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Reasonable Suspicion – Stop – Basis – Traffic Offense – Temporary License Sticker, Unseen by P.O.

State v. Christopher Gammons, 2001 WI App 36
For Gammons: Keith A. Findley, LAIP

Issue: Whether an officer may stop a car for not displaying a rear plate, when the car has a temporary license sticker which isn’t seen until after the stop.

Holding:

¶8 While the temporary license sticker in this case may be a better indicator of registration than the ‘license applied for’ sign in [State v.]Griffin[, 183 Wis. 2d 327, 515 N.W.2d 535 (Ct. App. 1994)], the trial court found that at the time of the stop, Fahrney did not see the temporary sticker. Therefore, like the officers in Griffin, Fahrney had no way of knowing whether Farr was in compliance with vehicle registration laws without stopping the vehicle.

However, there is authority for the idea that even though inability to see a temporary registration tag justifies a stop (where state law requires its display), if the tag is observable upon the officer’s approach to the stopped car, the purpose of the stop has been satisfied and absent reasonable suspicion the officer can’t proceed to question the driver or request license and registration, U.S. v. Edgerton, 10th Cir No. 05-3167, 2/22/06. But compare U.S. v. Kirksey, 7th Cir No. 06-2854, 5/10/07 (Edgerton line of cases narrowly limited to instances where reasonable suspicionimmediately dispelled; matching VIN didn’t obviate need to further investigate smudged plate).

 

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