Q: I got a no-insurance ticket. Will getting insurance make any difference at this point?
A: Yes, if this is your first offense. If you didn't have insurance, getting it can reduce the fine from $500 to $100.
If you had insurance when you were ticketed, but just didn't have proof, you can avoid a fine entirely. You may even be able to resolve it before the "must appear" court date, so that you don't actually have to appear in court.
Illinois vehicles must be "covered by a liability insurance policy." That insurance must pay for the driver's liability to other people, or other people's property. (The mandatory minimum insurance does not insure the driver's car).
The minimum coverage required is: $20,000 for one person's bodily injury or death; $40,000 total for multiple bodily injuries or deaths; and $15,000 for the property damage "of others in any one motor vehicle accident."
To make sure that vehicles are insured, the law requires that every "operator of a motor vehicle ... carry within the vehicle evidence of insurance." That evidence "shall be displayed upon request made by any law enforcement officer wearing a uniform or displaying a badge or other sign of authority." To remove any doubt, "display" is defined as "the manual surrender of the evidence of insurance into the hands of the law enforcement officer."
So, proof of insurance is required — not just insurance. If you can't produce proof upon request, you can be fined "in excess of $500, but not more than $1,000."
If you had insurance, but no proof, you can avoid the fine if you can produce "in court satisfactory evidence that at the time of the arrest the motor vehicle was covered by a liability insurance policy."
If you didn't have insurance, but get it now, you can get court supervision, and reduce the fine to $100. The vehicle must be covered "as of the date of the court appearance." To complete supervision successfully, that insurance must continue "during the entire time of court supervision."
In many counties, the circuit clerk is authorized to verify your proof of insurance, and dismiss the ticket. It's then pretty simple: you produce an insurance card, or other proof of insurance, and the clerk dismisses the case.
Where clerks can resolve no-insurance tickets, the "must appear" part on the ticket becomes somewhat misleading. You must appear, but not necessarily in court, and not necessarily on the specified date. Appearing before the circuit clerk, before that specified date, will take care of it.
Although that's how many counties do it, nothing really explains this to the public. Check with the circuit clerk where your ticket is to see what they do.
Finally, since last August, proof of insurance can be on your cellphone, or "other portable electronic device." Forking over your phone, just like a paper proof, "does not constitute consent for a law enforcement officer, court or other officer of the court to access other contents of the electronic device."
If they break it, they're "immune from any liability resulting from damage."
John Roska is a lawyer with Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation. You can send your questions to The Law Q&A, 302 N. First St., Champaign, IL 61820. Questions may be edited for space.