Students need to determine options before going to court

Got a ticket?

Contact Students’ Legal Assistance immediately to discuss your options. If you don’t act promptly, the costs related to your ticket increase dramatically. Here’s why.

When you receive a ticket, you will also receive information (on the back of the ticket and/or on a separate form given to you by the police officer) regarding your options. One option is to pay the ticket and receive a conviction. A second option is to pay an increased fine, attend traffic school and receive court supervision. Eligibility for court supervision is spelled out in the information you receive. The third option is to go to trial. Tickets listed “Must Appear” do not give you these options; you must appear in court.

Be aware that if you go to court, court costs will be assessed over and above the minimum fine listed on the ticket. Due to recent increases, court costs can equal or exceed the minimum fine. For example, if you receive a ticket in DeKalb County for speeding 12 miles over the speed limit, the fine assessed would be $75.00 if you pay by mail or in person prior to your first court date. If you go to court and plead guilty before a judge, the minimum fine and court costs will total $170.00.

Court costs are assessed whenever a person goes to court unless the case is dismissed or the person issued the ticket is acquitted after trial.

There is a similar consequence for failing to make a prompt decision about how to respond to a citation for one or more of the following DeKalb City Ordinance violations: consumption/possession of alcohol as a minor; keeping a disorderly house; entering and remaining in a tavern as a minor; possessing an open container of alcohol on a public way; keeping a dog at large; littering; noise violation; and fighting. If you receive a citation for one of these violations, you will be notified that you can avoid having a court case filed against you if you pay the listed fine and sign a trial waiver within 14 days of receiving the ticket. Payment must be made in person to the City of DeKalb Legal Division in City Hall. After 14 days, a court case is filed and additional courts costs are due if you are found guilty or plead guilty. The City will ask for an increased fine above the minimum listed and a default judgment if you fail to show up on your first court date.

The difference in costs is as follows:

Offense (A) If Paid Within 14 Days (B) Fine & Court Costs
1) Consumption/possession of Alcohol
2) Disorderly House
3) Entering & Remaining
4) Open Container
5) Dog at Large
$ 75
6) Littering
$ 50
7) Noise Violation
$ 50
8) Fighting

There are many questions that can arise when determining your best option: the likelihood of receiving court supervision, the existence of and strength of any legal defenses to the ticket, the availability of traffic school, and the possibility that the conviction will result in the suspension of the driving privileges by the Secretary of State.

The importance of the increased court costs to students is that to avoid the extra costs, a decision to plead guilty must be made before the first court date. If you are a Northern Illinois University student, contact Students’ Legal Assistance to determine your options. When you call, please advise the receptionist as to your first court date.

You may need more automobile insurance than you think ...

Given the strained budgets of most N.I.U. students, it is a common temptation to save money by willing to risk driving without insurance or securing only the minimum amount of insurance mandated by state law. Unfortunately, a decision to drive without insurance or with inadequate insurance can backfire.  This decision could jeopardize your employment, health, ability to stay in school, as well as exposing the general public to the risk of injury you may cause but cannot pay for. The following discussion focuses on considerations that should go into your decision of what kind of automobile insurance you need to obtain to protect yourself and the investment your vehicle represents.

Mandatory Insurance

Illinois law mandates that no person shall operate, and no owner shall permit another person to operate, a motor vehicle which is not covered by a liability insurance policy that is subject to a limit of not less than $20,000 for personal injury and $15,000 for personal property. Punishment upon a conviction of driving without insurance includes (for a first offense) a minimum fine of $500, suspension of the vehicle registration of the uninsured motor vehicle until proof of insurance is provided to the Secretary of State, and a two month suspension of the person's driving privileges. Operation of a motor vehicle whose registration has been so suspended subjects the driver to a minimum fine of $1000.

Illinois Financial Liability Act

Under the Illinois Financial Responsibility Act, an uninsured driver who causes an auto accident involving personal injury or property damage in excess of $500 is subject to the suspension of his or her driving privileges for up to 2 years until the driver pays for the damages allegedly caused. Not infrequently, uninsured drivers who dispute causing an accident feel compelled to agree to pay the damages involved rather than incur the 2 year suspension.

Comprehensive Insurance Protects Your Investment

The problem of driving without insurance is twofold. For the driver who causes an accident and has only liability coverage, there is no recourse but to pay for the damages to his or her car or, if the car is a total loss, lose the use of the car without compensation. Payments left due on the car remain the legal duty of the purchaser even if the vehicle is a total loss. On the other hand, a driver with only liability insurance who is involved in an accident he or she has not caused is dependent upon the willingness of the other driver’s insurance company to pay for the full cost of repair. If the insurance carrier refuses to pay, or if the other driver is uninsured, the only recourse is litigation. Litigation may or may not be successful and may not be feasible to pursue, i.e., if the accident occurs in Florida or some other state far away.


Call 753-1701 Students’ Legal Assistance