It depends on the violation and the possible penalties. If your violation only carries a fine, then you probably do not have to appear in court. Your ticket should instruct you to mail in your payment and should specify that no court appearance is required. However, if you would like to contest the ticket, you can request a court date by filling in the applicable information before sending the envelope back to the court clerk. There are cases where a violation carries only a fine but still requires a court appearance. Read your ticket. Examples are speeding in a school zone, speeding in a construction zone and failing to yield to emergency vehicles.
Do I need to go to court?
If the violation is considered a misdemeanor, carrying a possible penalty of jail time, a court appearance is required. Again, your ticket will say you must appear or that a court appearance is required. These violations include DUIs, driving with a suspended license, and driving 40mph or more over the speed limit. Your ticket will tell you where and when to go to court. For misdemeanors, this date is an arraignment. If you fail to appear, the judge can issue a warrant for your arrest.
Where is my hearing?
If you have a hearing, it will be at one of the Municipal District courthouses in Cook County. In Chicago, all traffic violation hearings are at the Traffic Center, located at the Daley Center downtown. In suburban Cook County, your case may be at one of these five other locations: Skokie, Rolling Meadows, Maywood, Bridgeview and Markham. In general, your hearing will be at the location where you were ticketed. If you live in Chicago but got a speeding ticket in Maywood, your hearing would be at the Fourth Municipal District in Maywood. Read your ticket -- it should include the hearing location.
Do I need an attorney?
If you received a ticket for a violation that just has a fine and no jail time, and you are not required to appear in court and you do not wish to contest the ticket, then you probably do not need an attorney. Find out if you are eligible for traffic safety school. If so, then you can complete the class and avoid a conviction on your record. If you are not eligible, or if this is a second violation within a year, you should contact an attorney. If you are required to attend a hearing, then it's highly recommended that you hire an attorney to represent you. Convictions have a negative effect on your driving record, your insurance costs, and possibly your driving privileges.
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