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Legal Memorandum: Pacing Standards for a Police Officer in WI

Issue: What is a sufficient length of time or distance that a police officer must follow (‘pacing’ it) in order to stop a motor vehicle for speeding in Wisconsin and other jurisdictions?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Police officer to follow distance; Stop a vehicle for speeding; Pacing
Jurisdiction: Wisconsin
Cited Cases: 482 N.W.2d 669; 416 N.W.2d 60; 281 Wis. 2d 114; 694 N.W.2d 509
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 12/01/2008

Explicit standards in training manuals or other material for law enforcement officers are hard to find.  A U.S. Army Field Manual for law enforcement sets the standard at three-tenths of a mile.  A manual issued by the Florida Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement refers only to an “adequate” distance.  The situation is perhaps best summed up by an anonymous commenter on one online law enforcement forum*FN1 who said that “there is no ‘gold standard’ for pacing. There is no clear ‘you must follow for X feet’ or "you must be within x yards" type of answers . . .”

WISCONSIN CASES

City of Hartford v. Flynn, 167 Wis. 2d 487; 482 N.W.2d 669 (table) (Wis. App. 1992 (unpublished) (officer who paced defendant for approximately three-tenths of a mile had reasonable suspicion to stop the defendant)

State v. Baudhuin, 141 Wis. 2d 642; 416 N.W.2d 60 (1987) (officer who followed defendant for “six or seven blocks” while traveling under twenty-five miles per hour was justified in stopping the defendant to see if he needed assistance; officer testified that defendant probably was committing an infraction but he did not intend to arrest or cite him).

State v. Lulloff, 2005 WI App 59; 280 Wis. 2d 556; 694 N.W.2d 509 (2005) (unpublished) review denied 2005 WI 60, 281 Wis. 2d 114, 697 N.W.2d 472


(officer who paced a motorcycle for approximately one mile had reasonable […]

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