State v. Longcore, No. 98-2792-CR

CourtCourt of Appeals of Wisconsin
Writing for the CourtBefore CANE, C.J., MYSE, P.J., and HOOVER; HOOVER
Citation594 N.W.2d 412,226 Wis.2d 1
Decision Date23 March 1999
Docket NumberNo. 98-2792-CR
PartiesSTATE of Wisconsin, Plaintiff-Respondent, d v. Michael M. LONGCORE, Defendant-Appellant.

Page 412

594 N.W.2d 412
226 Wis.2d 1
STATE of Wisconsin, Plaintiff-Respondent, d
v.
Michael M. LONGCORE, Defendant-Appellant.
No. 98-2792-CR.
Court of Appeals of Wisconsin.
Submitted on Briefs Feb. 12, 1999.
Opinion Released March 23, 1999.
Opinion Filed March 23, 1999.

Page 413

On behalf of the defendant-appellant, the cause was submitted on the briefs of

Page 414

William E. Schmaal, assistant state public defender of Madison.

On behalf of the plaintiff-respondent, the cause was submitted on the brief of Steven J. Madson, assistant district attorney of Green Bay.

Before CANE, C.J., MYSE, P.J., and HOOVER, J. 1

HOOVER, J.

Michael Longcore appeals a conviction for eighth offense operating a motor vehicle after revocation, contrary to § 343.44(1), STATS. He contends that the circuit court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence. The circuit court held that the arresting officer believed a traffic regulation was violated, the regulation is ambiguous, the officer's interpretation of the regulation was reasonable and therefore his suspicion that the law was violated was reasonable. We agree with Longcore that this case involved a probable cause stop, not one based upon a reasonable suspicion. We further hold that if an officer erroneously applies the law to the facts, he does not have probable cause to believe the law was violated. The judgment of conviction is therefore vacated, the order denying Longcore's motion to suppress is reversed and the matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Longcore filed a motion to suppress his identity and other evidence based upon his contention that the arresting officer did not have a reasonable suspicion that Longcore committed, was committing or was about to commit an offense. At the motion hearing, the arresting officer, Kevin Larson, testified and the circuit court found that he was on patrol when his suspicion was aroused by a vehicle "pulling out of a parking lot at approximately 2 o'clock [a.]m. in front of several businesses that were clearly closed for the night." This is one reason that Larson stopped the vehicle. He also observed that a rear passenger window was missing and replaced with a plastic sheet. Larson believed that this constituted a violation of the safety glass statute, § 347.43(1), STATS. 2

The circuit court concluded that Larson's first reason was insufficient to justify the stop. The State does not contest this holding on appeal. The court also held, however, that Larson's second reason did justify the stop, "even if the officer was incorrect about the violation actually occurring."

The circuit court considered § 347.43, STATS., to be ambiguous. 3 Rather than resolving the ambiguity, 4 the court relied on cases from other jurisdictions to hold that:

an officer's belief that a traffic violation had occurred constitutes reasonable suspicion, even if the officer was incorrect about the violation actually occurring. If the officer had a reasonable belief that there was a traffic violation, and ultimately some magistrate concludes that the officer was wrong, if the belief is reasonable, that still constitutes reasonable suspicion.

The circuit court went on to note a foreign opinion that held that a suspicion based

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upon a lack of knowledge is not necessarily unreasonable.

To reframe the circuit court's ruling, it held that the officer believed a traffic regulation was being violated, the regulation is ambiguous, the officer's interpretation was reasonable and therefore his suspicion that the law was violated was reasonable. The circuit court was confronted with a case of first impression and provided a thoughtful and logical analysis. We nevertheless perceive two material problems with the analysis and must therefore reject it.

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and art. I, § 11, of the Wisconsin Constitution prohibit the unreasonable seizure of a person without a warrant supported by probable cause. See State v. Gaulrapp, 207 Wis.2d 600, 605 n. 2, 558 N.W.2d 696, 698 n. 2 (Ct.App.1996). Detaining a motorist for a routine traffic stop constitutes a "seizure" and, if the seizure was illegal, then evidence obtained as a result is inadmissible. Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420, 436-37, 104 S.Ct. 3138, 82 L.Ed.2d 317 (1984); Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 501, 103 S.Ct. 1319, 75 L.Ed.2d 229 (1983). A brief detention, however, is not "unreasonable" if it is justified by a reasonable suspicion that the motorist has committed, is committing, or is about to commit an offense. Berkemer, 468 U.S. at 439, 104 S.Ct. 3138.

