Courts FAQ 2

May a municipal judge or circuit court judge impose a forfeiture in a municipal ordinance case that is less than the minimum forfeiture established by the applicable ordinance?

No. In Village of Sister Bay v. Hockers, 106 Wis. 2d 474, 317 N.W.2d 505 (Ct. App. 1982), the village sought forfeitures for zoning ordinance violations. The minimum forfeiture due under the ordinance was $10 for each day of violation. Undisputed evidence at trial showed that the violations existed for 778 days, for a total forfeiture due of $7,880. Despite this, the circuit court assessed a $1,000 forfeiture against the defendant, and ordered the forfeiture further reduced to $500 if the defendant removed the violations by a specific date. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the trial court lacked power to assess less than the minimum forfeiture imposed by the village board. As a result, if a person is found guilty of an offense, a municipal judge lacks the authority to impose a forfeiture of less than the minimum established by the local governing body.

(rev. 7/22)