WI: Officer can ask about weapons and for consent in any traffic stop without extending it

In an ordinary traffic stop, an officer may ask about weapons and even seek a consent to search without reasonable suspicion and thus without extending the stop. State v. Brown, 2020 WI 63, 2020 Wisc. LEXIS 140 (July 3, 2020):

Courtney Brown failed to fully stop his car at a stop sign, prompting a police officer to initiate a traffic stop. Brown contends the officer impermissibly extended the stop after writing a ticket for the traffic violation by asking Brown to exit the car, inquiring about anything concerning in Brown’s possession, and requesting consent to search him. Brown seeks suppression of the cocaine the officer found in Brown’s possession when he searched him, claiming that in the absence of reasonable suspicion, the Fourth Amendment prohibited the officer’s actions after he wrote the traffic ticket, which Brown argues should have ended the mission of the stop. We conclude the Constitution permits law enforcement to ask a driver to exit the vehicle, inquire about the presence of weapons, and request consent to search the driver, all of which are negligibly burdensome actions relating to officer safety, a well-established part of a traffic stop’s mission.

Because we conclude that the officer did not impermissibly extend the traffic stop, we need not decide whether he had reasonable suspicion to do so. See Gross v. Hoffman, 227 Wis. 296, 300, 277 N.W. 663 (1938) (“As one sufficient ground for support of the judgment has been declared, there is no need to discuss the others urged.”).

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