Appearance Requirements

Appearance is Required

A ticket marked "YOU MUST APPEAR" or "COURT APPEARANCE REQUIRED" is issued for a violation for which the violator must appear in court on the date and time indicated. The Illinois Supreme Court requires individuals cited for violations which create a great potential for harm or carry mandatory minimum penalties to appear in court to answer the charges.

These cases are scheduled by the police officer issuing the ticket in accordance with Supreme Court Rule 504.

Traffic violations requiring a court appearance are distinguished in the following way: those for which the only punishment on conviction is a fine and those for which the punishment on conviction can be a jail sentence. Traffic violations that can result in a jail sentence are known as misdemeanors.

The court processes misdemeanor traffic offenses differently than traffic violations that are punishable by fine only.

Appearance is Not Required

A ticket marked "YOU MUST MAIL OR LOG ONTO WWW.COOKCOUNTYCLERKOFCOURT.ORG" or "NO COURT APPEARANCE IS REQUIRED" is issued for a violation that does not require a court appearance and is punishable by fine only.

You must choose one of the following three options: 

Plea Options When Appearance is Not Required

    Selection of this option generally results in a conviction which is reported to the Illinois Secretary of State for entry on your public driving record. Violations that will not result in either a report to the Illinois Secretary of State, or, if reported, will not result in a violation that counts toward a suspension of your driver's license include, but are not limited to, the following:

    • obstruction of traffic
    • unattended vehicle
    • no headlights, when required
    • operating a freight hauling vehicle on a boulevard or Lake Shore Drive
    • failure to display state registration plates or city sticker
    • violating a funeral procession
    • opening a vehicle door in traffic
    • following a fire apparatus too closely
    • those listed in the Illinois Vehicle Code at 625 ILCS 5/6-204

    If you select Option A, please see Payment Information.

    See the Clerk's website for current fees. 

    • Payment for the fine, fees, and costs.
    • Fill out the Traffic Safety School registration, and return it in the envelope with your ticket payment.
    • Successfully complete the four-hour Driver Safety Course within three months.

    Selection of this option eliminates the reporting of a conviction to the Illinois Secretary of State.

    WARNING: Drivers may take Traffic Safety School (TSS) twice within a 12-month period (once online and the second time in a classroom). Those who request TSS a third time within a 12-month period are not eligible and will receive a conviction on their driving record and will not receive a TSS refund.

    The Circuit Court of Cook County utilizes the National Safety Council (NSC) as its administrator of the traffic safety in the process of transitioning the administration of its traffic safety program.  

    Once the National Safety Council receives notification from the Circuit Court of Cook County that you have paid your fines, mandatory court costs, and Traffic Safety School fees, NSC will send you a letter as your notice of your Traffic School course assignment. This letter should reach you within two to three weeks of your payment to the Circuit Court of Cook County.  The notice will include the date by which you must complete the course. You will have at least six (6) weeks to complete the course from the time you receive the notice of your Traffic Safety School assignment.

    If you have questions about your traffic case, please contact the Clerk of the Circuit Court.

    If you wish to contest the charges, you must choose "Option C" on the envelope and mail it to the Clerk of the Circuit Court within seven days of receiving the ticket. If you decide to come to court to contest the charge(s) and if found guilty of the charge(s) in the traffic citation(s), you will likely pay a fine plus pay mandatory court costs and could have a conviction added to your drivers record. Option B is less costly than a possible conviction.

    Note: You are responsible for notifying the court of any address change. Please mark the "I HAVE MOVED" box and enter your correct address on the envelope before mailing. This should be done in all cases where the address written by the officer is not where you wish to receive your mail. Please mark this box and provide complete information if your apartment or unit number is missing or incorrect. Please note that the United States Postal Service will not deliver mail to a multi-unit building unless an apartment or unit number is included.

    Your plea of not guilty will be accepted by the Clerk of the Circuit Court and a court date will be scheduled. The clerk will notify you of the court date by mail.

    If you do not receive notification of your court date within 21 days from the date you mailed your request, please call the courthouse where your ticket is pending to learn the date. You are responsible for following the progress of your case. Failure to do so may result in a conviction being entered and reported to the Illinois Secretary of State. In some instances, your driving privileges will be suspended.

    Many people who choose Option C come to court only to find they do not have a valid defense to the violation. At the beginning of each court call, the judge makes an opening statement about the operation of traffic court.

    A list of some unacceptable defenses includes the following:

    • "The sun was in my eyes."
    • "I was running late and had to get to work."
    • "I was keeping up with the flow of traffic."
    • "My speedometer was broken."
    • "I did not see the sign." (Unacceptable unless the sign was not placed in accordance with state standards.)
    • "I was unfamiliar with the neighborhood and was lost."

    Please be aware that if one of these reasons applies to your situation it will not be accepted by the judge.