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Inferences drawn from squad car video support reasonable suspicion of traffic violation

State v. Terrence L. Perkins, 2016AP1427-CR,4/4/17, District 3, (1-judge opinion, ineligible for publication); case activity (including briefs)

At Perkins’ suppression hearing, Officer Stetzer testified that he saw Perkins drive through a stop sign and part way through a cross walk into the middle of an intersection where he then backed up to allow a car to pass before proceeding. The squad car video did not capture Perkins’ stop sign violation; it only recorded him backing up. Perkins argued that the position of the squad car would have prevented the officer from seeing whether he complied with the stop sign before proceeding into the intersection. He thus argued that Stetzer lacked reasonable suspicion to stop him.

The court of appeals held:

¶17 . . . Based on the squad car video, the circuit court’s findings that Perkins’ vehicle passed the cross walk and subsequently backed up from that position are not against the great weight and clear preponderance of the evidence and, accordingly, are not clearly erroneous. See State v. Arias, 2008 WI 84, ¶12, 311 Wis. 2d 358, 752 N.W.2d 748.

¶19 First, as the circuit court recognized, if Perkins’ vehicle was legally stopped at the beginning of the squad car video, there would have been no reason for Perkins to back up from that position before turning right onto Sherman Street. The court therefore inferred that Perkins “backed up into an area that would have been legal” because he realized he was not legally stopped. That reasonable inference is supported by the squad car video and, as such, is not clearly erroneous.

¶20 Second, in order to stop Perkins’ vehicle, Stetzer did not need to have conclusive evidence that Perkins violated WIS. STAT. § 346.46, or even probable cause to believe such a violation had taken place. Rather, the stop was constitutionally permissible if a reasonable officer in Stetzer’s position could have reasonably suspected Perkins violated the statute. See Young, 212 Wis. 2d at 424. Based on the squad car video, the circuit court found Perkins’ vehicle was positioned past the cross walk and into the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Sherman Street. The court further concluded the video showed Perkins’ vehicle backing up from that position. We have already concluded neither of those findings is clearly erroneous. Together, they would have permitted a reasonable officer in Stetzer’s position to suspect Perkins had violated § 346.46


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