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Calculated Fines

Okay, the secret is out. When it comes to overweight vehicle enforcement in Illinois, there is money in it for local government. What is not very well understood is where the fine money actually goes. Lots of rumor and speculation, so the article this week will delve into the quagmire of statutory fines for overweights. You may very well be surprised that it is not as lucrative for local government as you once believed.

When discussing Chapter 15 overweights, there is a garden variety of offenses which could be cited. Overweight on gross weight. Overweight on axle. Overweight on bridge formula. Overweight on elevated structure. Either way, all four of these share the fine chart found in 625 ILCS 5/15-113(a).

The fine however is not the bottom line for the money paid on an overweight fine. When the police officer weighs a truck and tells the driver the bail is a “$XXXXX.XX”, there are really three different parts to the calculation. So here goes…

Part 1 – Statutory Fine This figure is set by the state legislature, your elected representatives. You can argue (ill-advised) with motive, discretion and attitude of a police officer all day long, but you can’t blame him for is the fine schedule. The politicians created it.

Until 2010, these figures were based on $75 for every 500 pounds. As part of a quid pro quo agreement between the legislature and the trucking industry, the fines were doubled to $150 for every 500 pounds in exchange for uniform weight laws.

Here’s what you probably did not know: the doubled portion of the fine does not go to the locals. It goes to the State of Illinois. The locals still only get $75 for every 500 pounds overweight (but they don’t…see below), and the State Capital Fund gets $75 for doing none of the work. That’s why everyone loves Illinois.

The rub here is when fines are finalized in court, the Supreme Court Rules kick in. The Circuit Clerks can only distribute funds as set by the high justices of Illinois. Guess what? Of that $75, the local authority only receives 44.5% of their $75, or $33.38. The remaining 55.5% goes to the State Treasurer (16.825%) and the county’s general corporate fund (38.675%), both of whom did none of the work.

Part 2 – Surcharge What fee would not be complete it there was not a surcharge tax? Oddly, this is not found in the Vehicle Code, but in the Corrections Code, 730 ILCS 5/5-9-1. For all traffic charges (not registration offenses), the surcharge is calculated at $10 for every $40 of fine.

This revenue is sent by the Circuit Clerk to the State Treasurer (who did none of the work), and is deposited into a host of sub-funds to promote state level public safety programs. How much of the surcharge goes to the local town who issued the citation? That’s right…zero.

Part 3 – Court Fees There’s a 102 counties in Illinois, so theoretically there are 102 different court fee calculations. The Supreme Court has authorized several categories for fees, and maximum limits for each fee. There is the clerk fee, the automation fee, the document storage fee, the court finance fee, the “other” fee, the E-ticket fee, and the Illinois State Police vehicle fund fee.

The counties do not have to collect all these or part of them. Regardless of the amount collected, how much goes to the local town who issued the citation? That’s right…zero.

So let’s look at a truck found to be 5350 overweight on an axle in Cook County, with a total bail of $2229:

Statutory Fine: $1650 – State of Illinois Capital Fund: $825 – Illinois State Treasurer: $138.81 – County Corporate Fund: $319.06 – Local town who wrote the ticket: $367.13

Surcharge: $420 – Various State of Illinois funds: $420 – Local town who wrote the ticket: $0

Court Fees: $159 – Various County funds: $159 – Local town who wrote the ticket: $0

So for that initial bail of $2229 cash the driver had to pay, that local town only reaped $367.13, or 16.5%, of the total haul. The rest went to fund broken state and county revenue machines.

The other point to consider is this only represents the initial fines. Most police officers are willing to negotiate a lower fine in court, typically giving back one-third (33%) to one-half (50%) of the fine. This means even less for the local jurisdiction, who did all the work.

Hey – $367 is better than a stick in the eye for local coffers, but it’s not the pot of gold that most truckers and local leaders believe. The ITEA does not advocate the use of local administrative adjudication for overweight violations because it is illegal. However, if anyone wonders why a town would attempt this, now you know.

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