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Police had probable cause to arrest for eluding and OWI

State v. Marcus Norfleet, 2013AP2294-CR, District 2, 4/9/14; court of appeals decision (1-judge; ineligible for publication); case activity

Police had probable cause to arrest Norfleet for both eluding and operating while intoxicated under the totality of the facts and circumstances available to the officer at the time of arrest.

After an officer tried to stop a speeding car at around 1:00 a.m., the car accelerated, went through a stop sign, and disappeared from sight for a few seconds. The officer found the car in a snowbank, with no one inside, though there was man nearby walking away. After dispatch determined Norfleet owned the car, police went to Norfleet’s home, where Norfleet showed up at 1:26 a.m., riding as the passenger in a neighbor’s car. At some point–it’s unclear when–the neighbor told police Norfleet had called him for a ride. The officers arrested Norfleet for eluding and noticed his bloodshot eyes and an odor of intoxicants. Norfleet wouldn’t say whether he’d been drinking and refused field sobriety tests. He was then arrested for drunk driving, too. (¶¶2-3, 9).

Even if the neighbor’s information was obtained after the arrest for eluding, as Norfleet argues (¶8), the collective knowledge of the police provided probable cause to arrest for both offenses:

¶9        …. Police knew that Norfleet was away from his home shortly after [one] in the morning as they saw him return home as a passenger in another’s vehicle. They could reasonably infer that Norfleet was the driver of his own vehicle when he attempted to elude Kachelmeier and thereafter abandoned the vehicle after he drove it into a snowbank, and that Norfleet then left the scene on foot. We believe that this was sufficient information to form probable cause to place Norfleet under arrest on the eluding charge.

¶10      …. Based on his lawful arrest on the eluding charge, police already had reason to believe that Norfleet had exercised impaired judgment and shown a lack of ability to safely operate his motor vehicle and that his actions might have been motivated to avoid prosecution for illegal behavior, such as drunk driving. Kachelmeier detected the odor of intoxicants on Norfleet and observed that his eyes were bloodshot. She also knew from dispatch that Norfleet had a previous drunk driving conviction. See State v. Lange, 2009 WI 49, ¶33 & n.14, 317 Wis. 2d 383, 766 N.W.2d 551. Norfleet’s refusal to perform field sobriety tests was an additional factor supporting probable cause. See State v. Babbitt, 188 Wis. 2d 349, 360, 525 N.W.2d 102 (Ct. App. 1994). The totality of these facts and circumstances indicated that Norfleet probably had driven while he was intoxicated, giving police probable cause to arrest him for drunk driving. …

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • daniel November 29, 2017, 3:04 am

    would this stand a fighting chance in court if the suspect pleas not guilty?

  • amber November 29, 2017, 3:05 am

    with good representation would it be possible to beat this case? In Wisconsin. same exact thing happened to someone I know.

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