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  1. #1
    Terminator's Avatar
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    Wisconsin Court of Appeals rules on traffic stop case

    The Wisconsin Court of Appeals last Wednesday ruled that police do not require a reason to stop a car registered in the name of someone with a suspended license, while questioning the practice of using a minor instance of speeding as the pretext for a stop. The court ruled that as long as a police officer makes no attempt to determine whether a spouse or other family member might be behind the wheel, he is free to pull over whoever happens to be driving.

    "It is indeed a reasonable assumption that the person driving a particular vehicle is that vehicle's owner," wrote Chief Judge Richard S. Brown in a 3-0 ruling. "Here, the officer did not observe the driver of the vehicle and had no reason to think that it was anyone other than the vehicle's owner at any time during the stop."

    Brown refers to the December 20, 2005 stop of Frank C. Newer who came to the attention of a police officer when he passed a radar at an alleged 3 MPH over the speed limit in Walworth County. The officer ran Newer's license plates and decided to stop him when the computer said Newer's license had been revoked. At the time, the officer had no idea whether there was a man or woman behind the wheel. The officer did not look.

    The appeals court decision upheld the officer's actions and overturned the ruling of Walworth County Circuit Court Judge Michael S. Gibbs who had found the officer had no reasonable suspicion to stop the car. The decision represents new law for the state.

    "We have been unable to discover any published Wisconsin cases addressing the question presented," Brown wrote in an August filing asking the state supreme court to take up the case.

    Although the present decision gave license to police to stop anyone driving a car registered to someone in trouble with the department of motor vehicles, the three-judge panel expressed a problem with allowing the same principle to be applied to motorists driving a few miles per hour over the speed limit. The validity of such stops follow from the US Supreme Court's decision in Whren v. US.

    "While there is no evidence on this point in the record, our experience tells us that traveling at a few miles per hour over the speed limit is not only common behavior, but the default driving style of the majority of Wisconsin residents," Brown wrote on behalf of the court in August. "If our experience on Interstate 94 is any guide, the driver observing the speed limit exactly is in a distinct minority. If police officers may always use a three-mile-per-hour violation as a 'pretext' for stopping motorists, then a police officer's discretion as to whom to stop may be, practically speaking, nearly unlimited. While this result was explicitly countenanced by the Supreme Court in Whren, the high courts of at least two states have rejected pretextual stops under the search and seizure provisions of their state constitutions." (Citing Arkansas and Washington)

  2. #2
    gopherpuckfan's Avatar
    gopherpuckfan is offline I'm from the government and I'm here to help
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    In MN, we call these a "Pike stop". If it's not the R/O driving, I give them their license right back and tell them to drive safe.
    The views expressed in the above post are the sole opinion of the author and do not reflect any official position by the author's employer and/or municipality.

  3. #3
    MacLean's Avatar
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    RCW 46.20.349

    Stopping vehicle of suspended or revoked driver.


    Any police officer who has received notice of the suspension or revocation of a driver's license from the department of licensing, may, during the reported period of such suspension or revocation, stop any motor vehicle identified by its vehicle license number as being registered to the person whose driver's license has been suspended or revoked. The driver of such vehicle shall display his driver's license upon request of the police officer.
    I'm your huckleberry...

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  4. #4
    countybear's Avatar
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    Although I detest the ambiguity of this point:

    ...our experience tells us that traveling at a few miles per hour over the speed limit is not only common behavior, but the default driving style of the majority of Wisconsin residents," Brown wrote on behalf of the court in August. "If our experience on Interstate 94 is any guide, the driver observing the speed limit exactly is in a distinct minority. If police officers may always use a three-mile-per-hour violation as a 'pretext' for stopping motorists, then a police officer's discretion as to whom to stop may be, practically speaking, nearly unlimited.
    This decision is a good one, and one I think will be eventually mirrored higher up the food chain.

    "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money."
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    The opinions expressed by this poster are wholly his own, and should never be construed to even remotely be in representation of his employer, its agencies or assigns. In fact, they probably fail to be in alignment with the opinions of any rational human being.

  5. #5
    Jks9199 is offline The Reason People Hate Cops & Causer of War
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    I don't think we'll see any major overturning of the pretext stop, so long as the pretext is reasonable. After all, the reason for the pretext stop is an actual violation. Yes, 26 in a 25 is technically speeding. But, is it reasonable to believe that most cars have speedometers accurate enough to enforce one mph in excess? No. My personal practice is usually 10 to 15 over before I stop -- but I'll go as low as 5 (30/25 or 40/35) if I'm hunting or there are other special reasons. But, at that point, I've probably already got other suspicions about the car.

    Same thing applies to stopping cars when the registered owner is unlicensed; you've got to be reasonable about it. At noon, on a sunny day when the car passed you before you ran it, you'd probably have a hard time justifying the stop as reasonable unless you did look at the driver enough to determine that they appeared to be the right gender, etc. At midnight, on a moonless night, with no streetlights? Go for it; there's no real way to know who's driving the car, and it's quite reasonable to assume that the owner is driving their car.

    Where we get in trouble is when we push the limits of reasonable; if we show decent judgement about things like pretext stops. As I think on it -- I don't like the term "pretext stop." You're stopping the car for a real and actual violation. We just suspect something more is going on... and are going to try to look into it. So, you need to be reasonable about the grounds you stop someone for.

  6. #6
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    It is a good thing that the State of Wisconsin is not under the jurisdiction of the 9th Circus Court of Apples. That would be reversed in a heart beat.
    Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.
    [George Washington (1732 - 1799)]


  7. #7
    MacLean's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PapaBear View Post
    It is a good thing that the State of Wisconsin is not under the jurisdiction of the 9th Circus Court of Apples. That would be reversed in a heart beat.
    Ah yes, the most reversed circus court in history, and the one we live with here as well.
    I'm your huckleberry...

    Quemadmoeum gladis nemeinum occidit, occidentus telum est!

    You can be the weapon, and the gun in your hand is a tool - or the gun is a weapon and you are the tool.


    I was looking for a saint who was a devil of a lover,
    but every girl I found was either one way or the other...



 

 

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