I received a letter in the mail yesterday from payonlineticket-dot-com with a "Final determination of violation liability" for supposedly violating some red light law. The video on the site shows that I stopped before the white line, and then proceeded to turn right on red after checking traffic, which as far as I know is not a violation of Illinois law. There was nothing in the letter about contesting the citation, so I called the phone number and was told that the letter I received yesterday was the second of its kind and that I had missed my opportunity to contest. I explained that I had not received any other letter and wanted to contest but was not given the opportunity to do so. A supervisor who had not watched the video advised me to work directly with the police department which is out of state but only about an hour from me. She also said if I don't pay, then the $200 fine (which supposedly was $100 when the first letter was sent) then an additional $70 gets tacked on for the collection agency. Is there a way to contest such a citation?
Do I have any recourse outside of the third party that processes red light camera violations in Illinois?
The procedure for contesting such tickets varies by the municipality where the alleged violation occurred. Chicago, in particular, has its own specific procedures. There is often a strict deadline for the challenge process, and fines do escalate significantly if they go unpaid for even a short time.
One who wants to challenge such a ticket would do well to find the name and address of the court where the ticket is returnable. This may be on the ticket, or a google or other online search may reveal it. Having found the address, send a letter explaining why you think the ticket is in error. Be clear and polite but concise, and include the ticket number and other inditing details. Include copies of the letter and anything that came with it. Send this by certified mail, return receipt. (One may wish to send a second copy, clearly marked "second copy" by regular mail.) The letter should specifically request an in-person hearing if the count does not drop the ticket.
One may wish to engage a lawyer, preferably one who has has some experience with traffic camera tickets, and who has an office somewhat near the relevant court.. Whether this is worth while depends on the situation, including the possible fine or other penalty involved.
A telephone call to the police station may help, but the police usually do not have authority to cancel tickets once they have been subm,itted for central processing. The court does.
[I intend to add to this answer, including addign sourcves, in a few hours.]
Illinois law allows automated traffic law enforcement systems which detect running a red light. Under that law, notice is to be given to the vehicle owner listing various things such as name, address, registration number, the charge including date, time and location, copy of the images, the fine and related impositions (traffic education program), warnings about non-compliance, and:
(10) a statement that the person may elect to proceed by: (A) paying the fine, completing a required traffic education program, or both; or (B) challenging the charge in court, by mail, or by administrative hearing; and (11) a website address, accessible through the Internet, where the person may view the recorded images of the violation.
There is no legal requirement that they describe the procedure for contesting the charge. For that you would have to identify the relevant court. for example if it was in Chicago, read this page for your options.
The notice does not comply with state law if it really says nothing about contesting the fine. However, if this is a second notice and you did not receive the first notice, then there is no requirement to notify you about contesting the fine. Presumably, they will claim that they mailed the first notice, and for some reason you didn't get it. That does not mean that you can't contest the disposition of your case, but you will have to allege that the company failed to comply with the requirement to mail a notice to you, and they can just respond "Our records show that we mailed it on such-and-such date". In that case, you would be well advised to hire an attorney.