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Q

What is the penalty in Wisconsin for driving without a license, with expired license plate tags and an unlicensed passenger?


A

If you were cited for driving without a license and expired license plate tags (registration) in Wisconsin the best way to find out the penalties are to contact the court listed on the ticket. We can however give you information we have found in the Wisconsin Code regarding these issues.

The third issue, having an unlicensed passenger does not make sense since unless you had a WI learner or instruction permit to drive that required you to have a supervising driver beside of you we are not aware of how you could or a passenger could be ticketed for the passenger being unlicensed.

If you did have a permit than you should know that WI license applicants operating with a Class D instruction permit must be accompanied by a driver with at least two years licensed driving experience who currently holds a valid regular (not probationary or occupational) license. The accompanying driver must occupy the passenger seat beside the applicant and be one of the following:

  • A qualified instructor age 19 or older, or
  • A parent, guardian or spouse, age 19 or older. In addition, immediate family members of the applicant may ride in the back seat, or
  • person 21 years of age or older. If the permit holder is under 18 years old, the accompanying licensed person is required to have written authorization from the minor's parent or guardian prior to the operation of the vehicle.
  • If you are at least 16 years of age, in addition to the licensed accompanying driver, one other licensed person 25 years of age or more with at least 2 years driving experience may occupy a seat in the vehicle other than the front seat.
  • If you operate a vehicle during hours of darkness, you must be accompanied by a qualified instructor or a licensed person 25 years of age with at least two years of licensed driving experience occupying the seat beside you.

Driving without a license is against the law in WI as it is in every state. Wisconsin Code Section 343.05 (3)(a) states that 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 issued to the person by the department which is not revoked, suspended, canceled or expired.

Penalties for being an unlicensed driver in WI are listed later in this section of law and include a fine of not more than $200 for the first offense. A person may be fined not more than $300 and imprisoned for not more than 30 days for the 2nd offense occurring within 3 years, and may be fined not more than $500 and imprisoned for not more than 6 months for the 3rd or subsequent offense occurring within 3 years.

Also keep in mind that WI laws state that any person who, in the course of operating a motor vehicle which is not a commercial motor vehicle upon a highway in this state knowingly without a valid operator's license issued to the person by the department or knowingly with an operator's license that has been revoked, suspended, or canceled, causes damage to the property of another shall be required to forfeit $1,000.

This law continues on to stay if you cause injury to another person you shall be required to forfeit $5,000. If you cause great bodily harm or death to another person you are guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. In WI the penalty for a Class A misdemeanor may include a fine up to $10,000, or imprisonment for up to 9 months, or both.

Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) also notes that operating with expired license or without any license is 3 points. Even if you do not have a license they can start a driving record for you, usually based on your social security number.

The penalty for operating unregistered or improperly registered vehicle is listed in section 341.04 of the Wisconsin Code. Under subsection 1 it is noted that it is unlawful for any person to operate or for an owner to consent to being operated on any highway of this state any motor vehicle, recreational vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer, or any other vehicle for which a registration fee is specifically prescribed by the state.

The penalty is a fine of not more than $200. In addition to imposing this penalty the court shall order the offender to make application for registration or re-registration and to pay the required fee. If 45 days have elapsed from the date of conviction and the department has not received an application for registration or re-registration and the required fee, the department shall order the offender to make application for registration or re-registration and to pay the required fee.

Unless the department receives the application for registration or re-registration and the required fee within 20 days from the date of the department's order, the department may suspend any or all registrations of the offender. Any registration suspended under this section shall remain suspended until the offender makes application for registration or re-registration and the required fee for registration is paid.

The WI DOT also notes that WI law requires buyers of cars and small trucks (8000 pounds or less) to display a permanent or temporary plate within two business days of purchase. Driving without valid plates is subject to a maximum fine of $200 in Wisconsin as we noted earlier.

To find out more about the penalties for driving without a driver's license and in a car with expired registration contact the WI DOT and/or the court listed on a ticket you received for these offenses.If the registration had just expired you may be able to see if it is renewed before the court date if it will make a difference and lower your penalties.


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