Wisconsin requires all drivers to possess a valid driver's license. This article explains the different types of violations, the possible penalties, and the exemptions to the license rule.
Unless one of the specific exemptions applies, Wisconsin law requires all drivers to carry a valid driver's license while operating a vehicle.
Driving without a valid license. The penalties for unlicensed driving (meaning the driver never obtained a license) depend on the number of prior convictions the driver has within the last three years. A conviction will result in:
However, the maximum forfeiture is only $100 for driving with a license that was expired for less than three months and unlicensed operation of a moped or motor bicycle.
License not in possession. A driver who was licensed but did not have the license in his or her immediate possession is looking at a forfeiture of $200. However, a driver who presents a then-valid license to the police department can avoid the conviction and forfeiture.
Exceptions. A non-resident driver with a valid driver's license from his or her home state or country can drive in the state without a Wisconsin license, subject to Wisconsin age restrictions. However, persons licensed in other countries must obtain a Wisconsin license within one year of residency. Military personnel driving military vehicles and farmers driving tractors between fields are also exempt from Wisconsin's licensing requirements.
A person who operates a vehicle while on a suspended or revoked license may face jail time, fines, and an extended license suspension.
Suspended. Generally, operating while suspended results in a $50 to $200 forfeiture.
Revoked. Driving on a revoked license results in a forfeiture of up to $2,500. A driver who was revoked due to an OWI (operating while intoxicated) offense faces fines of up to $2,500 and a maximum one year in jail. If the driver's license was revoked due to the commission of a vehicle-related felony, the conviction carries up to $10,000 in fines and/or a maximum one year in jail.
All convictions for driving while suspended or revoked will add three traffic violation demerit points and may result in an additional six-month license suspension. For drivers with three violations within five years, the court can revoke the driver's license.
The court is permitted to impound the driver's vehicle for a set amount of time.
Unlicensed-driving and driving-on-a-suspended-or-revoked offenses that result in great bodily injury or the death of another person can result in enhanced penalties.
Injuries. An unlicensed or suspended driver causing great bodily harm will forfeit $5,000 to $7,500 and a revoked driver causing great bodily harm will be fined $5,000 to $7,500 and/or serve up to one year in jail. If the driver knew he or she was unlicensed, can be convicted of a class I felony. A class I felony carries up to three years and six months in prison and a maximum of $10,000 in fines.
Fatalities. An unlicensed or suspended driver who causes the death of another person will forfeit $7,500 to $10,000 and a revoked driver who causes a fatality will be fined $7,500 to $10,000 and/or serve up to one year in jail. If the driver had knowledge of being unlicensed, can be convicted of a class H felony. A class H felony carries up to six years in prison and a maximum $10,000 in fines.
The court must revoke the license of any revoked or suspended licensee who causes a death or great bodily harm accident.