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Citizens’ tip and officer’s observations provided reasonable suspicion for OWI stop

State v. Kelly C. Richardson, 2019AP1650-CR, District 2, 3/11/20, (1-judge opinion, ineligible for publication); case activity (including briefs)

Police received a tip that Richardson appeared to be drunk while at a bank at 11:30 a.m. She left and drove to a Wal-Mart to shop. As she returned to her car, a sergeant approached and questioned her. He observed that she smelled of alcohol, slurred her speech, and had glassy eyes. He arrested her and she was charged with OWI 3rd and pleaded no contest.

Richardson lost her suppression motion, and the court of appeals affirmed. It held that the sergeant’s encounter with Richardson in the Wal-Mart parking lot was not a seizure. It was simply a police encounter in a public location. She was at all times free to leave. Opinion. ¶8.

Furthermore, the police had reasonable suspicion to stop Richardson and talk to her. Specifically, it had a reliable tip from a citizen informant. Bank employees had told the police that she appeared to be drunk, smelled of alcohol, and slurred her speech. They gave their names. They described Richardson and  provided her license plate number. This plus the sergeant’s observation provided the requisite reasonable suspicion needed to stop and question her. Opinion, ¶9.

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