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Probable Cause – Seat Belt Violation

State v. Steven C. Cushman, 2011AP957, District 4, 10/20/11

court of appeals decision (1-judge, not for publication); for Cushman: John Smerlinksi; case activity

Probable cause to believe Cushman wasn’t wearing seat belt supported stop of his vehicle.

¶8        Wisconsin Stat. § 347.48 (2m)(gm) mandates seat belt use when operating a motor vehicle equipped with seat belts.[3]  In 2009, this statute was amended to remove language that had previously prohibited a law enforcement officer from stopping a vehicle based solely on the failure to wear a seat belt.  2009 Wis. Act 28, § 2991.  Thus, a violation of the seat belt law is now a primary offense for which a law enforcement officer may initiate a traffic stop.

The trial court’s finding of fact that the officer observed Cushman driving without a seat belt wasn’t clearly erroneous; therefore, the stop was supported by probable cause, ¶¶12-14.

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