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What are Wisconsin Traffic Court Records?
Wisconsin traffic records refer to all legal documentation and case files created as proceedings of traffic courts in the state of Wisconsin. All records which involve moving violations, non-moving violations including civil and criminal traffic offenses, under the motor vehicle code of Wisconsin, will be included in this designation.
Are Wisconsin Traffic Court Records Public Records?
As is the case with all proceedings in courts of public record, traffic court records are covered by the Wisconsin Public Records Law, and as such are available to members of the public. The only exemptions to this are records deemed confidential, either by law or court order.
Which Courts in Wisconsin have jurisdiction to hear traffic violation matters?
Wisconsin traffic violations and infractions are tried in Wisconsin Municipal Courts and Circuit Courts. This is dependent on the circumstances, such as the location of the violation and the statute/ordinance deemed to have been violated. Violations of state statutes will be heard in Wisconsin Circuit Courts, while violations of local ordinances will be heard in municipal courts.
Getting a Traffic Ticket in Wisconsin
In Wisconsin motor vehicle operators deemed to have violated rules of the motor vehicle code, by a law enforcement officer, are issued a ticket to cite for the violation. The ticket referred to as a Uniform Traffic Citation (UTC) form is a computer-generated long-form which represents the sworn statement by the officer about the incident, as observed by the officer. Each citation must be resolved by court action. The citation is completed by the officer and it will detail information of the alleged offender including full name, date of birth, address, height, weight, and sex. Information about the offender’s license will be contained, as well as details of the vehicle involved in the alleged incident. The location of the incident, along with the time and date will also be on the citation. The officer will add a description of the violation, will details, and the law/statute/ordinance deemed to have been violated. The officer will include his name and ID number. The officer will also indicate if a court appearance will be required to respond to the citation, date and time of appearance, the location of the designated court, the fine amount due for the violation, and the estimated number of demerit points that come with a conviction. Other relevant court and demerit point information can be found on the reverse side of the ticket.
Traffic tickets in Wisconsin are considered to be strict-liability offenses. Strict liability is a standard of liability where the offender is legally responsible for the consequences resulting from the offense, regardless of fault or if there was criminal intent. Essentially this just means that if there is proof you committed an act, such as the citation from a law enforcement officer, the law can be enforced without further process.
Wisconsin traffic violations can be criminal or civil. Criminal offenses are typically misdemeanor offenses (except where a felony was committed) and could include jail time in addition to fines. Civil offenses are forfeitures which generally come with only fines. Wisconsin considers DUI/OWIs, for the first offense, to be civil forfeiture and not a criminal offense. All traffic violations can be classified as moving and non-moving violations. Moving violations refer to offenses carried out by a vehicle in motion. Non-moving violations generally happen with vehicles not in motion or vehicles with faulty or broken equipment. Moving vehicles can be cited for Non-moving violations. This will, however, be treated differently in the courts. Non-moving violations are not reported to the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles and will not show up on your driving record.
All types of traffic violations come with a fine and demerit points on the offender’s driving record and some may come with jail time. Fines will differ by location and court. You may also be assessed with ticket fees depending on the violation and license type. Wisconsin operates a demerit points system and points stay on your record for 5 years or longer, depending on offense type. Accumulation of 12 points or more in 12 months will lead to a loss of driving privileges for up to 6 months. Accumulating 30 points or more will result in a 1-year suspension.
What to Do When You Get a Traffic Ticket in Wisconsin?
If you receive a traffic citation in Wisconsin, a response is required and must be made by the court date indicated on the ticket. Failure to respond to a citation results in a guilty verdict against you and the imposition of the maximum fines and penalties applicable. You can choose to either:
- Pay the traffic ticket
- Dispute the ticket
Opting to pay the fine represents a guilty plea in the eyes of the law. This represents your acceptance of the charges against you. It also indicates an agreement, on your part, to accept and cover all fines, fees, and penalties. A report will be sent to the DMV and demerit points will be issued on your driver’s record. You have also waived your right to contest the ticket in a court.
- Unless a court appearance is required, you can pay the fine before the court appearance date indicated on the ticket. Payment can be made in person, at the court clerk’s office before the appearance date or your court appearance, on the website of the court and by mailing the amount with citation details to the court your payment must be received by the court date to eliminate the need for a court appearance.
- If a court appearance is required, then you must appear on the court date to enter your plea and settle your fines.
Opting to dispute the ticket represents a not guilty plea and an affirmation of your right to contest the ticket in court.
- To dispute the ticket without having to make your court appearance, you can send a not guilty plea by mail to the court. It must be sent before the scheduled court date and included should be a copy of the citation (or the citation number), your name and mailing address. A pre-trial notice to appear will be sent to notify you of your new court date.
- If you have to make a court appearance, then you must do so to enter your plea and have the pre-trial hearing set. It is possible to meet with the prosecuting attorney and see if a plea bargain can be reached. If not, then a trial date will be set and you should consider retaining an attorney’s services.
- If you are found not guilty at trial, then charges against you are dismissed and you are released of all fines, fees, and demerits, however, court costs are still applicable.
- If you are found to be guilty at trial, then you will be obligated to pay all fines, fees and any other charges and penalties imposed by the court, including court costs. Demerit points will be also added to your record.
It is possible to reduce demerit points applicable by taking a court-approved traffic safety course. Successful completion of the course will result in up to a 3 point reduction. You must be eligible, under Wisconsin DMV requirements, to take the course and can only take it once in 3 years.
How Do I Find Wisconsin Traffic Court Records?
Traffic court records may be found on the websites of the court where the cases were heard and you can access the records online by following the requisite instructions. Otherwise, you can visit the office of the court’s clerk in person and make your request. Court charges may be applicable if you will need copies of the record. Requests for records are subject to verification of the identity of the requesting party.
Publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.
What information is required to obtain Wisconsin Traffic Court Records?
To obtain traffic court records, information about the record being sought will be needed. This will include the full name, date of birth and the case number of the record. Other information might be required. The person requesting the record will also need to provide information including a full name and a valid form of identification. There might be applicable court fees, depending on the scope of the request, which must be paid before the release of records.
Can Wisconsin Traffic Records be sealed or expunged?
Wisconsin laws are very strict and allow for the expungement of adult criminal records in very limited circumstances. To be eligible for an expungement,
- You must have been under the age of 25 at the conviction
- Offense convicted for, carried maximum sentence of 6 years
- You have completed all the obligations of your sentence.
A request for expungement must have been at the time of sentencing and a decision reached by the court at that time. It may also be possible to expunge your records if you were arrested but released without charge or the charges were dropped or dismissed. There is no authority to expunge traffic forfeitures or civil cases.