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Arrest — Traffic Offense — Duration — Effect on Consent to Search

State v. Charles A. Wallace, 2002 WI App 61
For Wallace: Martha K. Askins, SPD, Madison Appellate

Issue: Whether an arrest for a traffic stop, lawful at inception, was unlawfully prolonged in order to obtain the driver’s consent to a strip search not reasonably related to the traffic violation.

Holding: This issue is “closely related” to one raised in State v. Gaulrapp, 207 Wis. 2d 600, 558 N.W.2d 696 (Ct. App. 1996):

¶12. Similarly, we conclude here that the officers’ request for consent to conduct a strip search did not unreasonably prolong Wallace’s detention. The circuit court’s findings based on the evidence at the suppression hearing support this conclusion. The strip search was conducted within thirty minutes of Wallace’s arrival at the police station. The officers made their request before Wallace’s bond was posted. Because Wallace was still waiting for his bond to be posted, the officer’s request for consent did not prolong his detention at all.

Nor does it matter that the officers were subjectively motivated by an intent to ferret out drugs, rather than investigate the minor traffic offense, ¶13; or that the police didn’t inform Wallace that he’d be free to go after bond had been posted, ¶14.

Note: Wallace had been arrested for the traffic offense, ¶3, so this isn’t the usual, prolonged Terry stop case, though the court seems to apply the same sort of analysis. The wrinkle is that Wallace had been frisked, without result, and would have been released under posted bond, but for the police request for a strip search. ¶10. The opinion stresses that the request was made before bond was posted — “Because Wallace was still waiting for his bond to be posted, the officer’s request for consent did not prolong his detention at all.” ¶12. The holding, then, is fairly narrow.

 

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