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Stop – Basis – Already-Parked Car (Dicta)

State v. Charles E. Young, 2006 WI 98, affirming 2004 WI App 227
For Young: Martha K. Askins, SPD, Madison Appellate

(Apparent Dicta): Though a “close question,” in that “(w)hen a marked squad car pulls up behind a car, activates emergency flashers, and points a spotlight at the car, it certainly presents indicia of police authority,” ¶65, the court is “reluctant to conclude that the positioning of the officer’s car, together with the lighting he employed, necessarily involved such a show of authority,” ¶69. Nonetheless, the court is “not required to make that determination in this case,” id.

The court broadly hints (“we are reluctant to conclude,” ¶69) but doesn’t go so far as to hold, that activation of both flashers and spotlight didn’t amount to a show of authority. The court stresses two factors: the car was already parked anyway, ¶66; and, the cop would’ve used the flashers and spotlight if stopping to aid a motorist on top of which he needed to see clearly to avoid unnecessary risks in approaching the parked car, ¶¶67-68. The first factor is certainly relevant and is factually limiting as well. The second is simply mystifying—the test for seizure is purely objective, as the court keeps reminding you when you argue “pretext arrest,” so what earthly difference does it make what the cop’s motive might have been? Unless it’s that motive only matters when police action is to be supported, not attacked. But the court’s gratuitous discussion isn’t binding, at least not until the court of appeals quotes it. Keep in mind, finally, one probably crucial limiting fact: “The officer never turned on his red-and-blue rolling lights,” ¶68.Discussion of “the large body of case law addressing whether police approaches to parked vehicles amounted to seizures,” in People v. Luedemann, 222 Ill. 2d 530 (2006).

 

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