Traffic Tickets and Traffic Court
Assumed Facts: I believe the best way to explain how Traffic Tickets and Traffic Court effect a civil personal injury case is to consider it within a typical car crash scenario.
- The crash occurs on a sunny day during the summer of 2016 in downtown Chicago.
- The Defendant(D) rear ends the Plaintiff(PL), injuring her/him.
- A police officer(PO) is called to investigate the crash. The PO did not see the crash, but issues a ticket to D for following too close. The PO gives the ticket to the D and notifies the PL about the Traffic Court hearing date and time.
- The D’s auto insurance company refuses to settle so PL hire an attorney. A lawsuit is filed naming D as the defendant because you cannot name the insurance company as a defendant.
Traffic tickets are not admissible against the defendant in a civil lawsuit. The PO investigates the crash and then sometimes will issue a ticket. Usually the PO did not actually see the crash, but was alerted to after the fact by police radio. Therefore, the ticket would merely be hearsay, since the PO would have to rely on other people’s statements to prove a violation of the traffic laws. In this case, the PO did not actually see that the D was following too closely behind PL.
This is why the PL must show up to court in testify against the D. If not, the D will walk.
The Traffic Court case is usually called People of the State of Illinois v. D. This is considered a criminal matter. A Cook County State’s Attorney will prosecute the case for the State. Usually, the judge will ask if there are any witnesses to the case of People v. D in court. This is where things get interesting.
If a witness does not step up when the judge asks all witnesses to step forward, then the D can either plead guilty or request an immediate trial. D should demand an immediate trial if no witnesses are pre-sent, since the judge will usually dismiss the case.
If the PL, who is a witness, shows up at Traffic Court D has a decision to make. If D pleads guilty, D will receive a smaller fine. However, the guilty plea is admissible in the personal injury case as an admission.
If D pleads not guilty, D will pay a much larger fine if he/she is found guilty, but the guilty verdict is inadmissible because D never admitted his/her guilt.
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Posted on Wed, October 5, 2016
by Thomas Tobin III