1. Request a traffic hearing
Check your ticket for a hearing date and time. Some traffic violations automatically receive a hearing date. Others do not. If a hearing date and time does not appear on your ticket, you should ask for a hearing. To do so, follow the instructions on your ticket. If you have questions, call the city of Chicago’s Department of Administrative Hearings at (312) 742-4747.
2. Go to your traffic hearing
You should bring:
- Witnesses that support your defense
- Photographs that support your defense
- Any other evidence that could convince the judge to rule in your favor
Make sure that you bring enough evidence to support your defense. For example, if the city claims that you parked in a tow zone but there weren’t any tow zone signs on the block, you should bring photographs of the entire block. A photo that shows only part of the block probably will not convince the judge that there are no signs on the entire block.
When you arrive for your hearing in traffic court, you should check in with the Department of Administrative Hearings staff member at the desk next to your assigned hearing room.
Your hearing will be conducted by a hearing officer, who acts as a judge. Hearing officers are private attorneys, paid by the city to conduct hearings.
The city will present its side of the case first. In simple cases, the city will send written documents to the hearing officer to prove its case. In complex cases, the city will send an attorney to present its case. If the city brings a witness to the hearing, you will have the opportunity to cross-examine the witness. This means that you can ask the witness questions.
After the city presents its side of the case, the hearing officer will decide whether the city’s case was strong enough that it could win the hearing. If the hearing officer decides that the city’s case was too weak, he or she will dismiss the case at that point. If the hearing officer thinks that the city’s case is strong enough that the city could win, he or she will ask you to present your defense.
3. Present your defense
When presenting your defense, you will tell the hearing officer your side of the story and produce the evidence that you brought with you to the hearing. Make sure that you bring all of your evidence on the day of your hearing. If the hearing officer rules against you and you decide to appeal, you will not be allowed to introduce new evidence or make new arguments on appeal.
During your hearing, it is important to follow normal court etiquette. Specifically, you should speak only when it is your turn. If the hearing officer interrupts you with a question or a comment, you should immediately stop speaking and listen to the hearing officer’s question or comment. If you talk over or interrupt the hearing officer, he or she will probably think that you are being disrespectful.
If you lose your hearing you have 35 days to appeal to the circuit court.