State v. Braly, 2021AP2086-CR

CourtCourt of Appeals of Wisconsin
Writing for the CourtGRAHAM, J.
PartiesState of Wisconsin, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Travis R. Braly, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket Number2021AP2086-CR
Decision Date09 June 2022

State of Wisconsin, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.

Travis R. Braly, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 2021AP2086-CR

Court of Appeals of Wisconsin, District IV

June 9, 2022


This opinion will not be published. See Wis. Stat. Rule 809.23(1)(b)4.

APPEAL from a judgment of the circuit court for La Crosse County: Cir. Ct. No. 2020CT275 SCOTT L. HORNE, Judge. Affirmed.

GRAHAM, J. [1]

¶1 Travis Braly appeals a judgment convicting him of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OWI), third offense. Braly contends

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that the officer who stopped his vehicle lacked reasonable suspicion to believe he had committed a traffic violation, and therefore, the circuit court should have granted Braly's motion to suppress evidence obtained during the stop. I conclude that there was reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop, and accordingly, I affirm.

BACKGROUND

¶2 Officer Jacob Donley stopped Braly's vehicle based on his observation that Braly's vehicle did not stop at a stop sign before entering an intersection, nearly striking Donley's passing squad car. During the traffic stop, Donley observed signs that Braly was intoxicated, and Braly consented to a blood test. The State charged Braly with operating while intoxicated and operating a vehicle with a prohibited alcohol concentration level, both as a third offense.

¶3 Braly moved to suppress all evidence obtained as a consequence of the traffic stop. In his motion, Braly denied "making an incorrect stop at the intersection." He claimed that Donley did not witness him commit any traffic infraction, and that the traffic stop was instead based on an inchoate hunch and Donley's incorrect view of the law. Specifically, Braly argued that he was not required to stop before his vehicle reached the stop sign, and further, that Donley only "thought" that Braly's vehicle was going to enter the intersection without stopping. Therefore, Braly claimed that there was no reasonable suspicion for the stop, rendering it unlawful.

¶4 Donley testified as follows at the suppression hearing. On the night in question, he was driving his squad car on County Highway M in the Village of West Salem. Franklin Street crosses Highway M, and there is a stop sign but no crosswalk at that intersection. As Donley traveled northbound on Highway M, Braly's vehicle was travelling on Franklin Street approaching the intersection. As

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Donley's squad car passed the intersection, he observed Braly's vehicle pass the stop sign and come into the intersection. According to Donley, he "jerked [his] car to the left to avoid being struck" by Braly's vehicle. Donley then initiated a traffic stop. He testified: "I pulled [Braly's] vehicle over because it ran the stop sign and came out into the intersection of Highway M, nearly striking the side of my squad car before coming to a stop in the northbound lane of Highway M."

¶5 During the suppression hearing, the prosecutor introduced video footage from the dashboard-mounted and side-mounted cameras in Donley's squad car.[2] The prosecutor and defense counsel both referenced portions of the footage to support their arguments.[3]

¶6 The prosecutor argued that Donley had reasonable suspicion based on Braly's failure to stop at the stop sign. In contrast, Braly's counsel suggested that Donley had overreacted and that Braly had not violated any traffic law. Counsel pointed to Wis.Stat. § 346.46(1) and (2)(c), and argued that Braly was not required to stop before the stop sign because there was no clearly marked stop line or crosswalk in the roadway. Counsel further argued that Donley "didn't need

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to slam on his brakes to avoid a collision," and that the video from the squad car showed only "a slight deviation to the left" as the squad car passed the intersection.

¶7 The circuit court denied Braly's motion to suppress, determining that Donley had "a valid reason to stop Mr. Braly's vehicle as a result of the officer's perception that the vehicle had entered the intersection without coming to a stop." As the court explained, under Wis.Stat. § 346.46(1) and (2)(c), Braly did not have to stop his vehicle "prior to the stop sign itself," but he was required "to stop the vehicle before entering the intersection." The court credited Donley's testimony, explaining that it was uncontroverted and there was no evidence contradicting his description of events. The court acknowledged that the squad camera footage was not definitive, presumably because it does not show precisely where Braly's vehicle had stopped. Nevertheless, the court explained that the video clearly shows that Braly's vehicle "rolled through the stop sign," and further, that "it appears likely from the speed and proximity to the intersection that Mr. Braly would have had a difficult time stopping before entering the intersection." Further, the court found that Donley's evasive maneuver was "consistent with his description of events." Accordingly, the video footage tended to corroborate Donley's testimony that Braly's vehicle did not stop before entering the intersection.

¶8 Braly pled no contest to a charge of operating while intoxicated, third offense. He challenges the circuit court's decision to deny his motion to suppress.

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DISCUSSION

¶9 The United States Constitution and the Wisconsin Constitution both prohibit unreasonable searches and seizures. U.S. CONST. amend. IV; Wis. Const. art. 1 § 11. "'The temporary detention of individuals during a stop of an automobile by police, even if only for a brief period and for a limited purpose, constitutes a "seizure" of "persons" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.'" State v. Popke, 2009 WI 37, ¶11, 317 Wis.2d 118, 765 N.W.2d 569 (quoted source omitted). Therefore, the "stop must not be unreasonable under the circumstances." Id.

¶10 A traffic stop is reasonable if supported by reasonable suspicion that a traffic violation has been or will be committed.[4] Id.; see also State v. Houghton, 2015 WI 79, ¶¶28-30, 364 Wis.2d 234, 868 N.W.2d 143. The State has the burden of establishing that the stop was based on reasonable suspicion. State v. Meddaugh, 2022 WI.App. 12, ¶13, 401 Wis.2d 134, 972 N.W.2d 181. To meet that burden, the State "'must be able to point to specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant' the intrusion of the stop." State v. Post, 2007 WI 60, ¶10, 301 Wis.2d 1, 733 N.W.2d 634 (quoted source omitted). Ultimately, what constitutes reasonable suspicion necessary to justify an investigative stop of a vehicle is a "'common sense test: under all the facts and circumstances present, what would a reasonable police officer reasonably suspect in light of his or her training and experience.'"

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State v. Colstad, 2003 WI.App. 25, ¶8, 260 Wis.2d 406, 659 N.W.2d 394 (quoted source omitted).

¶11 Appellate review of an order granting or denying a suppression motion presents an issue of constitutional fact. State v. Johnson, 2013 WI.App. 140, ¶6, 352 Wis.2d 98, 841 N.W.2d 302. An appellate court will uphold the circuit court's findings of fact unless they are clearly erroneous, and will independently review the application of constitutional principles to those facts. Id.

¶12 As noted, the circuit court determined that Donley had reasonable suspicion to stop Braly's vehicle for violating Wis.Stat. § 346.46(1) and (2)(c).[5]In...

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