Driving in Minnesota and Wisconsin

**Traffic Laws/Driving Rules
English: Minnesota Drivers Manual

Wisconsin Manual:
Motorists’ Handbook PDF
Manual del Conductor PDF

Owning a Car-process of buying and selling
Each state requires you to transfer the title of your vehicle as soon as possible and will give you up to 2 working days to get this done. If this is not done, the driver is subject to a fine of $175.00. The title is connected to the registration of the vehicle and officers use the VIN# on the dashboard to track who owns the car. If the title is not transferred, the violation goes to the former owner and that means there is more work that has to be done to try and find the owner of the car. The more work the officers have to do in trying to find the true owner of the car, the more likely you are to receive a fine or a ticket. Where as you may not receive a ticket for a violation if you help them locate you quickly. Also, if you sell a car and the new owner does not transfer the title, you could be held responsible for any fines that vehicle incurs so it is important to make sure the sale of the vehicle is done properly.



Importance of having Auto Insurance

Wisconsin Insurance Requirements:
Drivers and owners of motor vehicles are required to show proof of insurance at traffic stops.

Minnesota Insurance Requirements:
When you register a vehicle in Minnesota, you are attesting that the vehicle is properly insured. The Minnesota No-Fault Act requires owners of registered motor vehicles to maintain no-fault insurance. Drivers are also required to carry proof of insurance in the vehicle at all times and to provide it to police officers upon demand.

It is state law in Minnesota and Wisconsin that drivers need to have auto insurance. You might be careful in obeying traffic laws, but you never know when someone else will not and be the cause of an accident that involves you. Then again, mistakes do happen and you never know when something may occur that you will be at fault. These are reasons why it is important to have auto insurance.

However, there are times when certain acts of nature may occur such as a hail storm or a falling tree that may cause damage to an automobile and it would cost too much money out of pocket to fix these things. The insurance will sometimes charge a small deductible depending on the type of accident that has occurred, but the cost is minimal compared to what it would cost to fix an automobile on your own.

If you don’t have insurance and are at fault in an accident, you may be paying money to the accident victims out of your wages for years to come. Those who have been injured in an accident at no fault of their own are entitled to have their medical bills, vehicle repairs, and other expenses paid by the insurance of the person who was at fault. If the person at fault does not have insurance, then they do have to pay those expenses out of their pocket. Many people have been known to lose major assets because they did not pay the minimal cost of having auto insurance to prevent such losses.

Then there are those natural disasters that we have absolutely no control over. There have been many overturned trees from high winds that have decided to fall the direction of someone’s brand new car. There have also been the occasional hail storms throwing golf ball-sized hail out of the sky at the many automobiles below. This can cause thousands of dollars in damage that goes beyond the scope of what most individuals can afford straight out of their pocket.

When you have auto insurance:

  • You are protecting your automobile
  • You are able to pay for medical bills if an accident occurs.
  • You don’t have to feel the biggest part of an accident-related lawsuit.
  • You protect your wages and assets (house, car, etc.) from being lost due to a lawsuit.
  • You are protected from those motorists that may not have insurance of their own.
  • Not only pays for accidents and weather-related incidents, but also pays for vandalism and theft.
  • You know you are protected every single time you hit the road.

Basic Rights when Stopped by the Police*

Your rights

  • You have the right to remain silent. If you wish to exercise that right, say so out loud. (In some states, you may be required to provide your name if asked to identify yourself.)
  • You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings, but police may pat down your clothing if they suspect a weapon.
  • If you are arrested by police, you have the right to a government-appointed lawyer.
  • If you are detained by ICE, you have the right to consult with a lawyer, but the government is not required to provide one for you. You
    can ask for a list of free or low-cost alternatives.
  • You do not have to answer questions about where you were born, whether you are a U.S. citizen, or how you entered the country. (Separate rules apply at international borders and airports, and for individuals on certain nonimmigrant visas, including tourists and business travelers.)

