Throughout the US, law enforcement is educating the public about the dangers of drunk driving. A drunk driver can be very dangerous to the safety of other road users. This is because their conduct is impaired by alcohol or drug use. A significant part of this education is to report drunk drivers. If you have had a few drinks and a person sees you stumble to the vehicle and begin driving, they could alert the police, who can stop you to verify the claims. A DUI criminal case begins when a traffic officer stops you on suspicion of drunk driving.
Sometimes, the officer can stop you based on an anonymous tip claiming that you were drunk driving. However, the officer must confirm the allegations by performing the necessary tests before arresting you and charging you with the crime. If you face a DUI conviction, you risk facing serious and life-changing consequences. Therefore, if you or your loved one faces a DUI arrest based on an anonymous tip, you will need legal guidance to navigate the case. At Jonathan Franklin DUI Attorney, we offer you the much-needed legal advice to fight DUI charges in Los Angeles, CA.
Can I Be Pulled Over For DUI Based on an Anonymous Tip?
The issue of DUI stops based on an anonymous tip to the police has become quite controversial. The right against being stopped without reasonable suspicion of your drunk driving remains. If a driver operates a vehicle while following all the traffic rules, there would be no suspicion of drunk driving under normal circumstances. Stopping a driver based on an anonymous tip could violate the rights while on the road.
However, since the conduct of one driver could put other road users at risk of injury or death, California law allows traffic officers to rely on an anonymous tip when stopping you for suspected drunk driving. Often people who report a driver for suspected drunk driving may have observed conduct such as speeding, stopping randomly, and swerving.
One of the main challenges police officers face is stopping drunk drivers before they cause serious accidents on the road. Although offices can watch out for drunk drivers through anonymous tips, the limit of unreasonable searches applies to stopping a driver without probable cause to believe that they were engaging in illegal activity. The police cannot stop you and begin an investigation without validating the tips by checking your conduct.
Anonymous Tipsters do not necessarily report drunk driving. In most cases, they report your conduct and are never sure of the reason for your reckless behavior on the road. Everybody makes a mistake once in a while driving. Also, driving errors is not necessarily an indication of driving while under drug or alcohol influence. This means that anyone on the road could be a target for anonymous tipsters, and you can be stopped simply because another person watched you make a mistake.
- To protect drivers from police misconduct and possible abuse, the supreme court stipulates that an anonymous tip is proper when:
- Your vehicle meets the description of the one reported by the tipster. Additionally, a tip is reliable if the reporter can give information on the vehicle's direction. However, the court will not require that the tipster provide a license plate for the vehicle.
- The tipster saw you and can clearly describe your conduct.
- The caller describes how your conduct created a dangerous situation for you and other road users.
- The reliability of the tipster
Validating Anonymous Tips in DUI Cases
The law protects all individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. Therefore, an officer cannot just go around stopping any vehicle based on a tip before a police officer relies on an anonymous tip for suspected drunk driving. The source of the tip must be credible. Otherwise, the tipster must have provided information on the conduct they observed from the driver, which portrayed intoxication. Also, a clear description of the vehicle, the driver, and the direction they were moving will help the police tail the vehicle. Sometimes, tips are not anonymous, and the caller may have malicious intent in claiming that the driver was driving while intoxicated.
The type of conduct described by the tipster about the driver should be put against what a reasonable person would do given the current situation. An anonymous tip may not have a legal bearing unless the traffic officer determines that the information is sufficient to stop the driver and further investigations on drunk driving. If you face an arrest for DUI stemming from an anonymous tip, you need to contact your DUI defense attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer can help gather the necessary evidence to prove that the tip was malicious and irrelevant.
Often when an individual provides a tip to the police, they could be called upon as a witness to the case should the matter go to trial. However, if the tip is anonymous, no one can take accountability for the information provided. Therefore, police officers must make their observations before concluding that you were drunk driving based only on the tip.
Often courts are distinct between a case involving anonymous tipsters and concerned citizens. The difference in the two cases is often on the issue of identification. In most cases, a concerned citizen will not be opposed to giving their identity hen providing a tip for a suspected drunk driver. This means that they are willing to be held accountable and stand for the information they provide. Therefore, their testimony is considered to be more reliable. A person who wants to keep their identity anonymous could have other motives besides notifying the police of illegal conduct.
Arrest for DUI after an Anonymous Tip
The officer relies on the anonymous tip as a probable cause to stop your vehicle for DUI. However, they must follow the right procedure to validate the claims before arresting you or charging you with drunk driving. Based solely on the anonymous tip, the police officer cannot file solid Drunk driving charges against you. You can claim a violation of your rights or a lack of probable cause for arrest as a defense to the charges.
