: Police Had Reasonable Suspicion to Make Traffic Stop Based on Homeowner's Call:

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  • September
    14
    2012

    Police Had Reasonable Suspicion to Make Traffic Stop Based on Homeowner's Call

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    Police Had Reasonable Suspicion to Make Traffic Stop Based on Homeowner’s Call

    By org jforward wisbar Joe Forward, Legal Writer, State Bar of Wisconsin

    Police Had Reasonable Suspicion to 
Make Traffic Stop Based on Homeowner’s 
Call hspace= Sept. 14, 2012 – A man who called police to report suspicious activity supplied the reasonable suspicion necessary for police to make a valid traffic stop, an appeals court has ruled. In turn, evidence that Carl Rissley committed a fifth OWI offense will not be suppressed.

    In April 2010, a homeowner called the Caledonia Police Department around 3 a.m. to report that a man confronted him in his driveway looking for “Pookie,” a character the homeowner did not know. According to the homeowner, the man threatened him and “took off like a bat out of hell” when the homeowner said he was calling the cops.

    The homeowner gave the police dispatcher a description of the suspect and the vehicle, and gave updates while the man drove off. He said the man, who he’d encountered before, was “speeding like a mad man,” and the homeowner was unable to record his license plate.

    A short time later, a police officer located the described vehicle, driven by Rissley. The officer did not witness Rissley commit any crimes or traffic violations, but pulled him over. After smelling alcohol, the officer arrested Rissley for operating while intoxicated, fifth offense.

    In circuit court, Rissley moved to suppress evidence obtained from an illegal traffic stop, arguing that police did not have reasonable suspicion to make the stop. The circuit court agreed, concluding that police did not have reasonable suspicion that Rissley committed a crime based on “articulable” facts, a requirement under Terry v. Ohio, 329 U.S. 1 (1968).

    However, in State v. Rissley, 2011AP1789-CR (Sept. 12), the District II Wisconsin Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that police had reasonable suspicion to make the stop.

    “We agree with the State that police had reasonable suspicion of criminal activity being afoot,” wrote Chief Appeals Court Judge Richard Brown for the three-judge appeals panel.

    “In addition to the state’s assertion of disorderly conduct, we see suspicion of criminal trespass, speeding, erratic driving, and perhaps stalking,” wrote Judge Brown, rejecting the argument that police did not have the license plate identification to associate Rissley’s van with any crime.

    The appeals panel also rejected Rissley’s argument that the police officer did not exercise independent discretion in deciding whether there was reasonable suspicion to make the stop.

    “The officer making the stop was simply not required to exercise his independent discretion,” Judge Brown wrote. “The fact that he made the stop based on information from dispatch and dispatch had information amounting to reasonable suspicion is enough.”

    Finally, the situation was not subject to a rule that Terry stops should be limited to investigations of serious (not minor) past crimes, the appeals panel explained, referencing United States v Hensley, 469 U.S. 221 (1985), and noting that Rissley’s actions were ongoing, not past.

    “[P]olice were acting in the heat of the moment to investigate an ongoing situation and freeze time so that any ambiguities in potentially criminal conduct could be resolved,” Judge Brown wrote. The panel reversed the order to suppress evidence and remanded the case.