What Are The New Traffic Laws In Illinois?
There are new traffic laws in Illinois that deal specifically with speeding; one is for driving at 25-34 miles an hour over the limit, with the other one dealing with driving at 35 or more over the limit. You should know about these laws, because they are important.
Let me give you a little background, so you’ll know why this is important. In most traffic situations in Illinois, if you have a decent record you will be eligible for what’s called court supervision, in which you’re found guilty or plead guilty to a traffic offense and a judge gives you a period of time, usually between 90 days and two years on a class A misdemeanor, to stay out of trouble, and perhaps complete some added conditions, like paying a fine, making a donation to a charitable organization, community service, or even some counseling and traffic school.
Whatever the conditions are, if you satisfy them and you have no other traffic violations in that time, the case will be dismissed, with no conviction ever being entered, which is really important, since your insurance company will never see it and be able to jack up your rates.
Face it; everyone in Illinois speeds; when you’re driving on the Interstates, everyone goes 80, and If you drive at the speed limit, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb. And with two new laws, however, the Illinois legislature has changed the game. With one law, if you are caught going 25-34 miles per hour over the speed limit, it is now a class B misdemeanor, which means,
- You can get up to 6 years in jail just for speeding,
- You can be hit with a fine of up to $1,500 plus the court costs,
- And thanks to the legislature, a judge can no longer give you court supervision, even if he likes you and thinks you deserve it; the judge has to convict you.
Your insurance will go up and believe me, especially when they notice you were more than 25 miles per hour over the speed limit; they’ll think you’re a liability, which means your rates will go sky high, if they don’t cancel you altogether.
However, the situation is even worse if you’re caught going 35 miles per hour or more over the speed limit, which is not difficult to do on the Interstate, because it becomes a class A misdemeanor, which means you’ll be facing up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500 fine plus court costs and, again, you can no longer receive court supervision. Last week, I had a 16-year-old girl in my office who was heading home after gymnastics, trying to get home on time, and the judge wanted to give her a break; he told her she was a nice lady and he didn’t want to hamstring her for the rest of her life, but that his hands were tied and unless she talked to the prosecutor and got them to reduce the charges, he couldn’t give her court supervision.
This is why it’s now very important to have an attorney who knows what he’s doing come with you and help you. Many prosecutors are taking a political position to not negotiate on these tickets, which means you’re screwed. However, most of them are at least open to reducing them so that you can get court supervision because they realize it’s not as serious a charge as a DUI.
In most cases, we can get a 25-34 miles per hour over ticket reduced to the point that it only becomes a fine of a couple hundred dollars, maybe a $100 contribution to charity and maybe traffic school. For the 35 and over, it gets much more difficult, but they can be negotiated to amend it to a reckless driving charge, since technically, anything 35 over is a reckless driving in the speeding statute, but court supervision is available on a reckless driving charge.
There is a very important point here; I’ve seen a number of attorneys mess this up over the past few weeks and I wanted to scream at them. If you negotiate the case for court supervision, with a small fine and maybe a few other conditions, they’ll tell you what a great job they did for you, but what they don’t tell you is that, by pleading guilty that way, according to the DUI statute, you have used up your one bite at the apple forever at getting court supervision on a DUI.
Let’s take the 16-year old I dealt with last week. She was going 90 in a 55 mph zone, which means she was 35 miles per hour over, which means if I was to negotiate her charges to a class B misdemeanor with a conviction, she’ll be hammered because she’s 16; the secretary of state will most likely suspend her. If she gets court supervision on the reckless driving, the insurance company won’t find out, but she will have used up her one bite at the apple for ever getting court supervision for DUI if she gets one many years down the road; she’d be convicted on her first DUI, which would mean not being able to drive for a year.
What many attorneys don’t realize is, there is a provision where you can get supervision on a reckless driving charge, and that’s by having a trial first; I don’t know why this makes any sense but that’s how it works. It’s not possible to negotiate the charge to reckless driving, but if the state amends to reckless driving and there is abrief trial, at which the judge finds her guilty, he can still give her court supervision, which means it won’t count against her later.
I have seen too many attorneys hurt their clients because they don’t know about this, and that’s bad. And it’s not just the attorneys who don’t know; I also recently had to point this out to a judge, who didn’t understand the way the law works. That’s why it’s important to choose the right attorney; you need someone on your side who is knowledgeable about every little intricacy of the law. You can negotiate 99 percent of such cases with the state’s attorney; usually they’re on board once you explain that you just don’t want to mess up someone’s life for a speeding ticket, so it’s important that your attorney understands this.
Another area of traffic law to consider is DUIs for marijuana, which are very differentthan the DUI laws for alcohol. They’re both class A misdemeanors, which means you face up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine, which means you’ll have to do some traffic school counseling. However, people have to realize that marijuana is a fat-soluble substance, so it will stay in your system for up to 30 days.
For example, suppose you’re at a party in Colorado or Washington state, where it’s legal, and a week or two later, it’s two in the morning and you’re tired and coming home from work. An officer pulls you over for speeding, sees the bloodshot eyes and thinks you may be under the influence, so he has you blow into a portable breathalyzer, and you pass it with double zeros.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you’re out of danger; no matter how much you insist that you’ve taken nothing and drunk nothing, the officer may take you in for a blood test, and the legal pot you smoked a couple weeks ago while you were in Denver may still show up in the blood test. Unfortunately, as of now, under Illinois law, it means an automatic DUI charge, even though we know there is no impairment weeks after the fact; it’s a non-rebuttable presumption, regardless of how you did on field sobriety tests or the fact that the officer has no other evidence against you.
Again, when it comes to marijuana and DUI, the whole law is messed up, and this is bad for many reasons, not the least of which is that even a first offender will qualify to have a breath device put in their car, which makes no sense, since marijuana doesn’t show up in a breath test, but this is why people need to understand what the laws are and how they work.
You must have an attorney who knows how to help you with this; I always tell my clients, if there’s any doubt or if you know you’ve been smoking, never take the test, and never talk to police and offer any information, including the information that you smoked two weeks ago, because they can then take you in for DUI. You just politely ask if you’re free to leave and when he tells you no, you tell the officer you will not answer any questions until you speak to your attorney.
Without any statements by you and no blood test, the officer has no evidence that you’ve been smoking, and smelling pot is not enough to conclude that you’re under the influence of cannabis. Unfortunately, the law isn’t concerned with the amount in your system; just that it’s present, and since it will show up for up to 30 days later in a urine or blood test, that can be trouble.
For people who smoke pot, the chances of them not smoking in a month is very rare, which means anyone who smokes marijuana shouldn’t take any test or say anything because they’ll use everything they can to start building a case against you. The officer will come up with a million reasons why you flunked the field sobriety tests; you have to understand; once he’s decided to arrest you, he will use everything he can to show you’re under the influence of something, even if you’re not. That means anything you say and any test you agree to will work against you, so it’s important that everyone know the difference between alcohol and marijuana.
Someday, hopefully soon since medical marijuana is legal now, they’ll develop a qualitative test with a number that will indicate how much is in your bloodstream to prove impairment, but right now, if you have any cannabis in your system, it’s a DUI and you cannot beat it.
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