State v. Hanson, 2008AP–2759–CR.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
Citation338 Wis.2d 243,2012 WI 4,808 N.W.2d 390
Docket NumberNo. 2008AP–2759–CR.,2008AP–2759–CR.
PartiesSTATE of Wisconsin, Plaintiff–Respondent, v. Daniel H. HANSON, Defendant–Appellant–Petitioner.
Decision Date01 February 2012

2012 WI 4
338 Wis.2d 243
808 N.W.2d 390

STATE of Wisconsin, Plaintiff–Respondent,
Daniel H. HANSON, Defendant–Appellant–Petitioner.

No. 2008AP–2759–CR.

Supreme Court of Wisconsin.

Argued Sept. 6, 2011.Decided Feb. 1, 2012.

[808 N.W.2d 393]

For the defendant-appellant-petitioner, there were briefs by Chad Lanning and Lanning Law Offices, LLC, West Bend, and Robert R. Henak and Henak Law Office, S.C., Milwaukee and oral argument by Robert R. Henak.

For the plaintiff-respondent, the cause was argued by Rebecca Rapp St. John, assistant attorney general, with whom on the brief was J.B. Van Hollen, attorney general.


[338 Wis.2d 248] ¶ 1 This is a review of a published decision of the court of appeals 1 that affirmed the judgment of the circuit court,2 holding Daniel H. Hanson guilty of fleeing a traffic officer, a felony under Wis. Stat. § 346.04(3) (2007–08).3 The jury found that Hanson knowingly fled a sheriff's deputy after a traffic stop, and that Hanson's “ willful or wanton disregard” of the officer's signal interfered with or endangered the officer or the public. The jury rejected Hanson's self-defense claim by which he asserted that his flight toward a police station was motivated by his fear that the traffic officer would “beat” or “kill” him. Further, Hanson argues that the circuit court should have admitted evidence of the traffic officer's character on the theory that the officer was a “victim” for purposes of admitting character evidence under Wis. Stat. § 904.04(1) (b). Finally, Hanson briefly raises a constitutional claim that he was deprived of the right to present a defense, and that a new trial is warranted in the interest of justice.

[338 Wis.2d 249] ¶ 2 We conclude that the circuit court properly instructed the jury on the requirements of Wis. Stat. § 346.04(3). Similarly, we hold that there does not exist a subjective, good-faith exception to the fleeing law, and that Hanson's opportunity to demonstrate any justification for his behavior was through his self-defense claim, which the jury considered and rejected. Additionally, we conclude that the circuit court was correct to exclude testimony about the traffic officer's alleged confrontational character because the officer was not a “victim” under Wis. Stat. § 904.04(1)(b). Finally, we conclude that neither the Constitution nor the interest of justice warrants a new trial, as no constitutional infirmities have been raised and the real controversy has, indeed, been tried.

[808 N.W.2d 394]

Accordingly, we affirm the court of appeals.


¶ 3 On the morning of June 29, 2006, Kenosha County Sheriff's Deputy Eric Klinkhammer was monitoring traffic on Interstate 94 when his speed gun registered Hanson's vehicle as traveling 83 miles per hour in a 65 mile-per-hour zone.4 Klinkhammer caught up with Hanson, pulled along the right side of Hanson's vehicle (which was in the far left lane), and motioned for Hanson to pull over to the right side of the interstate.[338 Wis.2d 250] Klinkhammer then activated his emergency lights and came to a stop behind Hanson.

¶ 4 Soon after the vehicles stopped, but before Klinkhammer was able to get out of his squad car, Hanson exited his vehicle and came toward the squad car with his license in hand, gesticulating, and yelling at the deputy. Using the squad car's PA system, Klinkhammer told Hanson multiple times to return to his vehicle. When Hanson refused, the deputy got out of his vehicle and demanded that Hanson return to his car. Hanson continued to shout at Klinkhammer, pacing back and forth, waving his arms, and generally acting “bizarre[ly],” as Klinkhammer later testified. Hanson continued to refuse to return to his vehicle until Klinkhammer extended his baton, which he displayed beside his leg, and ordered Hanson back to his vehicle.

¶ 5 After Hanson finally re-entered his vehicle, Klinkhammer called for backup and walked over to the passenger-side window of Hanson's vehicle to avoid traffic passing on the driver's side. The deputy asked Hanson to roll down the passenger-side window and provide his license. Klinkhammer said that Hanson refused to immediately comply; instead he yelled about the violation of rights that he said Klinkhammer was perpetrating. Hanson said that when he rolled down the window Klinkhammer took his license “very gruffly.” Randi Derby, who was a “ride-along” intern with Klinkhammer, said that Hanson “flicked” his license out the window and it fell to the ground.

