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posted: 7/2/2012 4:59 PM

Island Lake to handle some tickets locally with administrative hearings

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  • People ticketed for local violations in Island Lake soon will find themselves in front of an administrative hearing officer, not a judge.

      People ticketed for local violations in Island Lake soon will find themselves in front of an administrative hearing officer, not a judge.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer


People ticketed for village-ordinance violations in Island Lake soon will face local adjudication hearings instead of circuit court appearances.

A locally appointed administrative law judge -- not an elected circuit judge -- will oversee the hearings. The first hearing is scheduled for Aug 7.

Advocates say such hearings save villages money because police officers don't have to drive to county courthouses to testify during trials.

That's particularly important in Island Lake, which is in both Lake and McHenry counties and thus has cases heard in Waukegan and Woodstock.

"(It's) an operational savings for the police department," Mayor Debbie Herrmann said.

Residents who have been ticketed won't have to make the long drive to court, either, Herrmann said.

"It saves time and it saves money for everybody," she said.

The adjudication process also lets villages keep all of the fines generated by the cases. Fines generated by court trials are shared with other agencies.

Evidence will be presented and testimony will be given at Island Lake's administrative hearings, but the proceedings will be less formal than traditional court cases.

For example, the formal and technical rules of evidence won't apply at the hearings. And violations will be determined based on the "preponderance of the evidence," according the village's statute, not the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard of the American judicial system. Hearings generally proceed faster than criminal cases, too.

Additionally, the administrative judge won't be allowed to send anyone to jail or prison. The judge can opt to sentence people to community service instead of imposing a fine, too.

The village board voted last week to create an administrative adjudication process for small crimes. The administrative judge must be a licensed attorney who is not already employed by the village.

An attorney has been chosen but has not yet been publicly identified.

The hearings will be on the first Tuesday of each month at village hall, Herrmann said.

State law allows towns without home-rule powers to establish administrative hearings for local-ordinance violations. In Lake County, Antioch, Fox Lake, Gurnee, Hawthorn Woods and Wauconda are among the towns that have done so.

Loud dog complaints, loitering accusations, curfew violations, building code violations and parking tickets are among the cases typically handled by administrative hearing officers.

As is the case in other towns, Island Lake's administrative judge will be paid by the village, with compensation set annually as part of the town budget.

The judge's pay rate was not immediately available.

People unhappy with the judge's decisions can appeal to the circuit court within 35 days.

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