Fourth Amendment

When a Cop Knocks on the Window, Just Drive Away (in Wisconsin)

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Traffic stop
joker1020 / Foter

Fear no more that heart-in-throat moment when a police officer knocks on your driver's side window and you think to yourself, "oh shit. Now what?" Because the answer is to just put the car in gear and cruise away—at least, if you live in Wisconsin. Earlier this month, the state's Supreme Court ruled that a tap on the glass does not in and of itself give people reason to assume they've been detained, so they're free to go about their business.

Just don't roll over the cop's foot.

The decision actually came in a case that didn't work out to the defendant's benefit. On Christmas morning in 2011, Deputy Matthew Small of the Grant County Sheriff's Department noticed a car with its engine running in a parking lot. He found the vehicle's presence "suspicious." He parked directly behind the car, approached and knocked on the driver's side, and asked driver Daniel Vogt to roll down the window. The result was a blast of booze breath which got Vogt busted for drunk driving.

Vogt argued that Small had no reason to conduct a traffic stop, and that any evidence obtained by it should be suppressed. While the appeals court agreed with him, a majority on the supreme court reversed, saying that Vogt was under no duress and didn't have to interact with the deputy. Wrote Justice David T. Prosser for the majority:

Although we acknowledge that this is a close case, we conclude that a law enforcement officer's knock on a car window does not by itself constitute a show of authority sufficient to give rise to the belief in a reasonable person that the person is not free to leave.

Really?

The court adds, "The objective of law enforcement is to protect and serve the community. Accordingly, an officer's interactions with people are not automatically adversarial."

Do you ever get the impression that judges really don't interact with the same police officers the rest of us meet? Or at all?

For the record, Deputy Small told the court that if Vogt had revved the engine and driven away, that would have been fine by him because he "had nothing to stop him for."

Uh huh.

Vogt apparently felt a little boxed in during the encounter, and the appeals court agreed that "when a uniformed officer approaches a vehicle at night and directs the driver to roll down his or her window, a reasonable driver would not feel free to ignore the officer." But this is is a misinterpretation of "social instinct" to defer to authority, says the Supreme Court.

All right, then.

That leaves Vogt screwed. But Wisconsin residents are free to drive away from the cops. That's what the court says.

NEXT: Arrested: 6 Crazy Cops Who Stole Money, Sold Drugs, Dangled Man Off Balcony

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  1. I’ll state the obvious – had he driven away, he would have been pursued, pulled over, and had charges added on top of what he got.

    He got a DUI for sitting in a parked car with the engine on. That in itself is a moronic law.

    1. No kidding. On private property, too, since he was in a parking lot.

      Apparently, if I get blitzed, decide I’d like to listen to some tunes, get in my car and crank the stereo, in my own driveway, I have committed a felony.

      1. I’ve heard of people being charged with DUI for being drunk in a parking lot with their keys in their pocket. A lawyer could easily fight that, but if you don’t have a spare five grand kicking around you’re fucked.

        1. Spare five grand?

          No problem; just go see Bo Cara, Esq., before he graduates and passes the bar. Its kind of like trading the few spare dollars you may have for a prospect – an up and coming lawyer in this case.

          BTW, just read the McD’s thread from this morning – damn – you are the last person here to whom I would ascribe snootiness. TAO or tone cop or whatever the fuck else he’s calling himself these days – WTF?

        2. I had a friend who got real drunk fishing, so his buddies dropped him off at the dockside parking lot and he climbed in the back seat and passed out.

          Someone noticed that he had been passed out for 3 or 4 hours and called the police because they were worried about him.

          The police rolled up, knocked on the window until he woke up and talked with them. They ended up charging him with a DUI because his car keys were in his pocket.

          He ended up getting into some diversionary program because of some plea bargain (due to his otherwise spotless record), but it still cost him an arm and a leg.

