The United States Supreme Court has issued a ruling regarding search and
seizure based upon an anonymous tip.
Many anonymous tips received by police are bolstered by independent police
observation. An example of this is where a call of erratic driving is
received and, upon sighting the vehicle, the officer also sees erratic
driving. In this case, there is independent probable cause based upon
actual police observation.
Anonymous tips on their own, often times, do not carry sufficient indicia
of reliability to justify a stop.
Navarrete v. California
, the United States Supreme Court held that the anonymous tip had sufficient
indicia of reliability because the reporting citizen indicated she had
been run off the road by a specific vehicle. She claimed an eyewitness
basis of knowledge and a very short time elapsed between the incident
and the report. The court also found that the tip further created a reasonable
suspicion of drunk driving based upon the above; the officer's failure
to observe additional suspicious conduct did not dispel the reasonable
The court is often unimpressed with anonymous tip information. There is
always a danger of a false tipster. Therefore, the important questions
essentially are, "does the caller possess sufficient intimate knowledge
of an incident, can he/she describe actual conduct rather than mere conclusory
allegations and is it near in time (e.g., between observation and calling
911)? Also, is the conduct possibly dangerous, such as being run off the
road, thereby creating a public safety consideration?
It is important to know the court considered this a close case. In order
to preclude a flood of searches based on "someone saw something"
information. I believe the court will try to limit the extent of this
type of reasonable cause. If one factor of this observation was missing,
I do not believe the court would have rendered this verdict.
Contact the law office of Barney B. Gibbs if you or a loved one has been
charged with a crime. Put his 30 years of experience and knowledge to
work for you.