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State v. Brown

Court of Appeals of Wisconsin, District II

June 5, 2019

State of Wisconsin, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
Courtney C. Brown, Defendant-Appellant.

          APPEAL from a judgment of the circuit court for Fond du Lac County No. 2013CF428: RICHARD J. NUSS, Judge.

          Before Neubauer, C.J., Reilly, P.J., and Hagedorn, J.

          NEUBAUER, C.J.

         ¶1 Courtney C. Brown appeals from a judgment of conviction for one count of possession with intent to deliver cocaine, in violation of Wis.Stat. § 961.41(1m)(cm)1r. (2017-18), [1] as a repeater. Brown's conviction followed the discovery of cocaine on his person after he was pulled over by a police officer for a noncriminal traffic violation. Brown contends that the circuit court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence. He argues that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to continue the detention of Brown during the traffic stop when the officer requested that Brown exit the car and consent to a search of Brown's person after the officer wrote a warning ticket. Brown contends that the requests unlawfully extended the duration of the traffic stop. We disagree and therefore affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 The relevant facts were testified to by Officer Christopher Deering of the Fond du Lac Police Department at the hearing on Brown's motion to suppress and are largely undisputed, except as noted. Brown also testified.

         ¶3 On August 23, 2013, at 2:44 a.m., Deering observed a vehicle coming from a cul-de-sac of closed businesses. Deering ran a check and learned that the vehicle was a rental car. According to Deering, "people that traffic drugs often use rental cars." Deering followed the car and saw that it did not properly stop at a stop sign. He initiated a traffic stop.

         ¶4 As Brown identified himself, the officer noticed that Brown was not wearing a seat belt. When asked, Brown stated that he was coming from the "Speedway," which was inconsistent with Deering's observation that Brown came from the cul-de-sac. To confirm, Deering asked if Brown was "coming directly from Speedway to here," to which Brown replied in the affirmative. Brown stated that he had been at his girlfriend's house earlier. He knew the intersection by the house, but he did not know the address or her last name. When asked where he was headed, Brown said, "nowhere really, right now." Brown said he was from Milwaukee. Deering testified that Milwaukee is considered a "source city for drugs."

         ¶5 Deering returned to his car with Brown's driver's license to write a warning for the no seat belt violation. Two other officers arrived in separate vehicles to assist. Both officers stood on the side of Brown's car, but made no contact with Brown at any point. Deering described their roles as "safety officer[s]."

         ¶6 Deering ran a records check and learned that Brown had many drug arrests and had been convicted of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and armed robbery. Deering inquired as to whether a canine was available to conduct a dog sniff, but was told neither the city nor county had one on duty. Deering completed the written warning.

         ¶7 Deering returned to Brown's car, opened the door, and asked him to step out. Deering and Brown walked to the officer's car. Deering asked Brown to place his hands behind his back. When asked why he wanted Brown out of the car, Deering explained it "would be an awkward encounter" to search someone by reaching through the window, as Deering had already planned to ask Brown to consent to a search.

         ¶8 Deering asked Brown if he had anything on him that Deering should know about. Brown said "no." Deering made this inquiry to find out if Brown had "any illegal weapons or drugs on him." When asked if he considered this traffic stop to be "high-risk," Deering testified "no." When asked if he had concerns that Brown had weapons, Deering testified, "He could have [weapons] but there was-I guess, there's no specific factors to lead to that."

         ¶9 Deering then asked for permission to search Brown. Deering testified that Brown consented; Brown testified that he said "no." Deering searched Brown and found thirteen bags of crack cocaine and approximately $500 in cash. Deering still had Brown's driver's license and the written warning.

         ¶10 Brown was charged with one count of possession with intent to deliver cocaine. Brown moved to suppress the evidence, asserting he was illegally stopped. After a hearing, the circuit court denied the motion, finding that the traffic stop was lawful. Brown does not appeal this ruling.

         ¶11 Brown then filed a motion to suppress the evidence on the ground that the officer unlawfully extended the noncriminal traffic stop beyond the initial purpose. He argued once Deering had completed writing the ticket, the stop should have been over, and Deering lacked reasonable suspicion to ...


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