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If license suspension to collect fine can’t exceed one year it means suspension can’t exceed one year

County of Lafayette v. Ian D. Humphrey, 2018AP481, District 4, 12/20/18 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

After Humphrey didn’t pay his fine for operating after suspension the circuit court suspended his operating privileges under § 345.47(1)(b). Six months later Humphrey agreed to a payment plan, so the court withdrew the suspension. But Humphrey stopped paying again, so the court imposed another one year suspension of operating privileges. (¶¶2-3). Can the circuit court do that?

Nope, says the court of appeals. The statute says a suspension for nonpayment may not exceed one year, and the second one-year suspension, when added to the previous suspension, would exceed one year. The circuit court “lacked the authority to impose that part of the combined suspension which exceeded one year in total” and the second suspension must be limited to a period of time that doesn’t result in the total of the combined suspension to exceed one year (¶11).

Humphrey, pro se, didn’t cite to § 345.47(1)(b), but to § 800.95(1)(a), which doesn’t apply. “However, Humphrey’s error is merely one of having chosen the incorrect authority.” The court of appeals applies the correct statute given the County’s failure to address his argument about the time limits on suspensions to coerce payment of fines. (¶11). The County was too focused on whether Humphrey’s two prior appeal precluded his current appeal, and that focus was wrong. (¶¶5-8).

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