What happens if you go to court to fight a traffic ticket?

When an Illinois police officer issues you a traffic citation, you may notice that on the ticket, it indicates whether or not you have to appear in court. According to the Illinois State Bar Association, even if the ticket indicates court is not mandatory, you do have the option to go before a judge and contest the violation.

The judge will first explain your rights to you and the process, and then you may plead not guilty and your case will proceed to trial.

Just like in any legal trial, you must testify under oath, and so must everyone else involved with the case, including witnesses and the officer who issued the citation. Municipal ordinance violations such as speeding require the prosecution to prove that it is more likely that you committed the violation than not. This preponderance of the evidence is all the burden of proof that the law requires unless you have allegedly violated state law; then, the prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty.

If the judge does find you guilty of a petty offense, you will receive a sentence that could include a conviction for the offense on your record, a fine and court costs and/or mandatory completion of a traffic safety school.

A more serious traffic violation may include these penalties and/or community service and jail time. You may also be eligible for probation or conditional discharge. When you receive your sentence, you will also receive a due date for the fines, fees and other expenses you must pay.

This general overview is provided for educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as legal advice.