Cary won’t adjudicate seatbelt violations

CARY – A plan by the village to include seatbelt violations in its administrative adjudication program has ended.

Cary officials last week opted to exclude seatbelt violations after it received letters from the state’s attorney’s office saying that seatbelt violations have to be handled by the circuit court.

The village is in the process of setting up its administrative adjudication program and expects it to start the first week of May, Village Administrator Chris Clark said.

Under the state vehicle code, seatbelt violations have to be reported to the Secretary of State’s Office by the circuit clerk.

“The Village of Cary should not adjudicate seatbelt violations in its municipal court,” McHenry County State’s Attorney Louis Bianchi wrote in a letter to Cary Village Attorney Michael Coppedge.

The State’s Attorney’s Office acknowledges that the state vehicle code does not contain language restricting municipalities from adjudicating reportable offenses.

“When compared to the municipalities of the state, the circuit court clerks are in the best position to comply with such a reporting requirement,” Bianchi wrote in a second letter.

Trustee Jeff Kraus was the lone dissenter against eliminating seatbelt violations from the village’s administrative adjudication docket.

“I’d like to get some clarification. What is the right way? Can we or can’t we?” Kraus said. “We’re being the nice guy. We’re saying, ‘OK, we won’t.’ “

When municipalities run administrative adjudication programs, they can keep all of the fine revenue collected for offenses they adjudicate, rather than sending the cases to the circuit court and having the county take a cut.

“My understanding is when we originally went about wanting to do adjudication in the village was that we were looking for a revenue raiser,” Kraus said.

Seatbelt violations could have brought in $15,000, Kraus said.

Police Chief Steve Casstevens said he has asked the legislative committee of the Illinois Chiefs of Police to approach legislators to clearly say one way or the other if municipalities can adjudicate seatbelt violations.

“Maybe down the road we’ll have our answer,” Casstevens said.

Trustee Karen Lukasik said the village has no mechanism to report these offenses to the Secretary of State’s Office.

“I don’t think it’s because they want to make revenue and we’re stepping on their turf,” Lukasik said. “The state’s attorney’s office is making it clear they don’t agree we should be doing that.”

Lukasik said it’s important to keep a good relationship with the state’s attorney office.

“I’m not looking at this as a revenue maker; I’m looking at this as we need to do what’s right, and there’s villages that are getting on the fringes of doing what they shouldn’t be doing, and it’s coming back to bite them, and I don’t want us to get in that situation,” Lukasik said. “I certainly don’t want us to get into a match with the state’s attorney’s office when we deal with them daily on other issues.”

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