As cities and states throughout the country have cracked down on drunk driving, many efforts have been made to educate the public about the dangers of impaired driving and to unite them in reporting drunk drivers. As a result, it's likely that you've seen signs telling you to report drunk drivers on city streets and freeways. Typically, these signs will tell you to call 911. While it may seem simple to report a drunk driver and have a law enforcement officer stop them, a recent Supreme Court case showed that this issue can be a little more complicated.
Last month – on April 22, 2014 – the Supreme Court issued a ruling that a traffic stop based on an anonymous tip was constitutional. The case – Navarette v. California – involved a driver who had been run off the road by another motorist. The driver reported the incident to 911. A short time later, a law enforcement officer located the vehicle and executed a traffic stop.
In the past, court decisions have clarified that reasonable suspicion could be based on independent observations from officers, as well as the information officers have and its reliability. The decision reached in Navarette v. California also found that these points apply to cases where stops are executed on anonymous tips.
In this particular case, the Supreme Court ruled that the call and the circumstances surrounding the incident – the tipsters' immediate call and the detailed information provided – served as enough evidence to create reasonable suspicion that the motorist may have been driving under the influence. According to the Supreme Court, tips demonstrate sufficient signs of reliability "to provide reasonable suspicion to make an investigatory stop."
While this is an important decision, it is also one that highlights complexities surrounding probable cause and reasonable suspicion. At the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, our Orange County DUI lawyers always explore these issues in relation to our clients' cases when defending their rights.
To learn more about your rights and how our firm can help after a DUI arrest, call (949) 537-2202.