State v. Gammons, No. 00-0377-CR.

CourtCourt of Appeals of Wisconsin
Writing for the CourtBefore Dykman, P.J., Roggensack and Johnston, JJ.
Citation241 Wis.2d 296,625 N.W.2d 623,2001 WI App 36
Docket NumberNo. 00-0377-CR.
Decision Date11 January 2001
PartiesSTATE of Wisconsin, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Christopher GAMMONS, Defendant-Appellant.

241 Wis.2d 296
2001 WI App 36
625 N.W.2d 623

STATE of Wisconsin, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
Christopher GAMMONS, Defendant-Appellant

No. 00-0377-CR.

Court of Appeals of Wisconsin.

Submitted on briefs December 7, 2000.

Decided January 11, 2001.


241 Wis.2d 298
On behalf of the defendant-appellant, the cause was submitted on the briefs of Keith A. Findley of the Criminal Appeals Project, Frank J. Remington Center, University of Wisconsin Law School, Madison

On behalf of the plaintiff-respondent, the cause was submitted on the brief of James E. Doyle, attorney general, and Jennifer E. Nashold, assistant attorney general.

Before Dykman, P.J., Roggensack and Johnston, JJ.1

¶ 1. DYKMAN, P.J.

Christopher Gammons appeals from a judgment convicting him of possession of cocaine with intent to deliver. After a police officer stopped the vehicle in which he was a passenger, police eventually found drug evidence that led to his conviction. Gammons argues that the officer lacked a reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle. He also argues that, even if the officer had a reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle, the officer exceeded the permissible scope of the stop by continuing to detain the vehicle, asking questions about identification and drugs, and asking to search the vehicle. The State contends that the officer's continued detention of the vehicle and his questions were permissible because he reasonably suspected

241 Wis.2d 299
drug activity at the time of the detention and questioning. We conclude that the officer exceeded the permissible scope of the investigation when he continued to detain the vehicle after the driver told him there were no drugs in the vehicle and that he could not search it. We therefore reverse

I. Background

¶ 2. On July 17, 1998, Officer John Fahrney stopped a vehicle driven by Tommy Farr because it did not have a rear license plate. Gammons and a third man, Stephen Baskin, were passengers. After Fahrney stopped the vehicle and approached it, he noticed that it had a temporary registration sticker. Fahrney asked all three men for identification. He then ran a driver's license check on Farr and warrant checks on Gammons and Baskin.

¶ 3. Fahrney also asked Farr if there were any drugs in the vehicle, and Farr responded that there were not. Fahrney asked permission to search the vehicle, and Farr refused. Fahrney then told Farr that he would get a police dog to sniff around the vehicle and detect any drugs that were present, after which Farr told Fahrney that he could search the vehicle. At the suppression hearing, Fahrney testified as follows:

A. I obtained Mr. Farr's driver's license information and ran a driver's license check on him. And asked him if there were any drugs in the vehicle.
Q. And what was his response?
A. He said no.
Q. And then what occurred?
241 Wis.2d 300
A. I asked him if he would allow me to search the inside of the vehicle for drugs.
Q. And what was his response?
A. He said no.
Q. And then what did you do at that point?
A. I advised him I would be getting my police dog out of the car to walk around his vehicle and explained to him if the dog detected any narcotics inside the vehicle he would indicate as such, and if that happened, then I would search his vehicle.
Q. And what happened after that?
A. He then told me to go ahead and search his vehicle.

Farr also testified that he and Fahrney had this conversation.

¶ 4. Additional officers arrived on the scene, and the police ordered Gammons out of the vehicle. Officer John McMahon patted down Gammons and found marijuana on Gammons' person. Gammons struggled with McMahon or other officers before or during the pat down, and the police also found cocaine in the area outside the vehicle where Gammons had been positioned.

¶ 5. Gammons was charged with possession of cocaine with intent to deliver within one thousand feet of a school in violation of WIS. STAT. §§ 961.41(1m)(cm)1 and 961.49(1)(b)6 (1997-98),2 obstruction of an officer in violation of WIS. STAT. § 946.41(1), and possession of THC in violation of § 961.41(3g)(e), all as a habitual offender under WIS. STAT. § 939.62(1)(a) and (b). Gammons

241 Wis.2d 301
moved to suppress all evidence seized by the police on the night of the stop. The trial court denied the motion, and Gammons pleaded guilty to the possession with intent to deliver charge. The trial court entered a judgment of conviction, and Gammons appeals

II. Analysis

[1, 2]

¶ 6. A traffic stop is a form of seizure triggering Fourth Amendment protections from unreasonable searches and seizures. State v. Guzy, 139 Wis. 2d 663, 675, 407 N.W.2d 548 (1987). The police must have a reasonable suspicion, grounded in specific articulable facts and reasonable inferences from those facts, that an individual is violating the law. Id. We first determine whether the initial interference with an individual's liberty was justified, and then consider whether subsequent police conduct was reasonably related in scope to the circumstances that justified the initial interference. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 19-20 (1968); State v. Griffith, 2000 WI 72, ¶ 26, 236 Wis. 2d 48, 613 N.W.2d 72. We uphold the trial court's findings of fact unless they are clearly erroneous. State v. Young, 212 Wis. 2d 417, 424, 569 N.W.2d 84 (Ct. App. 1997). Whether the circumstances of a stop or detention meet constitutional standards, however, is a question of law that we review de novo. Id.

