Friday, August 19, 2011

Lesson 1: Vehicle blunders

Most readers of this blog have some idea of the types of cases I work with: appeals of City of Chicago fines up to $50,000. About half of these are parking, registration, or vehicle equipment tickets under $250. And many of them could have been prevented, saving much money and emotional hardship (and I'm talking both for the ticket recipient and myself).

Obviously I'm not giving legal advice here, this is just a list of ways to stay out of common pitfalls that I see in court every day. Here are some rules to live by in Chicago:

When you move, change your license and registration ASAP.

This is for several reasons. Number one, you are legally obligated to do so. Number two, you risk missing your license plate renewal by mail. These are both pretty straight-forward.

Number three, if any by-mail tickets are issued to you, they will go to the wrong address, you will be defaulted, and it will be your fault. The tickets will double and you won't be allowed to vacate the default.

Don't let anyone drive or ride in your car if there is even a slight possibility that they are carrying drugs.

If someone is caught in your vehicle with drugs, the vehicle is getting impounded and you will probably lose the car. This is true whether it's yours and you're driving, whether it's a passenger, or whether you're not in the car and someone borrowed it. And if a relative or friend took the car without your knowledge, that applies, too, unless you report it stolen. Many people don't do this because they don't want their loved one to get arrested. But will your loved one reimburse you when they lose your car to the City of Chicago?


This one seems obvious, but people somehow seem to think that they will contest these red light camera tickets and win. You will, in all likelihood, not. They have you on camera and they can watch you blow right through the light. There is no defense. And if you can turn right on red in the intersection, you can make the turn even if there are cameras present, but you must stop first.

This is personally starting to bug me a lot in my suburb; even at intersections where right turns on red are allowed, people are refusing to make them because they're afraid of the camera. Sigh...

No tint allowed in front windows!

This is something that people don't understand for three reasons. Number one, dealers are allowed to sell cars with front tinted windows within the City. (I think this is just a problem of uneven enforcement.) Number two, car shops are allowed to install tint in the City of Chicago. (I think this is just difficult to police.) And number three, the Illinois statute on the subject allows tint up to a certain level on all windows.

It's the last one that really seems to be popular lately, and I can understand why people would think that the higher law rules. But in this case, the City of Chicago has home rule authority (granted by the State of Illinois) to enact stricter ordinances relating to vehicle equipment, and windows are vehicle equipment. The home rule power does not allow the City to change the rules of the road or other statutes, but it does allow the tint. This is a serious ticket - $250.00 a pop, and no warnings issued. If you have tinted front windows, I would stay out of the City!

And lastly...

Careful where you park...

The City of Chicago has tons of revenue officers driving and walking around the city constantly, just itching to give you a ticket. Do not give them a reason to give you a ticket. If you want to park in a questionable spot, the best idea is just to leave it and find another spot. Here are some places that you can never park in Chicago, under Municipal Code of Chicago 9-64-110 and others:
  • Blocking sidewalk (AT ALL)
  • On a bridge
  • Under a viaduct or underpass (this includes railroad and L tracks, although strangely you can park under L tracks in the Loop)
  • Bus stops or taxi stands
This is important because the City doesn't have to post signs to ticket you for these violations. Also, you can only park in an alley if (1) you're engaged in loading or unloading and (2) the car isn't taking up the whole alley. All of this is in the municipal code, and if you're going to be parking in Chicago, I would read it if I were you.

So, that's the end of my rant - I would like to think that, after this job, I know more about parking in the City of Chicago than many lifelong residents. If you have questions about parking, you should read the code or contact an attorney / alderman in your area.
Good luck out there, and stay safe!


Jill said...

This was very informative. I feel compelled to share with all my friends....

* Valerie * said...

Yes, do it! I am trying to avoid some heartbreak and unnecessary financial loss.