Wisconsin traffic tickets: what charges can lawyers beat or reduce?
Wisconsin Traffic Tickets and Violations
Violating the traffic laws in Wisconsin can result in a citation being issued against you. Your punishment for the ticket will have at least two parts. First, Wisconsin is a point-based citation state, meaning that many of the traffic tickets that can be issued will have a specific number of points assessed against your license if convicted. You can have 11 points counted against your license in Wisconsin before you lose it. If you are assessed more than 11 points, your license will be point suspended; the duration of that suspension is dependent on how many points over 11 you have accrued (anywhere from 2-12 months). A year after your ticket the points will come off your driving record, so a point-based suspension happens only when 12 or more points are assessed against your license within one calendar year. The second of the two parts of punishment for a ticket is the fine that has to be paid. If you have a probationary license the point totals are doubled for any conviction of a traffic ticket. Lastly, when considering your ticket and its penalties both points and whether the violation is moving can be important to your insurance company and may raise your rates.
There are many different types of citations that can be issued and not all of them will assess points on your license. Traffic tickets, roughly, can be grouped into 3 different categories:
Speed related tickets
These include the obvious violations of traveling a specific amount over the speed limit, but then it can also include driving too slow* , equipment violations, or situations where the officer does not know how fast you were going.
Standard speeding tickets will fall into one of three sub-categories and those are based on the points that accompany the ticket. Wis. Stat. §346.57(5). A speeding ticket will either have 3 points, 4 points, or 6 points attached to it. The points attributed to the ticket are specific to the speed the ticket is written for.
- 3-point ticket | Is for traveling anywhere from 1 mph over the limit to 9 mph over the limit.
- 4-point ticket | Is from 11 mph over the limit to 19 over the limit. Additionally, there is a ticket for Unreasonable and Imprudent Speed, which is also a 4-point ticket that is based on how fast you are traveling. However, this is a situation in which the officer does not know the specific speed that you were traveling, but instead based on his/her experience they have decided you were traveling too fast. Wis. Stats. § 346.57(2).
- 6-point ticket | Is for 20 mph over the speed limit or more. Not all 6-point speeding tickets, however, are created equal. If you are ticketed for traveling 25+ mph over the speed limit on a highway, you are now facing an additional penalty, automatic license suspension. Additionally, a 6-point 25+ mph over the speed limit speeding ticket is considered a major traffic offense and if you have 4 major traffic offenses within a five-year time period your license will be revoked for 5 years. Your license can also be revoked based on 12 minor violations over 5 years or a combination of 12 major and minor violations. During the first two of those five years, you are ineligible for an occupational license; so, you are unable to drive for any purpose. These revocations fall under the Habitual Traffic Offender Law. Wis. Stat. §351.025.
* driving too slow is a 2-point ticket. Wis. Stat. §346.59(1).
Potential Resolutions Speed related tickets:
There are several possible outcomes after you have received a ticket for a speeding violation. To get the best possible outcome you need someone working on your behalf who is trained in the law; you need an attorney. Just like you might be able to frame up a wall and install drywall, it’s unlikely the finished product will be as good as if you had hired a contractor who installs drywall for a living.
Possible outcomes range from a reduction of your speeding ticket to a lesser speeding ticket, all the way to resolving your ticket with a parking citation with zero points assessed against your license. Wis. Stat. §346.53(6). In between those spectrums is a ticket for a defective speedometer, this is a 2-point ticket and depending on your insurance company may not be considered a moving violation. Wis. Stat. §347.41. The outcome of your ticket depends on many different factors: the lawyer you hire, where the offense happened, who pulled you over, the context regarding your driving, and your past driving record. There are some circumstances where a lawyer can negotiate on your behalf for a resolution not listed above. At times a prosecutor will accept a larger fine for amending the ticket down from a speeding ticket such that you would not have any points attached. One such example is an amendment to interference with sign or signal, Wis. Stat. §346.42, which is a 0-point violation.
Accident related tickets
Unfortunately, if you get into an accident and you are at fault you will, often, end up receiving a ticket or worse yet multiple tickets in addition to dealing with the accident. These tickets tend to be self-explanatory and typically fall in the 4-point violation category.
