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Operating While suspended in wisconsin/milwaukee

Milwaukee OWS defense lawyer

In Wisconsin, operating a motor vehicle while your driver’s license is suspended can lead to serious legal repercussions. It is crucial to comprehend the laws, potential penalties, and available legal options if you find yourself facing such charges.

According to Wisconsin law, operating while suspended (OWS) refers to driving a motor vehicle on public roads when your license is suspended. Restrictions under state statute  343.44(1)(a) include hours of the day, area, routes, vehicles allowed to be operated, use of an ignition interlock device, alcohol, or controlled substances .

Operating After Revocation (OAR) may seem similar to OWS, however, OAR is a much more severe violation than OWS. OWS is a noncriminal forfeiture under most circumstances, whereas OAR is almost always a criminal violation. See our Operating After Revocation page for more information if you have been charged with OAR.

Reasons for suspension

OWS is one of the most common traffic violations. In 2023, Operating While Suspended (OWS) was the second most common traffic violation for Wisconsin drivers, accounting for about 8.91% of all traffic violations according to the Department of Transportation (DOT).

Some circumstances that may result in a suspension of your license include:

  • Too many points accumulated on your driver’s license from traffic violations within a 12-month period
    • 12–16 points is a 2-month suspension
    • 17-22 points is a 4-month suspension
    • 23-39 points is a 6-month suspension
    • More than 30 points is a 1-year suspension
  • Driving without insurance
  • Repeat traffic violations, habitual recklessness and/or negligent behavior
  • Some judges may add a driver’s license suspension to some charges for non-traffic related offenses

Our Promise

Our law firm will review any misdemeanors charged in your case, explain what those charges mean, and advise you on your best legal options. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and get the best representation you need in your unique circumstances.

Please use this guide provided by wicourts.gov to help you understand the consequences you are facing and what to do next. 

OAR/OWS_Wisconsin (pdf)

Possible consequences for Operating While Suspended

If convicted of operating a vehicle while your license is suspended, you could face several punishments, including:

  • A $50-$200 fine
  • 0-6 month additional license suspension
  • For OWS without great bodily harm or death, knowledge of your suspension is not an element when determining your penalties
If you have 3 or more prior OAR or OWS convictions within 5 years, the court may revoke your license for 6 months.

Aggravating and mitigating factors

Aggravating factors that increase your penalties include prior OAR/OWS convictions, accident, aggravated driving, injury, alcohol or drugs present, prior OWI convictions, and a record of unsafe driving.
Mitigating factors that can decrease your penalties to the lower end of the range include no prior OAR/OWS convictions, not OWI related, no unsafe driving record, history of payment of fines, and remedial action since incident.

To minimize possible penalties and work to reinstate your license after it is suspended, it is essential to contact a specialized traffic attorney that understands Wisconsin’s point demerit system well.

OPERATING WHILE SUSPENDED vs. Operating after revocation

Operating While Suspended (OWS):

  1. Definition: Operating a motor vehicle after your driver’s license has been suspended due to various reasons, such as failure to pay fines, accumulating too many points on your driving record, or other non-criminal violations.
  2. Severity: OWS is generally considered a less severe offense compared to OAR, as it often involves administrative penalties and typically does not involve serious criminal behavior.
  3. Legal Ramifications: Penalties for OWS can include fines, the extension of the suspension period, and potential points added to your driving record, which could impact your insurance rates.

Operating After Revocation (OAR):

  1. Definition: Operating a motor vehicle after your driver’s license has been revoked due to a serious offense such as a DUI (Driving Under the Influence), OWI (Operating While Intoxicated), or another severe traffic violation.
  2. Severity: OAR is considered a more serious offense compared to OAS, as it typically involves driving with a revoked license due to significant violations or criminal activities.
  3. Legal Ramifications: Penalties for OAR can include substantial fines, potential imprisonment, an extended period of revocation, vehicle impoundment, and the requirement of installing an ignition interlock device.
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