Know Your Rights During an Illinois Traffic Stop

Web Admin - Tuesday, April 29, 2014

illinois traffic violations lawyerTraffic stops by police are the most common way that many people interact with law enforcement. In Illinois alone there are over two million traffic stops per year, according to a report released by the Illinois Department of Transportation. The common nature of these traffic stops means that it is important for people to understand what their traffic stop rights are, as well as what qualifies as a justifiable stop.

A Person’s Rights During a Traffic Stop

The two most important rights that people have during traffic stops are the right to remain silent and the right to refuse to consent to a search of their vehicle. The right to remain silent allows a person to refuse to answer questions the officer poses, such as, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” or “Where were you heading tonight?” However, there is a practical component to this right. Cooperation with the officer can make the traffic stop smoother and more painless, so the extent to which a person benefits from exercising this right may vary. Furthermore, the right does not extend to refusing to supply a driver’s license, proof of insurance, and registration if the officer asks for it.

The right not to consent to a search of the vehicle is another important right that arises commonly during traffic stops. Though police may ask for permission to search the vehicle, a driver is not required to give it. Importantly, this may not stop them from searching the car. If the police believe that they have probable cause to search the vehicle, then they can perform a warrantless search. However, it is easier to exclude evidence from the legal process if the police found it in a warrantless search, rather than in a search to which the person consented.

The right to refuse a search also has interesting implications for breathalyzer testing. Illinois has something known as an “implied consent law,” which basically states that a person automatically consents to DUI testing based on probable cause as a condition of receiving their license. While a person could still refuse a test, this would result in a suspension of their license for at least one year, and it may not actually help prevent a DUI conviction.

Justifiable Traffic Stops

Even before the traffic stop actually occurs, people’s constitutional rights come into play. This is because a traffic stop qualifies as seizure, which means that Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure apply. Consequently, the police may not stop a person without “specific and articulable facts” that give rise to a reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct. These facts can be things like traffic violations, missing license plates, or erratic behavior. Even anonymous tips called into the police can qualify in certain circumstances.

If you are facing criminal charges following a traffic stop, contact an experienced Illinois criminal defense lawyer today. We help accused citizens in town across the northwest suburbs, including in Rolling Meadows, Buffalo Grove, and Des Plaines.

About the Author: Founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC, Colin Gilbert, received his J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of law in 2005. Colin argues cases across many practice areas including criminal defense, collections, civil litigation, real estate law, and corporate law. Colin is an active member of the Board of Governors of the Northwest Suburban Bar Association and the Illinois Creditors Bar Association. He is currently Vice President of the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce, and is a Commissioner for the Village of Arlington Heights. Colin has a 10.0 Attorney rating on Avvo, and was named one of the 2014 “Top 40 Under 40” Trial Lawyers in Illinois by the National Trial Lawyers Association.

Results in Traffic Court: Conviction, Conditional Discharge, and Supervision

Web Admin - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

illinois traffic court lawyerFrom speeding tickets to car accidents, traffic court is one of the most common ways that people find themselves involved in the legal system. While people can sometimes avoid the hassle of going to court by simply mailing the ticket in with payment, that is often not the most prudent strategy. Mailing the ticket in with payment is equivalent to a guilty plea. This means that it will likely affect a person’s insurance rates, as well as add points to their license, which can eventually result in a license suspension or revocation if a person receives too many points over a specific a period of time. Conviction for more serious crimes, such as driving under the influence (DUI), can also have serious consequences, like impairing a person’s ability to receive professional licenses, or impacting their future employment prospects.

A better strategy for handling a traffic ticket of any magnitude is to go to the courthouse and contest it. When a person contests a traffic ticket, a few different things can happen. First, the ticket can be dropped altogether or the person can be found not guilty. While this is certainly not a common occurrence, it can happen, especially if a person has only a minor ticket, such as a speeding violation, and if their lawyer can present extreme or unusual evidence to explain why the violation occurred. More commonly, a person can receive a conditional discharge or court supervision. Those two outcomes are very different, and they can have a large impact on the ultimate cost of the traffic ticket.

