City Adding New Tool To Collect Unpaid Parking Tickets, Red Light Camera Tickets

Suburban Drivers May Feel Impact The Most

Ultimately, it was taxes that undid Al Capone.
Now it may be tax filings that separate drivers with unpaid Chicago parking tickets from their Illinois state tax refund.

So don’t be surprised if your refund check from the State of Illinois is a little less than you originally expected if the City of Chicago gets its way.

Up until now, the City of Chicago had only a few ways to collect money from unpaid parking tickets and red light camera tickets. For larger ticket debts, lawsuits have been commonly employed. Collection agencies are also an avenue for the city. Of course, there’s always the dreaded bright yellow Denver boot.

But back in December, the Local Debt Recovery Program became law in Illinois. The program allows municipalities to have the Illinois State Comptroller withhold state tax refunds from people who owe cities for unpaid parking tickets, red light camera tickets, water bills and the like and hand it over to them to pay off outstanding debt.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the Budget Committee today approved the ordinance so it will go before the full City Council tomorrow.

The law allows for Chicago to collect this type of outstanding debt back to 2005. According to Department of Finance spokesperson Holly Stutz, Chicago is owed close to $80 million dollars in these type of unpaid debts from over 100,000 individuals or businesses.

Although the City Comptroller’s office estimates they may only be able to recover $8-$20 million using this collection tool.

“The problem is that its hard to tell how much of our files match with the state’s,” explains Stutz.

In addition, the city may only be able to collect a portion of what someone owes. For example, if an individual owes the city $1000 for parking tickets but is only expecting a $100 tax refund, the city would only be able to collect that $100.

While the new law will obviously impact Chicago drivers, perhaps it is drivers residing outside the city that may feel the law the most. Motorists with unpaid tickets on vehicles registered outside the city who don’t come to the city very often, have essentially been moving targets for city boot vans. Now, even though boot vans couldn’t reach them before, now the tax man can.

While the program only became law on December 16th, the city is trying to move fast enough to take advantage of this upcoming tax season. However, Stutz did not know for sure, even if the ordinance passed in the City Council tomorrow, if the city would be able to move ahead by April 15th.

It is also unknown if debtors would be informed in advance of the funds transfer or if there is a way for someone to contest or protest what they believe to their funds should not have been collected on behalf of the city.

Whatever the case, if the ordinance passes, Chicago will now have a new and powerful tool in their struggle to collect unpaid parking tickets, red light tickets and other unpaid debts.


48 Responses to City Adding New Tool To Collect Unpaid Parking Tickets, Red Light Camera Tickets

  1. Kelly says:

    I think this is horrible. People should pay their tickets, but if they haven’t, it’s probably because they are poor and don’t have the money. Unfortunately, in a bad recession, people have to make tough choices about which bills to pay. There are already consequences for not paying tickets, and if people are risking those consequences it likely means they have little choice. The city just taking the money out of a tax refund (essentially dealing with people’s debts by just taking the money) is not how this should work, and it’s a dangerous precedent.

  2. Todd Rapp says:

    If you owe money, you’ve got no beef, really, whether or not you can afford it.

    But what if you don’t really owe the money? What if, like me, you’re the victim of simple human error? The system assumes that everybody is actually guilty … and although it is literally impossible for the city to always be right, the state is going to help them extort money from me?

    If I can find an attorney interested in taking this system down, it’ll eventually cost the city far more than they’re likely to collect with this unconstitutional strongarm.

  3. .Q says:

    41-8: motion carried

  4. Greg says:

    As long as its the state, I have nothing to worry about. I always get a refund from federal, bit end up owing a few bucks to the state…

  5. Meg says:

    This is terrible!!! We are in a bad recession. People for the most part want to pay their bills. Nobody wants creditors calling their homes or getting bill after bill in the mail, but these are the times we live in. Yes I believe if you owe money you should pay; but such are the times where thats easier said than done. I for 1 am a low-income single mother of 4 where every dollar counts and I stills struggling. The tax refund season is used for me as a boost to pay rent and utilities. and basically, live off of. I think a warning letter should have been sent out first allowing people to get on payment arrangements with the city in order to pay their bill. Then if not notify those people that the taxes would be collected the following year. That gives people the chance to make arrangements with the city as well as use their hard earned refund money to take care of their children1

  6. R Calvillo says:

    The City of Chicago lives up to its reputation Shit City and Shit politics. Mayor should rethink this unfair practice.

