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Reasonable Suspicion – Traffic Stop – “Fishtailing”

State v. John E. Meddaugh, 2011AP237-CR, District 1, 5/1/12

court of appeals decision (1-judge; not for publication); for Meddaugh: Theodore Perlick Molinari; case activity

¶9        Based on the totality of the circumstances, we agree with the circuit court that Sturino put forth specific, articulable facts which warranted the stop when considered with the inferences from those facts.  Sturino testified that shortly after hearing tires screech, he observed Meddaugh’s vehicle “fishtail.”  Fishtailing, Sturino testified, is consistent with a driver losing control of a vehicle.  Sturino further testified that the roads were not wet, the area was well-lit, nothing obstructed his view of Meddaugh’s vehicle, and that the “fishtail” particularly caught his attention because it was a Saturday night.  The circuit court found Sturino to be credible based on his substantial training and experience and found his testimony to be consistent with the circuit court’s observations of the squad camera video.  See Lellman v. Mott, 204 Wis. 2d 166, 172, 554 N.W.2d 525 (Ct. App. 1996) (The credibility of witnesses and the weight to be attached to that evidence are matters uniquely within the province of the finder of fact.).  In addition, the officer’s observations were sufficient to suggest that he believed there would be a violation of a traffic law.  See Waldner, 206 Wis. 2d at 55-56.  As our supreme court noted, “‘[t]he building blocks of fact accumulate.  And as they accumulate, reasonable inferences about the cumulative effect can be drawn.’”  Post, 301 Wis. 2d 1, ¶13 (citation omitted).

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