Frustrated over the rate at which judges are throwing out citations against drivers accused of using handheld cellphones, Schaumburg officials are considering allowing their police officers to write local tickets for first-time negligent driving offenses.
The village's public safety committee Thursday recommended adoption of such a law that would carry a fine of $75 for those found guilty through Schaumburg's local adjudication process.
The full village board will consider approval at its meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24.
Police Chief Jim Lamkin said patrol officers would still have the option of issuing state citations for violations of the hands-free law or written warnings instead of the new local tickets.
Trustee Jack Sullivan said the local tickets are broader in their definition of negligent driving and can be relevant even when an officer can't prove a handheld cellphone was the cause. The officer's own court experience can come into play in deciding how strong an argument can be made of illegal use of a cellphone, he added.
"I understand the problems we're having with the courts taking these (cases) seriously," Sullivan said.
Village Attorney Lance Malina said there are a number of municipalities feeling the same frustration, with judges possibly influenced by the high minimum Cook County court cost of $214 in weighing each case.
But Schaumburg resident Peter Pacione, an attorney himself, argued that prior lawsuits against other towns would seem to put Schaumburg on shaky ground with the law it's considering.
Electing judges who take such cases seriously is the better approach, he said.
"If we get sued, I have to pay for this," Pacione said. "If everyone agreed with this, it would have gone through every municipality."
Malina agreed with Pacione that all moving violations must go to circuit court but added that the statutes make clear that only after a first offense are they legally considered moving violations.