Throughout the United States, law enforcement has made many efforts to educate people about the dangers of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. One part of the education process is using a call of action: report drunk drivers. For instance, you may see a posted sign telling you to call 911 when you notice an individual driving drunk on California city streets or freeways. It does seem simple to report a drunk driver. You call 911 and an officer stops the driver. However, a recent U.S. Supreme Court case just made the issue more complex.
Navarette v. California
This case placed two questions before the Court. The first involved the Fourth Amendment. Does the Fourth Amendment require an officer who receives an anonymous tip about a drunk driver to corroborate the dangerous driving behavior prior to the traffic stop? The second question pertained to the facts of the case. Does an anonymous tip that is uncorroborated that a driver ran someone off the road create reasonable suspicion?
In 2008, dispatchers received a call from Humboldt County. A driver anonymously reported being run off the road by another vehicle. The dispatched officers, looking for the driver, spotted the vehicle. The police executed a traffic stop.
An Anonymous Tip That Leads to a Traffic Stop is Constitutional
On April 22, 2014, the Supreme Court issued its ruling. A traffic stop that results from an anonymous tip is constitutional. This means that if someone suspects you have been drinking, he or she can call 911. Once the police find you, you can be stopped under reasonable suspicion of driving under the influence.
Prior court decisions based reasonable suspicion on three factors:
- An officer’s observations.
- The information officer’s had at the time of the traffic stop.
- The reliability of the information.
The Navarette decision further establishes that the above factors are constitutional and apply to traffic stops based on anonymous tips.
According to the Justices, the circumstances and call regarding the incident served as strong enough evidence to create reasonable suspicion of a DUI driver. The Court decided in this case that the tips showed evidence of reliability to provide reasonable suspicion to make a traffic stop for further investigation.
While this decision is important, it also highlights the complexities regarding reasonable suspicion and probable cause. Our team of lawyers at the Law Offices of Jonathan Franklin always explore every issue related to defending our clients and their rights. Call today to schedule your free consultation.