Fairness and equity? Illinois drivers can get 3 unpaid tickets a year before license suspension under newly-passed law

Illinois State Rep. Justin Slaughter (Facebook)

(The Center Square) – A bill that passed the Illinois General Assembly will allow traffic violators to get three unpaid traffic tickets per year before they have their license suspended. 

After backlash earlier this year, state Rep. Justin Slaughter didn’t move forward with a controversial traffic stop bill that would have prohibited officers from pulling over individuals caught speeding up to 25 miles per hour over the posted speed limit. However, Slaughter pushed through a different, more watered-down, traffic bill in House Bill 277. Slaughter, D-Chicago, said the current law is unfair to violators and causes problems for them keeping their jobs. 

“HB277 is designed to modernize our procedures for people who receive tickets, minor traffic offenses, and fail to appear in court,” said Slaughter. “Current law grants our judges the power to suspend an individual’s driver’s license if he or she fails to appear in court. From a fairness and equity perspective, this current process is creating a significant challenge for individuals at risk as they seek to hold onto their jobs.” 

State Rep. Patrick Windhorst, R-Harrisburg, warned that if the proposed bill becomes law, there’s no incentive for violators to pay their tickets, and that will be problematic for local governments. 

“The issue I have is this: Currently, the law is that if an individual doesn’t pay a traffic ticket, their license is suspended. Of course, that creates a great incentive for a person to pay their traffic tickets. If this becomes law, an individual would get three unpaid tickets before their license is suspended; therefore, it’s a great disincentive until you get to that third ticket to pay your tickets to the local government,” said Windhorst.

Slaughter got HB 277 across the finish line and ready to send to the governor. Windhorst stated that the provision allowing traffic violators to receive up to three unpaid tickets per year before license suspension will have an impact on local governments’ budgets.

“I believe this will lead to reduced collections for local governments and will impact their budgets,” said Windhorst. “I just can’t support this change.” 

Slaughter said his bill maintains appropriate consequences for traffic violators but doesn’t risk a defendant’s job.

“This is all about [keeping people’s] jobs. Let’s help the most marginalized and vote ‘yes,’” said Slaughter. 

Slaughter pulled his first bill that dealt with traffic violations. Had Slaughter not backtracked on the legislation, it would have prohibited police officers from pulling over violators with tinted windows and expired plates, as well as violators who didn’t use a turn signal or improperly changed lanes. 

In 2019, traffic ticket collections were estimated to bring in more than $260 million each year to help Chicago’s cash-strapped budget. The city has rolled back on their collections to advance “equity,” but with Slaughter’s bill all municipalities will have to delay their ticket collections until a violator has three unpaid tickets per year. 

For Chicago’s 2024 fiscal year, there was a $538 million budget gap.

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