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Officers’ observations and information from other witnesses provided probable cause to arrest for OWI

State v. Zach Geyer, 2014AP2625-CR, District 4, 4/23/15 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity (including briefs)

Under the totality of the circumstances, police had probable cause to arrest Geyer for OWI.

¶19     …. Based on the uncontested testimony at the suppression hearing, the deputies had strong reasons to believe that Geyer had recently been involved in a serious, one-vehicle crash on a dry highway on a clear night, and then had apparently left the scene as quickly as he could arrange without alerting authorities. Geyer does not explain why the circuit court could not credit the testimony from Deputy Uminski that Geyer’s eyes were glassy and blood shot, even if Deputy Vertein did not detect either sign of potential impairment.

¶20     The crux of Geyer’s argument is that the deputies here “lacked the crucial connecting evidence between the accident and impairment” and that the crash was “unexplained.” To the contrary, I conclude that “connecting evidence” was plentiful and the crash was sufficiently explained for probable cause purposes, based on the reasonable inferences available to the experienced deputies. By all appearances, an impaired Geyer had been involved in a serious accident and left the scene of the accident without alerting authorities in an attempt to avoid accountability for the fact that he had driven while impaired.

The weightiest argument Geyer makes is that the officers’ evidence was weak because there were no field sobriety tests and no preliminary breath test. While those tests are no doubt “superior methods of investigation to mere observations and mild admissions[,]” the odor of alcohol, admission of drinking, “slow motion,” and “difficulty with his eye, hand coordination,” along with one officer’s observation of “[g]lassy” and “blood shot” eyes, “all point in the same direction as those tests” so that “even without these tests, the officers were presented with sufficient evidence from which reasonable officers in their positions would believe that Geyer had operated a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant.” (¶18).

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