What does it mean to “drive without a license” in Wisconsin?
Driving without a license can refer to three scenarios. You’re stopped for an offense and:
- You have a license but it’s not in your possession. In other words, you were licensed to drive but lacked proof, an infraction that may be dismissed once you can prove that you possessed a valid license at the time of the incident. (Note: you may have to pay a fine.)
- You never applied for a license (or your license expired). Wisconsin Code § 343.05(3)(a) states, "No person may operate a motor vehicle which is not a commercial motor vehicle upon a highway in this state unless the person possesses a valid operator's license." Violation is a misdemeanor offense.
- Your license was cancelled, revoked or suspended by the authorities. For first time offenders, Wisconsin law provides that this offense is punishable by a fine of not less than $200 nor more than $600, or jail time for not more than 6 months or both.
Who doesn’t have to have a valid Wisconsin driver’s license?
Wisconsin exempts the following persons from having to possess a valid Wisconsin license:
- A person in the armed services while operating a motor vehicle owned by or leased to the federal government.
- A person while temporarily operating or moving a farm tractor or implement of husbandry on a highway between fields or between a farm and a field.
- A person while operating motorized construction equipment.
- A nonresident who is at least 16 years of age and who has in his or her immediate possession a valid operator’s license issued to the person in the person’s home jurisdiction.
- Any nonresident of the United States who holds an international driving permit or a valid operator’s license issued by a country which is a signatory to either the 1943 regulation of inter− American automotive traffic or the 1949 Geneva convention on road traffic.
- Any nonresident of the United States who holds an international driving permit or a valid operator’s license issued by Germany, Mexico, or Switzerland or by any other nation having a reciprocal agreement with the United States concerning driving privileges.
How do you fight the charge?
Fighting a “driving without a license charge” can be difficult. Once the district attorney or prosecutor alleges that you drove without a valid license, the burden of proof is on you to prove that you did possess a valid driver’s license at the time of your offense. If you don’t have evidence of a license, you lose! Depending on your circumstances, you may benefit from the advice or negotiating skills of an attorney.
Can an undocumented immigrant obtain a driver’s license in Wisconsin?
An undocumented immigrant is not permitted to obtain a driver's license in Wisconsin.