although you can appeal that decision to a higher court if you wish).
Working Out a Plea Deal on Speeding
The other option is to forgo a trial entirely and instead have your attorney work out a plea deal with the prosecutor. This is by far, the most common situation as only a small percentage of traffic violation cases ever actually go to trial.
Keep in mind that trials (whether they are bench trials or jury trials) are time-consuming, not just for the defendant and their attorney, but for the prosecutor and judge as well. If more than just a small number of trials took place each day, the Judge and prosecutor might well work long past 5pm and late into the night, which most assuredly they’d rather not do if it can be avoided.
For this reason, whether in regard to speeding and other traffic violations, or in regard to much more serious criminal matters, prosecutors like to work out deals if possible, rather take part in a trial; of course, within reason. A State’s Attorney isn’t typically going to make an incredibly great offer just to avoid doing a trial. After all, it’s their job to do trials if necessary.
Submitting a “Mitigation Package” on a Speeding Ticket Violation
Sometimes, a defendant has decided that he or she wants the traffic attorney to work out a deal on the speeder, but the prosecutor is unable to offer what the defense attorney believes to be a fair deal considering the circumstances. This is generally because the prosecutor has been instructed by superiors in the office not to offer such deals under these circumstances. Examples that might complicate negotiations include:
- Negative input from the arresting officer
- Speeds in excess of 100 mph
- Doubling the posted speed limit
- High speeding in a low speed zone
- Multiple prior moving violations on driving record
When this occurs, an experienced traffic attorney may suggest submitting a mitigation package to the prosecutor’s supervisor to ask for a better deal. This is generally not considered an insult to the prosecutor or “going over their head”. As a matter of fact, they will often even suggest it, when they are without authority to grant what’s being asked. Although it’s not likely that the supervisor’s offer will be any worse that what was originally offered (although it’s possible), whether to prepare a mitigation package needs to be carefully considered first because 1) it will often create an extra court date which may mean additional legal costs, and 2) there can never be a guarantee of what the supervisor will offer. Nevertheless, a mitigation package is an excellent choice in many cases.
Doing a “Blind Plea” on a Speeding Ticket Violation
Other times, although the defendant wants to work out a fair deal, the prosecutor or State’s Attorney may seem unwilling to offer what is believed to be a fair deal. In such situations, it’s possible to take part in what’s called a “blind plea” before the judge. A blind plea is usually a “last ditch” effort to obtain a favorable sentence and is almost never a first choice. Sometimes, a knowledgeable traffic lawyer will even do a blind plea if a mitigation package did not produce the desired results. It depends greatly on the circumstances.
A Blind Plea is when a person pleads guilty directly to the Judge without a deal in place. The attorney will indicate to the Judge that negotiations have failed with the prosecutor, but the defendant doesn’t wish to do a trial, and instead wishes to enter a plea and rely on the Judge’s good judgement when handing down a sentence. Before taking part in this process, the Judge will make sure that the defendant understands how this works, and that whatever the Judge says will be what the defendant receives; it will be final without any chance to undo what happens.
This is why it’s called a “blind” plea; you do it blindly without knowing what the Judge will give you. So, it’s always very important to discuss the possible outcomes and the Judge’s reputation under similar circumstances with your lawyer before proceeding. Taking part in this process can be an excellent idea depending on the case, but the pros and cons should always be taken into consideration.
Why is a Plea Deal Often a Good Idea on Aggravated Speeding?
As explained previously, trials are always a risk. Even if an experienced traffic attorney feels like you have an excellent chance at beating your case at trial, it can never be any more than a very educated guess. After all, no one can look inside a Judge’s head to see what’s going on in there. Will a Judge see it the same way as your attorney does? You won’t know until the Judge opens his or her mouth and by that time it’s too late to change your decision. If you win, you’ll be very happy. If you lose, not so much so. Trials are always a gamble, not matter the situation.
On the other hand, when your attorney works out a negotiated plea deal with the State’s Attorney or prosecutor, you can count on the fact (99% of the time) that the Judge will approve that deal, so you know exactly what you’re getting into ahead of time and exactly what you’re going to receive as a sentence. The way it works is that the plea deal is presented to the Judge for his or her approval and usually the Judge will approve it. Sometimes though, a Judge will feel like the plea deal is too harsh or too light and make adjustments.
