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Unbuckled child costs driver $172.00

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

McHenry County, Illinois

Unbuckled child costs driver $172.00

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
December 11, 2011

So, what's the truth in this story?

On the front page of today's Northwest Herald is a story about a Lakemoor woman who got a ticket in June pertaining to her daughter's seatbelt ticket. That ticket cost her $172.00, which was paid by a collection of money donated by McHenry County attorneys who took pity on Lydia Rosario.

The story says the ten-year-old daughter had "briefly" unfastened her seatbelt to reach for something she had dropped. A sharp-eyed McHenry County Sheriff's deputy spotted the violation and pulled Rosario over.

The deputy issued a ticket. The reporter wrote, "She (Rosario) also appeared confused about how what started off as a $25 fine ended up at $172 with court costs." Darned right that Ms. Rosario is confused. First of all, it's not a $25 ticket. Maybe it ought to be a $25 ticket, but it's not. Let's try $120 for that ticket. Is that a lot closer?

Ms. Rosario's being a person with a disability doesn't have a thing to do with the story. Judge Wilbrandt, with whom Woodstock Attorney Wes Pribla took issue, doesn't set the fine for the seatbelt violation or the court costs. Because I wasn't in the courtroom, I can't comment on whatever happened during the hearing that got Pribla's attention. According to online court records, Ms. Rosario had appeared pro se; i.e., without legal representation. Judges will often grant a little leeway to defendants who represent themselves, but the burden is on the defendant to defend herself properly and as permitted by legal rules.

I don't know the circumstances of the traffic stop. If, indeed, the child had briefly unfastened her seatbelt, then the mother doesn't deserve a ticket; a warning should have sufficed.

The Northwest Herald report was kind not to name the deputy. Who was the deputy who issued Ticket No. 05058576?

Because of the now-outrageous levels of fines and court costs, maybe deputies (and police officers) should exercise more discretion when deciding whether to issue a ticket or a warning. Would a Warning have sufficed in this case? If a ten-year-old passenger chose to unbuckle "briefly" (was it only "briefly"?), is it fair to sock the driver with a large fine and resulting court costs?

Was the kid in the front seat? Probably not; the kid was probably in the back, out of the driver's view. Isn't a driver supposed to pay attention to driving? Could a driver miss the fact that a kid in the back seat had unbuckled?

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