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Supreme Court: anonymous tip justifies DUI arrest - effect in CA

On behalf of Kenneth Krebs of Law Offices of Karlstrom & Krebs posted in Drunk Driving on Thursday, May 29, 2014.

The Supreme Court of the United States, or SCOTUS, recently issued a holding that is causing legal debate throughout the country. The ruling centers on whether or not an anonymous tip alone can provide just cause for a stop. The case that was considered by the Court involved a phone call to a 911 dispatcher. The person making the call claimed that a driver almost ran her off the road and that she suspected the other driver was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Based on this call, police began following the vehicle.

The facts of the case appear to indicate that the driver was not driving suspiciously. Yet, the police pulled the car over. During the stop, sufficient evidence was found to warrant a DUI arrest.

According to the Supreme Court, the tip was enough to justify the stop. Critics argue that this is an infringement of our basic Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

According to the Supreme Court, the tip was enough to justify the stop. Critics argue that this is an infringement of our basic Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. Generally, police officers cannot simply stop a vehicle without just cause. Such an act would qualify as a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Instead, an officer must be able to defend the stop, justifying it with evidence that the driver was swerving, speeding or otherwise operating the vehicle in an unsafe manner. There were no such observations in the above case. The only justification for the stop was the tip.

The holding is important since rulings from the Supreme Court are applicable throughout the country, including here in California. As a result, there could be an increase in stops by officers who receive an anonymous tip. However, the Court did provide some stipulations and noted that anonymous tips rarely provide just cause. As a result, those who are charged with a DUI based on a stop justified by an anonymous tip should contact an attorney to help review the case and make sure their legal rights are protected.

Source: Supreme Court of the United States, " Prado Navarette et al. v. California," April 22, 2014