WI Court Can't Revoke Driving Privileges Past 3 Years

Wisconsin case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: revocation of driving privileges.

State of Wisconsin v. Jack E. Hoppe. WI OWI, revocation of driving privileges

Jack E. Hoppe was driving in Outagamie County, Wisconsin. He was also drunk at the time, which is against the law. Mr. Hoppe, probably knew this, because this wasn't his first brush with the Wisconsin drunk driving laws. In fact, this was his seventh offense, and Judge Mark J. McGinnis decided to throw the book at him, sentencing him to nine years, half of which was to be spent in prison, and the other half on extended supervision. Because Hoppe was already incarcerated, this set his release date at 2017, with an additional nine years of extended supervision ending in 2026.

Judge McGinnis also apparently decided that it would be best to keep Hoppe off the road for as long as possible. Wisconsin Statute 343.30(1q)(b)4 sets the maximum revocation at three years, and the judge ordered the license revoked for three years after Hoppe got out of prison. But Judge McGinnis decided that keeping Hoppe off the road for an additional few years wouldn't be a bad idea. Therefore, he added a condition of supervised release. During his period of supervised release, Hoppe would also be prohibited from driving or operating a motor vehicle. As the judge explained, Mr. Hoppe would be free to go down to the DMV and get himself a license after the three years expired. "The Court's condition of extended supervision that he not drive or operate a motor vehicle does not impact Mr. Hoppe's ability to get a license." (Of course, getting the license without taking the road test might be problematic, but nobody raised that issue.)

Mr. Hoppe apparently resigned himself to the fact that he will be incarcerated until at least 2017. But he wanted his right to drive a car in 2020, without having to wait until 2026. So he appealed to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals agreed that he had every right to get back behind the wheel in 2020, assuming that he gets a license. The court took a close look at Wisconsin Statute 343.30, which states that the court shall revoke operating privileges for not less than 2 years nor more than 3 years. The statute goes on to say that "no court may suspend or revoke an operating privilege except as authorized" by the statute.

The court concluded that Judge McGinnis had violated the plain meaning of this statute. The statute applies not only to the license, but also the privilege of operating a vehicle.

The appellate court did note that it sympathized with Judge McGinnis's concerns for public safety, and it agreed that the legislature had been quite rigid in its wording. But it did note that in order for offenders to reintegrate into society, they could very well need to drive. The court also noted that in 2026, Hoppe is going to be back on the road one way or another. And the court noted that it might be wiser to hand him the keys while he's still on probation, rather than waiting until he has no supervision.

For these reasons, the Court of Appeals reversed that portion of the order and sent the case back.

No. 2013AP1457-CR (Wis. Ct. App. April 22, 2014).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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