What Are Traffic Violations And Infractions In Wisconsin?
In Wisconsin, rules or legal requirements under Chapters 340 - 351 of the State Statutes ensure that all road users are considerate and safe on the road. Persons who violate these rules commit traffic violations or infractions. Depending on the severity, traffic offenders may incur criminal or civil liabilities in the form of a fine, penalty points, disqualification, and in severe cases, jail time. The Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has the statutory responsibility of keeping and disseminating traffic violations or infractions records.
What Are Felony & Misdemeanor Traffic Violations In Wisconsin?
Felony traffic violations are serious driving offenses that attract criminal liability. These offenses tend to be seriously injurious to a victim. On the other hand, traffic misdemeanors are less severe, although the offender may also incur criminal liability. The punishment for traffic felonies is usually jail time, but the court decides the length based on the crime. Furthermore, Wisconsin has a three-strikes law that imposes severe penalties such as jail time and considerable fines on habitual offenders.
Wisconsin classifies felonious offenses, and this also applies to traffic violations. In this case, the punishment for a felony traffic violation depends on its class. Wis. Stat. § 939.50 classify felonies in Wisconsin as:
- Class A felony - punishable by a minimum of life imprisonment. An example includes intentional homicide.
- Class B Felony - punishable by up to 60 years imprisonment. An example includes reckless homicide.
- Class C Felony - punishable by up to 40 years in prison or a fine of up to $100,000.
- Class D Felony - punishable by up to 25 years in prison or a fine of up to $100,000. An example includes reckless driving, with total disregard for life, resulting in significant bodily injury.
- Class E Felony - punishable by up to 15 years in prison or a fine up to $50,000.
- Class F Felony - punishable by up to 12 years and six months in prison or a fine up to $25,000. An example includes OWI resulting in great bodily harm.
- Class G Felony - punishable by up to 10 years in prison or a fine up to $25,000.
- Class H Felony - punishable by up to 6 years in prison or a fine up to $10,000.
- Class I Felony - punishable by up to 3 years and six months in prison or a fine up to $10,000.
Examples of Felony Traffic Violations in Wisconsin
The following are examples of traffic violations considered felonies:
- Vehicular homicide due to negligence (Class G)
- Four or more OWI within five years
- Possession of Stolen Motor Vehicle
- Vehicular homicide while impaired by a controlled substance
- Unlawful application or use of license or permit
What are Traffic Misdemeanors in Wisconsin?
In Wisconsin, traffic violations that the court deems as misdemeanors are less consequential than traffic felony but more consequential than traffic infractions. Per Wis. Stat. § 939.51, there are three classes of misdemeanors in Wisconsin, including:
- Class A misdemeanors: draw a fine of up to $10,000, up to 9 months in jail, or both.
- Class B misdemeanors: draw a fine of up to $1,000, up to 90 days in jail, or both.
- Class C misdemeanors: draw a fine of up to $500, up to 30 days in jail, or both. An example is making a false statement to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
Examples of Traffic Misdemeanors in Wisconsin
Per the Wisconsin Vehicle Code, here are some examples of traffic misdemeanors in the state:
- Negligent operation of a vehicle (Class A)
- Driving under the influence of a controlled substance or alcohol (DUI)
- Refusal to submit to chemical testing
- Hit and Run NOT resulting in significant bodily injury
- OWI and a driving a minor
- Making a false statement to the Department of Transportation
What Constitutes a Traffic Infraction in Wisconsin?
Traffic infractions in Wisconsin are offenses that violate road regulations and municipal ordinances. These types of violations are considered minor offenses, and a peace officer or authorized official of the DMV will issue a citation or ticket. The implications of receiving a ticket include paying a fine and having penalty points on their driver’s license to the erring individual. Wisconsin uses a point system to deter drivers from following unsafe practices on the road. Drivers who accumulate penalty points risk disqualification if they commit further offenses within twelve months.
Examples of Traffic Infractions in Wisconsin
Some of the traffic infractions in Wisconsin include:
- Attempting to elude an officer
- Failure to yield right of way
- Failure to yield to an emergency vehicle
- Failure to dim lights
- Obstructing traffic
- Driving without a license
How Does a Traffic Ticket Work In Wisconsin?
