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Witness reports and officers’ observations provided probable cause to arrest for OWI

City of Portage v. Kenneth D. Cogdill, 2014AP1492, District 4, 11/20/14 (1-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

Police had probable cause to believe Cogdill had been operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant based on the statements of witnesses, the officers’ own observations, and Cogdill’s statements.

¶8    Testimony at the [refusal] hearing established that when Officer Stenberg arrived at the Ridge Motor Inn, he was aware that he was investigating a complaint concerning “intoxication.” Officer Stenberg observed two vehicles “parked touching each other” in the parking lot, and he was informed that the occupants of room 105 were responsible for doing that and had been driving a vehicle around the Inn’s parking lot. In room 105, Officer Stenberg encountered Cogdill, whom he described as having slurred speech and mannerisms similar to someone who is intoxicated. Cogdill admitted that he had been drinking and that he had driven the F-150 [truck]. Officer Stenberg showed Cogdill’s driver’s license to [the motel clerk], who identified Cogdill as the driver of the F-150.

¶9      Probable cause to arrest does not require “proof beyond a reasonable doubt or even that guilt is more probable than not.” State v. Popke, 2009 WI 37, ¶14, 317 Wis. 2d 118, 765 N.W.2d 569. Rather, the facts “‘need only be sufficient to lead a reasonable officer to believe that guilt is more than a possibility.’” County of Dane v. Sharpee, 154 Wis. 2d 515, 518, 453 N.W.2d 508 (Ct. App. 1990) (quoted source omitted). I conclude that facts before Officer Stenberg, as recited above, were sufficient to lead a reasonable officer to believe that it was “more than a possibility” that Cogdill had driven the F-150 and that he was under the influence of an intoxicant at the time he did so. …

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