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Police lacked reasonable suspicion to stop car for leaving scene of a reportable accident

State v. Cody J. Nolan, 2014AP1359-CR, District 3/4, 12/23/14 (1-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

The police did not have reasonable suspicion to believe the red car Nolan was driving had been involved in a reportable accident and was leaving the scene or was assisting others in leaving the scene of a reportable accident in violation of § 346.70(1) or (1m)(b), as there was no evidence supporting a reasonable belief the alleged accident involved sufficient property damage to make it reportable under the statute.

¶15      …. Deputy Belleau testified that he received information from the dispatcher that “a white vehicle had hit a curb and the occupants were outside the vehicle … [and] a small red vehicle was in the area either trying to move the white vehicle or pick up the occupants of that vehicle.” However, there is no evidence in the record that Deputy Belleau was advised by the dispatcher that either the white vehicle, or the curb, had sustained any damage, nor is there any evidence that Deputy Belleau observed any such damage prior to stopping Nolan, let alone apparent damage to state property in excess of $200 or apparent damage to personal property in excess of $1,000. Nothing in the record supports the conclusion  that any time any vehicle hits a curb, the vehicle will cost in excess of $1,000 to repair or the curb (or state property) will cost in excess of $200 to repair. Accordingly, I conclude that Deputy Belleau did not have reasonable suspicion to believe that the white vehicle was involved in a reportable accident under Wis. Stat. § 346.70(1) and, therefore, did not have reasonable suspicion to believe that someone in a red vehicle had violated § 346.70([1]m)(b). ….

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Peter Heyne December 28, 2014, 8:09 am

    As both trial and appellate counsel, I am pleased that the appellate court reversed the error. The bigger picture which I detailed in my brief in chief and reply brief is that the officer testified rather arrogantly that it would be “absolutely impractical” and “a dereliction of duty” to call dispatch back to get any more information about what allegedly happened. This was not an emergency situation and my client was not speeding or weaving or in a high traffic pedestrian area etc. Obviously he should have been driving while drunk but it was disappointing how reflexive and rigid the officer was. I would not be surprised if this is his modus operandi to pull people over on hunches all the time…

  • Peter Heyne December 28, 2014, 8:20 am

    (This is what I get for adding comments via my smartphone. I meant to say he also should NOT have been driving while intoxicated.)

  • John Pray January 7, 2015, 10:16 am

    Congratulations on the win–well done. I currently have a case in the Court of Appeals dealing with the same issue (reasonable suspicion to stop) and the same Officer (Belleau)–a stop that was based on similarly thin evidence. (State v. Boncher, Appeal 2014AP 1171). Hoping for the same result.

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