  7. gpp says:

    I got a letter today from the state claiming Chicago is withholding $100 from my income tax refund for an old parking ticket.

    I called the city to get the details, and the ticket is a parking in the alley violation from October 8, 1993. The clerk said I challenged the ticket and lost, but never paid. They can not produce evidence of the challenge.

    Ridiculous! I would never challenge a parking in the alley ticket. There’s no basis for it. When they got me in the alley, I knew they had me, and I always paid my tickets.

    If I’m such a big scofflaw, why is there only one ticket during my time in Chicago, February 1987 to August 1996 ???

  8. Fast Car says:

    The trick is to claim enough initial exemptions (9) and then just pay what you owe on Tax Day. That way you always owe them money, as opposed to the other way around.

  9. katherine says:

    I am one of those victims received a red light ticket because was not able to back up after traffic finally cleared forced to take light lost job ticket 100 dollars by time i received notification it was up to 300 in fees on top of the 100 offered to pay the 100 in 20 dollar payments and it was refused.
    still unemployed single mom struggling
    and now they took the state refund that was gonna cover my rent so i dont end up evicted
    this is awful and should be illegal
    to take money from the ones who are in need the most during this difficult economy.

  10. Greg says:

    Katherine -

    Your story is fishy.If you were in the intersection when the light turned red, you would have not been ticketed. The only way you would have received a ticket is if you were not in the intersection – even partially – and drove through after the light turned red.

    If you didn’t receive the notification, its probably because you moved and didn’t inform the state or didn’t leave a forwarding address.

    Also, not sure how you have $300 in fees on top of the $100 fine. That would be $400. Tickets double when they aren’t paid, so that would be $200. I can’t imagine $200 in fees, even if it goes to a law firm or collection agency. You are either very confused, not telling the whole story, or simply BSing.

  11. kim says:

    Why does the article say they can collect outstanding debt back to 2005 but they are going back farther than that. We have to pay a ticket from 1997.

  12. Jennifer says:

    GPP, I do not understand how they can hold your refund, the article clearly states tickets going back to 2005. I too am affected, I paid my parking tickets after getting the boot 1995 and some attorneys office is calling my parents and me trying to collect again. Who in their right mind would still have bank records dating back 17 years? I only have to keep financial information for 7, so how can I prove I paid? To be honest, I was married to my ex then, & didn’t even have a bank account at the time, I remember getting a money order at the currency exchange. So now what??? This is corrupt on so many levels, something needs to be done. I can’t afford to pay it again, nor will I.

  13. COPDhorseman says:

    Would anyone want to join a class action lawsuit regarding this issue? If so, write me at BUT please specify “City & ASH” as the subject.

  14. COPDhorseman says:

    Would anyone want to join a class action lawsuit regarding this issue? If so, write me at “” BUT please specify “City & ASH” as the subject.

  15. Angel says:

    well i think this is just ridiculous , we are already in a recession ,,,,, dammmmmmm…. i mena what are the trying to do bring the poverty rate higher , a lot of people use the money at the end of the year fo bills and it could be a matter of having a roof over your head….. people have children and nobody seems the care ….. it seems like you get raped over and over by the damn government …….. so basically me walking down the street and getting robbed is the same likely hood of getting robbed in the future by the goverment huh.

  16. i just got the letter from the state, ‘we are holding 60.00 from your state refund for unpaid city of chicago parking ticket(s). if you want to contest talk to the city. call or write . oh , yeah there is a $15.00 processing fee too.’ -thing is, i haven’t gotten a ticket in years and am paid up on all tickets. what the city did try doing to me years back was, lumping/dumping everyone with my name who owed money, onto me. the clerk was spouting out address after address and plate number after plate number wanting me to admit that i owned these vehicles. i know there system hasn’t improved much since then. they don’t try and associate d.l. numbers with car ownership, just the name. Good luck to every John Doe.

