I HAVE A TRAFFIC TICKET: DO I NEED TO COME TO COURT?

You were driving home from work when you got nailed for speeding. Or maybe you simply blew a stop sign or failed to signal. You wish to contest the ticket, but the court date is set for a time when you will be out of state. Do you have to come to court?

In certain circumstances, the answer is no. While for nearly all criminal offenses, your appearance in court is mandatory, traffic tickets are a slightly different animal. However, it may still depend on the level of your offense.

For most moving violations such as following too closely or speeding less than 31 miles over the limit, you may not need to appear as long as you retain an attorney and give the attorney written authorization to proceed in your absence. An attorney will likely have to make a plea agreement on your behalf, but on occasion, I have gotten tickets dismissed for clients in their absence.

If one of your tickets is for not having proof of insurance, and you had insurance or got late compliance insurance, you can provide the proof to your attorney along with the authorization, and an attorney can act on your behalf.


While you may be tempted to simply pay your ticket by mail and avoid the hassle of going to court, this is not a good idea. A ticket resolved by mail is often reported as a “conditional discharge” or conviction, which can increase your car insurance premiums. (This does not apply to red light camera tickets, which are issued against the car and not the driver.)

For speeding 30 or more miles over the limit, you must still appear yourself in Court and you are best advised to bring an attorney. In 2011, the State of Illinois got tough on speeders. If you were going between 31 and 39 miles over the limit, you can be charged with a Class B Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,500 fine. Driving 40 miles or more over the limit is now a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $2,500 fine. An attorney may be able to contest your case or at least help you obtain a more favorable plea bargain than you might do on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

About mdkeenan

A criminal and school law attorney with over 17 years of experience, I have successfully represented clients all over the Chicago area. My practice includes DUI, felony, criminal, misdemeanor, homicide, internet crime, retail theft, traffic offenses, cyberstalking, drug crimes, weapons violations, domestic battery and juvenile crime. I also represent families involving school cases. My clients come from all over the Chicago area including Skokie, Wilmette, Niles, Northbrook, Glenview, Evanston, Winnetka, Highland park, Northfield, Park Ridge, Des Plaines and Mount Prospect. I am a member of the ACLU and the Illinois State Bar Association. I serve as a volunteer for First Defense Legal Aid. Se habla espanol.
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