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Reasonable suspicion to extend traffic stop to investigate OWI

City of Oshkosh v. Ernest D. Lehl, 2012AP2717, District 2, 4/24/13; court of appeals decision (1-judge, ineligible for publication); case activity

Police had reasonable suspicion to extend a traffic stop and request Lehl to perform field sobriety tests because there were specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warranted the intrusion of the extended stop. State v. Post, 2007 WI 60, ¶10, 301 Wis. 2d 1, 733 N.W.2d 634.

The officer’s attention was drawn to Lehl’s vehicle because it was coming from an area that was blocked off due to construction and was the site of prior illegal activity. (¶2). While following the vehicle he noticed the license plate lights were not functioning and a turn signal remained on, including after the vehicle went straight at an intersection, suggesting driver error. (¶3). After stopping the car, the officer noted an odor of alcohol and Lehl had “bloodshot, watery, glazed over eyes.” (¶4). Lehl admitted having had “mixed drinks with whiskey” while fishing. While the officer followed Lehl for twenty-one blocks without observing other law violations or questionable driving and did not recall Lehl exhibiting “motor coordination” problems while he was seated in his vehicle, “[l]aw enforcement officers are not required to rule out the possibility of lawful behavior—unimpaired driving—before conducting an investigation into potentially unlawful behavior—impaired driving.  See State v. Waldner, 206 Wis. 2d 51, 59, 556 N.W.2d 681 (1996). ” (¶11).

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