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Officer justified in asking semi driver for PBT

Village of Fredonia v. Bruce A. Gossett, 2015AP298, District 2, 8/12/15 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity (including briefs)

Police need probable cause to believe the driver is operating while intoxicated before they can request a PBT from the driver of a noncommercial vehicle; but for a commercial driver, they can request a PBT if they detect “any presence” of alcohol or have “reason to believe” the driver is operating with an alcohol concentration above zero, § 343.303, and State v. Goss, 2011 WI 104, ¶12, 338 Wis. 2d 72, 806 N.W.2d 918. The “reason to believe” standard was satisfied in this case, so police properly asked Gossett—the driver of a semi tractor-trailer—for a PBT.

¶9        The facts of this case support the trial court’s determination that at the time [Deputy] Erickson administered the PBT to Gossett, Erickson had sufficient reason to believe that Gossett was operating his commercial vehicle with an alcohol concentration above zero. First, Erickson had received a tip about Gossett’s driving behavior from a 911 caller, who identified himself to the 911 dispatcher, indicated he was willing to give a statement, and reported that the semi was all over the road. Second, Erickson personally observed Gossett’s semi swerve between lanes and travel at a slower speed than the posted speed limit. Finally, Erickson observed Gossett use his hand against the cab to steady himself as he walked. These factors, considered in totality, are sufficient to show that Erickson had reason to believe, before administering the PBT, that Gossett was operating his commercial vehicle while having an alcohol concentration above zero.

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