What is a Municipal Ordinance Violation and Do I Need a Lawyer for a Municipal Ordinance Violation?

Municipal-ViolationJust like State laws create State crimes, and Federal laws create Federal crimes, individual towns, cities and villages also create laws, called Municipal Ordinances, which can give rise to charges alleging a violation of a Municipal Ordinance.  I’ve been handling criminal cases for the past 25 years throughout Cook County, DuPage County and Kane County.  I’ve noticed a dramatic rise in the number of Municipal Ordinance Violation cases throughout all of these counties. Many cities, towns and villages have established their own Municipal Violation Ordinance courts which mainly impose monetary civil penalties upon violators that have become big sources of revenue for these municipalities.  I’m seeing more and more cases being charged as Municipal Ordinance Violations rather than criminal cases in Circuit Court. This is especially true in DuPage County and Kane County.

The rise in the number of Municipal Ordinance Violation cases has led to more and more clients calling me and asking me to explain what a Municipal Ordinance Violation is and what will happen when they appear in Court. Perhaps the most common question I get from clients is whether they need to hire a lawyer to handle their Municipal Violation Case.  My advice is that you should have a lawyer representing you for a Municipal Violation Case.  There’s several reasons for that so let me explain to you why you should have a lawyer with you for your Municipal Ordinance Violation case.

The consequences of being found guilty, or liable, for a Municipal Ordinance Violation are much less severe than the criminal penalties for a misdemeanor or a felony under state law.  Typically, the consequences for a Municipal Violation involve paying a civil penalty, or a fine.  A Municipal Ordinance Violation is generally not considered a criminal case.  However, some of the conduct that could give rise to a Municipal Ordinance Violation charge can also be enough to charge you with a misdemeanor.  For instance, if you shoplift from a store, the police can charge you with a Retail Theft misdemeanor.  The police can also charge you with a Retail Theft under the Municipal Ordinance of the town in which the shoplifting occurred.  This is a choice that’s made by the police officer.  So, if you try to shoplift and you receive a Municipal Ordinance violation ticket, instead of going to the Circuit Court for your case, you will have to go to the Village City Hall for a hearing before a Hearing Officer.

I recently had a Retail Theft in a municipal courthouse that had been charged as a Municipal Ordinance Violation instead of a Misdemeanor in the Circuit Court of DuPage County.  When I appeared in Municipal Court and the attorney for the Village looked at the case, the Village Attorney realized that the police officer should have charged my client with a misdemeanor in Circuit Court because of my client’s criminal record and the value of the items he tried to steal.  I negotiated with the Village attorney and agreed to a deal which kept the Village attorney from referring the case to the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office for a criminal prosecution.  I recognized that this could happen before I appeared in Court that morning so I was prepared for the possibility of this happening.  If I had not been there to represent my client, instead of paying a fine and doing some community service for a Municipal Ordinance Violation, my client could have been facing a criminal conviction and a possible jail sentence if the case had been referred to the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s office for a criminal prosecution.

Another reason why you need a lawyer for a Municipal Violation Ordinance case is because you need to take all the steps necessary to keep the case off of your public record.  Even though a Municipal Ordinance Violation is not considered a criminal case, everything that happens in a Municipal Courtroom is public information and the case will be made available to the public. So, if a prospective future employer does a thorough background search, it is entirely possible that the case may pop up in a background search.  Some towns and some counties make it very difficult for a Municipal Ordinance Violation case to show up in a background search.  In other towns and counties, Municipal Ordinance Violation cases are not very difficult to find.  For instance, in DuPage County, a Municipal Ordinance Violation case will show up on the Clerk of the Circuit Court computer system when you do a name search for any cases in DuPage County.  The Clerk’s computer will show what you were charged with, what happened at every court date, and how the case ended. And even though a Municipal Ordinance Violation is not considered a criminal case, a prospective employer could deny you employment if they find a Municipal Ordinance Violation, such as a Retail Theft, in a background search. This is the main reason why you should hire a lawyer for your Municipal Ordinance Violation case.  You need to do everything you can to keep your record clean.  You don’t want a minor Municipal Violation case to cost you a job, or cause you to be denied a loan, or be turned down for that apartment by a landlord who sees something in a background search that does not look good.

Chicago Municipal Ordinance Violation lawyer, James Dimeas, has been handling Municipal Ordinance Violations throughout Cook County, DuPage County, and Kane County for 25 years. If you are facing a Municipal Ordinance Violation charge, call James Dimeas anytime for a free and confidential consultation. James Dimeas can always be reached at 847-807-7405.