          I kept telling him he should go to a jury trial, because there is no way 12 people would agree to convict him for driving under the influence when he had been sleeping in the back seat for 3 hours.

          1. That kind of case is the worst. They are basically punishing people for doing the right thing. If he had driven home drunk, chances are good that he wouldn’t have been caught. They should be congratulating people who have the good sense to sleep it off before driving.

      2. Yes, the law seems to state that having the potential to immanently operate a vehicle — broadly defined as you being in the driver’s seat and the keys being within easy reach — is the standard. Cops don’t have to prove that you were definitely operating the vehicle by moving it.

        1. Cops don’t have to prove that you were definitely operating the vehicle by moving it.

          I know a few people who have had charges dropped because their ($5000) lawyer made the argument that the cop didn’t see the person actually driving. I know others who couldn’t afford a lawyer and got fucked in the exact same situation.

          1. They didn’t have the benefit of Bo Cara, Esq!

        2. In some states, you don’t even have to be in the driver’s seat, or even in the cab of the vehicle. You can be sleeping off the booze in the bed of the truck with the keys in the ignition to run the radio that helps you sleep, and that’s good enough for “actual physical control”.

      3. That DUI laws often apply everywhere is awful. If I want to do drunken donuts in my back yard, what is the compelling state interest in stopping me? I seem to recall reading about someone getting DUI for riding a bike in his own front yard.

        1. I believe a guy was arrested for DUI when he drunkenly walked his motorbike home.

  2. “But Wisconsin residents are free to drive away from the cops. That’s what the court says.”

    You first, J.D. Not worry – We’ll have a whip ’round for your dependents after you get filled with lead.

    1. This is another “we ain’t got a radio” situation begging to happen.

  3. Pretty sure if you drove away the LEO would follow you, flash his lights and pull you over. He would then proceed to either beat or kill you for contempt of cop.

    1. If he didn’t just shoot you as you tried to pull away while he was next to your car.

      1. This.

        You were “threatening” the officer with a 2 ton vehicle. He will be found perfectly “justified” in emptying his gun in you head.

        1. Yep. “Attempted Vehicular Manslaughter,” or whatever they entitle it in the given jurisdiction.

          And, of course, the judge will take the cop’s word, like just about always.

    2. Yeah, but you just know that as soon as one of the Wrong People tries to drive away from a cop and gets busted, the usual suspects will be all “faux rights!” and shit.

      /bitching just to bitch OFF

      1. /bitching being a prick just to bitch be a prick OFF

        Fixed it for you.

        1. Whatever jiggles your handle, Ted. #NoJudgment

        2. Lighten up, Francis – I thought it was a subtle piece of self-depreciating humor.

  4. Although we acknowledge that this is a close case, we conclude that a law enforcement officer’s knock on a car window does not by itself constitute a show of authority sufficient to give rise to the belief in a reasonable person that the person is not free to leave.

    Expect to see more incidents of Maglites crashing through the driver’s side window, or the rear window just being shot out.

  5. I was looking for somewhere to move. Is it cold there in the winter?

    1. It’s cold there now. And it’s fatter than any other place in the world.

      1. “And it’s fatter than any other place in the world.”

        So you have not been to Mississippi or Philadelphia then?

        1. I’ve lived next to Mississippi (Memphis) and Wisconsin (Mpls) and hands down WI is fatter.

          But I don’t blame them the brat blubber is required to make it through the winter.

  6. Okay, so should I squeal out and flip off the cop as I drive away? What’s the etiquette for ignoring cops?

    1. Your pinkies should be off the steering wheel.

      1. Oh, great, thanks. Is it still de rigueur to shout “Fuck, you, pigs!” or is there some more fashionable phrase?

        1. You can also make oinking sounds.

        2. I think that the right phrase is: “What are you going to do, pig-man, arrest me?” That usually works.

    2. Don’t just ignore him.

      As you drive away, shout “I just heard Dunkin Donuts has a fresh batch! Can’t sit around and chat!”

