Champaign County State's Attorney
Traffic Ticket Frequently Asked Questions
The following questions and answers are designed to address frequent concerns raised by people charged with traffic violations. They are not a substitute for legal advice from your own attorney.
Receiving a traffic ticket is always an unpleasant experience. For people unfamiliar with the court system, trying to resolve a traffic ticket can be confusing and stressful. For this reason, many people choose to have an attorney represent them in their traffic cases. An attorney can help by explaining your rights in traffic court, and by helping to make sure your case is resolved fairly. The decision to hire an attorney is entirely your own.
Depending upon the type of offense you are charged with, you may have a right to have an attorney appointed for you by the court if you cannot afford one on your own. If you do have such a right, the judge will explain it to you when you come to court.
Attorneys from the Champaign County State's Attorney's office are responsible for prosecuting all traffic tickets issued within the county. Because these attorneys represent the People of the State of Illinois as a whole, they are legally prohibited, in most cases, from giving legal individual advice to people charged with crimes - even those charged with minor traffic offenses. Furthermore, because attorneys working for the State's Attorney's office are the ones assigned to prosecute your case, anything you would tell them could be used against you in court. If you have questions not covered in these pages, your best option is to consult your own attorney.
Some traffic tickets do not require a court appearance. Take a careful look at the bottom of your ticket to determine whether you need to appear in court at all. Many minor traffic tickets may be marked, "No court appearance required." If your tickets is marked, "Court appearance required," however, then you must appear on the date indicated on your ticket.
If your ticket is marked "No court appearance required," you may pay your ticket at the Circuit Clerk's office, on the first floor of the courthouse. Simply check the appropriate box on the back of your ticket, and turn it in to the Circuit Clerk. The Clerk will be able to tell you the amount of the fine.
If your ticket is marked, "Court appearance required," you will need to come to court on the date indicated on your ticket before you can pay. In such cases, the fine will be set by the judge.
If you have proof that the car you were driving was insured on the day you got your ticket, you can show that proof in court, and that ticket will be dismissed. If you received other tickets on the same date, those can be resolved at the same court appearance.
If your court date is at least 7 days away, you can file a Mandatory Insurance Affidavit at the Circuit Clerk's Office downstairs. You will need to bring the proof that the vehicle you were driving was insured on the date of the ticket. If your proof of insurance is accepted, your ticket will then be dismissed.
If your court date is less than 7 days away, you will need to come to court to resolve it. Be prepared with proof of insurance to show to the prosecutor on that date.
Your driver's license status is something decided entirely by the Secretary of State. The State's Attorney's Office is not involved in issuing driver's licenses, or in suspending them. If you have questions about what may happen to your driver's license, you can contact the Illinois Secretary of State toll-free at 800-252-8980. A private attorney can also advise you regarding license consequences.
If your ticket is marked "No court appearance required," you may plead "not guilty" at the Circuit Clerk's office, on the first floor of the courthouse. Simply check the appropriate box on the back of your ticket, and turn it in to the Circuit Clerk.
You will need to decide whether you want a trial by jury, or a trial by the court (bench trial). The decision is entirely yours. If you choose a trial by the court, you will receive notice of your trial date by mail, and your case will be resolved on that date in a 10-15 minute trial.
If you choose a jury trial, the next court date you receive will be a "pretrial" date. At the pretrial, you will be given a "trial call" date. At trial call, you will be given one or more trial dates at which you must appear. It is possible that you may have to appear at several pretrial, trial call, and trial dates before your case is resolved.
When your case is reached for jury trial, you can expect your trial to last for most of a full day - or possibly longer. A jury trial is usually a more formal process than a bench trial, and you will be held to the same rules of evidence as an attorney. If you wish to have a jury trial, it is a very good idea to have your own attorney with you.
All court dates are set by the judge who presides over traffic court. The State's Attorney cannot change your court date. In order to reschedule your court date, you will need to file a motion to continue, and have that motion granted by the judge before the date you are trying to change. There is a fee for filing such a motion, and there is no guarantee that the court will grant it. The easiest way to change your court date is to have an attorney enter an appearance for you. If you decide to file a motion to continue on your own, the Circuit Clerk can explain the filing fees. You may be able to receive further information by contacting the judge's clerk at 217-384-3895.
It is important to be present at all required court dates. If you fail to appear, several things can happen. If your ticket is for a minor traffic offense, the Court will usually enter a judgment against you, just as if you had pled guilty. You will then be responsible for paying any fines assessed by the court.
If you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, and you fail to appear for court, the judge may issue a warrant for your arrest. Any bond you have previously posted may be ordered forfeited.
If you want to ask the court to vacate (undo) a judgment against you, or quash (take back) an arrest warrant, you will need to file a motion with the court. In these cases, it is a very good idea to hire an attorney to assist you. If you decide to file a motion by yourself, the Circuit Clerk can explain the filing fees. If you have a question about a warrant, you can also contact the Champaign County Sheriff at 217-384-1204.