But the primary reason that plea deals are often a good idea on many such cases is that sometimes special offers and reduced charges may be offered by the State in exchange for a plea to the charges. Let’s explore what types of sentences there are for Aggravated Speeding cases.
Possible Aggravated Speeding Sentences
Once upon a time in Illinois, there was only speeding. Aggravated speeding didn’t exist. Even if you were going 150 mph, unless the police had also charged you with reckless driving, the worst that could happen to you was a fine because it was just a petty offense. But eventually, the law changed and Illinois added two new violations for speeding (26-34 mph over the limit and 35+ over the limit) which were misdemeanors and potentially subject to jail. This changed the entire landscape of speeding violations in court.
Probation and Conditional Discharge
On petty offense speeders as well as an aggravated speeders, a Judge may order you to serve a period of time on probation or conditional discharge. The difference is that probation often comes along with a probation officer or court employee who monitors your performance during the probation, whereas during a conditional discharge, generally you’re on your own to make sure that you accomplish what is required by the Judge. These requirements will usually include some combination of the following: stay out of trouble, community service, fines and/or traffic school. If you complete these things without a problem, your case is over. If you don’t, you may be brought back into court to answer for your violations.
But what conditional discharge and probation have in common is that they are both convictions. Convictions are not good and should be avoided if at all possible, although sometimes, it’s just not possible to avoid them due to an extra bad driving history or extra serious circumstances regarding the ticket at hand.
Try Your Best to Avoid Speeding Convictions
Here’s why it’s a good idea to try to avoid traffic convictions, especially Aggravated Speeding violations:
- Convictions are visible on the first page of your Driving Abstract (Driving Record) and insurance company may be able to view them and may affect your insurance
- Convictions have a high point value assigned to them by the Secretary of State (generally 50 to 55 points) and if you reach your limit for too many moving violations, the high point values will suspend or revoke you for longer
- A conviction for a misdemeanor may come up during job or school applications and require an explanation (although typically if you’re not applying for a job involving driving, it may not affect you significantly)
- Misdemeanors in general are not good for those with immigration concerns
Supervision is Best for Speeding Violations
Another sentencing option is supervision. A supervision, just like a probation or a conditional discharge, is a period of time to stay out of trouble and do as the Judge has asked. But different than those other sentences, which are convictions, a supervision is not. It’s not “nothing” as many people believe, and it’s not “not on your driving record” as is often heard. But it’s much better for your driving record and your future for reasons including:
- Supervisions are not visible on the first page of your Driving Abstract (Driving Record) so insurance company are not likely to see them
- Supervisions do not have assigned point values from the Secretary of State, so even if you each your limit for too many moving violations (based on other ticket convictions), a supervision plea will not add to your troubles or make your suspension or revocation any longer
- Because supervisions are not convictions, it’s unlikely that you’ll encounter an application that requires you to disclose the violation, except when dealing with federal agencies
- Supervision on a misdemeanor may be treated the same as a conviction for immigration purposes however
Is Supervision Available for all Aggravated Speeding Cases?
No. This is where an experienced traffic attorney such as Sexner & Associates LLC can be of the greatest assistance in trying to secure a supervision. There are a number of reasons why supervision may not be available for an Aggravated Speeder such as:
- Based on record or circumstances: A prosecutor may simply refuse to offer supervision because of the defendant’s traffic record, high mph speed involved, injuries involved, officer’s personal input or low speed zone involved.
- Based on urban area prohibition: Contained with the Illinois law that governs Aggravated Speeding is a prohibition that prevents those charged with speeding greater than 25 mph over the limit from getting supervision if the offense occurred in an “urban area”. An urban area basically is a location where many people live or people congregate. This prohibition exists because high speeding in such an area is much more likely to cause injury to others than a highway situation, where no pedestrians are ever present.
