Having stopped a vehicle on reasonable suspicion that the registered owner had a suspended license, the officer was entitled to continue the detention to ask the driver—who clearly wasn’t the registered owner—for his driver’s license.
The officer stopped Huck’s car because her license was suspended and he couldn’t see who was driving or how many people were in the car. The driver was a male; Huck was a passenger. The officer asked the driver for his license, but he didn’t have one. The driver was eventually detained on a probation hold, and a subsequent consent search of the car revealed drugs and paraphernalia. (¶¶2-5).
Huck conceded the initial stop was valid under State v. Newer, 2007 WI App 236, ¶¶5, 7-8, 306 Wis. 2d 193, 742 N.W.2d 923 (police may stop a vehicle whose owner does not have a valid license if the officer is unaware of any facts suggesting the owner is not driving). But she argued that reasonable suspicion dissipated as soon as the officer discovered the driver was a male, and that any seizure beyond that point was unreasonable.
The court of appeals holds the detention was reasonable under State v. Williams, 2002 WI App 306, 258 Wis. 2d 395, 655 N.W.2d 462 (it was reasonable for officer to ask driver for his name and identification even if the suspicion supporting the stop has been dispelled), and State v. Ellenbecker, 159 Wis. 2d 91, 464 N.W.2d 427 (Ct. App. 1990) (officer’s request for license from driver of disabled vehicle did not transform a lawful “motorist assist” into an unlawful seizure):
¶16 …[O]ur supreme court has held that, “[w]hen a person admits that he or she was lawfully seized during a traffic stop but argues that subsequent police conduct violated the Fourth Amendment, … the focus is on the ‘incremental intrusion’ that resulted from the subsequent police conduct.” State v. Griffith, 2000 WI 72, ¶38, 236 Wis. 2d 48, 613 N.W.2d 72 (quoting Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106, 109 (1977)). “To determine whether the intrusion was reasonable, we must weigh the public interest served by the questioning against the incremental liberty intrusion that resulted from the questioning.” Id.
¶17 As noted in Williams and Ellenbecker, there is a public interest in allowing police to request identification from drivers with whom they lawfully come into contact. … As the Ellenbecker court noted, Wis. Stat. § 343.18(1) “implicitly recognizes this public interest by giving a law enforcement officer the authority to require a driver of a motor vehicle to display his or her license on demand.” Ellenbecker, 159 Wis. 2d at 97.
¶18 On the other side of the balance, the incremental liberty intrusion that resulted when [Officer] Raiolo asked Schultz for his driver’s license was minimal. See id. at 98 (“Requesting a license … is but a momentary occurrence. The intrusion is minimal at best.”). …[W]e are not convinced the minimal liberty intrusion that occurred when Raiolo asked Schultz for his license outweighed the public interest served by the question.