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Wisconsin Supreme Court rules on driving away from an officer

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled that drivers do not have to stop or talk to police if an officer knocks on the window and asks them to roll the car window down if the officers red and blue lights are not on. The prompting case involved an incident between a Grant County deputy sheriff and a Cassville resident on the night of Dec. 25, 2011. According to reports, the officer approached the man who was sitting in a parked, running vehicle in a park at 2 a.m. The park had closed at 11 p.m.

The officer believed the situation was suspicious and pulled in behind the man's car. According to reports, the officer did not have the red and blue flashing lights activated. The officer reported seeing the man in the driver's seat and a woman in the passenger seat. The man rolled the window down, and the officer noted signs of intoxication, including slurred speech and the smell of alcohol. The man was arrested for driving under the influence.

The man reportedly claimed that he believed he did not have the choice to drive away from the officer and also said that he could not have driven away without running over the officer. The court, however, ruled that the man's interaction with the officer was voluntary because knocking on the window of a car "does not by itself constitute a show of authority sufficient to give rise to the belief in a reasonable person that the person is not free to leave." The decision was not a unanimous one, however, and the dissenting justices argued that any reasonable person would not feel free to drive away after being approached by an officer.

This is an important ruling for anyone facing charges after being stopped by police in a similar manner. Because the ruling has effectively made these kind of interactions with officers voluntary, it may have an effect on defendants facing a variety of charges, from drug possession to DUI. Understanding how this new ruling affects these types of cases is the first step to applying it to a criminal defense strategy.

Source: thenewspaper.com, "Wisconsin Supreme Court Upholds Driving Away From Cop At Window" Jul. 25, 2014

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