Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Unintended Consequences: Implications of How a New Law Changes Bond Requirement for Petty Traffic Tickets

Governor Quinn approved a bill that removes the requirement for drivers to post bond for most petty traffic violations. Beginning January 1, 2015, the ability to require bond on petty traffic offenses, pursuant to 725 ILCS 5/110-15, will be eliminated. Please note: this does not apply for traffic-related business offenses or overweight vehicle violations which still have a bond posting requirement. However, the consequence of a ticketed person not appearing in court or otherwise resolving the traffic ticket will be suspension of the person’s driver’s license for “failure to appear,” whereas currently the consequence of not appearing is that a conviction enters against the person as a default judgment. A default judgment entering would not automatically suspend the person’s license in most petty traffic scenarios.

If a person misses the first scheduled court date, the County Clerk will, as they currently do, issue a “no show” letter to the defendant. The case is then continued at least thirty days. If the defendant again fails to appear, the Clerk must notify the Secretary of State (SOS), who must suspend the defendant’s driver’s license immediately. This suspension shall not be lifted until the SOS receives notice from the court stating the defendant has resolved the matter for which his/her license had originally been suspended. The law provides for procedures for the Clerk, defendant, and SOS to resolve suspensions.

What is more interesting though, is what may occur between the date of suspension and the date of resolution. Suspended drivers may be pulled over for driving on a suspended license, which is a Class A misdemeanor and which requires arrest, booking, and posting of bond (and possible jail time) of the defendant. Furthermore and in most circumstances, police would impound the vehicle which was driven by a suspended driver, resulting in a more costly process for the driver. In short, this law opens the door for criticism.

The law was passed under the auspice of making life easier and allowing drivers to keep their license for petty traffic offenses, but it will likely result in many more suspensions, impounds, and complications for those same offenses.


William C. Westfall

Author: William C. Westfall