When you stop your vehicle, the police officer will be looking out for obvious signs of intoxication such as:
- Slurred speech
- Bloodshot eyes
- Red Face
- Incoherent responses to questions
- Alcohol or marijuana odor in the vehicle
- Open beer cans in the vehicle
If any of the above is detected, the officer will perform a field sobriety test.
Performing a field sobriety test is the first method a traffic officer can obtain reasonable evidence to support a suspicion of drunk driving. There are different types of field sobriety tests that officers use to determine your stability and level of impairment, including:
- Field sobriety balance tests
- Physical motion impairment tests
Law enforcement officers often use two types of breath tests in DUI cases. The officer will administer a preliminary alcohol screening test when you are stopped on the road. The PAS test is administered using a handheld Breathalyzer device. Unless you are an underage driver or are on DUI probation, you have a right to decline the Breathalyzer test politely.
If your BAC on the PAS test exceeds the legal limit, you will be arrested and taken to the police station. At the station, a post-arrest evidentiary DUI breath test is administered. You can either opt for the post evidentiary breath test or breathe test. Unlike the PAS, the blood test is mandatory, and failure to take the tests could result in serious legal consequences. In most cases, the arresting officer will request a blood test if:
- There is reasonable suspicion that your impairment results from drugs
- You are unconscious
- You cannot blow on the Breathalyzer device to obtain an accurate BAC.
- You were involved in an accident and transferred to a medical facility where the Breathalyzer device is unavailable.
Coupled with a failed field sobriety test and results of the BAC, which exceeds the legal limit, the anonymous tip can be used as a basis for a DUI arrest and criminal charges.
What happens if I am arrested based on an Anonymous Tip and Arrested for DUI without Probable Cause?
A traffic officer can stop you for a DUI investigation based on an anonymous tip. However, they must have probable cause to arrest you and file DUI charges. If you believe that the officer lacked probable cause for arrest, your attorney could file a motion to suppress the evidence collected by the officer. If the motion is successful, all the evidence collected from the time of the unlawful arrest will be suppressed and excluded from your case. However, this will not include the initial signs of intoxication or the tip.
The charges could be dismissed if the evidence collected after the arrest was substantial to your case. If you face an arrest and charges for DUI, seeking legal guidance is crucial.
The basis for a DUI Arrest
Even when an anonymous tip is submitted to the traffic officers alleging that you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, an officer must have probable cause to arrest and detain you. An arrest is an invasion of privacy and the beginning of criminal proceedings. Therefore, the justification needed to arrest you is higher than that required to stop you from DUI investigations.
A hunch, tip, or suspicion for DUI cannot suffice in a DUI proceeding. Therefore, an officer should pinpoint specific facts that indicate that you were under the influence. Facts that could constitute a probable cause for a DUI Arrest in California Include:
- Poorly performed or failed the sobriety test. A traffic officer should observe you within fifteen minutes of completing a field sobriety test to determine if your conduct seems impaired. Failing the test could prompt the officer to detain you for further investigation.
- A high blood alcohol content. After performing a field sobriety test, the officer could use a Breathalyzer device to check your BAC through your breath. The legal BAC limit for driving on a standard driver’s license is 0.08%, while commercial drivers and underage drivers are 0.04% and 0.01% consecutively. If the results of your Breathalyzer test show a BAC that exceeds the legal limit, you can be arrested and taken to the police station.
- Exhibiting physical signs of intoxication. A DUI arrest could be based on your BAC levels or your conduct while operating the vehicle. If an officer observes the apparent sins of drunkenness, this could be a basis to detain you.
Although the arresting officer will not share the arrest facts with you, they can indicate them in their police report. If you are charged with DUI, your DUI defense attorney could request to look at the police report. This will help you understand the arrest’s details and build a strong defense by creating doubt in the officer’s probable cause of arrest.
Find a DUI Defense Attorney Near Me
In California, you can only be stopped for DUI at DUI checkpoints or if the traffic officer suspects that you are drunk driving. Unfortunately, an officer can stop you if they receive an anonymous tip that you are driving while impaired. If the officer can confirm these allegations through a sobriety test and the BAC test, you will face an arrest and charges for DUI. A conviction for drunk will not only land you in jail but could also attract a suspension or revocation of your driver’s license.
Most anonymous tips to the police are not always correct, and a mistake of facts could land you in legal trouble. Therefore, seeking legal guidance is crucial when facing DUI charges based on an anonymous tip. At Jonathan Franklin DUI Attorney, we can help you investigate the circumstances of your case and shed doubt on the factuality of the anonymous tip. This will help build a solid defense against your DUI charges and ensure the best possible outcome in your case. We serve clients seeking legal guidance to fight DUI charges in Los Angeles, CA. Call us today at 323-464-6700 to discuss the details of your case.