Our first concern involves the circuit court's view that the "reasonable suspicion" may extend beyond the relation of articulable facts to the law and encompass an officer's reasonable suspicion of what the law is. Here, the circuit court considered that it was reasonable that an officer might not know the ambiguous statute's proper application and that the officer's construction of the safety glass law was objectively reasonable. This reasoning is in the nature of, although not precisely analogous to, the "good faith" exception to the exclusionary rule announced in United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 922, 104 S.Ct. 3405, 82 L.Ed.2d 677 (1984). 5 Wisconsin's exclusionary rule was announced in Hoyer v....

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60 practice notes
  • State v. Brown, No. 2011AP2907–CR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • July 16, 2014
    ...but on [their] observation of a violation being committed in [their] presence.” Id. at ¶ 15 [850 N.W.2d 71](quoting State v. Longcore, 226 Wis.2d 1, 8–9, 594 N.W.2d 412 (Ct.App.1999)). Because the officers were not acting on a suspicion, but on what they believed was a violation of law bein......
  • Gilmore v. State, No. 2744
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • April 25, 2012
    ...plate was properly illuminated, the State failed to articulate a reasonable and articulable basis for the stop) ]; State v. Longcore, 226 Wis.2d 1 [9], 594 N.W.2d 412 [416] (1999) [ (when an officer relates facts to a specific offense, it must be an offense; a lawful stop cannot be predicat......
  • State v. Houghton, No. 2013AP1581–CR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • July 14, 2015
    ...Officer Price made a mistake of law with regard to the license plate requirement. The State also conceded that under State v. Longcore, 226 Wis.2d 1, 9, 594 N.W.2d 412 (Ct.App.1999), a mistake of law could not form the basis for a traffic stop. The State argued, however, that the items in t......
  • State v. Wright, No. 25534.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • December 8, 2010
    ...N.Y.S.2d 336 (1997); State v. Williams, 185 S.W.3d 311 (Tenn.2006); State v. Lussier, 171 Vt. 19, 757 A.2d 1017 (2000); State v. Longcore, 226 Wis.2d 1, 594 N.W.2d 412 (1999).Although the Eighth Circuit has taken the minority position, it is not alone in this view. See United States v. Sout......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
60 cases
  • State v. Brown, No. 2011AP2907–CR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • July 16, 2014
    ...but on [their] observation of a violation being committed in [their] presence.” Id. at ¶ 15 [850 N.W.2d 71](quoting State v. Longcore, 226 Wis.2d 1, 8–9, 594 N.W.2d 412 (Ct.App.1999)). Because the officers were not acting on a suspicion, but on what they believed was a violation of law bein......
  • Gilmore v. State, No. 2744
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • April 25, 2012
    ...plate was properly illuminated, the State failed to articulate a reasonable and articulable basis for the stop) ]; State v. Longcore, 226 Wis.2d 1 [9], 594 N.W.2d 412 [416] (1999) [ (when an officer relates facts to a specific offense, it must be an offense; a lawful stop cannot be predicat......
  • State v. Houghton, No. 2013AP1581–CR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • July 14, 2015
    ...Officer Price made a mistake of law with regard to the license plate requirement. The State also conceded that under State v. Longcore, 226 Wis.2d 1, 9, 594 N.W.2d 412 (Ct.App.1999), a mistake of law could not form the basis for a traffic stop. The State argued, however, that the items in t......
  • State v. Wright, No. 25534.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • December 8, 2010
    ...N.Y.S.2d 336 (1997); State v. Williams, 185 S.W.3d 311 (Tenn.2006); State v. Lussier, 171 Vt. 19, 757 A.2d 1017 (2000); State v. Longcore, 226 Wis.2d 1, 594 N.W.2d 412 (1999).Although the Eighth Circuit has taken the minority position, it is not alone in this view. See United States v. Sout......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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