WI: Checkpoint minutes after an armed robbery was reasonable; only two cars stopped

Officers responding to an armed robbery call were in the vicinity and parked in the street with top lights on along a possible escape route creating de facto checkpoint or roadblock. Because of time of day, there were few cars on the road. The first were factory workers in uniform and they were allowed to pass. The second had two men, one of whom fit the description and dress of a robber. He was sweating and nervous, and looking around as if planning an escape. Once out of the car, he struggled with officers. On the whole, the use of a checkpoint so close in time to a serious crime stopping only two cars was reasonable as a special needs stop. (See Treatise § 23.14 n.2.) The trial court sustained it as a Terry stop, but it was fully litigated, and the state abandoned Terry on appeal and went with special needs. State v. Scott, 2017 Wisc. App. LEXIS 790 (Oct. 10, 2017):

P25 Turning to the facts here, the reasoning behind the checkpoint established by Officer Luedtke moments after the armed robbery is very similar to the purpose of the barricade established by the police in Paetsch: although Officer Luedtke did not have the benefit of a GPS tracker, she knew from her experience that the perpetrator had likely accessed a nearby vehicle after fleeing the immediate scene on foot. As such, the primary purpose of the checkpoint here went beyond ordinary crime control, in that it was an “appropriately tailored roadblock” set up by the police in order to apprehend “a dangerous criminal” who was “likely to flee by way of a particular route.” See Edmond, 531 U.S. at 44. Therefore, rather than applying the “presumptive rule of unconstitutionality” to this checkpoint, we find that these circumstances warrant an analysis as to whether the application of the special needs exception to the protections of the Fourth Amendment, as it has been applied in federal case law, is appropriate here. See Lidster, 540 U.S. at 426.

P26 Accordingly, we apply the reasonableness factors to the facts of this case. First, the gravity of the public concern is clear, in that an armed individual had just committed a robbery in the vicinity of where the roadblock was established. See Paetsch, 782 F.3d at 1170. The second factor, the degree to which the seizure advanced the public interest, is demonstrated by the effectiveness of the barricade: the perpetrator of the armed robbery—Scott—was apprehended in the second vehicle stopped at the roadblock, and taken into custody. See id. at 1171.

P27 Federal case law indicates that the final step of the analysis is to weigh the first two factors against the third factor: the severity of the interference with individual liberty. See id. at 1172. In this case, there were three vehicles affected by the roadblock. In the first vehicle, the occupants were determined to be factory workers on their way home, and they were waived through the roadblock in mere seconds. The second vehicle contained Scott, who was quickly identified as a suspect and taken into custody shortly after the vehicle was stopped. The third vehicle was allowed to leave the scene while the officers were taking Scott into custody.

P28 Based on our assessment of the circumstances as set forth in the record, we find that the severity of the interference with the individual liberties of those who were detained at the roadblock was minimal. Therefore, we find that in this case the Fourth Amendment protections represented by the third factor do not outweigh the public interest aspects of the first two factors.

P29 As a result, we find that, under these circumstances, the checkpoint established immediately after the armed robbery was constitutional. Therefore, although we disagree with the trial court’s analysis of the stop and the proper standard for determining its reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment, we nevertheless affirm its denial of Scott’s motion to suppress.

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