A judge in St. Croix County, Wisconsin granted our motion to suppress all evidence in a felony drug case. The State must now determine whether it’s worth their resources to continue prosecuting a case without evidence.
The case started when law enforcement surveilled my client throughout Western Wisconsin, into Eastern Minnesota, and back into Western Wisconsin. Law enforcement did not see my client speed, swerve, or violate any vehicle equipment laws. The detail ended in St. Croix County when law enforcement pulled over my client for stopping two feet past a stop sign. This intersection did not have a stop line or a crosswalk.
To make a long story shorter, law enforcement eventually arrested my client and searched his car. Officers found drugs underneath the driver’s seat, and the state charged my client with possession of drugs–a Class F felony.
We immediately challenged the stop of my client’s vehicle. According to Wisconsin law, when at a stop sign, a driver must stop before the stop line or crosswalk. If there is neither a clearly marked stop line nor a crosswalk, then the law authorizes a driver to approach the intersection and stop the vehicle at such a point that will enable him to observe intersecting traffic. In other words, there is nothing in the law about stopping two feet ahead of a stop sign at an intersection without a stop line or crosswalk.
In an order written by the circuit court, the judge wrote, “In this case, the defendant’s constitutional rights have been violated. He was seized without probable cause or reasonable suspicion. FURTHERMORE, THE COURT WANTS TO ENCOURAGE KNOWLEDGE OF THE LAW RATHER THAN CONDONE BEHAVIOR THAT ENCOURAGES MISTAKES OF LAW.” Since law enforcement violated my client’s constitutional rights for pulling him over under the incorrect belief it was illegal to stop two feet ahead of the stop sign, “[t]he evidence must be suppressed.”
The judge’s message highlights exactly why defense work is so important. One of the most important duties of law enforcement is to enforce the law. It’s only fair that the courts hold officers to the same standard they swore to uphold. The best person to ensure this happens is a defense attorney.