What Should You Do if You Miss Your Traffic Court Date?

If you receive a traffic citation while driving in Chicago, the law enforcement officer who issued the traffic ticket will tell you if you need to appear in court to settle the traffic ticket. If you don’t need to appear in court, you have three options:

  1. Plead guilty, pay a fine, and receive a traffic conviction on your public driving record.
  2. Plead guilty, pay a hefty fine, attend traffic safety school, and forego a traffic conviction.
  3. Plead not guilty and request a court trial.

If you request a court trial, or if the law enforcement officer informed you must attend a court date, you must do so. If you miss your traffic court date, or if you decide not to show up to court, you may face severe consequences, such as license suspension and even jail time. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the legal process and get a favorable outcome. To schedule a free initial consultation, contact one of our skilled lawyers today at (708) 465-1040.

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What if You Missed Your Traffic Court Date in Chicago?

If you missed your court date because of traffic issues, a personal emergency, you slept in, or any other reason, you should to the Clerk’s Office where your case is being heard to find out what happened with your case. Most probably, you’ll see that the case was tried in your absence or that a bench warrant has been issued for your arrest, depending on the severity of the traffic offense you face. Knowing where you stand with the legal system is essential when deciding the best course of action in moving forward with your case.

Related: Do I Have to Appear in Court For a Speeding Ticket

You Can be Found Guilty by Default

For most minor traffic charges, if you miss your court date, the judge will have a court trial in your absence and this, in most cases, always results in a guilty verdict.

This is typically the procedure for minor traffic violations, including speeding. During a court trial in your absence, the judge will ask the police officer an account of what happened during the traffic stop and the cause for giving the traffic citation. If the judge finds there is a valid reason for the ticket, he or she will find you guilty in your absence. Then, the Cook County court clerk will mail the court costs and fine bill to the address listed in the court summons.

It’s imperative to note that a trial in absence won’t happen if you pre-pay your ticket before coming to court, which is an option for common traffic infractions. However, pre-paying your tickets is an admission of guilt, and thus the trial in absence is unnecessary and so is any court appearance. Never pre-pay your ticket if you wish to fight the charges in front of a judge. Before committing to any legal option for a traffic violation, can an experienced attorney to discuss your best course of legal action.


Higher Penalties and a Warrant May be Issued

For more felony charges or serious misdemeanor traffic cases, missing your court date can result in additional penalties. If the charges you face comes with potential jail time, the judge may order an arrest warrant, which is also referred to as a capias. The arrest warrant is the first step towards an additional charge you may face: failure to appear in court. This carries additional punishments besides your traffic violation.

If you miss your court date for more serious criminal charges, turn yourself into a local law enforcement department. However, it’s crucial that you contact an experienced traffic attorney to help you. An experienced traffic ticket attorney can file a Failure to Appear Warrant or a Motion to Withdraw the Bench Warrant if you have a good cause for missing the first court hearing.

If that isn’t a viable option, an attorney can represent you at a bond hearing once you turn yourself in for the arrest warrant. Also, your attorney can explain to the judge the reasons that didn’t show for your appearance. An attorney can also advise the best time and the best place to turn yourself into the authorities.

What You Can do to Help Your Case

If you missed your court date and the judge or the jury trial found you guilty in your absence, that’s not the end of your case. You have legal options to rehear your case in Illinois. The first legal option is to appeal the case. Under Illinois law, you have ten days from your initial court date to appeal the hearing to the circuit court.

During an appeal, your case will be reheard by a new judge in the circuit court. Then, you’ll receive a new court date to attend. You mustn’t give a reason you’re appealing the case. The second legal option to appeal your case is to file a Motion to Rehear your case within sixty days of the conviction in absence. You must present this motion to a traffic court judge who has the power to approve or deny your motion. You must give a valid reason in the motion regarding why the judge should grant a rehearing of your case.

It’s crucial to note that filing a Motion to Rehear doesn’t affect the deadline to appeal to the circuit court. However, your right to appeal can be lost when waiting for the judge to decide if to grant your motion.

Related: How to Prepare For Traffic Court

How to Determine Whether You Must Go to Traffic Court

If you have been charged with a traffic offense, that’s punishable as a class 1 or 2 misdemeanor offense, you need to appear in the traffic court. However, it’s advisable to speak with an experienced Chicago traffic lawyer in the area where you received the ticket. The local judge’s rules will have a significant impact regarding whether you need to appear. A local traffic lawyer can address this issue for you. In a reckless driving case, which is a class 1 misdemeanor, a skilled traffic attorney can appear to court on your behalf.


Typically, you can tell whether you need to appear to court based on whether the box at the middle of your summons with instructions states you don’t need to appear is checked. If the instructions are crossed out or the box isn’t checked, you should appear at the traffic court. Not attending a court date will result in a judge trying you in your absence, which most probably results in the judge finding you guilty, a capias being issued, or issuance of a show cause.

Contact Our Experienced Chicago Traffic Violation Defense Attorney Today for Legal Advice!

If you’re required to appear in traffic court, it’s crucial that you show up on the designated date and time. If you don’t, you risk putting yourself through more legal trouble than is necessary. Whether you need legal counsel about a traffic ticket you received, or you missed your court hearing, it’s advisable to hire a knowledgeable Chicago traffic ticket defense lawyer. At Chicago Traffic Lawyers, our legal team has dealt with hundreds of traffic cases and can help you avoid a traffic conviction at all costs. Call our Chicago law office today at (708) 465-1040 to schedule a no-cost initial consultation.

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