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Identifiable informants provided sufficient information to justify traffic stop

State v. Peter J. Long, 2014AP707-CR, District 2, 12/23/14 (1-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

The police acted reasonably in stopping Long under an “attempt to locate” (ATL) that was based on information from identifiable persons as well as on Long’s own statements, and the officers’ manner in stopping him did not convert the stop into an arrest.

An officer responded to calls from two of Long’s tenants about Long’s erratic behavior. One tenant received a call from Long saying he was speeding to Milwaukee to cut off the arm of a former cellmate. While the officer was at the tenant’s apartment Long again called the tenant, who put the call on speaker phone. Long, his speech loud and slurred, said again he was going to Milwaukee and was traveling 90 miles per hour, and in general “appeared not to make a whole lot of sense.” (¶¶2-3). The officer had reasonable suspicion to issue the ATL:

¶12      …. Long himself reported that he was traveling at high rates of speed on the highway, and Long had told his tenant that he intended to kill his former cellmate. Long’s tenant suspected that Long was intoxicated, which belief was furthered by Colburn’s perception of Long’s speech. Colburn had reasonable suspicion sufficient to justify the ATL—which only asked officers to check on Long’s condition, not to arrest him. The warning in the ATL to use caution was reasonable under the circumstances, as Colburn had reason to believe that Long might be armed. In turn, [Deputy] Binsfeld’s reliance on the ATL and subsequent investigatory stop based on the collective knowledge of law enforcement were justified.

¶13      Long argues that it was unreasonable to rely on the second caller’s information because she did not want her name disclosed. This argument fails; the second caller was not unidentified. Colburn knew the second caller’s telephone number and address prior to issuing the ATL. Colburn spoke to the second caller in person. This was not a situation where an unidentified person calls the police station with an anonymous tip. The second caller did not want her name used because she owed Long money and feared retaliation. But she did disclose her telephone number and address. When a caller provides self-identifying information that places his or her anonymity at risk, like a telephone number and address and in-person conversation, and when the totality of the circumstances establishes reasonable suspicion, the police may execute an investigatory stop. State v. Sisk, 2001 WI App 182, ¶9, 247 Wis. 2d 443, 634 N.W.2d 877; State v. Robinson, 2010 WI 80, ¶28, 327 Wis. 2d 302, 786 N.W.2d 463.

Long also argued that officers’ use of the “high risk” traffic stop method (where police told Long to exit his vehicle instead of approaching and had their weapons drawn) converted the stop into an immediate arrest unsupported by probable cause. (¶¶5, 14). Besides the fact this argument is forfeited by being made for the first time on appeal, State v. Caban, 210 Wis. 2d 597, 606, 563 N.W.2d 501 (1997), it was appropriate under the circumstances: “[Deputy] Binsfeld testified that this is the usual procedure in a high risk traffic stop. Long had reportedly told his tenant he was going to Milwaukee to kill a former cellmate. The ATL justifiably advised officers to use caution and Binsfeld and his colleagues justifiably did so.” (¶15).

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