The city of Beaver Dam won a case in the Wisconsin court of appeals over whether state laws regulating motor vehicle use infringe on constitutional rights.
In 2019, Diane Tomko of Beaver Dam was issued citations after being found operating a motor vehicle without a insurance, not registering the vehicle, operating a vehicle without carrying a license and providing false information to mislead an officer after being pulled over for expired plates.
She took the citations to Dodge County Circuit Court following municipal court, and a judge upheld the citations in June. Judge Brian Pfitzinger ordered her to pay fines totaling $546.40. Tomko then took the case to the appeals court.
She argued in a brief that she has a right to drive on public highways “freely unencumbered” under the constitution and that state laws requiring insurance, licenses and vehicle registration infringe on her constitutional rights. City Attorney Maryann Schacht argued that the right to travel does not translate into an unfettered right to travel on public roads free of government regulation, and that the courts have repeatedly held that operating a motor vehicle is a privilege properly regulated by the state.
The court of appeals ruled this month that Tomko was wrong and upheld the citations. Tomko could still appeal to the state Supreme Court. She did not respond to a message seeking comment.
Schacht said a large amount of time and effort went into the case and making clear that the state laws about driving are for the safety of the community. She said that this is the first time she has had to take a municipal citation to the court of appeals like this.
“Beaver Dam was vindicated that what we do is in the best interest,” Schacht said.