  17. jacky says:

    The City @ State are on some Thirsty S%+t.

  18. chitownbootman says:

    Suck it up! You owed the money and you got caught. Class action suit against the City? Are you kidding me? Do you honestly think a judge would show any compassion for people who dodged paying their fines? Better off sulking in the corner about how they nailed you and move on with your lives.

  19. wendi says:

    Chitownbootman and others of that persuasion:

    Not everyone who received a letter actually owes a ticket. I received a letter when I called the city it was for a license plate I never had on a make of car that I never owned. But now it’s up to me to prove that. Oh BTW, the ticket was issued in 1994!!! Where and How am I supposed to find proof after 18 years???

  20. So I Says To Da Guy I Says says:

    I know that Rahm Emanuel is desperate to generate revenue by any means necessary. I have a better idea rather than gouging people who drive. The current strategy discourages commerce in the city. People who drive and park in the city are most likely spending money in the city. If a suburbanite has outstanding tickets that they cannot afford to pay, they are less likely to return to the city out of fear of gritting booted.

    Instead, they should start enforcing the Illinois State smoking ordinance that forbids people from smoking cigarettes within 15 feet of the doorways of buildings. Furthermore, pass a city ordinance that bans cigarette smoking on sidewalks in the city, and issue citations to anyone that violates the ordinance. I am so sick and tired of walking down the sidewalk in the city and being forced to inhale the second hand smoke of people around me.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I’ve had Cops ask when the City is going to authorize Revenue to issue ANOVs for Dog Nuisances and Garbage Can violations and other things that you can just ticket a Building for.

    Because the Cops are too lazy and morale broken to actually write the revenue generating tickets. And we don’t have enough inspectors in other City Departments.



  23. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    If you just got a Violation Notice this week for a parking ticket from 1997, go ahead and fight it.

    You need to make the case that the city had a duty to inform you of this ticket sooner than 15 years later and this type of behavior puts you at a disadvantage as WHO THE HELL CAN REMEMBER A PARKING TICKET FROM 15 FREAKING YEARS AGO?!?!?!?

    In addition, you also can’t fight it because even if you wanted to, you couldn’t return to the address of the alleged violation to gather evidence as the parking environment may have changed since then, again depriving you of the ability to defend yourself properly and fairly.

    A similar situation happened to me where I got a notice of a ticket from 3 years ago. Making the same argument, the hearing officer agreed and threw out my ticket.

    Did you really just get a Notice of Violation for a ticket from that long ago????

    Or was it a collection notice?

  24. Jason says:

    Chitown’s become a cesspool filled with corrupt and thoroughly evil parasitic politicians. All they do is sit around designing new ways to bleed the populace dry here, and the denizens who reside her keep installing them. Vicious cycle.

  25. david ganes says:

    This is totally mess up. I was in school and had little money. I had 2 cars. The city booted and impounded both cars all in 1 day. They trace I owe 4 a previous car. The 2 cars suffered the extreme upbringing of such a law. After 2 weeks the City told me they sold 1 of the cars and demolished the other. On top of losing cars in 2 weeks that took years to pay off. The City told me the amount I owe will not change. Man I was hurt so bad. Even till this day, if I see a look alike it still is hard to bear. Who in their right mind is okay with such a law that cause people to live in fear or in my case pain. I don’t own a car no more and never paid the City. I keep telling myself what they did was wrong but the scar of an outstanding bill due to collection still stands.

  26. david ganes says:

    This is totally mess up. I was in school and had little money. I had 2 cars. The city booted and impounded both cars all in 1 day. They trace I owe 4 a previous car. The 2 cars suffered the extreme upbringing of such a law. After 2 weeks the City told me they sold 1 of the cars and demolished the other. On top of losing cars in 2 weeks that took years to pay off. The City told me the amount I owe will not change. Man I was hurt so bad. Even till this day, if I see a look alike it still is hard to bear. Who in their right mind is okay with such a law that cause people to live in fear or in my case pain. I don’t own a car no more and never paid the City.

