‘It is a very difficult problem’: Why people are still on the roads with revoked licenses

People in Wisconsin are becoming more and more frustrated with how many crashes and fatalities result from people driving on the roads when they’re not supposed to.

Nick Gansner is a criminal defense attorney and said he often defends people who put themselves in these situations.

“Is there some way to physically prevent someone from getting behind the wheel of a car if they are not legally allowed to do so? That’s a complicated question,” Gansner said. “We don’t have probation officers or police officers following people around in the world to make sure they don’t do things they’re not supposed to do.”

It’s a problem that is all too common in Wisconsin. The issue was brought up again after 37 year old Shuan Jones was arrested for killing someone Monday night on Highway 12/18 when he wasn’t supposed to be on the road at all.

“If he has access to a car, if he has access to car keys, he is physically able to get behind the wheel of a car and drive it, even if doing so is illegal,” Gansner said.

Some people wonder why it takes so many times and why, in some cases, it costs a life to put someone behind bars for something like this.

“A lot of that is a matter of prosecutorial discretion,” Gansner said.

When someone gets caught driving without a license, the penalty in Wisconsin is a fine between $50- $200 for a first offense. If a driver kills someone while operating with a revoked license, that person faces a fine of up to $10,000 and up to six years in prison.

But the amount of jail time someone gets can depend on who is coming up with the penalty and what the circumstances are surrounding each case.

“Does more punishment equal less crime? The data I’m familiar with, I’m not sure correlates that way,” Gansner said.

Jones’ case is just one of many. Some people want stricter laws, but Gansner said that may not be a viable solution either.

“We could force people to turn over their keys. Same thing, though. They could drive a friend’s car or a spouse’s car or a partner’s car. So, yes. It is a very difficult problem on how to prevent people from committing crime.”

Madison police public information officer Joel DeSpain said, “Officers do their best to arrest people who should not be driving, but there is nothing to stop someone who is determined to get behind the wheel from finding keys and a car. That is why it is not uncommon to see people getting arrested time and time again for the same offenses.”

Gansner said some people who get their license revoked could qualify to get an occupational license to get to and from work, child care services, medical appointments, etc. But the time people with occupational licenses spend in the car is restricted.

Gansner also added that a person can still obtain a license after getting an OWI in Wisconsin. However, after the fourth offense OWI, it becomes a felony and a lifetime revocation is possible. However, Gansner said that even people who have a lifetime revocation are not entirely prevented from getting behind the wheel if they have the mind to do it.

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