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Reasonable Suspicion – Traffic Stop

court of appeals decision (1-judge, not for publication); for Cortes: Timmothy J. Lennon; BiC; Resp.; Reply

State v. Rolando S. Cortes, 2010AP621-CR, Distric 3, 10/5/10

The officer had reasonable suspicion to perform a traffic stop:

¶7        Conley’s inference that Cortes was trying to elude or evade police was reasonable given the totality of the circumstances.  Cortes pointed at Conley’s cruiser, and, as soon as the light turned green, took off at high speed.  He then made a series of turns, driving at an estimated fifty-five to sixty miles per hour.[2]  “Flight at the sight of police is undeniably suspicious behavior.  …  Although it does not rise to a level of probable cause, flight at the sight of a police officer certainly gives rise to a reasonable suspicion that all is not well.”  State v. Anderson, 155 Wis. 2d 77, 84, 454 N.W.2d 763 (1990).  In addition, unusual driving at a late hour is one factor strongly suggesting further investigation is necessary.  See Waldner, 206 Wis. 2d at 53, 57-58 (defendant’s unusual driving, which included stopping briefly at an uncontrolled intersection and turning onto a cross street at a high rate of speed, coupled with his dumping of liquid and ice from a plastic cup, coalesced to form reasonable suspicion).

¶8        Cortes suggests Conley’s uncertainty regarding his speed suggests the traffic stop was based on nothing more than Conley’s “hunch.”  Conley’s inability to determine Cortes’s precise speed might be relevant if Conley lacked cause to suspect Cortes of anything other than a speeding violation.  See City of Milwaukee v. Berry, 44 Wis. 2d 321, 323-25, 171 N.W.2d 305 (1969) (approving a visual speed estimate based on the officer’s position, the length of his observation, the existence of reference points, and the experience of the officer).  As we have established, however, the totality of the circumstances—Cortes’s pointing, rapid acceleration, frequent turns and excessive speed—gave rise to reasonable suspicion that further investigation was warranted.

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