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Information from named citizen informant provided reasonable suspicion for traffic stop

City of West Bend v. Erik J. Wille, 2018AP151, District 2, 8/15/18 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity (including briefs)

Wille was waylaid by police while he was waiting for his Wendy’s order, leading to his arrest for OWI. The restaurant manager had called police after seeing open beer cans in Wille’s car when he was in the drive-thru. He claims the information from the manager didn’t give police reasonable suspicion to stop him. That claim fails.

¶5     [Officer] Behagen suspected Wille of violating Wis. Stat. § 346.935,.. which prohibits open intoxicants in a motor vehicle…. Willie claims that the manager did not provide police any information as to where the open beer cans were located, whether the occupants were drinking from the cans or whether the cans were empty or partially full. Wille’s questions are immaterial as § 346.935(3) prohibits “keep[ing] … any bottle or receptacle containing alcohol beverages or nitrous oxide if the bottle or receptacle has been opened.” The manager saw open beers— one between the legs of the passenger and one in the cupholder.

¶6     Regarding Wille’s challenge to the source of Behagen’s knowledge, we look to an informant’s veracity and basis of knowledge to determine the authority of police to rely upon an informant’s information. …. Police may rely on an informant’s tip in conducting investigative stops as long as the tip exhibits “reasonable indicia of reliability.” …. Wendy’s manager easily passes the test of reliability as she gave her name, telephone number,.. and a detailed description of Wille’s vehicle, including its license plate number and location. The manager gave information that abolished her anonymity and provided information that was independently verified by the police: the vehicle color and make, the license plate, and the location at the Wendy’s drive-thru. Behagen arrived within three minutes, and Wille’s vehicle was where the manager indicated it would be and it matched all information given. ….

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