  7. Do you ever get the impression that judges really don’t interact with the same police officers the rest of us meet? Or at all?

    Judges interact with police officers in a different manner. While they sometimes do get arrested, once it’s found out that they’re judges (which I imagine happens early in the intercourse), tones change and authority equalizes if not reverses altogether.

    1. Whereas your “Average Joe” is intercoursed early in his intercourse with the copper.

    2. I have a feeling the judges interact with the police officers and the prosecutors over dinner the night before the trial.

      “OK, here’s what you should argue so that I can then rule this way.”

  8. “Accordingly, an officer’s interactions with people are not automatically adversarial.”

    Considering police are here to, wait for it, police us, I would say ya, theyre adversial.

    Cite: See any story involving police, especially any on here lately.

    1. Oh, c’mon, Toki. I have cops stopping me to ask for directions all the time. Especially when they are executing warrants. Always very friendly and unassuming.

      1. You’re the bastard who keeps sending them to the wrong house! DAMNIT ULOST!

  9. You people are all so cynical! This is a great ruling by the Wisconsin Robed Wonders! Now people will have WAY more free time to use as they see fit, since “a reasonable person” knows that they are “free to leave”, even after a Peace Occifer? “taps” on their car window.

    A “reasonable” person might also assume the same would go for a cop “tapping” on a – house door, a motorcycle helmet, and other similar things, right? Cause – “reasonable”, right?

    Lemme know how that works out, Wisconsinistas.

    1. It’s just like with guns, who would deny “reasonable” regulations.” I mean come on , it’s common sense. You just need to mold your definition of reasonable to theirs and then you’ll understand, until then, you’re just being an obstructionist to freedom.

    2. A “reasonable” person might also assume the same would go for a cop “tapping” on a – house door

      That’s the way I see it. If they don’t have a warrant there’s no reason to answer the door at all.

      1. ixnay on the arrantway!

        Ask to see the warrant and you might just get a good beat down for being uppity:

        http://blogs.citypages.com/blo…..arrest.php

        Cops show up to arrest a guy’s daughter. They guy asks to see the warrant. Next thing you know he’s being transported to the hospital so he can be fixed up enough to be charged with something.

        Extra bonus points for the victim being a local community activist. That really has stirred things up.

        Extra-extra bonus points. Cops forgot to bring in the daughter who was the focus of the original warrant.

        Flowers says his daughter was never taken to the juvenile detention center by officers, they arrested him.
        He says family members actually took her downtown after his arrest.
        WCCO has learned she was released Monday. Family members say the court ruled she had not violated her home monitoring and she had the records to prove it.

        http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/…..-activist/

        1. What – you subbing for sarcasmic or something?

          Ow, ow, ow…..my nuts…

          1. No shit! Owwwww I even bought a titanium Kevlar cup for reading this site and it still wasn’t enough for this story! Glad I don’t want anymore children!

  10. Once the car is put in gear, it is now a lethal weapon.

    The cop may act accordingly.

    1. actually, you can be busted for DUI just with the keys in the ignition.

      1. It’s a good thing he wasn’t also sending a text!

  11. I think Lord Humungus’ offer might have been more believable if he’d said, “Just drive away.” I mean, come on, walk through the Wastes? Yeah, right.

    1. “Just leave the gasoline” – walking would definitely leave more for Lord H. Good point, ProL.

      1. Keep this in mind in case you find yourself in a similar situation as an overlord of the wastes in post-apocalyptic America.

        1. Think of all the troubles Lord Obama has had due to problems of messaging.

          1. The Obamungus: There has been too much violence. Too much pain. But I have an honorable compromise. Just walk away. Give me your Constitution, the rights, the economy, and the whole country, and I’ll spare your lives. Just walk away, and we’ll give you a safe passageway in the wastelands. Just walk away and there will be an end to the horror.

