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Tip from known informant provided reasonable suspicion for traffic stop

State v. Andrew K. Wenz, 2013AP2576-CR, District 1, 5/13/14 (1-judge; ineligible for publication); case activity

Police had reasonable suspicion to stop his car because the content of a tip from a known, reliable informant allowed police to ascertain whether they were stopping the correct vehicle.

A convenience store clerk called police she became suspicious of a “yellow” “sporty-type” car that had passed through the parking lot four times without making a stop in the store or purchasing gasoline. The clerk told the dispatcher her name and where she worked. Police were familiar with the clerk because her store was the only area business open at 3:00 a.m. for police to buy coffee and she had called police before and given reliable reports of illegal activity, such as retail thefts and gas drive-offs. Based on the tip, police stopped a yellow Dodge Neon that was about 35 feet away from the store. Wenz was driving and was subsequently charged with OWI. (¶3-4).

The stop was lawful under the factors from State v. Rutzinski, 2001 WI 22, ¶18, 241 Wis. 2d 729, 623 N.W.2d 516, for assessing the reliability and content of the tip. The informant was reliable because her identity was known, she had provided reliable information in the past, and her tip was based on firsthand observation. (¶11). And even though the tip didn’t include information such as the make, model, or license plate number, the totality of the circumstances—including the propinquity of Wenz’s car to the store, the unusual color of the car, and the fact that there were very few other cars on the road—provided reasonable suspicion for stopping Wenz. (¶¶12-13).

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