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Arrest – Probable Cause – Traffic Violation

State v. Portia M. Meyer, 2012AP206-CR, District 4, 9/20/12

court of appeals decision (1-judge, ineligible for publication); case activity

Assuming that the police placed Meyer under arrest when handcuffing her and placing her in the back of a squad car following a traffic accident, they had probable cause to do so for failure to yield right-of-way:

¶8        Police may arrest a person without a warrant for “the violation of a traffic regulation if the traffic officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person is violating or has violated a traffic regulation.”[2]  Wis. Stat. § 345.22.  Traffic regulations for the purpose of § 345.22 include any “provision of chs. 194 or 341 to 349 for which the penalty for violation is a forfeiture or an ordinance enacted in accordance with s. 349.06.”  Wis. Stat. § 345.20(l)(b).  Failing to yield the right-of-way when making a left turn under Wis. Stat.§ 346.18(2)[3] falls within the definition of a traffic regulation because the penalty for this violation is a forfeiture.  Wis. Stat. § 346.22(1)(a) and (c).  Thus, an officer may make an arrest if he or she has reasonable grounds to believe a person is violating or has violated this statute.

The court proceeds to reject several other challenges to this conclusion, ¶¶10-14: reasonable grounds existed to believe that Meyer intended to turn left, as is required for a violation of § 346.18(2); the officers’ subjective motivation is irrelevant, so it doesn’t matter that they didn’t assert the traffic violation as grounds for handcuffing her; and, § 345.23 doesn’t require that the police issue a traffic citation immediately upon arrest, and in any event no authority supports the idea that noncompliance with § 345.23 would affect validity of an arrest under § 345.22.

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