            1. + fucking 7,508,836,492,047,836

              *stands and applauds vigorously*

  12. Lulz – my wife and I were driving the other day, and came up on a cop car parked at a 4 way stop on a rural “highway”. She made some reference to “watching out for the ‘copper'”, and I started laughing….did you REALLY just call him a “copper”? Yes, you did.

    Whence ensued a “You’ll never take me, copper, see!” etc. etc.

    Anyhoo – I thought it was hilarious at the time. Lulz – copper. Just me? OK, I’ll just leave now….

    1. Did you or the misses make finger guns and shoot at him, pew pew, or were you concerned he might see that, then commence to beat you and your wife to death, alleging that he saw a gun?

      1. Isn’t pew-pew more energy weapons than pistols? I mean, you don’t want to totally freak the cops out and get drone-murdered.

        1. I don’t know, you tell me…

          http://i.imgur.com/uQg4I.jpg

    2. That’s why I’ve set my GPS to talk like James Cagney.

      1. Does it slap you if you make a wrong turn?

        1. It tries to, but I took away its little metal arms.

      2. Jimmy Stewart:
        Well I,I, I say turn left here. Yes here.

        1. Charlton Heston: “Turn left, you damned dirty ape!”

        2. Captain Picard:

          Bear left, helmsman. Make it so.

          1. I believe there really is one with John Cleese. I have visions of that being quite abusive.

    3. You are lucky you found the only other human on the planet who understands your humor.

      1. Match made in heaven 🙂

  13. Alternate headline: “Wisconsin Supreme Court wants motorist to be shot by police officers, say that you are free to drive away if one taps on your window.”

    1. Wisconsin residents are free to drive away from the cops. That’s what the court says.

      Yeah and the same court will respond with “procedures were followed” when you get shot to death for obstructing justice.

      1. Naturally.

  14. “The objective of law enforcement is to protect and serve the community.

    Citation Needed.

    1. Your error is in not understanding what cops and government officials mean by “community.” It’s like Plato’s philosopher kings, but without the philosophy part. Or the discipline. Or the ethics. Really, just forget about Plato, will you?

      1. What about the chapter of Republic entitled FYTW?

        1. That’s Pluto, not Plato.

    2. It’s right there on the car.

    3. Citation needed.

      Warren v. District of Columbia
      DeShaney v. Winnebago County
      Castle Rock v. Gonzales
      Barillari v. City of Milwaukee
      Bowers v. DeVito
      Ford v. Town of Grafton
      Lynch v. N.C. Dept. of Justice
      All cites to show police purpose is not to protect any member of the community.

      1. buzzkiller

        *sulks*

        1. Cheer up, Almanian. LFoD is wrong. In each of those cases the police did protect a member of the community, the officers themselves.

          Now, isn’t that better?

  15. OT: It’s 90 degrees out and I just ate a pound of assorted smoke bbq meat. Commence meat sweats.

    1. I recommend 144 oz of cold Lager stat.

      1. I opted for 12 oz of There and Back ESB brewed as a collab between New Glarus and Sierra Nevada as part of the Beer Camp Across America 12 pack. I would’ve gone with the hoppy pils they did with Firestone Walker but I didn’t wanna open the last 12-pack of BCAA I have.

  16. “when a uniformed officer approaches a vehicle at night and directs the driver to roll down his or her window, a reasonable driver would not feel free to ignore the officer.” But this is is a misinterpretation of “social instinct” to defer to authority, says the Supreme Court.

    Am I the only one who is shocked by this statement coming from a court?

    1. Nah. It’s a one-off decision specifically made to uphold the validity of the discovery of intoxication and subsequent DUI arrest.

      Any future cases where the defendant evades police and tries employing this particular precedent as a defense for his fleeing will see this “precedent” overturned with extreme prejudice.

  17. The court left out a key detail:

    the appeals court agreed that “when a uniformed officer approaches a vehicle at night with his hand on his gun and directs the driver to roll down his or her window, a reasonable driver would not feel free to ignore the officer.”

