Curran, Hollenbeck & Orton, S.C. is experienced at representing persons charged with traffic violations, ordinance violations, and crimes.  If you or a loved one have been charged or arrested, or if you fear you are about to be charged or arrested, you should promptly retain an experienced defense lawyer with a reputation for success.  In many cases, hiring an attorney before you are formally charged with an offense can result in charges being reduced or eliminated altogether.

Every case is different, and so you should retain an attorney who will take the time to listen and understand your specific circumstances.  Also, defense work requires a substantial amount of investigation and research into the details of your case.  Your case will receive the personal attention it needs and deserve.

Contact us if you have been charged or arrested for the alleged violation of a felony, misdemeanor, traffic violation, or ordinance violation, including (but not limited to) any of the following:

  • OWI / Drunk Driving
  • Assault, Battery or other violent crimes
  • Domestic Abuse
  • Drug Possession
  • Traffic tickets
  • Ordinance violations
  • Operating While Intoxicated (OWI)
  • Obtaining Occupational Licenses/ Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)

Set up a FREE consultation to discuss your legal options.

Common Traffic Law Questions


Do you have questions about Traffic or Criminal cases in Wisconsin.

What’s the difference between a civil forfeiture and a criminal misdemeanor?

A civil forfeiture is a violation of a local ordinance or statute and is not a crime (like a speeding ticket).  A criminal charge for which the maximum penalty is less than a year in jail is a misdemeanor and a charge for which you

What is “bail” and how does it work?

Bail (or bond) sets forth the conditions upon which you are to be released from jail during your case.  This can include requirements that you post cash, remain sober, not enter bars, or that you avoid contact with certain people or places.

How long is my case going to take?

Because each case is different, there is no set answer.  For misdemeanor matters, a common practice is to set the matter for a “pretrial conference” with the prosecuting attorney approximately 3-6 weeks after the initial appearance, with a “return date” another 3-4 weeks after that.  These times are dependent upon the court’s calendar and case load.  For felony matters, there are more variables, including preliminary hearings and arraignments, that make estimates more difficult.

What is a preliminary hearing?

A preliminary hearing is one of the earliest stages in Wisconsin’s felony pretrial criminal court process. It is a special proceeding, held before a judge, to determine if there is “probable cause” to believe you committed the crime with which you are charged.  If the answer is yes, the matter proceeds to an arraignment.

What’s an arraignment?

An arraignment is a formal hearing where a person accused of committing a crime is told what the charges are. The accused is also advised that he or she has certain legal and constitutional rights. Finally, the judge asks the accused how he or she would like to plead.

When should I call a lawyer?

Sooner is almost always better.  In some cases, a skilled attorney can reach out to the prosecuting attorney and resolve any issues without charges ever being filed.

If I am innocent, why do I need a lawyer?

Innocent people do get accused of committing crimes. Also, people who may have committed one crime often get accused (sometimes wrongfully) of committing additional, serious crimes. As the accused, you have a constitutional right to counsel. You are always better off having a lawyer learn about the accusation, discuss it with you, and develop a strategy for responding to the charge.

Can I have my criminal history removed or “expunged”?

Maybe.  Expungement allows a court to expunge the record of persons convicted of a misdemeanor and certain classes of minor felonies that were committed before you turned age 25, after the person successfully completes their sentence.

Do I need a lawyer to handle my traffic ticket?

You are not required to hire a lawyer to handle a traffic ticket, especially since the stakes are usually not very high.  However, it is smart to speak to a lawyer if you are facing a large fine, a license suspension, a job loss, an insurance rate hike, or some other significant penalty.

What are traffic points?

Wisconsin, like most States, assigns a point value to traffic offenses.  Serious offenses have higher points.   As you are convicted of traffic offenses, you accumulate points. If you accumulate 12 or more points in any 12-month period, your driving privileges will be suspended.

If I am guilty, shouldn't I just pay the ticket and get it over with?

If you plead guilty to a traffic charge, the court will typically require you to pay the fine stated on the ticket and will record the conviction on your DMV record. A conviction will most likely result in the accumulation of points on your license. The accumulation of points can increase your insurance premiums. Points accumulate as you receive additional tickets, and eventually, you can lose your driving privileges if you exceed the maximum number of points in a given time period. An experienced attorney can advise you on whether it may be worth fighting a ticket in your particular circumstances to avoid the points.

What happens if you don’t pay your ticket?

If you don’t pay you ticket, your driving privileges may be suspended.  If you are subsequently caught driving with a suspended license, the fines and points can be significant, not to mention the affect on your auto insurance.

What is the difference between “revocation” and “suspension” of a license?

“Revocation” is the complete withdrawal and termination of a license.  After the period of revocation is served, a person must apply to get a new license. “Suspension” is the temporary withdrawal of your driving privileges.  After the suspension period is served, your license is automatically reactivated.

What if I lose my license but continue to drive anyway?

