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Presence of unfamiliar car in driveway of a colleague’s house didn’t provide reasonable suspicion for stop

State v. Benjamin P. Lind, 2014AP749-CR, District 3, 9/30/14 (1-judge; ineligible for publication); case activity

Officer’s observation of an unfamiliar vehicle entering the driveway of a home of a local police officer at 1:36 a.m. did not provide reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigatory stop of the vehicle.

¶13      The law is clear that an officer must suspect someone is committing, is about to commit, or has committed a crime. We strain to see the specific, articulable facts that created such an inference here. Pulling partway into a driveway and temporarily stopping is not a crime.[4] [Officer] Rasmussen initiated the investigatory stop very shortly after observing Lind’s vehicle turn into his colleague’s driveway. There was no observation of erratic driving, which we agree is not required, but strikingly, there was little observation of Lind’s behavior or driving at all. Rasmussen testified that the location of Lind’s temporary stop was the only fact that garnered his attention as “odd.” While the early morning timing is something to consider, Rasmussen’s lack of familiarity with this vehicle does not contribute to our analysis, as that fact does not enhance an articulable suspicion of wrongdoing.

¶14      The circuit court’s conclusion relied upon the homeowner’s desire that Rasmussen investigate the situation.[5] …. The request for Rasmussen to “check on it” could have been satisfied, as Lind argues, by a continued observation of the unfamiliar vehicle until the situation resolved itself or further developed. As it was, this investigatory stop was an unwarranted intrusion upon Lind’s constitutional right to be free from unreasonable seizures because the truly limited observation of Lind resulted in insufficient suspicion to justify the stop.

[4]  ….Lind’s motion for reconsideration presented undisputed evidence that Rasmussen was mistaken in his initial testimony that Lind’s vehicle was approximately fifteen feet from the residence. Rather, Lind’s vehicle was between fifty to seventy-five feet from the residence. We believe this distinction impacts the totality of the circumstances test, further eroding the argument that Rasmussen had reasonable suspicion to stop Lind.

[5]  We note Rasmussen’s testimony that he had turned his vehicle around and intended to “check on” Lind even before receiving the homeowner’s response.

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