State v. Denton Ricardo Ewers, 2016AP1671-CR, 8/22/2017, District 3 (not recommended for publication); case activity (including briefs)
An employee at Family Dollar called the police to report that man who appeared “dazed and confused” and whose breath smelled of intoxicants had come into the store before leaving in a gold Ford Focus and heading west. An officer looked for the Focus but could not find it. Two hours later, the employee called back to say the same man, still “dazed and confused,” had once again been in the store, and once again had departed to the west in his gold Ford Focus. This time, the officer located the car and stopped it. The driver, Ewers, seemed intoxicated, which he eventually proved to be.
Ewers posits that the Family Dollar employee’s tip was not enough for reasonable suspicion. First, he argues that because her name was not known to the arresting officer, she was not as reliable as the typical “citizen informant” whose identity is known to the police. (¶¶11-12). The court disagrees:
To the contrary, the police department had a substantial amount of information that would have allowed it to identify the caller. Based on the tips, the police knew the informant was a female employee of the sole Family Dollar store in Durand, whose shift would have spanned the hours of approximately 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. on September 11, 2014.5 When asked whether he was generally familiar with the Family Dollar employees at the Durand location, Checkalski testified he had previously responded to a complaint there and, though he did not know their names, he “would possibly recognize a few employees that work at Family Dollar.” Even Ewers concedes the employee’s “identity likely could have been discovered by the officer.”
A reasonable police officer can conclude that a citizen informant is being truthful when the informant exposes himself or herself to being identified. Rutzinski, 241 Wis. 2d 729, ¶32. “Risking one’s identification intimates that, more likely than not, the informant is a genuinely concerned citizen as opposed to a fallacious prankster.” State v. Williams, 2001 WI 21, ¶35, 241 Wis. 2d 631, 623 N.W.2d 106. This form of self-identification occurs “where the informant states that he or she is calling from his or her place of business, or where the informant in person makes contact with the police officer. In such cases courts generally find such a tip to be reliable.” State v. Slater, 986 P.2d 1038, 1043 (Kan. 1999), cited with approval in Rutzinski, 241 Wis. 2d 729, ¶32. Based on the details the informant provided in this case regarding her employment, she could reasonably expect that the two tips would be traced back to her and she would be held accountable if they were false. See Miller, 341 Wis. 2d 307, ¶34. Under the circumstances here, we conclude the employee’s tips were not subject to any diminished reliability based upon her failure to provide her name.
The court also rejects Ewers’s argument that the information contained in the employee’s tip was not sufficiently incriminating, and not sufficiently corroborated by the officer’s observations, to justify the stop. (¶¶16-25).