Conditional Discharge Versus Court Supervision

Conditional discharges are a form of probation that the court imposes on someone after they have been convicted of a traffic violation, often along with fines or traffic school. The difference between conditional discharge and ordinary probation is that the court will monitor the person’s compliance with the particular conditions laid out in a discharge. The problem with receiving a conditional discharge is that, because it counts as a conviction, it will appear on a person’s record with the Secretary of State, which can cause an increase in insurance premiums. Those costs can be quite high, even for minor speeding tickets, which, according to Forbes, can cause insurance premiums to rise over 10 percent.

Supervision differs from a conditional discharge in that it is not technically a conviction. That means that, even though the court may impose fines or traffic school for the violation, it will not increase a person’s insurance premiums, which can add up to a savings of hundreds of dollars every year, depending on how severe the offense was.

If you recently received a traffic ticket, contact a Des Plaines traffic attorney today. Our firm serves towns across northwest suburban Cook County including Deer Park, Rolling Meadows, and Buffalo Grove. We have experience defending people accused of traffic violations, and can help you avoid the hassle and expense of a conditional discharge.

About the Author: Founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC, Colin Gilbert, received his J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of law in 2005. Colin argues cases across many practice areas including criminal defense, collections, real estate law, and corporate law. He is involved in his local Illinois community as an active member of the DuPage County Bar Association, Northwest Suburban Bar Association, and the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce. In 2012, Colin was nominated for 2012 Business Leader of the Year by the Chamber.

Red Light Cameras in Illinois: What You Need to Know

Web Admin - Thursday, November 21, 2013

Motorists come in contact with yellow lights at intersections daily. And while many slow to a stop to avoid a possible accident, others may risk their chances by gunning the engine through the changing lights above, often doing so with no repercussions.

Even if you avoid an accident, you may still be hit with a traffic citation for running a red light. In fact, with the proliferation of red light cameras throughout Illinois, residents in Chicagoland may find themselves being mailed tickets for allegedly running a red light and being caught on camera. Citations are sent to the registered owner of the vehicle, even if the owner was not driving at the time.

The cameras are connected to traffic signals at select intersections. There is usually a constant low-resolution video feed being recorded, and sensors are connected to crosswalk lines and stop lines. When vehicles cross those lines after a light is red, a high-resolution camera is triggered that tries to captures the vehicle license plate and an image of the entire vehicle in the intersection.

The Consequences

If you are convicted of red light camera violation, you will have clear consequences. For starters, you will owe a fine­--typically $100. But it is not only a matter of money; the citation will affect your driving record and may result in 20 “points” being added to your license record. Considering the effect that this may have down the road, it is important to think twice before automatically paying the ticket.

Defending Yourself Against Red Light Tickets in Illinois

Under Illinois law, if you receive a ticket in the mail you have the option to request a hearing to contest the violation.  

Mistakes are frequently made by these automated systems. The technology is not perfect, and many resident who lawfully enter an intersection before a light is red, or make a right turn on a red light after properly stopping, still receive citations in the mail. The same Illinois law that allows administrative hearings to contest a charge also require municipalities to provide you with access to the recorded images of your supposed violation.

In addition, there are specific state rules that prevent municipalities from issuing citations in any manner they choose. For example, the law explains that a municipality “may not use an automated traffic law enforcement system to issue violations in instances where the motor vehicle comes to a complete stop and does not enter the intersection… even if the motor vehicle stops at a point past a stop line or crosswalk where a driver is required to stop…”

For help with red light ticket legal issues throughout the Chicagoland areas, including Lake County, Will County, DuPage County, and other nearby communities, please contact an experienced Illinois traffic lawyer today. We help residents in many northwest suburban areas including Arlington Heights, Palatine, Buffalo Grove, Barrington, Schaumburg, Des Plaines, McHenry, and Crystal Lake defend themselves in these situations.

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