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May 1st, 2023 |

Stay in the Driver’s Seat: A Guide to Understanding Traffic Citations

By Attorney Brooke Houston, The Mclario Firm

Reading Time: 2 minutes

With warm weather approaching it’s easy to get distracted while driving. With the sun shining on their face and the wind blowing through their hair, people can get absorbed in the moment, unaware of their speeding until the flashing lights of an officer appear behind them.

This article serves as a reminder to all drivers to prioritize their attention to the road, diligently observe speed limit signs, and remain attentive to fellow drivers. In the event of an unexpected encounter resulting in a traffic citation, individuals are presented with various options to consider.

Options for Dealing with Traffic Citations

  1. Pay the citation.

Paying the citation entails admitting guilt and assuming responsibility for the forfeiture amount on the citation, as well as the demerit points.

  1. Contest the citation.

Contesting the citation can be done by either representing oneself or hiring an attorney. The instructions at the bottom of Wisconsin citations provide guidance on how to contest a citation. During the process, the attorney or the individual will discuss the facts and circumstances surrounding the citation with the prosecutor in an attempt to resolve the dispute.

Prosecutors generally consider amending a citation to a lesser charge, which can result in cost savings and a reduction in demerit points on the license. Hiring an experienced attorney can facilitate this process and increase the likelihood of securing the best possible outcome.

Understanding the Point System

Avoid 12 points in 12-months.

It is important to be aware of the number of demerit point system to avoid license suspension. Wisconsin driver’s licenses operate on a 12-point demerit system, with traffic citations ranging from 0 to 6 points. Some citations can lead to an immediate license suspension. Immediate suspension also occurs if a driver accumulates 12 or more points within a 12-month period. License suspension durations usually vary based on the number of accumulated points.

Special Considerations for CDLs

Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) holders must exercise heightened vigilance regarding their driving behavior and the consequences of traffic citations. If a CDL holder receives a traffic citation, they are required to inform their employer. Different citations carry varying degrees of severity, potentially resulting in CDL disqualification.

Probationary Licenses

New drivers, regardless of age, are issued a probationary license. Probationary licenses come with certain restrictions that will be stated on the back of the license. People with probationary licenses are also subject to additional penalties for moving traffic citations. After their first conviction, demerit points for moving citations double. Meaning they can accumulate 12 demerit points very quickly, which can result in a license suspension.

While it is always important to follow traffic laws, adherence becomes even more crucial during the summer season. Increased driving activity among Wisconsinites provides more opportunities for potential citations. Young drivers in particular may be taking advantage of their school breaks, which may require conversations about the consequences of traffic citations and periodic reviews of accumulated points.

For additional information about traffic citations, visit the State of Wisconsin Department of Transportation website, or contact a traffic attorney for professional guidance.

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