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Circuit court lacked authority to dismiss traffic ticket over county objection

County of Fond du Lac v. William A. Tavs, 2017AP2405, 4/18/18, District 2 (one judge decision; ineligible for publication) case activity (including briefs)

William Tavs was cited for driving with an invalid license as a civil forfeiture offense. By the time he appeared in court, he had gotten his license reinstated, and the County moved to amend to a less-significant forfeiture. The circuit court, however, saying Tavs had already “gone through quite a bit” in getting his license back, sua sponte dismissed the case. The county appealed, and the court of appeals now reverses.

It notes that, in accord with the broad charging discretion afforded criminal prosecutors, the state Supreme Court has held circuit courts lack inherent authority to dismiss a case on “fairness” grounds. State v. Krueger, 224 Wis. 2d 59, 64, 588 N.W.2d 921 (1999).  While a traffic ticket is not a criminal matter, civil forfeitures have been treated in a slightly different context as “quasi criminal.” City of Janesville v. Wiskia, 97 Wis. 2d 473, 293 N.W.2d 522 (1980). While the court acknowledges “it is possible legal authority may exist and reasonable argument could be made to challenge the County’s position,” Tavs didn’t file a brief, so the court accepts the county’s argument. (¶6).

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