COURT OF APPEALS
DATED AND FILED
December 16, 2010
Acting Clerk of Court of Appeals
This opinion is subject to
further editing. If published, the
official version will appear in the bound volume of the Official
A party may file with the
Supreme Court a petition to review an adverse decision by the Court of
Appeals. See Wis. Stat. § 808.10 and Rule 809.62.
STATE OF WISCONSIN
IN COURT OF
State of Wisconsin,
George C. Greenwood,
from a judgment of the circuit court for Iowa County: william
d. dyke, Judge. Affirmed.
¶1 LUNDSTEN, J. George
Greenwood appeals his conviction for operating a motor vehicle while under the
influence of an intoxicant as a second offense.
He challenges the denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained as
the result of a traffic stop. He argues
that the stop was invalid because it was based on a mistake of law. He also asserts that the circuit court made
clearly erroneous findings of fact. I
disagree and affirm.
¶2 On June 27, 2009, at approximately 12:25 a.m., a police
officer was traveling westbound on a road in Iowa County. The officer observed an eastbound motorcycle,
driven by George Greenwood. The officer
testified that, as he observed the motorcycle, he did not see a white lamp illuminating
its registration plate, contrary to Wis.
Stat. § 347.13(3). The
officer did a U-turn, followed the motorcycle, and still did not see a lamp
illuminating the motorcycle’s registration plate. The officer initiated a traffic stop.
¶3 The stop led to evidence of intoxication, Greenwood’s arrest, and a charge of operating
a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant as a second
moved to suppress, and the circuit court denied this motion and Greenwood’s motion for
reconsideration. Greenwood then entered a plea of no
makes two arguments, both directed at the circuit court’s denial of his motion
to suppress. As the following explains,
I reject both arguments.
argues that the evidence of his intoxication should be suppressed because the
traffic stop was based on the officer’s mistaken understanding of the law. Greenwood points
to testimony where the officer indicated that he was not familiar with the type
of registration plate on Greenwood’s motorcycle,
which was “dark blue with green highlights,” and Greenwood suggests that what led to the stop was
the officer’s mistaken belief that this type of plate was not legal. For support, Greenwood
cites State v. Longcore, 226 Wis.
2d 1, 594 N.W.2d 412 (Ct. App. 1999). See
at 9 (stating that “a lawful stop cannot be predicated upon a mistake of
¶6 I reject Greenwood’s
argument because it relies on the flawed premise that the officer stopped him because
his motorcycle did not have the proper registration plate. The record does not support this view.
¶7 Greenwood appears to be
focused on several statements by the officer at the suppression hearing
relating to the type of registration plate that was on Greenwood’s motorcycle. The officer’s statements suggested that he
was unfamiliar with the type of plate on Greenwood’s
motorcycle and did not know at the time of the stop that legal registration
plates came in its color. It is
undisputed that Greenwood’s
registration plate was legal. Greenwood, however, does
not explain why the officer’s possible mistake about the color of the plate
¶8 The officer testified that the reason for the stop was his belief
was violating an illumination
requirement found in Wis. Stat. § 347.13(3). Section § 347.13(3) states that “[n]o
person shall operate on a highway during hours of darkness any motor vehicle
upon the rear of which a registration plate is required to be displayed unless
such motor vehicle is equipped with a lamp so constructed and placed as to
illuminate with a white light the rear registration plate and render it clearly
legible from a distance of 50 feet to the rear.” The circuit court credited the officer’s
testimony that a § 347.13(3) violation was the reason for the stop, and Greenwood offers no basis for
setting aside that finding.
¶9 Thus, I reject Greenwood’s
mistake of law argument.
also points to the circuit court’s finding that his motorcycle’s illumination
of the registration plate was inadequate, as it failed “to provide illumination
at 50 feet.” He asserts that this
finding was clearly erroneous and “must be reversed” because there was no
evidence supporting it. I disagree.
¶11 A review of the circuit court’s findings of fact is highly
deferential and the findings will not be set aside unless they are clearly
erroneous. See Royster-Clark, Inc. v. Olsen’s
Mill, Inc., 2006 WI 46, ¶11, 290 Wis.
2d 264, 714 N.W.2d 530. “[T]his court
defers to the circuit court’s findings of fact unless they are unsupported by
the record and are, therefore, clearly erroneous.” Id.
asserts that the circuit court erroneously determined that the motorcycle’s
illumination was inadequate. He asserts
that there is “no evidence” supporting the inadequate illumination finding
because “[n]o testimony was taken as to the measuring of the lamp illumination
from a distance of 50 feet.” The problem
with this argument is that Greenwood
does not explain why any “measuring” is required where, as here, the officer
gave testimony supporting a finding that there was inadequate illumination. For example, the officer testified to seeing
no light when the motorcycle “passed [the officer’s] position,” again after
making a U-turn when the officer “approach[ed] the vehicle,” and finally after
the officer had stopped the motorcycle. It
was reasonable for the circuit court to infer from this testimony that the illumination,
if any, was inadequate.
¶13 Greenwood asserts that the
circuit court’s finding has effectively “deemed all Kawasaki motorcycles with the same taillight apparatus
as inadequate to illuminate the registration plate,” and he suggests that such
a finding is erroneous. Greenwood does
not, however, point to such a finding, but rather apparently gleans it from the
court’s findings that the same bulb provided illumination for both the taillight
and registration plate, that the taillight illumination was functioning, and
that the lighting apparatus was a factory original. I simply note that, even assuming for the
sake of argument that this broad implied finding was made, Greenwood points to no evidence in the record
contradicting it and, similarly, provides no basis for setting it aside as
By the Court.—Judgment affirmed.
This opinion will not be published. Wis.
Stat. Rule 809.23(1)(b)4.