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Exigency — Automobile Exception to Warrant Requirement — Probable Cause, Based on Anonymous Tip

State v. Tabitha A. Sherry, 2004 WI App 207, PFR filed 11/19/04
For Sherry: Craig R. Day

Issue/Holding:

¶15. Sherry next argues that, regardless whether the officer legally stopped her car, the subsequent warrantless non-consent search of her car was illegal. An automobile may be searched without a warrant if there is probable cause to search the vehicle and the vehicle is readily mobile. State v. Marquardt, 2001 WI App 219, ¶¶31-32, 247 Wis. 2d 765, 635 N.W.2d 188. Sherry does not dispute that her car was readily mobile. Rather, she contends the officer lacked probable cause. We disagree.…

¶17. As in Gates, here we address the existence of probable cause in the context of information provided by an anonymous tipster. Thus, we look to Gates for guidance.

¶19. A recognized “indicia of reliability” of an anonymous tip is police corroboration of details, particularly details involving predicted behavior. …

¶20. Finally, probable cause may exist even if the predicted behavior corroborated by the police is, when viewed in isolation, innocent behavior.

¶23. We conclude that the information provided by the anonymous caller, and corroboration of several details by the police officer, demonstrate that a reasonable police officer could believe that the anonymous caller was a person familiar with Sherry’s activities. The caller accurately predicted that Sherry would soon be traveling in her car with a man named Ryan Saint from Readstown toward Soldiers Grove. The caller not only predicted that Ryan Saint might be present in the car, but that, if he was, he would be driving Sherry’s car. This predictive information indicates that the caller was a person with knowledge of Sherry, her activities, and her plans. The information was sufficient for an officer, applying the common-sense probable cause standard, to believe there was a fair probability that Sherry was transporting marijuana in her car.

What was the purpose of the reasonable suspicion discussion? If the police had probable cause to search the car, then they obviously – on the same facts – had cause to stop it.

 

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