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Anonymous tip and officer’s own observations supported traffic stop

State v. Kevin Ian End, 2018AP1437, 3/6/19, District 2 (1-judge opinion, ineligible for publication); case activity (including briefs)

An anonymous caller told police about a vehicle swerving in her lane and having difficulty with speed control. She provided no license late number. An officer proceeded to the area and saw a vehicle make an assortment of traffic violations. When the vehicle eventually went over a curb, the officer activated his lights and conducted a stop. The driver, End, was charged with OWI and PAC as second offenses. On appeal he challenged the stop.

The caller described a white Chevy Tahoe. End was driving a silver Chevy Tahoe. End highlighted this discrepancy but it didn’t matter to the court of appeals. After all, it was night-time. More importantly, the court of appeals held that when deciding whether the officer had reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle it must consider the “totality of the circumstances.” Here the totality supported the stop:

 ¶11 Whether or not the foregoing facts provided by the caller would be sufficient to justify a traffic stop, when they are added with Albea’s observations, justification for the stop was established. We need not decide whether End’s lane change and his crossing of the center line were necessary to establish reasonable suspicion. Albea had two other reasons that supported a stop. End’s registration lights were either burnt out or very dim, warranting further inquiry. See WIS. STAT. § 347.13(3). More particular to his driving, End turned the corner at Grand Avenue too sharply, striking and going over the curb. When these circumstances are considered in conjunction with the caller’s information, Albea had sufficient reasonable suspicion that End had committed a traffic violation.

¶12 End disputes that he struck and went over the curb, denying that the video shows it. When the record contains disputed testimony and a video recording, we use the clearly erroneous standard of review. State v. Walli, 2011 WI App 86, ¶17, 334 Wis. 2d 402, 799 N.W.2d 898. Albea testified that End struck and went over the curb, and the circuit court “certainly noticed [End] strike the curb by watching the video.” We have reviewed the video. Although the moment goes by quickly, it does appear End’s vehicle cuts the corner and goes over the curb. Nothing in the video suggests the court’s finding was clearly erroneous.

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