Crucial Rule for Processing Traffic Tickets

Court dismisses ticket because it was not transmitted to circuit clerk within 48-hour deadline

By Kateah M. McMasters

Supreme Court Rule 552 requires municipal police officers and police departments to transmit traffic citations to the circuit clerk within 48 hours of issuance.

In 1989, the Illinois Appellate Court held that this Rule is directory rather than mandatory, and that the dismissal of a traffic citation for a violation of this Rule is only appropriate where the procedure used by an officer or police department was part of a pattern that clearly and consistently violated the Rule.  However, the Court did not define what constitutes such a pattern.

Through its recent decision in People v. Geiler, the Illinois Appellate Court shed further light on this issue when it upheld a dismissal of a traffic citation based upon a police department’s practice of delivering citations to the circuit clerk on Mondays and Fridays.

People v. Geiler

People v. Geiler arises from a speeding ticket issued to Christopher Geiler on Monday, May 5, 2014, by a City of Troy police officer.  Troy police department usually hand-delivered tickets issued over the weekend on Monday and delivered citations issued during the week on Friday. Thus, Geiler’s Monday ticket was not filed with the Madison County circuit clerk until Friday, May 9, 2014 (four days later).

The Geiler Court found that, under this procedure, citations issued on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays were consistently transported to the circuit clerk beyond the 48-hour deadline.  Thus, the Court upheld the dismissal of Mr. Geiler’s citation because the delay he suffered was a clear and consistent violation of Rule 552.  Moreover, the Court upheld the dismissal despite the testimony of an officer with 11 years of experience that it was impossible to transport citations to the courthouse every day.

While the dismissal of one traffic citation may seem inconsequential, the regular dismissal of traffic citations for regular delays could significantly impact a public body’s ability to consistently enforce the law or to generate revenue from the issuance and prosecution of traffic citations.

Lessons learned: review ticket procedures immediately

Public bodies should review their police departments’ procedures for processing traffic citations to ensure compliance with Rule 522 and to avoid the routine dismissal of citations.   One effective way to comply with the Rule is to have an officer hand-deliver the citations to the circuit clerk every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  Upon delivery, the officer should have the clerk sign a receipt that lists which citations   were delivered and the date of delivery.

Hand delivery three times a week may be a substantial burden for small or rural public bodies.  If so, police departments should mail the citations every Monday, Wednesday and Friday using certified mail, or some other method that provides proof of mailing.  A record should be kept  of the mailed citations that includes the date on which the citations were mailed.

Please note that the Geiler Court held Friday citations that were not delivered until Monday violated Rule 522’s the 48-hour rule. Thus, in light of Geiler, police departments should also consider mailing  on Saturday any citations issued on Friday, in addition to either hand-delivering or mailing citations every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

With receipts and records of mailing in-hand, public bodies can prevent future ticket dismissals for alleged violations of Rule 522.

Posted in Kateah McMasters, Local Government and Public Finance