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Traffic stop – failure to stop for flashing red light

State v. Heather Tollefson, 2012AP1641-CR, District 4, 2/14/13; court of appeals decision (1-judge; ineligible for publication); case activity

A police officer had probable cause to stop Tollefson for failing to fully stop for a flashing red traffic light. The officer saw a red vehicle approach an intersection with flashing red lights in each direction. (¶3). A gray vehicle followed behind the red vehicle. (¶3). The red vehicle stopped before going through the intersection; the gray vehicle followed the red vehicle without stopping. (¶3). The officer stopped the gray vehicle, which was driven by Tollefson, who was intoxicated. (¶3).

Under Wis. Stat. § 346.39(1) a vehicle approaching a flashing red traffic light “shall stop before entering the nearest crosswalk at an intersection or at a limit line when marked, or, if none, then before entering the intersection, and the right to proceed is subject to the rules applicable after making a stop at a stop sign.” (¶9). The stop sign statute, Wis. Stat. § 346.46(1) and (2)(a), provides that if there is a clearly marked stop line, the operator shall stop the vehicle immediately before crossing such line. (¶9). While the officer testified he was unsure whether Tollefson stopped behind the red vehicle and where the red vehicle stopped in relation to the limit line, the circuit court found Tollefson followed the red vehicle through the intersection without stopping immediately before “entering the nearest crosswalk at an intersection or at a limit line when marked” as required by § 346.39(1). (¶5). The circuit court’s inference that Tollefson followed the red vehicle through the intersection without stopping is based on credible evidence and not clearly erroneous. Thus, the officer had probable cause to believe a traffic violation occurred. (¶¶10-11).

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