    Strong arming someone hard earned tax money is too greedy. My whole life change that day. If you just take people money I only can imagine how that sounds like controlling a person against their own will. That should not be tolerated. At least I had Cta. Some might not have spare money and so on.

  27. casper says:

    I also received a letter from some law office today 2/5/13 saying I owe for tickets, if I got them I paid them. and said I was on some street never heard of.These are from 1998 I will call and tell them to sen mt copies of the ticket. Like all said that has been 15 yrs ago They may just finding tickets or # and sending them out and see how much they will get and how many will cause a hassle. I will not pay it.

  28. Jim says:

    Well folks….I always say people get the politicians they deserve. For all the idiots who voted for Gov Quinn….he has done nothing but kick us Illinoians asses since hes been in office. Heck, hes even going after Amazon for saving us tax there…..when will people learn about voting for these Democrats and there policies. Maybe now they will vote that idiot out of office next time around…..hes the one that gave Emmanuel the power to do this crap by signing that debt recovery act…..he should have vetoed it.

  29. Mardi says:

    Well, how would you like itif you DIDN’T get any tickets, don’t, or never have live in the City and the State is holding your money just because someone has your last name!!! Talk about THIEVERY!!!

  30. iratecitizen says:

    I received a ticket in late January for “running a red light” in Chicago, near Midway airport, on Dec. 30. I knew that I would not have deliberately done so. By examining the photo and video evidence, I determined that the yellow warning light was only on for 3.0 to 3.1 seconds, and that my front tires crossed the white line .19 seconds (that’s 19 100ths of a second) after the light turned red! I appealed by mail, but of course my appeal was denied. My argument was that the duration of the yellow light was unreasonably short, and the amount of the fine ($100) was unreasonably large for a minor infraction which was obviously the result of an entrapment strategy. I have timed the yellow lights a number of times in 3 other cities since this happened, and they average 5 seconds in duration! I’m sure that you subconsciously get used to the duration of the typical yellow light, and are not prepared for one that only lasts 3 seconds, which I suspect is what the city of Chicago is counting on. I would gladly pay $25 or so to be rid of the harassment, but not $100. I rarely go into Chicago, and I have never had another ticket from them, so I’m not worried about the boot. I’ll just hope that they never get around to withholding from my tax refund.

  31. victmofraud says:

    This is sad news. I just received the letter from law firm Stating I owe over $200 for tickets from year 1991. I called the city of Chicago to confirm why they were charging me for tickets I never received a citation notice for in the first place. The city of Chicago revenue agent whom answered my call was unable to assist. Instead she asked me to bring proof of payment. I told her my bank statements don’t go that far and the not even the IRS requests records to be kept for that length of time. Then ended the call. How many people will fall for this fraud. Its sad. The city will loose many vacationers and business drivers whom will now think twice about driving to our city…WAY TO GO POLITICIANS!

  32. james says:

    I just received my state refund and it was lees the amount i owe for parking tickets.

    can we challenge this rule in court ??????

  33. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    Sorry, that’s the law of the Land of Lincoln now. No court appeal will prevail.

  34. Michael HaWK says:

    I just received notice of two unpaid tickets from 2002 totally $305.00. I have NEVER been in the habit of not paying parking tickets, particularly because of how “boot happy” Chicago is. I don’t even use the same bank anymore, so I have no way of proving that I owe for these or not. I find this whole ordeal highly suspect. Any before you assholes say anything, I DO pay my bills and fines. Period. I am moving out of state anyway, so FUCK YOU CHICAGO.

  35. Renee says:

    I recently received a ticket for a Red Light violation. I contested the ticket and won. It turned out I was caught in the intersection as the light turned yellow. I happen to make through completely while the light was still yellow. I was issued a ticket anyone. Exactly 1 week later, after winning I received a letter from the city’s collection agency stating that they will take my state income tax refund for parking tickets dating back 20 years ago. I sent them a ‘cease and desist’ letter telling them to stop contacting me in regards to alleged parking ticket violations. That must have pissed them off. Because I am unemployed (for years) they decided to send me a ‘Boot’ notice stating that they are going to boot an old 97′ beater I bought for $400 with money I won from a bingo game! Unfuckingbeleivable!