What to do if you are arrested or detained

  • Say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately. Don’t give any explanations or excuses. Don’t say anything, sign anything, or make any decisions without a lawyer.
  • If you have been arrested by police, you have the right to make a local phone call. The police cannot listen if you call a lawyer.
  • If you have been detained by ICE, you have the right to contact your consulate or have an officer inform the consulate of your detention.
  • Remember your immigration number (“A” number) and give it to your family. It will help family members locate you.
  • Keep a copy of your immigration documents with someone you trust.
  • If you are a non-citizen: Ask your lawyer about the effect of a criminal conviction or plea on your immigration status. Don’t discuss your immigration status with anyone but your lawyer. While you are in jail, an immigration agent may visit you. Do not answer questions or sign anything before talking to a lawyer. Read all papers fully. If you do not understand or cannot read the papers, tell the officer you need an interpreter.

If you believe your rights were violated

  • Write down everything you remember, including officers’ badges and patrol car numbers, which agency the officers were from, and any other details. Get contact information for witnesses.
  • If you’re injured, seek medical attention immediately and take photographs of your injuries.
  • File a written complaint with the agency’s internal affairs division or civilian complaint board. In most cases, you can file a complaint anonymously if you wish.*

*Above Information courtesy of the ACLU

If you are unsure of what is happening and you want to understand better, you may ask to see if it is possible to get an interpreter on the phone. It may not be possible, but you can ask by saying: “Is an interpreter available?” The officers want to understand you just as much and you want to understand them so don’t hesitate to ask!

Traffic Infractions

Consequences for Driving without a license

Driving without Insurance Rules

Driving while intoxicated

Getting into an accident
Consequences for each type of accident is different and vary by state. The fines start at $187 for inattentive driving and texting while driving and go up from there. The most expensive ticket is for failure to report an accident which can be more than $500. Driving while Intoxicated is a different category and has higher fines.

Safety: If you have an accident or go off the road and leave your car there, leave a note to let the police know how to get in touch with you. If you do not leave information or have someone call the police after you have an accident, the police do not know if you are okay or laying in the ditch somewhere because you are injured. The police do not know if you are okay or on the side of the road somewhere because you are injured. The police have to search for you and possibly call an ambulance and fire truck to help look for you if they aren’t sure if you were hurt or not. If they think you just walked away from your vehicle, they will have to do more work to track and find you. The more work the police have to do to find you, the higher your fines will be.

Reasons you may get stopped or pulled over by an officer

On the roads, the job of Police officers and Sheriffs is to make sure everyone is following the rules and is safe. There are many reasons that someone who is driving a vehicle may get stopped by an officer. Some of the reasons are listed below, but not limited to the following:

  • There is an equipment violation (headlight or taillight out, cracked light lens, cracked windshield that obstructs proper vision, loud exhaust, unreadable or incorrect plates, no seatbelt in use, etc.)
  • Driving too fast or too slow.
  • Suspicious driving like driving too slow or not staying in your lane.
  • Any of the above may cause an officer to run your plates. If an officer runs your plates and finds that the owner of the vehicle does not have a license, he may pull you over as it is not legal to drive a vehicle without a proper license.

Sometimes an officer is not able to print a ticket on the road due to computer issues or if he or she doesn’t have enough time. So, it is possible that the officer will mail your ticket later and you will get it at your house instead of in person. For that reason, it is important to let them know if you have a different address than the one listed on your identification.

**How to read a traffic ticket in Wisconsin
**See attached PDF – Coming Soon

Here is an example ticket from Buffalo County, Wisconsin. Traffic tickets look different in Minnesota. The circled areas are where you can find your personal information written on the ticket based on the identification you provided, the reason you were given a ticket, the amount of the fine and if you have to appear in court or not.

What to do when you have a court date
If you have to appear in court:

  • If you need an interpreter, call ahead of time to make sure the court knows this.
  • Come to the courthouse 15 minutes to 30 minutes before your scheduled time.
  • Make sure your full name and birth date are correct.