How to Appeal a Parking, Tollway, or Red-Light Ticket in Illinois

Illinois is a state where citizens can rack up tickets and fines in certain urban areas, mostly around Chicago. Those fines come from parking tickets, tollway charges, or red-light camera tickets.

A parking ticket is issued for a traffic violation and the ticket is issued to the owner of the vehicle. As the registered owner of a vehicle, citizens have the right to contest the issuance of a parking ticket. Citizens have seven days from the date of the ticket issuance to contest it, and if neither a contest nor payment is received, a second Notice of Violation is mailed allowing 21 days to request a hearing. If there is still no response, a notice will be mailed that the person has been found liable by default. The citizen now has 21 days to appear in person, and once that time period has passed, any ability to contest or appeal has expired. After 25 days, a final determination is mailed that all options to challenge the ticket have been forfeited. A late payment penalty will be assessed. 

The following defenses are allowed for most parking and compliance tickets:
  • The respondent was not the owner or lessee of the cited vehicle at the time of the violation.
  • The cited vehicle or its license plates were stolen at the time of the violation.
  • The relevant signs prohibiting or restricting parking were missing or obscured.
  • The relevant parking meter was inoperable or malfunctioned through no fault of the respondent.
  • The facts alleged in the violation are inconsistent or do not support a finding that a regulation was violated. 
Other common circumstances which can be considered include:
  • The plate number matches but is a specialty plate or not in the correct category of plate. The Secretary of State’s office issues the same plate number to various types of specialty plates.
  • A computer misread of the plate number, which can occur with old or damage plates.
  • The plate is an older number or was lost or stolen. The plate could belong to a car that was sold with its plate not removed.
  • The vehicle pictured is not yours and you can provide evidence you were not there at the time of the violation.
There are some strategies to consider when fighting a parking ticket. Inspect the ticket carefully for any errors or mistakes, as this can sometimes warrant a dismissal. Presenting evidence can always be helpful, such as a photo of a confusing or faded parking sign, or other evidence to prove your case.

Toll roads are commonplace in the Chicagoland area, and the Illinois Tollway System will mail customers a series of invoices providing multiple opportunities to address unpaid tolls and avoid entering the violation process. Payments can be made online using the assigned invoice number. The tollway system uses license plate imagery to automatically identify car owners to be invoiced, but mistakes do happen and images can be misidentified. If you believe this is the case, you can dispute the image of your plate after entering your invoice number. Customers can dispute charges by filling out a sworn Affidavit of Non-Liability and providing documentation as to the nature of the dispute. The Tollway System also offers an option for payment plans of up to 24 months to pay the entire amount owed.   

The Illinois Tollway System offers a Pay By Plate plan that allows customers without I-PASS or E-ZPass accounts to securely pay unpaid tolls. Drivers can enter their vehicle and payment information into the Pay By Plate system for up to 14 days after the date of travel on a toll road, and by doing so they will avoid any extra fines or fees. 

Illinois is also home to red light cameras in certain locations, and citations can be issued to offending vehicle owners. The Illinois Vehicle Code allows for eight counties to implement Red Light Running Enforcement Systems, including Cook, Lake, Kane, DuPage, Henry, and Will counties in the Chicagoland area and Madison and St. Clair counties in the Metro East near St. Louis. 

The city of Chicago can issue tickets to drivers who are caught on camera either running red lights or speeding. The contest or appeal process is the same as for a parking ticket. Those issued a citation will also receive a notice in the mail that displays three images of a vehicle registered in their name, including a close-up image of the vehicle’s license plate. The following defenses are allowed for Red Light Violations recorded by automated cameras:
  • The violation occurred when the vehicle or its license plates were reported to a law enforcement agency as being stolen, and the vehicle or its plates had not been recovered by the owner at the time of the alleged violation.
  • The vehicle was an authorized emergency vehicle or was lawfully participating in a funeral procession.
  • The facts alleged in the violation notice are inconsistent or do not support a finding that the Chicago Municipal Code was violated. 
Red light cameras are mounted on traffic lights and are usually found at busy intersections. The camera has one or more vehicle sensors that work in tandem with the traffic light signal. The device will take both a still photograph and video footage when a vehicle runs a red light. The footage captured by the red-light camera includes a clear image of the vehicle, the rear license plate, and a timestamp of the time, date, and location of the incident.

Ignoring the red-light fines and doing nothing can bring about additional penalties. The city of Chicago could issue a seizure notice, and vehicles can be towed, booted, and stored. All of that brings on more fees, and storage costs that could go as high as $100 a day.

If you plan to contest or appeal a parking ticket or red-light citation, there are several ways to do it. A hearing request can be submitted online, and tickets can be contested by mail or in-person. There are also rules for representation if the owner cannot represent him or herself at a hearing. 

The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. Please consult a private attorney for additional information.