- Based on type of speed zone: A person may be ineligible for supervision if the aggravated speeding occurred in a school zone or construction zone
- Too many prior supervisions: There is another law in Chicago and all of Illinois that relates to how many supervisions a person can get. It says that a driver can receive a maximum of two supervisions during any 12 month “rolling” period. It’s not from Jan 1 to Dec 31. It runs 12 months from the first supervision on the calendar.
- Based on prior aggravated supervision: There are some types of moving violations (such as Driving Under the Influence) that the law in Illinois permits supervision only once for, because the charge is so serious. Aggravated speeding is one of those violations, so if you’ve previously plead guilty to such a charge, you may be ineligible to receive another supervision
Negotiations for Reduced Charges and Reduced Speed
Another important point to consider when deciding whether to ask your lawyer to work out a negotiated plea agreement or instead to go to trial is whether the prosecutor will agree to amend your charges. Trying to get the charge reduced by amending it to a lesser offense such as a petty speeding offense is one of the first options we typically explore. Numerous factors will go into how likely the prosecutor will be to agree to reduce the charge, including how fast you were going, your driving record, and any special circumstances that make the offense more or less serious than the average aggravated speeding case. In the very best of worlds, what an experienced attorney will try to do is to not only get you supervision (to avoid damaging your driving record and tipping off your insurance company), but to also see if it’s possible to reduce your charges and amend (meaning to change) the speed on your ticket from a high aggravated speeding mph of 26 or greater to something 25 mph or less over the limit.
Sometimes, the State’s Attorney or local prosecutor will agree to an amendment or reducer as part of a plea agreement. Although there’s never any obligation to plead out a case, when the prosecutor has agreed to offer something like this, it’s certainly worth some careful consideration with your attorney – because if you choose to take the other path and do a trial instead, you’ll need to keep in mind that if you’re not successful at trial, a Judge won’t have the power to later amend your charges and the prosecutor will certainly no longer agree to do this favor for you after a hard-fought trial.
Are There Defenses to a Charge of Aggravated Speeding?
One of the biggest mistakes that motorists commonly make is assuming that a conviction for aggravated driving is a foregone conclusion when, in fact, it may not be. If reducing the charge isn’t an option, you may nevertheless have a viable defense that makes taking the case to trial worth the risk. Every case is different, so it’s vital that your traffic attorney carefully consider whether a defense exists.
There are certain defenses however, that almost everyone has heard of, yet are hardly ever successful. For instance, there’s the old “my speedometer wasn’t calibrated properly” defense. Although this can sometimes be a legitimate defense, judges have been hearing this explanation for as long as they’ve been judges, so they’re often somewhat resistant. The other problem with this defense is that during a trial, in order to put into evidence proof of the faulty speedometer, you (the defendant) will not likely be allowed to testify to this situation. That’s because you are (probably) not a certified automotive technician, and only “experts” are usually allowed to testify about technical information during a trial.
Another common defense is that you were “just keeping up with the flow of traffic”. This is really not a defense at all, for the same reason that almost everyone’s parents once told them when they were children about not following the crowd: “just because your friends jump off a building doesn’t mean you should too”. Here as well, if this defense is offered at a trial, a judge is likely to find the defendant guilty and tell them that they didn’t have to keep up with traffic and they certainly could have slowed down.
The important thing to keep in mind is that you won’t know what your options are until you sit down and speak to an Chicago defense attorney. Typically, we’ll first evaluate your case to determine whether a viable defense exists. But even in those situations where a defense has a good chance of success, before moving straight ahead into a trial, it typically doesn’t hurt to explore negotiations with the prosecutor, whether in Chicago or other court locations. Plea negotiations are not binding on the defendant, so if you don’t like the best deal “on the table”, it’s never a problem to reject the deal. On the other hand, once a trial has taken place, if your defense is not successful and you’re found guilty, there will be no negotiations or favors given by the States Attorney at that point. The case will proceed to sentencing without any chance for a reduced negotiated charge. So, negotiations are usually at least worth a try.
If you were issued an aggravated speeding or other traffic ticket, or were arrested and charged with aggravated speeding in Chicago, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced traffic attorney as soon as possible. Contact the experienced Chicago traffic defense attorneys at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC today by calling (312) 644-0444 or by filling out our online contact form.