State v. Steven C. Cushman, 2011AP957, District 4, 10/20/11
court of appeals decision (1-judge, not for publication); for Cushman: John Smerlinksi; case activity
Probable cause to believe Cushman wasn’t wearing seat belt supported stop of his vehicle.
¶8 Wisconsin Stat. § 347.48 (2m)(gm) mandates seat belt use when operating a motor vehicle equipped with seat belts. In 2009, this statute was amended to remove language that had previously prohibited a law enforcement officer from stopping a vehicle based solely on the failure to wear a seat belt. 2009 Wis. Act 28, § 2991. Thus, a violation of the seat belt law is now a primary offense for which a law enforcement officer may initiate a traffic stop.
The trial court’s finding of fact that the officer observed Cushman driving without a seat belt wasn’t clearly erroneous; therefore, the stop was supported by probable cause, ¶¶12-14.