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Traffic Stop – Reasonable Suspicion

Village of Jackson v. John W. Hespe, 2012AP680-FT, District 2, 8/15/12

court of appeals decision (1-judge, ineligible for publication); case activity

“Unsafe,” but not necessarily “illegal” rate of speed supported traffic stop, State v. Anagnos, 2012 WI 64, 341 Wis. 2d 576, 815 N.W.2d 675, followed:

¶6        Here, Hespe contends that while the court found that his speed was not normal, it did not find that the speed was “illegal.”  Thus, Hespe argues that because the officer “lacked a reasonable suspicion that Hespe was committing a violation,” the initial stop of his vehicle was unreasonable.  We reject Hespe’s argument.  The supreme court recently explained in Anagnos that “[a]n investigative traffic stop may be supported by reasonable suspicion even when the officer did not observe the driver violate any law.”  Id., ¶47.  In doing so it noted its reasoning in State v. Post, 2007 WI 60, ¶24, 301 Wis. 2d 1, 733 N.W.2d 634, that “driving need not be illegal in order to give rise to reasonable suspicion” because such a standard “would allow investigatory stops only when there was probable cause to make an arrest.”  See Anagnos, 341 Wis. 2d 576, ¶47.  Rather, “[t]he law allows a police officer to make an investigatory stop based on observations of lawful conduct so long as the reasonable inferences drawn from the lawful conduct are that criminal activity is afoot.”  State v. Waldner, 206 Wis. 2d 51, 57, 556 N.W.2d 681 (1996). One reasonable inference to be drawn from unusual and impulsive driving is that the driver is impaired.  See Anagnos, 341 Wis. 2d 576, ¶¶56, 58 (unusual and impulsive driving choices can be suggestive of impairment and cause for reasonable suspicion).

¶7        Here, the circuit court found that the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed and executed the left-hand turn much wider than one would expect for a vehicle entering a residential subdivision.  We agree with the circuit court that the facts of the case—the time of night, the rate of speed and the wide execution of the left-hand turn—would warrant a reasonable police officer, in light of his or her training and experience, to suspect that the individual has committed, was committing, or is about to commit a crime.  As the court noted, the turn was so wide that Hespe either hit, or almost hit, the far curb.  Such reckless driving in a residential neighborhood is unusual, unsafe, and indicates that the individual lacks control of the vehicle—and may be impaired.  Henning’s stop of Hespe’s vehicle was justified.

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