Cook County prosecutors to get fuller driving records beginning next month

Starting next month, a big change for a few drivers is coming to Cook County Traffic Court.

Prosecutors will be gaining access to defendant’s full driving records, from across the country.  Currently, they only have access to Illinois driving records, and in some courtrooms, only Cook County records.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Cook County judges overseeing Chicago and suburban traffic courts will now have access to driving records from across the country when they sentence offenders in hundreds of thousands of minor traffic cases.

Prosecutors, who are responsible for informing judges of a defendant’s criminal history, have long had access to national court records in DUI or other felony cases. But for speeding tickets, only Cook County records were available for the thousands of cases judges hear each day.

That made it more difficult to comply with a state law limiting a special type of probation called court supervision to no more than two per year per driver, officials said. That law was passed after a Naperville family’s son was killed in 2004 by a chronic speeder.

After two supervisions for speeding, a driver should receive a conviction for a third speeding offense in the same year. Licenses can be suspended for three speeding convictions in a year.

The Tribune reported in 2010 that nearly 8,000 illegal court supervisions were handed out by Cook County judges between 2007 and 2009. In one case, a driver received nine illegal supervisions over a two-year period.

Those illegal supervisions represented only about 1 percent of the total number of cases, but officials have said they wanted to close the gaps.

“This should help address that,” said city prosecutor Lynda Peters, who supervises Chicago’s traffic court prosecutors.

What seemed like a relatively straightforward fix required cooperation from the Illinois secretary of state, the Cook County clerk and the county judiciary, she said. The biggest hurdle was getting the computer systems used by the secretary of state and clerk’s office to communicate with one another.

Peters said she began meeting with Chief Judge Timothy Evans in 2012 to discuss the legal and technological hurdles in making more complete driving records electronically available to prosecutors.

Under the new process, which is scheduled to begin next month, the county clerk’s office will electronically transmit the names and driver’s license numbers for all the minor traffic cases to the secretary of state’s office, which will run the information through a national database.

Prosecutors will then have the information available to present to the judge when the defendant appears in court. Peters said there are so many cases that there was no way for prosecutors to manually search each defendant’s record in the broader database.

“This is a tremendous leap forward in (judges’) ability to help keep the public safe by keeping dangerous drivers off the road,” Evans said Friday in a statement.

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