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Delinquency petition stated probable cause

State v. A.C., 2015AP1604, 1/20/16, District 1 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

A petition alleging A.C. was delinquent contained sufficient facts to establish probable cause that A.C. acted as a party to the crime of operating a motor vehicle without the owner’s consent.

¶9     A.C. was charged as a party to the crime. Whether A.C. actually drove the motor vehicle is not essential to finding probable cause. Nor is it necessary at this stage to eliminate all possible innocent explanations for the conduct charged. See State v. Higginbotham, 162 Wis. 2d 978, 995, 471 N.W.2d 24 (1991). The petition establishes that: (1) A.C. had an opportunity to take D.C.’s keys; (2) A.C. was seen getting into D.C.’s car; (3) the car was driven away from where D.C. had left it; (4) A.C. was seen later with keys in her hand which unlocked the stolen car; and (5) A.C. was seen unlocking the car by a person who recognized the stolen car. All of the facts give rise to a reasonable inference of probable cause to believe that A.C.—who had access to the keys before the theft, possession of the keys after the theft, and unlocked the stolen car as she approached the driver’s side while the stolen car was parked in the block where A.C. lived—was probably involved in the taking and operating of D.C.’s car. That is enough to establish probable cause, A.C.’s claim of innocence notwithstanding. ….

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