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Supreme Court To Decide If Anonymous Tip Is Enough For Dui Stop


The United States Supreme Court has decided to hear a California case that would determine whether law enforcement can stop a car based solely on an anonymous tip that the driver may be driving drunk. Although the case itself does not involve a California DUI, the decision would impact the ability of police to pull over for a California DUI.

In August 2008, a California Highway Patrol dispatcher received a call from a motorist who had been run off the Highway 1 near Fort Bragg by someone driving a pickup truck. The anonymous caller provided the license plate number of the pickup. A short time later, CHP spotted the pickup and pulled it over. As the CHP officers approached, they smelled marijuana and discovered four bags of it in the bed of the pickup.

The occupants of the pickup were identified as Lorenzo and Jose Navarette. The brothers plead guilty to transporting marijuana after they unsuccessfully attempted to challenge the constitutionality of the search. Both were sentenced to 90 days in jail.

The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco relied on the 2006 California Supreme Court ruling of People v. Wells in upholding the conviction. The Court in that case said that “the grave risks posed by an intoxicated highway driver” justifies a brief investigatory stop. It 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.”

In its 3-0 ruling, the appellate court said, “The report that the (Navarettes’) vehicle had run someone off the road sufficiently demonstrated an ongoing danger to other motorists to justify the stop without direct corroboration of the vehicle’s illegal activity.”

Let’s just hope that when the United States Supreme Court decides the case, the arguments of which will probably be held in January, they’ll consider the fact that the lower court is assuming that the anonymous tipster has personal knowledge of reckless driving. If the United States Supreme Court also upholds the convictions and follows the rationale of the Wells case, police can lawfully pull someone over for a California DUI if anyone makes an “anonymous tip” even if they don’t have personal knowledge of reckless driving.

The post Supreme Court to Decide if Anonymous Tip is Enough for DUI Stop appeared first on Law Offices of Taylor and Taylor - DUI Central.

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