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Officer had reasonable basis to believe defendant committed traffic violations

Oneida County v. Joseph A. Ravens, 2015AP2612, 2/22/17, District 3 (1-judge opinion, ineligible for publication); case activity (including briefs)

Raven was driving a pickup and towing a trailer when he entered an intersection as the light was changing. Unfortunately for him, Officer Young was watching and claimed the light turned red before Raven entered the intersection. He stopped Raven, smelled intoxicants, and observed slurred speech. After being charged with OWI, Raven moved for suppression and testified that the traffic light was yellow and turned red only after he was actually in the intersection. You can guess whom the trial court believed.

The court of appeals held that the officer had a reasonable articulable basis to believe that Raven (1) failed to stop at a red light, (2) was driving at an unreasonable speed in conditions that required a reduced speed, and (3) stopped a vehicle in an intersection. ¶8.

The court of appeals was not troubled by the circuit court’s statement that it was “not sure” when the light turned red because the circuit court found that Raven’s memory of the evening was “flawed”. From this the court of appeals inferred that the circuit court found Officer’s Young’s testimony more credibly. See State v. Marwick, 2000 WI 5, ¶31, 231 Wis. 2d 801, 604 N.w.2d 552 (appellate court may assume circuit court determined fact in a way that supports circuit court’s decision). ¶10. Raven’s additional argument failed too. ¶¶11-12.


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