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SCOW will address standard of review for reasonable suspicion traffic stops

State v. Charles W. Richey, petition to review a per curiam opinion granted 4/13/22; case activity (including briefs)

Question presented:

Whether, at the time of the stop, Officer Meier only had a generalized hunch that Richey’s motorcycle may have been the one that committed a traffic violation.

An officer in the Village of Weston radioed that other officers should be on the lookout for a man on a Harley driving erratically at about 11:00 p.m. one night in April. About five minutes later, an officer who heard this message happened upon Richey, on a Harley, about a half mile from where the prior officer had reported. Richey was driving just fine, and would turn out not to be the erratic motorcyclist from earlier. But the officer pulled him over any after following him for a couple of blocks on suspicion that he might be the one they were looking for. Richey was over the limit, and after the circuit court denied suppression, he pleaded to an OWI.

The court of appeals affirmed. The thrust of Richey’s petition for review is the facts of his own case are very much like those of another (unpublished but citable) case, State v. Adams, No. 2018AP174, unpublished slip op., (WI App
Jan. 15, 2019). This matters, says Richey, because SCOTUS has directed that Fourth Amendment cases with similar facts ought to have similar results, and Adams won while he lost.

The SCOTUS case Richey relies on is Ornelas v. U.S., 517 U.S. 690 (1996):

Implicit in the Ornelas Court’s directions was that appellate courts should look to cases with similar fact patterns to guide their reasonable suspicion determinations. In fact, the Court presented several examples where the facts in a prior case were remarkably similar to those in the present case. Id. De novo review would allow for a measure of consistency in the treatment of similar factual settings, rather than permitting different trial judges to reach inconsistent conclusions about same or similar facts.

Had the court of appeals faithfully applied Ornelas, he says, it would have been compelled to reach the same result as in Adams. But in fact its decision here did not discuss the prior case. We’ll see what SCOW makes of things.

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