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Tip, observations provided reasonable suspicion for traffic stop

State v. Michael Thomas Martell, 2019AP927-CR, District 3, 7/21/20 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity (including briefs)

An officer located and started following Martell’s SUV after getting dispatchers relayed a tip describing a vehicle driving erratically. What the officer saw provided reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop.

¶13     Specifically, [Lieutenant] Schaub observed the SUV brake unreasonably hard and partially drive off the side of the road before swerving or “jerking” back into its lane and accelerating again, causing the vehicle behind the SUV to also slam on its brakes. Schaub additionally observed the SUV’s passenger side tires drive off of the paved roadway onto the gravel shoulder three times, watched the SUV weaving within its own lane of travel, and determined the SUV’s speed was fluctuating to as low as approximately twenty-five miles per hour in a forty-five mile-per-hour zone. Our supreme court has previously acknowledged that a driver weaving within his or her lane of travel might not give rise to reasonable suspicion when taken alone, but that circumstance can give rise to reasonable suspicion when taken together with other facts and rational inferences from those facts. [State v. Anagnos, 2012 WI 64], ¶54[, 341 Wis. 2d 576, 815 N.W.2d 675].

¶14     In addition, before Schaub started following Martell, a civilian had called law enforcement to complain that Martell had been driving erratically. Notably, Martell neither challenges the tipster’s reliability nor asserts that we should omit this fact in our totality of the circumstances analysis. The tipster’s report and the other facts discussed in the preceding paragraph were more than sufficient to give rise to reasonable suspicion that wrongful activity might be afoot with regard to Martell’s SUV—namely, that he was driving impaired or otherwise could not safely operate the SUV.

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