The AAA Carolinas’ Foundation for Traffic Safety and city officials from Columbia, South Carolina have announced the launch of a new program thought of to be the first of its kind. The Report A Drunk Driver (RADD) reward campaign will pay citizens $100 for reporting a suspected drunk driver who is later arrested and convicted of driving under the influence.
“We hope that by offering an incentive to report drunk drivers, we can help save lives and not have anyone come here to mourn the death of a drunk driver,” said Jim Cantey, incoming chairman of AAA Carolinas’ Board of Directors, at Friday’s announcement at a local cemetery. “We aren’t as interested in catching drunk drivers as we are in creating an atmosphere that someone who has been drinking – no matter how impaired, will be afraid to drive because everyone is watching.”
Under the new program, people are encouraged to call 911 and provide information on drivers that they suspect are driving drunk. The calls will be coded specifically for the RADD program. If the tip leads to a conviction, the person who reported the drunk driver will be paid $100.
Sure, it will take only a conviction for the tipster to be paid, not merely the tip. But how many people will be stopped simply because of the possibility of the tipster being paid $100.
Does the tip even give the officers the authority to pull someone over when they, themselves, saw nothing that would indicate a DUI?
Unfortunately, in California the answer is yes.
The California Supreme Court, in the 2006 case of People v. Wells, said that “the grave risks posed by an intoxicated highway driver” justifies a brief investigatory stop. The Court found that there are certain dangers alleged in anonymous tips that are so great, such as a person carrying a bomb, which would justify a search even without a showing of reliability. The Court went on to say that a “drunk driver is not at all unlike a bomb, and a mobile one at that.”
The problem with this case is that the Court gives citizens, not officers, the authority to pull someone over (via law enforcement) on suspicion of DUI by simply calling in a tip when there very well be no facts to support the stop.
Before considering whether such a program would be a good thing in California, ask yourself: is the DUI stop coming from an officer who had a factual basis for suspecting a DUI or the factually unverifiable and monetarily motivated claim of a citizen?