WI Cop Had Probable Cause For Blood Test After Car Shows Up In Ditch

Wisconsin case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: DWI/OWI probable cause.

State of Wisconsin v. Lawrence A. Levasseur, Jr.. WI DWI/OWI probable cause.

One Wednesday afternoon, a car driven by Lawrence A. Levasseur, Jr., wound up in a Wood County, Wisconsin, ditch. A police officer arrived and found the unattended vehicle that had run off the road, hit a culvert, and went about 15 yards before stopping. One of the front tires was flat.

Levasseur approached the officer that the car went out of control when he got a flat tire. The officer later testified that he detected the strong odor of alcohol, and Levasseur said that he had consumed one alcoholic beverage that morning. The officer conducted some field sobriety tests, all of which Levasseur passed, albeit marginally. Because the officer was on the "edge of suspicion," he asked Levasseur to take a portable breath test (PBT). The result of the PBT was .10.

The officer then arrested Levasseur and read various warnings. Levasseur then consented to a blood test. Levasseur moved to suppress the results of the test, and alleged that the officer didn't have probably cause to justify the PTB. This motion was denied by the circuit court. He was convicted of operating a motor vehicle with a prohibited alcohol concentration, his second offense. After this conviction, Levasseur appealed to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals held that there was sufficient probable cause. The court examined a number of earlier precedents and compared them to the facts of this case.

The Court of Appeals also looked at the language on the form read to the defendant before the blood test. The defendant argued that some of the warnings on the form were omitted, but the Court pointed out that these warnings applied to commercial drivers, and their omission from this case was not error.

For these reasons, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Circuit Court.

No. 2013AP2369-CR (Wis. Ct. App. Feb. 6, 2014).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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