A traffic ticket in Wisconsin is an official notice of committing a traffic violation. The ticket contains information regarding the driver, the vehicle involved, their offense, details of its severity, associated penalties, and how to resolve the ticket. Usually, this involves paying a fine or appearing in the local court. Bear in mind that while paying a ticket is the fastest way to resolve the infraction, it is also an admission of guilt. For offenders who cannot pay the full fine at once, the court may set up a payment plan but this varies with the court.
On the other hand, the offender may choose to contest the ticket in court if they can prove their innocence or reasonable cause for the infraction. Getting a ticket for an infraction is not to be ignored because of future implications. For most drivers, this may mean increased auto insurance rates and stiffer penalties if they commit another infraction.
Meanwhile, law enforcement issues a ticket depending on whether the violation is a moving or non-moving violation. A moving violation is one that an individual commits while the vehicle is in motion. A common example is speeding, which attracts a speeding ticket. On the other hand, a non-moving violation refers to a traffic infraction where the offender or the vehicle is not in motion. A common example is a parking ticket.
Moving and non-moving violations attract penalty points. In Wisconsin, a driver who accumulates 12—30 points within twelve (12) months will have their driving privilege suspended for six (6) months. More than 30 points result in a one-year license suspension.
How to Get a Traffic Ticket Dismissed In Wisconsin
To dismiss a traffic ticket in Wisconsin, the individual must be able to prove their innocence before a judge. Otherwise, the individual must demonstrate good cause for violating traffic laws, e.g., a medical emergency. In this case, the individual must supplement their defense with a signed doctor’s report and affidavit. Because of the nuances of this case, it is best to consult an attorney who will evaluate the merits of the case and provide legal help. Nevertheless, the offender must respond to the ticket and initiate a contestation before the ticket is due.
Are Driving Records Public In Wisconsin?
Yes, the Wisconsin Open Records Act directs the Division of Motor Vehicles to maintain and disseminate driving records to requesters. A driving record presents a chronological history of the driver’s offenses, reported accidents, license suspensions, revocations, and convictions. However, the Driver Privacy Protection Act prevents the DMV from disclosing private information like the individual’s photograph, social security number, and medical evaluation records to public requesters. However, there are exceptions to this rule.
Generally, the following requesters may access driving records from the MVA:
- Individual named on the record
- Requesters armed with a written consent signed by the driver
- Requesters armed with a court order or subpoena
- Government agencies and law enforcement
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that the person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How To Find Driving Records In Wisconsin
The Division of Motor Vehicles maintains and disseminates certified copies of driving records in Wisconsin. Driving records may be requested in person at the local DMV office, by mail, or online.
- In-person & mail requests: The eligible requester must complete and sign a driving record request form. Then, they must submit it at the nearest DMV office along with the applicable fees and photo ID. The DMV charges $12 per certified copy and $7.00 per non-certified copy. This fee is payable via check or money order. For mail requests, enclose the aforementioned form, payment, and valid photo ID in a self-addressed stamped envelope. Direct requests to:
Wisconsin Department of Transportation, P. O. Box 7995
Madison, WI 53707–7995
Phone: (608) 264–7447
Fax: (608) 267–3812
- Online requests: This is typically the fastest way to obtain a driver’s record. It is especially useful when performing multiple requests at the same time. Visit the DMV online records request portal to get started. Generally, the requester must provide any of the following:
- License number
- Wisconsin identification card number
- The last four digits of their Social Security number
- Date of birth
- Proper name (First, Middle, and Last)
Payment is via a valid credit or debit card, which attracts a $5 fee for a copy of the driver record as well as a 2% convenience fee.
Can Traffic Violations And Infractions Be Expunged/Sealed In Wisconsin?
It depends. Wisconsin courts generally deny requests to seal or expunge traffic felonies and misdemeanors that resulted in a conviction. However, if the petitioner was acquitted or the charges were dismissed, the court will consider the request to seal.
Meanwhile, penalty points from traffic infractions remain on a driver’s license for five (5) years. A driver may apply for point reduction once in three (3) years to take 3 points off their license. This involves completing an approved traffic safety course and fulfilling other specific requirements specific to the driver.