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Traffic Stop – 911 Call

State v. Michael L. Frank, 2011AP2306, District 3, 4/10/12

court of appeals decision (1-judge, not for publication); for Frank: Robert A. Kennedy, Jr.; case activity

Information, provided by a 911 caller reporting observations about Frank’s erratic driving, provided a basis for a lawful stop.

17      In this case, we conclude that Judge lawfully stopped Frank based on Shatzer’s tip.[3]  A police officer may conduct a traffic stop if the officer has probable cause to believe a traffic violation has occurred or if the officer has reasonable suspicion, based on specific and articulable facts, that a crime or traffic violation has been or will be committed.  State v. Popke, 2009 WI 37, ¶¶11, 23, 317 Wis. 2d 118, 765 N.W.2d 569.  Information provided by an informant’s tip may provide a reasonable basis for a traffic stop, depending upon the reliability and content of the tip.  State v. Rutzinski, 2001 WI 22, ¶17, 241 Wis. 2d 729, 623 N.W.2d 516.

¶18      When assessing the reliability of an informant’s tip, we consider the informant’s veracity and basis of knowledge.  Id., ¶18. Here, in terms of veracity, Shatzer provided dispatch with identifying information.  Our supreme court has recognized that a tip from a person who identifies himself or herself shows greater indicia of reliability because that person exposes himself or herself to the threat of prosecution for making false statements.  Id., ¶32.  Moreover, “we view citizens who purport to have witnessed a crime as reliable, and allow the police to act accordingly, even though other indicia of reliability have not yet been established.”  State v. Williams, 2001 WI 21, ¶36, 241 Wis. 2d 631, 623 N.W.2d 106.

By providing a  the suspect vehicle’s description, location and direction of travel, Shatzer demonstrated that “he had a reliable basis of knowledge,” ¶19. And the essence of his report – erratic driving – suggested “a potential imminent danger to public safety,” ¶20.

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