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Rip-off after traffic court

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

McHenry County, Illinois

Rip-off after traffic court

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
September 14, 2012

Yesterday a friend went with his neighbor to McHenry County Traffic Court. After the Pledge of Allegiance was said, Judge Beaderstadt began handling cases.

The neighbor had been ticketed in Harvard for making a "country" turn. You know what that is; right? It's one that is too wide. To make matters worse, her driver's license had been expired for a year.

The "terrible" violator in this case was an 89-year-old woman. When her case was called, her friend accompanied her to the stand and explained he had driven her to court, since she didn't have a driver's license. (Good move; deputies might have been lurking in the parking lot, ready to pounce on her if she went to a car alone after court.)

She had wanted to pay the tickets by mail, but her appearance was required because she had so flagrantly disobeyed and disregarded the law. She could have been tossed into Hotel Nygren for 364 days for such a dastardly act as insulting the Great State of Illinois by driving at age 89 on an expired license.

When Judge asked if she had gotten a new license, she explained that she had given up driving and had sold her car. She also explained that she had forgotten to renew her license. (That might have been a good time to ask the judge to dismiss the charges. Would he have done so?)

She pled guilty to driving on the expired license, and the judge sentenced her to 120 days' supervision. She's pretty sure not to get any more traffic tickets, since she is no longer driving! And at age 89, she is not likely to rob a bank and try to escape on a bicycle or golf cart.

Then the judge asked the Harvard prosecuting attorney what he wanted to do with the illegal turn ticket. If he'd had any manners, he would have asked the judge to nolle pross it. Instead, he asked for a $100 fine and costs.

As the story got to me, Judge Beaderstadt asked him, "Did you just say $35?" And the attorney said, "Yes, I did."

Wish I'd been there. I probably would have fallen off my seat, laughing out loud! Many thanks to the considerate judge!

Imagine their surprise, and shock, at the payment window, when the cashier asked for the $35 PLUS $213 in court costs.

TWO HUNDRED THIRTEEN DOLLARS in court costs on a $35.00 fine!

It is way past time for a revolt at the McHenry County Courthouse. The only problem is that there is, at this time, no organization of people convicted in traffic court to mount an effective protest.

Who is responsible for such exorbitant court costs? Not the judges. In fact, they tell defendants not to get mad at them or at the cashiers.

Here's who is at fault. The 24 members of the McHenry County Board. You can find their names right here. And the Illinois State Representatives and Senators. Find their names online or in the Northwest Herald.

If you have been a victim of exorbitant court costs, contact your elected representatives (and I use that term loosely) and ask them what they will do to lower court costs. And when they will do it.

If you haven't yet been a victim of exorbitant traffic and other court costs, you probably will be. So contact your elected reps now. And, as you prepare to vote in the November 6 election, ask the candidates where they stand on exorbitant court costs and what they will do about them, if elected.

Is there an attorney willing to take on a Class Action lawsuit? Any one defendant won't make a case, but maybe a Class Action suit for $50,-100,000,000 would cause an attorney to start licking his lips.

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