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Reasonable Suspicion – Stop – Basis – Identified 911 Caller

State v. Michael A. Sisk, 2001 WI App 182
For Sisk: Elvis Banks

Issue: Whether the police had reasonable suspicion to stop, based on information from a 911 call made from a payphone by an informant who provided nothing other than a name by way of identifying himself.

Holding:

¶8. Here, because the caller gave what he said was his name, the trial court erred in viewing the call as an anonymous one. Whether the caller gave correct identifying information, or whether the police ultimately could have verified his identity, the fact remains that the police could have reasonably concluded that the caller, ‘by providing self-identifying information, … risked that [his] identity would be discovered.’ See [State v. Williams, 2001 WI 21] id. at ¶35. Therefore, unlike the situation in J.L., where the tip was from ‘an unknown location by an unknown caller,’ J.L., 529 U.S. at 270, here the caller provided ‘self-identifying information’-his name.

¶9. ‘[I]f “an informant places his [or her] anonymity at risk, a court can consider this factor in weighing the reliability of the tip.”‘ Williams, 2001 WI 21 at ¶35 (quoting J.L., 529 U.S. at 276, Kennedy, J., concurring). Further, when a caller gives his or her name, police need not verify the caller’s identity before acting on the tip. State v. Kerr, 181 Wis. 2d 372, 381, 511 N.W.2d 586 (1994) (‘”[W]hen an average citizen tenders information to the police, the police should be permitted to assume that they are dealing with a credible person in the absence of special circumstances suggesting that such might not be the case.”‘) (citation omitted). As the Wisconsin Supreme Court declared, ‘we view citizens who purport to have witnessed a crime as reliable, and allow the police to act accordingly, even though other indicia of reliability have not yet been established.’Williams, 2001 WI 21 at ¶36. See also State v. Paszek, 50 Wis. 2d 619, 631, 184 N.W.2d 836 (1971) (‘”A citizen who purports … to have witnessed a crime is a reliable informant even though his reliability has not theretofore been proved or tested.”‘) (quoted source omitted). Dangerously, any other holding would require police to take critically important time to attempt to verify identification rather than respond to crimes in progress.

¶10. Thus, in this case, the reasonableness of the police suspicion is more firmly based than that in J.L.. The caller gave information about the suspects and their location, which the police verified before stopping them. The caller also gave what he said was his name. We see no legal or logical reason to indulge the factual fiction that would convert this non-anonymous call to an anonymous one, and thus exclude its apparent reliability as a very significant factor to be considered in ‘the totality of the circumstances’ determining the lawfulness of the investigative stop. See Williams, 2001 WI 21 at ¶22.

¶11. Accordingly, we conclude that when a caller identifies himself or herself by name, thus providing ‘self-identifying information’ that ‘”places his [or her] anonymity at risk,”‘ see id. at ¶35, and when the totality of the circumstances establishes a reasonable suspicion that ‘”criminal activity may be afoot,”‘ see id. at ¶21, the police may execute a lawful stop, see id. at ¶¶21-23; see also Wis. Stat. § 968.24 (1999-2000).”

 

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