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Traffic Stop – No Wisconsin DL; Duration of Stop

State v. James Casas Klausen, 2009AP2268, District 4, 8/12/10

court of appeals decision (1-judge, not for publication); for Klausen: Tracey A. Wood; BiC; Resp.

Traffic Stop – No Wisconsin DL

Wisconsin law “contemplates that a person with a valid out-of-state driver’s license who becomes a Wisconsin resident has sixty days, after becoming a Wisconsin resident, to apply for a Wisconsin license,” ¶6. The police had reasonable suspicion to believe that Klausen violated this provision, and thus to stop his vehicle, given knowledge that: the vehicle was registered in Wisconsin to someone with a Wisconsin address, whose driving history reflected a Wisconsin traffic accident, and who did not have a valid Wisconsin license, ¶¶7-12. The possibility of innocent explanations (that the vehicle owner and putative driver might have been a nonresident and therefore not required to have a Wisconsin DL; or that he’d not yet been resident for 60 days) don’t defeat reasonable suspicion: the police aren’t required to rule out possibility of innocent behavior, ¶7.

Duration of Stop

Granting validity of the stop: the officer didn’t improperly expand it by asking Klausen whether he’d been drinking, because the officer had reasonable suspicion to believe that he was driving under the influence, ¶¶13-16.

The court appears to agree that mere odor of alcohol isn’t enough, but says that the cop had more, namely “Klausen’s bloodshot and watery eyes,” ¶14. The stop occurred at 2:15 a.m. in the dead of winter (¶2): whose eyes wouldn’t be bloodshot and watery? You might wonder, too, about the ability to judge the state of someone’s eyes in the dark, but this is neither the first nor the last time suspension of disbelief is put to service in a suppression ruling. Klausen, by the way, wasn’t driving suspiciously; the court stresses that erratic driving simply isn’t required for OWI reasonable suspicion, ¶15. Rheumy eyes will do. In other words, it just doesn’t take much.

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