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Drive-through employee’s observation and tip provide reasonable suspicion for OWI stop

State v. Mary J. Kamuchey, 2013 AP1684-CR, District 4, 12/19/13 (1-judge opinion; ineligible for publication); case activity

Issue:  Whether an anonymous “citizen informant’s”  call from a McDonald’s drive-through at 2:00 a.m., describing an argumentative driver who smelled of alcohol and was believed to be drunk, provided reasonable suspicion for OWI stop even though the officer who made the stop did not observe signs of erratic driving or intoxication?

Holding.  No problem.  Applying the test for when a “citizen informant’s” tip may justify an investigative stop in State v. Rutzinski, 2001 WI 22, 241, Wis. 2d 729, 623 N.W.2d 516, the court of appeals held:

¶13 Here, the informant provided much more information than an odor of intoxication at bar time. The informant reported a customer who was argumentative and refused to take her change, and who not only smelled of alcohol but appeared to be intoxicated; the informant identified both the subject and number of occupants, one female driver, and the make of the vehicle, a silver Subaru; and the informant continued to track the location of the vehicle as one officer saw it leave McDonald’s and the other officer saw it at the nearby stoplight. Under the totality of the circumstances, the information provided by the informant and Officer Leffler’s confirmation of some of those details through her own observations were sufficient to lead a reasonable officer to suspect that the driver of the silver Subaru was operating the vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant.

 

The circumstances of this case seem to resemble those of a case now pending in the United States Supreme Court–Navarette v. California, USSC No. 12-9490, where the issue is whether the 4th Amendment requires an officer who receives an anonymous tip regarding a drunken driver to corroborate dangerous driving before stopping the vehicle. This decision could have a significant impact on Wisconsin law and Rutzinski.  See our post on Navarette here.

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