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Extension of traffic stop was reasonable

State v. John J. Valenti, 2016AP662, District 2, 9/7/16 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity (including briefs)

After stopping and ticketing Valenti for speeding, a state trooper continued to detain him to investigate whether he was operating while intoxicated. The court of appeals rejects Valenti’s claim that the trooper lacked specific, articulable facts justifying expanding the investigatory purpose of the stop because the only fact on which the trooper acted was a general odor of intoxicants, which could have emanated from the passenger. (¶¶2-4, 6, 9).

¶10     We disagree with Valenti’s assertion that the odor of intoxicants was the only fact supporting [Trooper] Hlinak’s suspicion that Valenti was under the influence. Valenti was speeding—going 17 mph over the posted speed limit—and driving in a manner that Hlinak considered unsafe when Valenti passed the farm vehicle. Both observations, one illegal and one unsafe, demonstrate suspicion of impaired judgment on Valenti’s part, sufficient to warrant further investigation by Hlinak when combined with the odor of intoxicants. Cf. [State v.] Post, [2007 WI 60,] 301 Wis. 2d 1, ¶24[, 733 N.W.2d 634] (“We therefore determine that a driver’s actions need not be erratic, unsafe, or illegal to give rise to reasonable suspicion.”); County of Sauk v. Leon, No. 2010AP1593, unpublished slip op. ¶20 (WI App Nov. 24, 2010) (suggesting that speeding at bar time may support reasonable suspicion). We conclude that the odor of intoxicants, unsafe driving, and speeding create reasonable suspicion under the totality of the circumstances that Valenti was under the influence. See Town of Grand Chute v. Thomas, No. 2011AP2702, unpublished slip op. ¶9 (WI App May 30, 2012) (finding reasonable suspicion where defendant was speeding, weaving within his lane, and the officer smelled an odor of intoxicants). Hlinak properly extended the traffic stop to investigate further and administer field sobriety and breathalyzer tests.

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Tim Muth September 8, 2016, 7:51 am

    I think the headline of this post is incorrect.

  • admin September 8, 2016, 7:59 am

    Duly noted and corrected!

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