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Traffic stop — reasonable suspicion found based on weaving in lane, other factors

State v. Todd A. Laws, 2012AP1930-CR, District 2, 3/13/13; court of appeals decision (1-judge, ineligible for publication); case activity

Stop of Laws’s vehicle was lawful because it was based on reasonable suspicion he was driving while intoxicated, contrasting State v. Post, 2007 WI 60, 301 Wis. 2d 1, 733 N.W.2d 634:

¶9        Each case stands on its own unique facts; however, the conduct in this case arguably provided more reason for suspicion than that in Post.  First, Laws’ swerving was observed around bar time, at 2:45 a.m.  See Wis. Stat. § 125.32(3).  In Post, the supreme court noted that the 9:30 p.m. timing of Post’s weaving was significant, although “not as significant as when poor driving takes place at or around ‘bar time.’”  Post, 301 Wis. 2d 1, ¶36.  So the timing here was suspicious, particularly since the driving took place on a Saturday night/Sunday morning, as opposed to during the normal workweek.  In addition, the officer in Post had followed Post and observed his weaving for about two blocks.  Id.  Here, the officer followed Laws for much longer—one-half to one mile—and noted continuous weaving the entire time.  Although Laws argues the significance of the officer observing no other law violations by him during that time, we think it more significant that the swerving continued throughout all of this lengthier observation period.  Finally, we note that in this case the officer observed Laws swerving both before and after he stopped at a stop sign.  This is of import because pausing at the stop sign would have afforded Laws an opportunity to reconstitute himself and proceed thereafter with normal driving.  His failure to do so, combined with the distance over which he continually swerved, adds to the likelihood that the swerving was not due to a momentary distraction such as changing the radio station, reaching for food, or perhaps sneezing, but was more likely due to a sustained, impaired physical condition such as excessive drug or alcohol use or lack of sleep. [Footnotes omitted.]

Post, recall, rejected any bright-line rule that weaving within a single lane may alone give rise to reasonable suspicion or that weaving within a single lane must be erratic, unsafe, or illegal to give rise to reasonable suspicion, opting instead to “maintain the well-established principle that reviewing courts must determine whether there was reasonable suspicion for an investigative stop based on the totality of the circumstances.” (¶26).

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