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Swerving in lane and “apparently” touching center line provides basis for traffic stop

State v. Alberta R. Rose, 2013AP2783-CR, District 2, 6/4/14 (1-judge; ineligible for publication); case activity

A police officer’s observations of a car “smoothly swerving three or four times” in its lane of travel over several blocks and then “appear[ing] to strike the center line” (¶2) provided reasonable suspicion to perform a valid investigatory stop of the car, even though an enhanced version of the squad car video showed the car didn’t hit the center line.

The police officer testified that he stopped Rose’s vehicle based Rose’s repeated swerving, the apparent touch of the tires to the center line, the time (just past midnight on a Monday morning), and the proximity of several bars. (¶3). Rose had an expert analyze the squad video. He testified that an enhancement of the video showed the tires of Rose’s vehicle never actually touched the center line, though they came within inches of it. (¶3).

The circuit court viewed the unfiltered squad video and concluded that it appeared the vehicle’s tires had touched the center line: “From [the officer’s] point of view, it looks like she hits the centerline. That is what it looks like on the tape. [Rose’s expert] helps us out with exactly how close it was, but it was too close to the centerline if it didn’t hit it.” (¶4). The circuit court thus found the officer’s testimony credible and denied the motion to suppress. (¶4). 

The court of appeals affirms:      

7       .. The circuit court’s conclusion that it appeared from the video that the vehicle “looks like she hits the centerline” is not clearly erroneous. See [State v. Walli, 2011 WI App 86], ¶14[, 334 Wis. 2d 402, 799 N.W.2d 898]. Additional facts supported the court’s finding of reasonable suspicion: Rose had inexplicably and repeatedly swerved between the traffic and parking lanes as she drove, it was late at night, and Rose was coming from an area where there were several bars. All of these specific and articulable facts provided reasonable suspicion justifying further investigation as to whether Rose was driving while intoxicated….

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