News broke earlier today that the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, under the direction of Kim Foxx, will no longer prosecute cases with a suspended license due to financial issues.
Many Cook County drivers will be impacted by this new policy.
Common Reasons For A Financial Hold On One’s Driver’s License
There are many reasons a driver could have their license suspended. However, only those with a suspension due to financial reasons will be impacted by this new policy. The most common examples of this are:
• Unpaid ordinance violations such as parking tickets, red light camera tickets, or speed camera tickets. After 10 parking tickets or 5 camera tickets, the City of Chicago can request a financial hold on the driver’s license. The only solutions are to pay in full, a strict payment plan, or discharge in bankruptcy.
• Unpaid traffic tickets. This commonly occurs when a driver receives moving violations and does not go to court and does not pay them. This is especially true for those convicted of driving without proper insurance as the fines can be extremely high.
• Failure to carry SR-22 insurance. If you have been convicted (or received supervision) for operating a vehicle without insurance, you may be required to carry SR-22 insurance. This is a special type of insurance that notifies the Secretary of State of your policy each month. There is an extra cost associated with this and many drivers forget or fail to properly carry SR-22 insurance. As a result, their license may be suspended.
• Unpaid child support. If it is reported to the Illinois Secretary of State that the driver has unpaid child support, the driver’s license can be suspended. This is often very difficult for the driver to clear up as the only remedy is a large payment.
• Unpaid judgments. If a driver is in a traffic accident it is common for them to later be found liable in a civil suit. If the judgment is not paid within a certain period of time, the driver’s license may be suspended.
As you can see, the solution to these problems requires money. As a result, lower-income drivers are impacted the most.
To Drive or Not To Drive?
First, many drivers do not receive notice that their license is suspended. We routinely see drivers did not receive the notice in the mail because they moved or otherwise missed the notification. Unfortunately, this is not a defense.
Second, even when a driver is aware that they are suspended, they often risk driving because they must get to work, drop kids off at school, and continue on with their normal life. If a driver loses their job because they cannot drive to work, their chances clearing the financial hold further diminish.
Arrested For Driving While Your License Is Suspended
If a driver is pulled over while their license is suspended, they will almost certainly be arrested and their vehicle impounded.
They will be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor. If they have had multiple prior offenses, they may be charged with a felony.
They will usually be required to have legal counsel. The impound fees in Chicago routinely exceed $2,000.00.
This makes a bad financial problem much worse for the driver.
When a driver is convicted of Driving While License Suspended, the Secretary of State will suspend the driver for at least one additional year. This means that even if the driver clears up the financial issue that suspended in the first place, their license will not be reinstated for some period of time.
The new policy should allow drivers to avoid a conviction, thus giving them another opportunity to clear their license. This could be an unintended benefit for these drivers.
The New Policy
On the surface, this new policy may help drivers with a financial hold on their license. However, Kim Foxx’s new policy raises many questions that will need to be answered in the days and weeks ahead.
We do not yet know how and when these cases will be dismissed. We don’t know if village prosecutors will step in to fill the void. We don’t know if some financial holds (e.g., child support) will be exempt. We’re not sure exactly how this will affect current cases.
As a leader in this space, our firm hopes to help answer these questions. If you have questions about your case, please contact our office at 312-940-8330 to consult with a traffic attorney.
As always, we will continue our mission to assist Illinois drivers.