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Reasonable Suspicion — Stop — Duration — Seeking Consent to Search Automobile After Purpose of Stop Fulfilled

State v. Daniel L. Gaulrapp, 207 Wis. 2d 600, 558 N.W.2d 696 (Ct. App. 1996)
For Gaulrapp: Ralph A. Kalal

Issue/Holding: Asking the motorist, during a routine stop for a muffler violation, if he had drugs or weapons and then obtaining permission to search the vehicle didn’t illegally extend the detention:

The trial court here made extensive findings, and the record supports its findings. The court found the detention was of a short duration and the request to search was made within a reasonable time. The court found that Gaulrapp was not under the influence of intoxicants, he appeared to understand the requests, no handcuffs were used, no threats or promises were made, he did not object at any timeduring the search of his person or vehicle, and the scope of the searches did not exceed the consent….

Gaulrapp argues, however, that the very asking of the first question about drugs and firearms, without a reasonable suspicion that he possessed either, transformed the legal stop into an illegal stop, making his consent automatically invalid. …

The cases Gaulrapp relies on are factually distinguishable. They involve prolonged detention after the officers concluded or should have concluded that the justification for the initial stop did not warrant further detention. …

Gaulrapp’s focus on the subject of the question the officers asked rather than its effect on the duration of the seizure is not supported by recent Fourth Amendment cases. Mere police questioning does not constitute a seizure.

Gaulrapp’s detention was not unreasonably prolonged by the asking of one question. After that question, the detention was prolonged because Gaulrapp consented to the search. Once Endl found the white powdery residue on Gaulrapp’s person, believing it to be cocaine, he had a reasonable suspicion to justify further questioning about drugs.

 

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