Wednesday, May 23, 2007

State v. Post

There may have been some initial confusion about what the Wisconsin Supreme Court did this morning in State v. Post.

The case involved review of an appellate court judgment reversing Post's fifth drunken driving condition. The court of appeals had held that Post's deviation within a single traffic lane could not create probable cause to stop him and reversed his conviction.

The state appealed and asked the court to adopt a bright line rule (lawyer slang for simple and easy to apply) that anytime a person deviates in a single lane of traffic, it constitutes probable cause to pull them over. The court - unanimously - declined to do that.

But it reversed the court of appeals and upheld Post's conviction. It did so because, under the "totality of the circumstances." Post's deviations in this case (between 5 and 9 feet in an S-shaped pattern at night) were enough.

Along the way, it rejected Post's argument that it should hold that deviation within a single lane cannot constitute probable cause unless it it is "erratic, unsafe or illegal."

Chief Justice Abrahamson dissented in part. She thought that the facts in the record were insufficient to support probable cause and would have remanded for further fact finding.


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