Empower yourself with our plain-English information
Enter Your Zip Code to Connect with a Lawyer Serving Your Area
The U.S. Supreme Court recently broadened the class of anonymous tips that justify detention by law enforcement. In the case before it, a California Highway Patrol officer pulled over a pickup truck because of an anonymous report that the driver had run another motorist off the road. After detaining the truck, the officer and another who arrived on scene found 30 pounds of marijuana in its bed. (The officers reported that they smelled the drug as they approached the vehicle.) (Navarette v. California, 572 U. S. ____ (2014).)
The truck’s occupants moved to suppress evidence of the marijuana on the grounds that the tip didn’t establish reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop. But the Court said the tip, standing alone, was sufficient. Even though the officer didn’t observe any erratic driving in the short period of time before he pulled the vehicle over, he had enough to detain it on suspicion of drunk driving. The Court observed that:
As the four dissenting Justices remarked, the ruling essentially means that, “So long as the caller identifies where the car is, anonymous claims of a single instance of possibly careless or reckless driving, called in to 911, will support a traffic stop.”
It’s possible that some state courts will rely on their own constitutions rather than the federal Constitution on this issue—in that way, they might require further corroboration of anonymous tips before allowing officers to act on them. But the Supreme Court’s ruling will probably be the controlling law throughout most of the country.