¶ 6 At that point, the deputy informed Hanson that he would be cited for speeding. Klinkhammer began walking back to his squad car, but before the deputy could finish writing the ticket, Hanson had again alighted from his vehicle. Once more, Hanson shouted at the deputy, pacing next to the interstate, [338 Wis.2d 251] and, according to both Klinkhammer and Ms. Derby, behaving in a disturbing manner. Hanson said that he got out of his car a second time to explain that he had not been speeding. Hanson said Klinkhammer “screamed” at him to “Get back in the car.” Klinkhammer said that he again extended his baton, which he displayed next to his leg, and ordered Hanson back to his vehicle. Recognizing the tension in the situation to be rising, the deputy once more radioed for backup.

¶ 7 Klinkhammer then told Hanson that he was under arrest. At that point, Hanson abruptly abandoned his tirade and ran to his car. As Hanson entered his vehicle, Klinkhammer reached for Hanson and ripped Hanson's shirt as he squirmed away from the deputy. Hanson locked his car door and pulled out into traffic, with

[808 N.W.2d 395]

Klinkhammer standing approximately two feet from the vehicle.

¶ 8 After escaping to his car, Hanson immediately telephoned 911 and demanded directions to the nearest police station because, as he said, Klinkhammer was “endangering my life.” As Hanson drove down the interstate, he was in constant communication with the 911 dispatcher who initially directed Hanson to pull over, after which he informed Hanson that other officers were on the way, and that their presence would mitigate any perceived threat from Klinkhammer. After Hanson refused multiple requests by the dispatcher to pull over and continued to demand directions to the nearest police station, the dispatcher began guiding Hanson to the Pleasant Prairie police station.

¶ 9 During the course of Hanson's flight, Kenosha County Sheriff's Deputy Samuel Sturino joined Klinkhammer in pursuit of Hanson. As Hanson exited Interstate 94, Sturino positioned his fully marked squad car with lights and sirens on, where [338 Wis.2d 252] Hanson clearly could see him, but not in such a way as to totally block Hanson's travel. Hanson ignored Sturino's directions and did not stop. After Hanson briefly swerved toward Sturino and nearly struck the squad car, the deputy quickly pulled his vehicle ahead of Hanson's to cut him off. Hanson was forced to a stop at the next red light.

¶ 10 After Hanson was stopped at the light, the deputies exited their vehicles, approached the driver's side of Hanson's vehicle, and ordered Hanson to exit the car; Hanson refused. Klinkhammer demanded multiple times that Hanson open the door and exit the vehicle. He warned that if Hanson did not comply, Klinkhammer would break the window to open the door. When Hanson refused to open his door, Klinkhammer broke the window, opened the door, and he and Sturino “directed [Hanson] to the ground.”

¶ 11 Hanson was initially charged with a misdemeanor under Wis. Stat. § 346.04(2t), for failure to stop his vehicle after receiving a signal from a marked police vehicle. Well before trial, however, prosecutors dismissed the misdemeanor charge and charged Hanson under the felony fleeing and eluding statute, § 346.04(3).5 Hanson claimed he fled because he feared for his life due to Klinkhammer's aggressive conduct. In response to a motion in limine by Hanson, the circuit court held that testimony about Klinkhammer's alleged confrontational character would not be admitted. Hanson had argued that such testimony was admissible on the theory that Klinkhammer was a “victim” of [338 Wis.2d 253] Hanson's flight for purposes of the character evidence rule, Wis. Stat. § 904.04. A jury found that Hanson's actions constituted felony fleeing under § 346.04(3), notwithstanding Hanson's self-defense claim, and judgment was entered on the jury's guilty verdict.

¶ 12 On appeal, Hanson challenged the verdict on the ground that the evidence was insufficient to show that he knowingly fled, or that he did so with “willful or wanton disregard” of the officers' directions or the public's safety. Additionally, Hanson has argued that the circuit court erred as a matter of law when it excluded evidence of Klinkhammer's character. The court of appeals affirmed Hanson's conviction. Hanson petitions us to overturn the jury's verdict based on insufficiency of the evidence to prove a violation

[808 N.W.2d 396]

of Wis. Stat. § 346.04(3) as he interprets § 346.04(3) and based on his interpretation of Wis. Stat. § 904.04(1)(b). Hanson asserts that the circuit court's evidentiary ruling excluding evidence of Klinkhammer's aggressive character precluded Hanson from fully presenting his theory of self-defense. He contends that this is a constitutional basis for reversal, as well as the basis for a new trial in the interest of justice.

¶ 13 We granted review and now affirm the court of appeals.

A. Standard of Review

¶ 14 Hanson frames part of his appeal as a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. However, as a foundational matter, he actually is asking us to interpret and apply Wis. Stat. § 346.04(3). Questions of [338 Wis.2d 254] statutory interpretation and application are questions of law that we review independently. See State v. Jensen, 2010 WI 38, ¶ 8, 324 Wis.2d 586, 782 N.W.2d 415. Here, we are asked to interpret and apply § 346.04(3) and Wis. Stat. § 904.04(1)(b).

¶ 15 We also...

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