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A Victory and Caution for Administrative Hearings of Automated Red-Light Violations

David W. Mcardle

Author: David McArdle

The recent case of Farrar v. City of Rolling Meadows affirmed the ability of a municipality to implement and enforce its own administrative procedures for red-light violations.

The specific challenge made by the plaintiff was that both the Illinois Criminal Code (725 ILCS 5/111-3(b)) and the City’s municipal code required that the charging document contain a signature of an authorized official. The charging document, in this case, was an unsigned, mailed notice of violation.

The court disagreed and found the Criminal Code inapplicable because the Illinois Vehicle Code explicitly allowed a municipality to provide its own enforcement procedure of automated red-light violations (625 ILCS 5/11-208.3) by ordinance. Furthermore, the City did have a notification procedure for red-light violations in its municipal code, which did not require a signature, and which it followed to the letter.

The case is significant for two reasons. First, the case provides a validation of the general enforceability of administrative hearing or code hearing proceedings involving vehicle code violations that specify municipal adjudication. Second, the court did parse the municipal ordinance’s language to ensure that proper procedure was followed. Fortunately for Rolling Meadows, the process was properly followed, but it is advisable for any municipality that adjudicates similar violations to review its code carefully to ensure strict compliance with the notice requirements contained therein. Seemingly any deviation from procedural requirements could invalidate the citation.