    I don’t care what your outfit is, if you come up to me with your hand on your fucking gun (as is SOP for cops approaching cars), I am not going to feel free to ignore you.

    1. If I’m on a lonely highway at night and I see the flashing cherry in my rearview mirror, I’m continuing at the speed limit until I reach some outpost of civilization — a McDonald’s, a rest stop, whatever. There’s a man with a gun in that car and I’m a lone female in the middle of nowhere.

      The part about the cop tapping on my window with or without his hand on his gun wouldn’t happen until there were witnesses around.

      I’m thinking of printing out the story of Cara Knott and Craig Pyer and carrying it in my glove compartment with my registration. There’s a freeway pass named for Cara now, big consolation. Google that one.

  18. Yesterday I was in my car waiting for my stupid stepson to come home to his dad’s from camp so I could pick him up, and some of the neighbors gave me the hairy eyeball. Next thing I know a cop drives up and asks if everything is OK. I said yes and she drove off.

    1. Isn’t your stepson’s dad a cop?

    2. Next thing I know a cop drives up and asks if everything is OK.

      “Well, it was. Whether it stays that way depends on what you do, doesn’t it?”

    3. Geeez that sounds so fucking irritating,

  19. Well said, Mr. Tucille. Make the ba**ards eat their own cooking. I’d love to see this carried out consistently by every citizen of the state and watch the police and courts go into apoplexy as the decision was thrown back in their respective faces.

  20. Yeah. Right. Ignoring the thugs will work out just fine…

  21. “That leaves Vogt screwed. But Wisconsin residents are free to drive away from the cops. That’s what the court says.”

    Not actually what the judge said. An officer asking to speak with you doesn’t mean you are detained, in a car or walking on the street. If you combine this with other events (you were driving, officer had lights and sirens on, approached your vehicle when you pulled over, etc.) then if you think you are free to leave you will have a rude awakening.

    This is pretty consistent with established case laws around this issue.

    1. @ Wayne….nice to see an intelligent comment on this article!

      1. Agent of the State=libertarian? Not if you toe the “Thin Blue Line”. What is your opinion on shooting dogs? Obeying orders? Filming of police? Using SWAT teams to serve no knock warrants for non violent crimes? How do you feel about the daily nut punches served up virtually every day on this website? Wait, this is Tulpa, right? Nevermind.

        1. @Boom…You asked so I’ll answer…

          1…”Thin Blue Line”….I’ll often give the PO benefit of doubt sans contrary evidence…I don’t agree with ‘the cop’s always right’ mentality because often they are wrong
          2…shooting dogs…as a last defense…if you’re on somebody’s property, the dog will defend the property. Personally, I’d look for another option first.
          3…Obeying orders…rather you like it or not, you should do what the officer says in most instances. The time to argue isn’t when tensions are high. Of course, the cooks on here will bring up illegal orders and I understand that they, of course, can’t be justified
          4…Filming…excellent idea. It keeps the cops in line and is an excellent source of evidence against bad cops.
          5…SWAT for non-violent warrants….STUPID
          6…WTF is Tulpa???

          @ YGBKM….you’re an idiotic keyboard warrior. GFY.

      2. @CopandLibertarian: I hope you die on the job. Preferably tonight.

  22. its awesome,,, Start working at home with Google. It’s a great work at home opportunity. Just work for few hours. I earn up to $100 a day. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. http://www.Fox81.com

  23. How is he supposed to ask the cop to move his car without rolling down the window?

    But let’s be honest. This dude was driving drunk. It’s nice that the judge found a way to encourage us to tell cops to fck off without letting a moron loose on the streets.

  24. I wonder what the judge would say of Vogt had ignored the cop and driven on, and the cop decided Vogt was a criminal running from him, and shot at the car killing the driver.

    I bet the judge would say the driver shouldn’t have fled from the police.

  25. Dicta.

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