Failure to yield: This ticket can be issued when you did not have the right away and you should have yielded, flashing yellow light, yield sign, 4-way stop, or any other situation where you are required to yield. Often this failure results in an accident. Failure to yield, a violation of Wis. Stat. §346.18, is a 4-point violation.
Failure to keep vehicle under control: This ticket falls under Wisconsin Statute §346.57(2), which actually encompasses three different tickets. Failure to keep vehicle under control, driving too fast for conditions, and unreasonable and imprudent speed. Not keeping vehicle under control is often issued when there is an accident, driving too fast for conditions involves bad weather that the officer believes you have not appropriately adjusted to, and unreasonable and imprudent speed is a catch all speeding ticket. All three of these tickets are 4-point violations.
Unsafe lane deviation: Often this takes place either in a drunk driving situation or where there is an accident. It is when you are either weaving on the road or your vehicle is taking up more than one lane of traffic. Unsafe lane deviation, a violation of Wis. Stat. §346.13(3), is a 4-point violation.
Inattentive Driving: Most often this comes up when someone is violating some other traffic law as well. For example, if you are looking at your phone or texting you may be swerving in your lane, unsafe lane deviation, or looking at your phone and go through a stop or yield sign, failure to yield, so you could end up with multiple tickets. Inattentive driving, a violation of Wis. Stat. §346.89, is a 4-point violation.
Following too closely: More commonly known as tailgating, this occurs when you do not leave the proper space between your car and the car in front of you. This ticket is often issued when a vehicle in front of you stops short because of something happening in front of them and you are unable to stop your car before you hit theirs. Following too closely, a violation of Wis. Stat. §346.14(1), is a 3-point violation.
Disobeying a sign or signal: Most typically this is thought of as running a red light or running a stop sign. While this ticket would apply, you could easily be ticketed for other violations under those circumstances as well (failure to yield and reckless driving just to name a couple). A rolling stop at a stop sign or red light would similarly warrant this ticket. Disobeying sign or signal, a violation of Wis. Stat. §346.04(2), is a 3-point violation.
Other Common Wisconsin Traffic Tickets: There are of course tickets that do not fall within the categories listed above, but that are also not major violations. These tend to be either 3-point or 0-point violations.
Driving with an suspended/revoked license: A suspended license can happen for a number of different reasons (ie. administrative suspension based on a pending OWI, having too many points on your license in a 12-month period, being convicted of a drug offense, etc.) A revoked license is similar to a suspended license, however, when driving with a revoked license you can be issued a ticket, or you can be charged criminally with Operating After Revocation. The criminal charge has a maximum penalty of 12-months in jail (your license can be revoked for an OWI conviction, for being a habitual traffic offender, etc.). Driving with a suspended license, a violation of §344.1(a), or a revoked license, a violation of Wis. Stat. §344.1(b), are both 3-point violations.
Operating without a license: This situation comes up in one of two ways. First, you had a valid license and you failed to renew it in time and your license is now expired. Second, you have never had a valid license, but were driving anyway. Driving without a license, a violation of Wis. Stat. §343.05(3)(a)(b)(c), is a 3-point violation.
No license on person: Unlike Operating Without a License, this is a situation where you have a valid license, however, you do not have it with you. Driving without out a license on your person, a violation of Wis. Stat. §343.18(1), is a 0-point violation.
Driving without insurance: In Wisconsin you are required to have Car Insurance to drive on Wisconsin Roads. This violation can come up in one of two ways: you either did not have insurance or you simply did not have proof of your insurance with you. Driving without insurance, a violation of §344.62 (1&2), is a 0-point violation.
Move Over or Slow Down: Everyone has either seen signs for or heard an advertisement informing people to move over or slow down. This is not just advice that the DOT is passing along, if you do not either move over or slow down when passing a stopped emergency vehicle you are in a violation of Wis. Stat. §346.072(1m), which is a 3-point violation. However, it is not as simple as slowing down to make sure that you are not running afoul of this statute.