  36. Pete says:

    This is the first time I’ve ever heard of someone winning a red light camera ticket appeal.

  37. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    Barnet Fagel, who goes by the monicker, the Red Light Doctor, beats a lot of RLC tickets.

    He beat two against the City of Chicago this past Friday.

    It’s VERY hard to do. But it can be done.

  38. Greg says:

    I beat a RLC ticket a few months ago. Its all about presenting enough reasonable doubt.

  39. Greg says:

    I recently had an “interesting” experience at a RLC hearing in Hillside. All I can say is the way they handle these tickets makes Chicago look completely reasonable. Its a long story, but quite fascinating – and pretty condescending how they treat people.

    Geek – if you would like to know the story – let me know how to contact you…

  40. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    I would LOVE to hear the details on this.

    I’ve sat in on a bunch of RLC hearings with Barnet Fagel in the city, but he has also argued all over the suburbs–including Hinsdale. I think he’s one a few and lost a few out there

    I’d LOVE to get your take on things.

    I think I need to do a post on beating RLC tickets and get input from you and Barnet. Obviously, the tickets can sometimes be beat and perhaps it would be interesting for readers.

  41. Greg says:

    Geek -

    What is the email to contact you at?

  42. Richard C. says:

    Thursday afternoon I get an e-mail stating that 30% of Monday’s check will be “involuntarily withdrawn” due to 8 2008-2010 parking tickets in Forest Park. I always paid tickets immediately, 2012 notice was sent to a previous address that should have been forwarded, but wasn’t. The entire country is protected by the FDCPA and has the ability to fight/dispute garnishments, but because I am a State of IL employee, it comes directly out of my paycheck with no chance to dispute or question. Great law.

  43. Rich C. says:

    Please remove my last post, i mistakenly listed my full name. Or adjust please.

  44. William Beeber says:

    Someone has to pay the carrying cost of all the immigrants, most illegal, in Chicago. After all they have bent over backwards to coddle them with sanctuary policies and refusal to participate in the “Safe Communities Act” with feds (ICE). Well it ain’t gonna be me. The city is a pathetic shell, has been, and poster child for fiscal and economic decline. Their use of tickets is only driving people away. I got two for a lapsed license plate renewal sticker (renewed on time) that fell off because of the cold and salt on the plate. Proof provided did nothing to sway the “administrative judge’s” decision that I was “guilty.” So screw them, I will never, ever travel to Chicago again for any reason unless I have to and/or under duress. They are out of their minds. The sooner Chicago and the State of Illinois go insolvent because of the radical Democrats run amok there the better. What a pathetic basket case of financial and fiscal incompetency.

  45. HemmedUp says:

    I mentioned this in another post. I’m getting my wages garnished due to parking tickets. I don’t dispute that (although in one case, a cop stopped me because my headlight was out, and he wrote me a parking ticket for not having a city sticker). What I found interesting is that while State employees have their wages garnished to the tune of 25%, city workers’ wages aren’t touched.

    I know this because a good friend of mine works for the city as a driver. He owes a metric ton of dough for tickets, but the city has not garnished his wages. Why isn’t the city garnishing the wages of its OWN employees?

  46. HemmedUp says:

    Oh, I’ve been researching this law, thanks to the posts on this site. I think I found the answer to my initial question. The Local Debt Recovery Program is a state law, and the cities decide whether or not they will opt in, since it affects funds distributed by the State Treasurer. This includes state tax refunds, lottery payments, and yes, state wages.

    It still begs the question as to why, if the city is so aggressive about collecting debts, they don’t garnish city workers’ wages. I wonder if city scofflaws are getting a break that’s not extended to state workers. And, I wonder how many aldermen voted for this, knowing that they may owe the city as well.

  47. HemmedUp says:

    I swear I’m not spamming… is there a way to consolidate my posts? Further research shows that the reason city workers are off the hook is because their union contracts prohibit them from being penalized (suspended or fired) or having their wages garnished, if they have unpaid tickets.

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