¶ 7. Gammons first argues that, because the vehicle bore a temporary license sticker, Fahrney lacked a reasonable suspicion to stop it.3 We disagree.

241 Wis.2d 302
In State v. Griffin, 183 Wis. 2d 327, 329, 515 N.W.2d 535 (Ct. App. 1994), we held that "the absence of a registration plate, and reasonable inferences that can be drawn from that fact, constitute[] reasonable suspicion sufficient to justify an investigatory stop of a motor vehicle." In Griffin, the defendant's vehicle bore a "license applied for" sign. Id. at 329-30. We reasoned that, without stopping the vehicle, the officers in Griffin had no way of knowing whether the defendant was in violation of vehicle registration laws. Id. at 333-34.

¶ 8. While the temporary license sticker in this case may be a better indicator of registration than the "license applied for" sign in Griffin, the trial court found that at the time of the stop, Fahrney did not see the temporary sticker. Therefore, like the officers in Griffin, Fahrney had no way of knowing whether Farr was in compliance with vehicle registration laws without stopping the vehicle.

¶ 9. Gammons seems to suggest in his brief that Fahrney could not have had a reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle because he "could have" seen the temporary sticker if he had looked more closely. But what Fahrney could have seen is not the test. The trial court found that Fahrney did not initially see the sticker. This finding was not clearly erroneous because it is supported by evidence in the record. See State v. Hampton, 217 Wis. 2d 614, 622, 579 N.W.2d 260 (Ct. App. 1998). At the time that Fahrney stopped the vehicle, it was dark, and...

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46 practice notes
  • State v. Smith, No. 2015AP756-CR
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • January 9, 2018
    ...completed including running a check on defendant's license and returning license to the defendant); State v. Gammons, 2001 WI App 36, 241 Wis. 2d 296, 625 N.W.2d 623 (holding the purpose of the traffic stop had concluded after the reason for the initial seizure had been satisfied, the drive......
  • State v. VanBeek, No. 2019AP447-CR
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • June 4, 2021
    ...the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to prolong the stop.14 Id. at 98, 593 N.W.2d 499.¶64 In State v. Gammons, 2001 WI App 36, 241 Wis. 2d 296, 625 N.W.2d 623, Gammons was a passenger in a car stopped 960 N.W.2d 49 because it did not have a rear license plate. Id., ¶2. After questi......
  • State v. Arias, No. 2006AP974-CR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • July 9, 2008
    ...of drug activity. He relies on State v. Betow, 226 Wis.2d 90, 593 N.W.2d 499 (Ct.App.1999) and State v. Gammons, 2001 WI App 36, 241 Wis.2d 296, 625 N.W.2d ¶ 37 The State asserts that State v. Gaulrapp, 207 Wis.2d 600, 558 N.W.2d 696 (Ct.App.1996) should control our decision. It contends th......
  • State v. Hogan, No. 2013AP430–CR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • July 10, 2015
    ...593 N.W.2d 499 (citing United States v. Perez, 37 F.3d 510, 513 (9th Cir.1994) ). See also State v. Gammons, 2001 WI App 36, ¶¶ 18–19, 241 Wis.2d 296, 625 N.W.2d 623. An expansion in the scope of the inquiry, when accompanied by an extension of time longer than would have been needed for th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
46 cases
  • State v. Smith, No. 2015AP756-CR
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • January 9, 2018
    ...completed including running a check on defendant's license and returning license to the defendant); State v. Gammons, 2001 WI App 36, 241 Wis. 2d 296, 625 N.W.2d 623 (holding the purpose of the traffic stop had concluded after the reason for the initial seizure had been satisfied, the drive......
  • State v. VanBeek, No. 2019AP447-CR
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • June 4, 2021
    ...the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to prolong the stop.14 Id. at 98, 593 N.W.2d 499.¶64 In State v. Gammons, 2001 WI App 36, 241 Wis. 2d 296, 625 N.W.2d 623, Gammons was a passenger in a car stopped 960 N.W.2d 49 because it did not have a rear license plate. Id., ¶2. After questi......
  • State v. Arias, No. 2006AP974-CR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • July 9, 2008
    ...of drug activity. He relies on State v. Betow, 226 Wis.2d 90, 593 N.W.2d 499 (Ct.App.1999) and State v. Gammons, 2001 WI App 36, 241 Wis.2d 296, 625 N.W.2d ¶ 37 The State asserts that State v. Gaulrapp, 207 Wis.2d 600, 558 N.W.2d 696 (Ct.App.1996) should control our decision. It contends th......
  • State v. Hogan, No. 2013AP430–CR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • July 10, 2015
    ...593 N.W.2d 499 (citing United States v. Perez, 37 F.3d 510, 513 (9th Cir.1994) ). See also State v. Gammons, 2001 WI App 36, ¶¶ 18–19, 241 Wis.2d 296, 625 N.W.2d 623. An expansion in the scope of the inquiry, when accompanied by an extension of time longer than would have been needed for th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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