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Reasonable Suspicion: Stop of Auto (Flight from Scene of Reported Trespass; “Guzy” Factors; Collective Knowledge Doctrine)

State v. Carl Rissley, 2012 WI App 112 (recommended for publication); case activity 

Reasonable suspicion supported Terry stop to investigate possible crime. Homeowner called police to report early-morning confrontation with possible trespasser, who then took flight in van at high rate of speed, and officer stopped vehicle matching description within five minutes of report:

¶13      All of this occurred just before 3:00 a.m.  When a citizen is confronted in his driveway by an unknown stranger at this time in the morning, and the unknown stranger asks him the whereabouts of “Pookie” and claims that “Pookie” is the citizen’s son and the citizen has no son at home, and where this strange person has been around before such that the citizen has called the police, a reasonable police officer can suspect that the unknown man is tending to provoke a disturbance such that the incident should be investigated to clear up any ambiguity.  Not only was there criminal ambiguity that might warrant a charge of disorderly conduct, Rissley’s behavior also warranted investigation for possible criminal trespass, and maybe even stalking, especially because of information that this was a case of continuing, unwelcome contact on a homeowner’s property.

Six-factor test of State v. Guzy, 139 Wis. 2d 663, 677, 407 N.W.2d 548 (1987) applied, as to separate analysis re reasonable suspicion linking vehicle to the reported crime:

¶16      Four of the six factors favor the State and the remaining two are irrelevant.  In particular, the second and fourth—the size of the area in which the offender might be found and the known probable direction of flight—strike us as particularly favorable to the State.  Only five minutes passed between the homeowner calling the police and the police stopping Rissley’s van. … Moreover, this is not a situation where a citizen simply reports the make and color of the car and the direction initially traveled and then loses sight of the vehicle so that the pursuing officer has to use some combination of logic and guesswork to locate the fleeing vehicle.  The homeowner gave a running account and even witnessed the van turn onto Middle Road. … [T]he chances of there being another beige Chevy van on Middle Road in such a short time span at about 3:00 a.m. going in a certain direction of travel are slim.  All the officer had to do was follow the trail that the homeowner had described.  Only five minutes passed between the homeowner’s call and the stop, hardly enough time for all sorts of intervening activity to occur, given the time of night on a rural road.

Collective knowledge doctrine, State v. Pickens, 2010 WI App 5, ¶¶11-12, 15-17, 323 Wis. 2d 226, 779 N.W.2d 1 (information in the hands of an entire police department may be imputed to officers on the scene to help establish reasonable suspicion), also applied: “Thus, in this case, we consider the information available to both the dispatcher and the police officer who made the stop when deciding whether the stop was justified by reasonable suspicion.  The officer making the stop was simply not required to exercise his independent discretion.  The fact that he made the stop based on information from dispatch and dispatch had information amounting to reasonable suspicion is enough,” ¶19.

Lastly, the court rejects Rissley’s argument that a Terry stop is impermissible for a minor offense, distinguishing Rissley’s authorities as dealing with “past offense” situations, while here, “police were acting in the heat of the moment to investigate an ongoing situation and freeze time so that any ambiguities in potentially criminal conduct could be resolved,” ¶24. Notably, though, the court acknowledges a split in authority “as to whether investigatory stops should be allowed based on reasonable suspicion of past misdemeanor criminal conduct,” ¶22 n. 4.

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