Speeding Tickets in Wisconsin
Wisconsin Speeding Ticket Laws
Procedural Steps to Defending a Speeding Ticket in Wisconsin
Wisconsin Points – Fines – Reciprocity and Other Issues
If you decide to fight your speeding ticket by taking the matter to trial, the prosecutor must establish the presence of all requisite elements of the charge against you. Wisconsin is an absolute speed limit state, so the prosecutor has the burden of proving that the motorist was driving at a speed that was greater than the posted limit. At trial, you are considered innocent of the speeding offense and the burden of proof rests on the prosecutor to prove otherwise. In order to know what you are being charged with and subsequently what the prosecutor has to prove, you should check the back of your traffic citation which will indicate the specific statutory code violation. However, the charge of speeding is considered a strict liability offense in Wisconsin; therefore the prosecutor merely has to show that you were driving at a speed greater than the posted limit in order for you to be convicted.
Defenses to Speeding Violations in Wisconsin:
Absolute speed limits are by definition, unconditional violations of the law and thus a strict liability offense. Any lack of intent or knowledge about exceeding the posted speed limit is irrelevant as a defense to violating absolute speed laws. If the driver was ticketed for exceeding the maximum speed limit, they are guilty regardless of whether they knew that the posted speed limit was being exceeded. All that matters is that the defendant was operating the vehicle in excess of the speed limit. Therefore, there are not many defenses available for defendants charged with violating absolute speed limit laws. However, the most commonly used defenses include (a) legal justification defense; (b) unknown identity of the vehicle; (c) attacking the officer’s determination of your speed; and (d) lack of jurisdiction of law enforcement.
Legal Justification Defense—“Sudden Emergency Doctrine”
Legal justification defenses are typically available when the driver is charged with speeding because of unforeseen or emergency circumstances. These circumstances can sometimes be qualified under the “sudden emergency doctrine,” which eliminates a motorist’s liability for speeding if it was done in response to an emergency that made it impossible to comply with the speed limit. However, in order for this doctrine to be raised, it is imperative that it be shown that the driver could not have avoided the emergency situation simply by slowing down his car. This defense generally presents itself when a driver exceeds the speed limit as the only way to avoid a rear-end collision or as an attempt to get out of the way of a police or emergency vehicle. Furthermore, Wisconsin case law seems to not impose strict liability upon a motorist who exceeds the speed limit in order to avoid an accident. Millonig v. Bakken, 112 Wis. 2d 445, 334 N.W.2d 80 (1982).
Unknown Identity of the Vehicle or Driver
Another defense to an absolute speed limit violation is to claim that the officer mistook your car for another car. You could argue this by stating that your vehicle was not the speeding vehicle. You could prove this by pointing out the vast number of similarities in color and model of cars at the time of the incident. You could also try and argue that you were not the person driving the speeding vehicle. For example, it would be hard to establish your identity as the driver of the speeding vehicle when the only evidence is based on the fact you were found driving the car an hour later.
Attacking the Officer’s Determination of Your Speed
The first and most common method of speed measurement is the radar detection system. These detection devices are capable of measuring a vehicle’s speed that is traveling the same direction as the patrol car and even those traveling in the opposite direction. Your best defense argument would be that the equipment was improperly maintained or more than one vehicle was in the zone where the radar was being used. The second method used by law enforcement is a laser speed gun. Your best defense argument would be that the gun had mistakenly measured an object that was not your vehicle. Another possible argument would be that the law enforcement officer was inexperienced in using the laser speed gun. However, this defense might be tricky to argue in Wisconsin. Wisconsin case law shows that stationary radar checks and police detection devices have a prima facie presumption of accuracy. State v. Hanson, 85 Wis. 2d 233, 270 N.W.2d 212 (1978).
Lack of Jurisdiction of Law Enforcement.
One of the best defenses to a speeding ticket is to argue the law enforcement officer did not have jurisdiction to enforce the speed laws in the place you were ticketed. However, keep in mind that law enforcement can legally ticket you anywhere if they are in “hot pursuit” of your vehicle. For example, jurisdictional requirements are irrelevant if you are speeding in one jurisdiction and a law enforcement officer follows you from that jurisdiction into another jurisdiction in an attempt to stop you from speeding.