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Sign & Drive

There’s comes a day when all seems right with the world. Okay, maybe not, but in the midst of national turmoil, political unrest and ambiguity regarding Taylor Swift as a pop diva or country music darling, Illinois has something good going for it. Yeah, that’s right, Illinois has done something GOOD. It’s called Sign & Drive, and it has been a long time coming. But guess what else? It might not be as great for truckers as one may think.

Here’s some background. Every time someone breaks the law in Illinois, they have committed a crime, even if it’s just a traffic violations. On a human scale of severity, most traffic crime pales in comparison to other crimes against persons or property. Since most traffic violations do not require custodial arrest, it’s easy to pile them in the closet of forgotten offenses.

When crimes are committed in Illinois, bail must be posted. Some call it bond, some call it bail. Find a couple lawyers with no clientele and let them argue the merits of the two words. For all practical purposes, they are 99% interchangeable.

In the Land of Lincoln, the Illinois Supreme Court has jurisdiction over all things bail. Available on the internet is a series of documents called the Supreme Court Rules. Article V of the rules spells out bail procedures for traffic and misdemeanor offenses. This is the proverbial who, what, when, where, how of bail procedure. It is not without purpose, but reading Article V is not for the faint of heart either. It is a complex, rabbit trail document.

Unfortunately, the General Assembly sometimes trespasses upon the separation of powers between the judicial and legislative branches of government. In this case, the vast majority of Illinois motorists will appreciate the conflict setup by Public Act 98-0870. A student of the Illinois Vehicle Code and Article V will quickly see that legislative mandate is not always answered by the judiciary.

This leaves police departments, circuit clerks and the Secretary of State in limbo over how to process violations. Whose word takes precedence? It’s not unreasonable to say “it shouldn’t be this hard”, but the reality is, it is.

Per the General Assembly, when this new law goes into effect on January 1st, 2015, Illinois drivers cited for certain petty offenses will no longer have to post their driver’s licenses, a bond card or $120 cash as bail. This archaic procedure is almost entirely unique to Illinois for basic traffic violations like speeding, seatbelts, red lights and stop signs.

The real consternation for Illinois drivers is that 44 of the other 50 states in the Union (including Illinois) are part of an interstate compact. This compact allows a speeding driver from Iowa to not have to post bail for his crime…he can leave after signing the ticket. However, our own Illinois residents has to cough up money or their driver’s license.

There is a catch in this law though. While it may seem that all tickets which do not require a custodial arrest are eligible for Sign & Drive, this is not true. The General Assembly, in a less than easily understandable way, deferred some authority back to the Supreme Court.

First, the law says that when the Illinois Supreme Court requires an Illinois driver to sign the citation, he may sign it and go. The Rules, however, never provide an Illinois driver to sign and drive! The Rules require all Illinois drivers to post bail.

Second, the law says that whenever the Supreme Court has an assigned bail, the Supreme Court Rule takes precedent. What this means is, generally speaking, everything which is not the typical $120 bail for a petty offense, such as no insurance ($2000/10% or driver’s license), misdemeanor traffic violations ($1500/10%) or overweights have to post bail in the traditional manner.

As it pertains to trucks, if a driver receives an overweight on either a Chapter 15 violation (gross/axle/bridge formula/elevated structure/permit) or a Chapter 3 overweight (registration), the full fine must be posted as bail. Not having a CDL when required is a misdemeanor, so the bail still remains $1500/10%. This is because the Supreme Court has deferred authority from the legislature.

Some truck violations by Illinois truckers like oversize (length/width/height) violations, violation of classification, a violation of permit, or IFTA violations would qualify for Sign & Drive. A court date, or a higher fine than $120 may be required, but the signature is all that is needed for bail.

The devil is always in the details, and many details still need to be fixed. To make this law clear requires a statutory amendment by the legislature and a rule change by the Article V committee of the Supreme Court. Rest assured, the ITEA is already working on both.

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