If a person chooses to drive without a valid license and is pulled over, he or she stands to suffer more serious consequences, including criminal charges, fines, and imprisonment. The more prudent course of action is to rely on friends and family for rides or use public transportation.

Will a traffic ticket affect my insurance?

Probably. It depends on the seriousness of the traffic violation and on the insurance company. For example, failure to renew your license plates will probably not affect your insurance, but drunk driving certainly will.

Is the date on my citation the actual trial date?

No. This is an initial appearance date before a judge or a court commissioner.

I lost my ticket and forgot the appearance date. What should I do?

Contact the Clerk of Court in the county where the citation was issued.

I have a perfect driving record but the officer gave me a ticket anyway. Why?

An individual’s driving record is typically not a factor in determining whether a citation should be issued.

If I file a complaint against an officer, will the ticket be dropped?

No. Law enforcement will investigate complaints regarding the conduct of its employees, but this will not affect the merits of your case.

I have an out-of-state driver’s license and received a citation in Wisconsin. Will it show on my home state record?

Probably.  The violation may be reported to your home state. Check with your home state to see how they are handled.

Is my driver license automatically suspended when I get an OWI?

If you take a chemical test and the results are .08 alcohol concentration or more, you will be administratively suspended by the DOT. If you refuse to take test(s), your license will be revoked. Both of these outcomes can likely be delayed until the conclusion of your matter, but both require prompt action.

Can I refuse a Breathalyzer test if I get stopped for drunk driving?

Yes, but your refusal is itself a violation subject to stiff penalties, including a mandatory revocation of your driving privileges for at least one (1) year and mandatory Ignition Interlock Device (IID) for one (1) year.

Can I have open alcoholic beverages in my vehicle in Wisconsin?

No, you cannot have an opened container on your person in a motor vehicle on a public highway. Containers of alcoholic beverages with the seal broken must be transported in the trunk, or in a portion of the vehicle not normally occupied by passengers if the vehicle does not have a trunk, but not in the glove compartment.

May I drink alcohol in a motor home?

No.  Open container laws apply to all motor vehicles, including motor homes and pickup campers, except motor buses which are vehicles designed to transport people and having a passenger carrying capacity of 16 or more persons and chauffeur driven limousines. Limos and buses must have a hired chauffeur.

What is an occupational license and how do I get one?

An occupational license is a limited license to drive to and from work during certain hours.  You can apply for one at the DMV service center in the county of your residence.

When do I have to report a crash?

Immediately, when the crash results in:

  • Injury to a person,
  • $1,000 or more of damage to a vehicle or property, or
  • $200 or more of damage to government property.
I received a citation. Instead of going to court, I want to pay the fine. How do I go about paying it?

Send a check for the amount stated on the ticket along with a copy of the ticket to the Clerk of Court of the county where the ticket was issued. The address will be on the ticket.

Who do I notify that I won't be in court?

You should contact the Clerk of Court’s office in the county where the citation was issued and explain the circumstances.

Why do officers shine their lights into the car when stopping someone at night?

As a safety precaution at night, officers need to see what is inside the car.

I was stopped for what seemed like a long time. Why do officers sit in the cars for so long?

Using advanced communications technology, officers check your driving status and vehicle registration directly from their patrol cars. However, there may be unavoidable delays in transmission. Officers also must complete information regarding the traffic stop, which takes time. Be patient.

Why do other officers show up if I’ve been stopped only for a traffic violation?

Officers may back each other up (even when they are not requested) as an added safety procedure and as a courtesy to fellow officers.

Are officers required by law to show me the reading on a radar or laser device?

No. In many cases, the officer does not lock in the radar or laser reading when identifying the vehicle and tracking its speed.

Why are most State Patrol cars outfitted with video cameras?

Video cameras are a great tool to accurately and impartially record what happens during traffic stops and other enforcement events including the actions of the officers.

Do State Patrol officers have a quota for issuing citations?

No. Furthermore, the State Patrol does not receive revenue from traffic citations. Most of the revenue generated by traffic citations goes to the county where the citation was issued and the state’s common school fund. Other revenue helps finance various state and county court and legal functions.

I received a traffic citation, and I wish to contest it. What should I do?

You should follow the instructions listed on the citation. The officer cannot reduce the forfeiture amount, lower the demerit points assessed, or dismiss the citation once it has been issued.

Should I stay in my car after I am stopped or should I get out and meet the officer?

Stay in your car. An officer might interpret someone exiting their car as a threat. Stay put and refrain from a lot of movement–even if it is simply to tidy up your car. The officer will come to you.

Why are the traffic forfeitures so high?

The traffic forfeitures are so high because they include fees for jail assessment, crime lab and drug assessment, justice information, court support services, penalty assessment, and court costs.

Does a traffic warning end up on my driving record?

No. However, warning records are maintained by the State Patrol.

I received a warning from a trooper, and I need more time to get it repaired. How do I get an extension?

Call or stop at a State Patrol office and explain the problem. Someone should be able to help you.

We can help. Contact us.

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