An officer stopped the vehicle Calzadas was driving because registered owner—who was female—had a suspended driver’s license; but immediately after stopping the car the officer realized Calzadas was male and thus not the registered owner. Even if the reason for the stop dissipated when the officer learned that Calzadas was not the registered owner, the officer’s request for and verification of Calzadas’s identification did not transform what was initially a lawful stop into an unreasonable seizure.
The stop was lawful under State v. Newer, 2007 WI App 236, 306 Wis. 2d 193, 742 N.W.2d 923, which holds an officer has reasonable suspicion to stop a car based on knowledge the registered owner has a revoked or suspended license—unless the officer has other information suggesting the owner isn’t driving, at which point reasonable suspicion “would, of course, dissipate.” Id., ¶8. Calzadas argues that reasonable suspicion dissipated upon the officer seeing that Calzadas was male and there was thus no basis to allow the seizure to continue for purposes of asking for identification. Applying State v. Ellenbecker, 159 Wis. 2d 91, 464 N.W.2d 427 (1980), and State v. Williams, 2002 WI App 306, 258 Wis. 2d 395, 655 N.W.2d 462, the court rejects Calzadas’s claim.
Ellenbecker, a community caretaker case involving a disabled vehicle where the stop was not based upon reasonable suspicion, held that the license request and status check did not transform a lawful “motorist assist” into an unlawful seizure because the request serves the public interest (e.g., aiding report writing or investigation of a crime) and is a “momentary occurrence” where “[t]he intrusion is minimal at best.” 159 Wis. 2d at 97-98. Williams applied Ellenbecker to a case where an officer had reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle but learned shortly thereafter that he was mistaken about the identity of the drive; the court concluded that because Williams was lawfully stopped, it was reasonable for the officer to ask him for his name and driver’s license, even if the officer had already realized Williams was not the suspect being sought, as the officer may have needed to make a report of the incident. 258 Wis. 2d 395, ¶22.
¶12 The reasoning applied in Ellenbecker applies equally here. It was reasonable for Deputy Klemke to request and verify Calzadas’ identification and his driver’s status, even after reasonable suspicion for the stop had assumingly dissipated. The public has an interest in permitting a police officer to conduct a status check of a driver’s license, which is to deter persons from driving without a license. Id. at 97-98. Conducting a status check on a license under circumstances where it is reasonable for an officer to ask for a license is “simply carrying out this deterrent function of the law.” Id. at 98.
As for the “dissipation” reference in Newer:
¶16 Newer not only does not support Calzadas’ argument, Newer supports our conclusion that the deputy in this case acted lawfully when he asked for Calzadas’ driver’s license and checked the status of the license. Newer is a reasonable suspicion to stop case and here Calzadas concedes that there was reasonable suspicion to stop his vehicle. Newer’s limitation applies to information an officer learns before a stop is made. Obviously, once an officer who initially assumes that the owner of a vehicle is most likely the driver, but then learns before the stop that the assumption is not valid, reasonable suspicion for the stop dissipates. Here, it was not until after the stop that Deputy Klemke realized that Calzadas could not be the female registered owner of the vehicle.
As Calzadas’s brief-in-chief explains (at 11-14), numerous cases from other jurisdictions hold that continued detention of a driver for the purpose of requesting identification and checking the driver’s status is unreasonable where the justification for the stop has already ended. The court of appeals doesn’t address those cases. It also ignores Rodriguez v. United States, __ U.S. __, 135 S. Ct. 1609, 1615 (2015), which held that a stop “exceeding the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made” is an unreasonable seizure. During a traffic stop supported by reasonable suspicion or probable cause the officer may ask for the driver’s license and check for warrants, registration status and proof of insurance. But the officer has no such authority when the legal justification for the stop has ended even before the officer has had any personal contact with the driver. Under Rodriguez, Calzadas noted, once the officer saw that the driver was male, “the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made” ended and it was unreasonable to continue to detain Calzadas.