A Traffic Citation: Your Rights & Responsibilities

The following information does not apply to cases requiring a MANDATORY COURT APPEARANCE.

What will happen if I appear in court on the date on my citation?

The date on your citation is the date of your initial appearance. An initial appearance is your opportunity to enter a plea to the charge. You may plead guilty, no contest, or not guilty. The initial appearance is not the trial date. If you plead guilty or no contest, the court will find you guilty and the matter will be resolved at the initial appearance. Be prepared to pay the ticket at that time. There is no guarantee that your ticket will be reduced. Your ticket may already be written for the minimum forfeiture and points.

If you plead not guilty, your case will be scheduled for a pretrial conference at a later date.

Must I appear in court on the date set forth on my citation?

You may avoid appearing in court by sending the bail amount prior to your court date. If bail is posted and you do not appear in court, you will be found guilty, and the bail money posted will be forfeited.

You may also avoid appearing in court if you enter your plea in writing. Mail your plea to: Dane County Clerk of Court, Dane County Courthouse Room 1000, Madison WI 53703-3285, or FAX your plea by calling (608) 267-8859. Include the charge and violation date, the date you were scheduled to appear, the name of the police agency that issued your ticket, the ticket number, your current mailing address and phone number. This plea must be received before the court date on the citation. If your plea is not guilty, a court date for a pretrial conference will be mailed to you. You will have to appear at the pretrial conference.

If you do not post bail money and you also fail to enter a plea in person or by writing, a judgment will be entered against you for the amount of the ticket. From the date of judgment, you will be allowed no more than 60 days to pay. Failure to pay will result in either a warrant for your arrest or suspension of your license.

Can I change the court date?

No. It is not necessary to change your court date. If you are unable to attend the scheduled court date, you would enter your plea in writing by mail or fax. This must be received BEFORE your court date.

I wish to plead not guilty, how do I do that and what will happen in court?

You may plead not guilty either by appearing in court on the date on your citation, or by entering a not guilty plea in writing by mail or FAX prior to the court date. Mail the written plea of not guilty to: Dane County Clerk of Court, Dane County Courthouse Room 1000, Madison WI 53703-3285, or FAX your plea by calling (608) 267-8859. Include the charge and violation date, the date you were scheduled to appear, the name of the police agency that issued you your ticket, the ticket number, your current mailing address and phone number. This must be received before the court date on your citation.

After you plead not guilty, the case will be scheduled for a pretrial conference. You must attend the pretrial conference. After the pretrial conference, the case will be scheduled for final conference or trial. You have the right to a jury trial. If you want to preserve this right to a jury trial, you must make a written demand for a jury trial and post jury fees within ten (10) days following the date of your initial appearance. Jury fees are not refundable.

I'm worried about the points to be assessed against my driving record. How do I know if I'm in point trouble?

If you are found guilty of a traffic violation, your driving record may be charged with demerit points. The court will not determine the number of points assessed against your record. The court will merely report the conviction to the Division of Motor Vehicles and the Division will assess the number of points against your record, depending upon the charge. The following point schedule lists common traffic violations. Other violations, not listed, may also carry points. If you accumulate 12 points against your driving record within a one-year period by date of violations, your license will be suspended or revoked.

If you have questions about the status of your license you should call the Division directly at (608) 266-2353.

Speeding Violations

Miles per hour over the legal limit
  10 or less 11 - 19 20 or more*
Points 3 4 6

* Exceeding 65 mph speed limit by 25 or more mph will result in a 15-day license suspension.

Other Violations

Reckless driving or racing 6
Deviating from a traffic lane 4
Driving wrong side of highway or street 4
Failing to yield right of way 4
Failing to yield to emergency vehicle 4
Imprudent driving, too fast for conditions, failing to have vehicle under control 4
Inattentive driving 4
Passing school bus when red lights flashing 4
Arterial or traffic control violation 3
Driving wrong way on one way street 3
Failing to dim lights 3
Following too closely 3
Illegal passing 3
Improper brakes or lights 3
Operating with license expired or without any license 3
Prohibited or illegal turn 3
Violation of Restriction 3
Parking on highway in traffic lane, Defective speedometer 2
No registration plate light 0
Operating with license not on person 0

Motorcycle

Head lamps not lit (daylight hours 0 points) 3
No cycle validation 3
Defective or repaired handlebars 2
Deprive traffic lane 2
More than 2 riders (operator) 2
No eye protection (operator) 2
Illegal muffler 0
No protective headgear 0

If you have a probationary license, two (2) additional points are recorded for each conviction after your first.

How is the dollar amount on my ticket determined?

The dollar amount written on your ticket is actually a combination of a forfeiture and numerous surcharges and fees. The forfeiture for an offense is a relatively small part of the total penalty that you must pay. For example, if you received a speeding citation, the minimum forfeiture for this offense is $30. The base forfeiture ($30) and the fees and surcharges ($145.30) total $175.30. This is the amount that the officer is required to write on your ticket, if traveling 1-15 mph above a 55 mph or less legal limit (65 mph limit has a higher minimum). It is the minimum amount that you must pay for a speeding conviction in the above range.

Why do I have to pay all these fees and surcharges?

These fees and surcharges are added to your ticket according to state statute.

State statutes require that the officer and the court include these fees and surcharges on your ticket.

Where do these fees go?

On a typical speeding ticket the minimum ticket amount is broken down as follows:

Forfeiture $30.00
26% Penalty assessment $7.80
Court costs $25.00
Justice information fee $21.50
Jail assessment fee $10.00
Court support fee $68.00
Crime lab eight drug assessment $13.00
Total $175.30