Subsection (a) indicates that if there are two lanes of travel in the direction that approaches an emergency vehicle you must change lanes. There is an exception for situations where it is unsafe to change lanes, which would apply when there is heavy traffic and to change lanes would have you veer into another vehicle. Subsection (b) applies to a scenario where there is only one lane of traffic in the direction approaching the emergency vehicle, then you are simply required to slow down.
Major Traffic Offenses
All major traffic violations have two things in common, they are 6-point violations and getting convicted of 4 of these offenses within 5 years makes you a Habitual Traffic Offender and will revoke your license for 5 years. However, just because all major traffic violations are assessed 6-points, not all 6-point tickets are major offenses. Many major offenses can also be charged criminally as well.
OWI: In Wisconsin we have OWI’s, operating under the influence of intoxicant or other drug, also known as DUI/DWI or simply as drunk driving. In addition to a number of other penalties (license revocation, fine, SR-22 insurance, possible ignition interlock requirement, and jail) an OWI is considered a major traffic offense. An OWI is a violation of Wis. Stat. §346.63.
Reckless Driving: Driving recklessly is defined as endangering safety of someone through negligent operation of your vehicle. This would include traveling at a high rate of speed, (typically 20+ mph over the speed limit in a residential area) failing to obey traffic signs [stop lights or stop signs, weaving in and out of traffic, and failing to yield. It is often driving that combines many of the above violations into driving that puts people’s safety at risk. Reckless driving is a violation of Wis. Stat. §346.62.
Leaving the scene of an accident: You are required to “reasonably investigate” what you hit during the course of your accident and determine if anyone is hurt or has died. If you leave the scene of the accident and you “reasonably should have known” that someone was hurt or died you have violated Wis. Stat. §346.67(1). If you leave the scene, but then return to the scene unfortunately you are still in violation of this statute. Quite simply you cannot go back and fix it.
Fleeing from police: Once an officer has either put on his lights are given you an audible signal to pull over your vehicle you are required to do so. If you increase your speed, extinguish your lights, or make abrupt turns you will be considered to be fleeing or eluding police. Fleeing from the police is a violation of Wis. Stat. §346.04(3).
Occupational license violation: If you are issued an occupational license you are required to abide by certain terms of that license. You are only able to drive your vehicle within certain hours and you are only allowed to driver for certain purposes (both have to be approved by the DMV). If you drive outside of your hours, for a purpose that is not approved, or simply on a route that is not reasonably on your way for your approved purpose you are in violation of §343.10(8).
Failure to stop at a railroad crossing: At a railroad crossing you must stop your vehicle for any signal indicating that a train is approaching. That signal could be flashing lights, physical barriers, or simply an officer indicating that you have to stop. Failure to follow those indications to stop for a train is a violation of Wis. Stat. §346.44(1).
Speeding 25 (or more) mph over the speed limit: Quite simply any person who travels more 25 or more over the speed limit is violating Wis. Stat. §346.57(5).
Wisconsin Traffic Ticket FAQ’s
Does Wisconsin give drivers the ability to reduce the number of points applied against their license?
Yes, Wisconsin has traffic school that allows you to remove three points from your license. However, you are only able to reduce your points through traffic school once in a 3-year period.
I was pulled over last night, will my ticket show up on CCAP?
Maybe, there are three ways for a traffic violation to show up on CCAP. Either you were pulled over by a County Sheriff, State Patrol, or you ticket is not a ticket at all and you are facing criminal charges (ie. operating after revocation can be charged as a ticket or as a criminal charge). Both the Sheriff’s department and State Patrol will show up on CCAP because your ticket will be handled by the County Circuit Court where you were pulled over.
How much is my (speeding/failure to yield/driving after suspension/ etc.) ticket going to cost?
Unfortunately, that is a question that can’t be categorically be answered. Every ticket may have a different cost and different jurisdictions will have different costs. The cost you see on your ticket is not simply the fine attached to your offense, it is the fine and all of the court costs associated with it. If you get pulled over by the Waukesha County Sheriff for speeding 9 mph over the speed limit and get pulled over by Waukesha Police Department for speeding 9 mph over the speed limit over your costs will be different.