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Illinois Increases Speed Limit to 70 mph

Posted on in Traffic Violations

There was celebration among Illinois drivers last month when Senate Bill 2356 was enacted into Illinois law which raised the maximum speed limit on Illinois roads to 70 miles per hour. Unfortunately, a lesser noted portion of the same bill made penalties for speeding tickets even stricter, completing a three year trend of over-criminalization of speeding violations.

Until recently, speeding up to 39 mph over the posted speed limit was a petty offense that did not result in a jail sentence. Now, merely driving in excess of 25 mph over the posted limit is a misdemeanor carrying heavy fines and jail time. And, Court Supervision is no longer an option for these tickets, which means a permanent black mark on your driving record if you are convicted of speeding in excess of 25 mph.

It began in 2000, when the legislature criminalized speeding by decreeing that driving in excess of 39 miles over the limit is a Class A misdemeanor. Class A misdemeanors are punishable up to a year in jail and up to a $2,500 fine. Other examples of Class A misdemeanors include Battery, DUI, and Retail Theft. Court Supervision was a possible sentence for this offense.

Then, approximately three years ago, the legislature took away the option for judges to assign the sentence of Court Supervision for a Class A misdemeanor ticket of speeding 40 miles or more per hour over the limit. At the same time, they created a second classification of speeding that resulted in a Class B misdemeanor: speeding 31-39 miles per hour over the limit. Class B misdemeanors are punishable by up to six months in jail and up to a $1,500 fine. Other Class B misdemeanors include certain Cannabis possession cases and Assault, for example.

Then, on July 1, 2013, the legislature took away the option of Court Supervision for the lesser Class B offense of speeding 31-39 miles per hour over the limit, as well, making all Aggravated Speeding offenses ineligible for Court Supervision.

Many people were critical of the laws that turned these Aggravated Speeding charges into misdemeanors. The removal of court supervision as a sentencing option only compounded the problem. And now, the laws are even stricter.

Illinois Misdemeanor Traffic Violations

As of January 1, 2014, Illinois law contained in SB2356 lowers the speed threshold for Class A and Class B misdemeanors by 5mph. Therefore, any speeding ticket for 26-35 mph over the limit is now a Class B misdemeanor and any ticket for driving in excess of 35 miles per hour over the posted limit is a Class A misdemeanor.

To complicate matters, these speeding crimes remain ineligible for the sentence of Court Supervision. Consequently, these crimes are not expungeable under the Illinois Criminal Identification Act. The end result is that these crimes will remain on your record, which may cause your auto insurance to increase and your driving privileges to be suspended or revoked. If you drive for a living or have a Commercial Drivers License (CDL), you are in danger of losing your livelihood.

While the legislature raised the maximum speed limit to 70 miles per hour, Cook County and the surrounding collar counties did not receive the benefit. Despite the enactment of SB 2356, the maximum speed limit in Chicagoland remains 55 mph. In fact, all of the areas that have benefited from the speed limit increase to 70 mph are downstate and in rural Illinois areas.

On balance, SB 2356 hurts the motorist in Chicagoland. Having received no benefit in faster travel, the criminal penalties have been ratcheted up for the region. In a period of a mere three years, the laws regarding aggravated speeding have drastically changed. Now driving faster than 80 mph on our local highways subjects the driver to criminal penalties.

The Illinois State Police lobbied for the increased penalties out of their concern for public safety in general. However, the reality is that the increased penalties will result in people having criminal records for offenses that did not cause actual harm to a person or damage to property. This seems particularly unjust given that many other types of Class A and B misdemeanors traditionally involve actual harm and actual threat of harm to our fellow citizens and their property. Furthermore, other misdemeanors like drug possession, assault and telephone harassment remain expungeable, while merely speeding over 25 mph is not.

Contact an Illinois Traffic Lawyer

Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C. is committed to aggressive representation on criminal traffic offense. Our Illinois traffic lawyers are skilled trial attorneys and we can handle any kind of traffic violation trial in the greater Chicago region. Call 630-472-9700 or fill out our online contact form to schedule an initial consultation.

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