Traffic Law


What "Photo Enforcement" Really Means in Illinois

We've all seen the signs that say "Photo Enforcement" when we enter a construction zone, but what does that really mean? With people growingly concerned with government overreach, the concept of law enforcement utilizing photo enforcement is unsettling.

In fact, many residents of Chicago have opened litigation against these photo enforcement policies where they deem the tickets they received to be inaccurate. However, it is not as bad as you may think. The State of Illinois has strict guidelines for when law enforcement can enact this tactic.

There are legitimate reasons to have strict traffic laws in work zones around roads. Workers are subject to significant injury or death when drivers become careless with their surroundings and cause accidents with work zone employees and equipment. Unfortunately, many road crew members lose their lives each year due to these types of vehicular accidents.

When caught speeding through a work zone in Illinois, the minimum fine is $375. There is a $1,000 fine for the second offense, and the state requires a court appearance. When a driver accrues two violations in two years, there is a mandatory ninety-day driver's license suspension. With these harsh penalties and photo enforcement in work zones, it is essential to abide by speed limits when in these areas.

Policies of Automatic Photo Enforcement

While the idea of photo enforcement in work zones may seem unethical for some, the State of Illinois deemed it otherwise. This occurred when Illinois passed statute (625 ILCS 7) in 2015. From that date, photo enforcement became legal in Illinois. Firstly, however, it is crucial to understand the conditions of this surveillance and how it impacts you as a driver.

The conditions for photo enforcement in Illinois are as follows:

  • Automated photo enforcement only occurs when road construction workers are present.
  • The signs as you approach the work zone must have verbiage that states "work zone", "automatic photo enforcement," and "$375 minimum fine."
  • Automatic photo enforcement is not a crewless operation. The Illinois State Police conduct the photo enforcement from white vans with orange lettering that boldly read "photo enforcement van."

What Happens Next?

As you approach a work zone containing a photo enforcement van, you will see a radar-triggered speed limit sign that will give you your speed as you pass it. When you speed past this sign, sensors trigger the photo enforcement equipment, which captures an image of your vehicle as well as your speed. When this occurs, the photo enforcement system captures four photos of your car—two of the front and two of the back.

Illinois traffic law and traffic codes dictate these photos need to capture the make and model of the car, the license plate, and an image of the driver. Further, the photo enforcement equipment must also log the time, date, and location of the violation along with the recorded speed. Finally, the camera sends each photo to the Illinois State Police, where they undergo review to determine if they should assign a ticket to the perpetrator.

When they deem an infraction warrants a traffic ticket, it is sent out to the vehicle's registered owner via certified mail within fourteen days. If the vehicle's registered owner was not the driver at the time of the infraction, they could contest the traffic ticket.

For the traffic violation to hold up under state law, it must meet two conditions:

  • The State of Illinois must prove at least one worker was present at the time of the infraction
  • The photo must clearly display the license plate of the vehicle and the driver

If the photo indicating a speeding violation does not meet these parameters, the Illinois State Police will not issue a ticket.

What Photo Enforcement Does Not Catch

While Illinois traffic law requires all vehicles to slow down to a safe speed to protect the workers in these areas, they do not have enough photo enforcement vans to monitor all work zones in the state. Therefore, it is only when you see the photo enforcement van in the construction zone that photo enforcement occurs.

This revelation means common traffic violations or even more serious infractions such as reckless driving or leaving the scene of the accident do not fall under the jurisdiction of this method of enforcement and cannot be used against the driver if cited for these violations. The photo enforcement unit only targets speeding through work zones when workers are present.

The Illinois State Police, in conjunction with the Illinois Department of Transportation, keep the photo enforcement signs posted to act as a reminder not to speed through work zones where workers' lives are at risk. This practice is to maintain the protection and safety of these valued state employees.

What To Do if You Believe You Are Not Guilty of a Traffic Violation

If you have received a photo enforcement unit ticket and do not feel the infraction is correct, you have a few options to consider. First, you can accept your guilt and pay for the ticket. However, immediately seek legal counsel if you feel that you are not guilty of the crime with which you were charged. The attorneys at Grcic Law have experience defending automotive moving violations and can guide you on the proper course of action as a defendant.

It is easy to feel intimidated by law enforcement. They use this tactic to push citizens into compliance despite not committing any crime—even those as small as a speeding ticket. It is vital to remain vigilant in opposing unethical law enforcement practices that curb our freedoms in this country.

If you feel you have been the subject of a false moving violation involving a photo enforcement van, then contact the professionals at Grcic Law. We have many years of experience protecting our clients' rights against this unethical law enforcement practice and will continue for many more until it stops.

For more information on traffic law, contact Grcic Law at 847-696-6196 today!

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