Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Police Again Enforcing Expired Plates

Fair warning to drivers, who haven't had to renew license plates since COVID-19 health order issued.

By - Jun 8th, 2021 11:26 am
A Milwaukee Police Department officer pulls over a driver on N. Broadway. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A Milwaukee Police Department officer pulls over a driver on N. Broadway. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The free ride is over. You can now be pulled over for driving with expired license plates.

For more than a year, a quirk in state law has prevented law enforcement officers from enforcing vehicle registration requirements. Governor Tony Evers issued his first emergency health order in March 2020, maintaining the emergency status with subsequent 60-day orders until the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down his ability to do so in late March 2021. But on April 5th, Evers issued a new state of emergency, this time for wildfire risk.

The wildfire emergency order allocated Wisconsin National Guard resources towards suppressing wildfires given Wisconsin’s drought-like conditions. But it also re-activated a prohibition on enforcing the state statute (341.04) related to vehicle registration during state-wide emergencies.

With the order now lapsed, enforcement can once again return. The Milwaukee Police Department warned as much using its social media accounts over the weekend.

Council President Cavalier Johnson and Alderman Michael Murphy support the return of police citations for expired plates. “This aligns with the previous findings and recommendations of the City-County Carjacking and Reckless Driving Task Force to make sure proper and consistent enforcement is in place as a way to curb reckless driving,” said the members in a joint statement on Thursday.

Murphy is also leading the charge to take things a step further and get the state law changed. He introduced a resolution to the Common Council that directs the city’s Department of Intergovernmental Relations, the city’s lobbying team, to push the state Legislature to remove the prohibition on enforcement during a state of emergency. The Judiciary & Legislation Committee unanimously backed his request on Monday.

Need to renew your vehicle registration? It can all be done online via the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles website.

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