Can the Police Use an Anonymous Tip to Stop You For a DUI Check?

Can an anonymous tip provide the police with probable cause to stop you for suspicion of driving while intoxicated? A 2014 Supreme Court decision says yes, and this has serious implications for your civil rights. In Navarette v. California, the court ruled 5-4 that, based on an anonymous call, police had the right to stop a driver to check if they are intoxicated.

Angry police officer pulls over drunk driver, driving with an open beer.

The facts of the case were as follows:

On August 2008, a Humboldt County, California 911 dispatcher received a call from a driver. She reported that five minutes earlier she had been driven off the Pacific Coast Highway by a silver Ford Pickup truck (license number supplied).

Highway Patrol officers identified and trailed the vehicle. Although they did not detect any unusual activity, they pulled it over. The police found that the truck’s driver, Lorenzo Navarette, and his passenger, Jose Navarette, were not intoxicated. However, they were transporting 30 pounds of weed.

During the trial, the defendants claimed that the police had violated their fourth amendment rights since they did not have the reasonable suspicion needed to stop them. When the judge denied the motion, the defendant then pleaded guilty. He was given a 90-day jail sentence for transporting marijuana.

The Navarettes later appealed to the appellate court, but the judge once again ruled against them. They then elevated their appeal to the US Supreme Court. The Court once against found against the defendants, saying that if an anonymous tip provides reasonable doubt by demonstrating sufficient reliability, the police could make an investigatory stop.

In his dissent, however, Justice Scalia pointed out that the majority decision meant one of our basic freedoms, the right to come and go as we please, has now been curtailed. On the basis of an anonymous phone tip, undue police interference could affect our freedom of movement on the roads.

What does this ruling mean for you, the ordinary driver? Basically, it allows the police to stop you for suspicion of drunk driving when they receive a phone call or tip about you, even if they have no other basis to believe that you are drunk. The tip itself is enough to provide probable cause to stop you.

Of course, once the police stop you, they will need to validate their suspicions in order to prosecute you. This usually means that you are given a field sobriety test, a blood or urine test, or a breathalyzer test. The results will provide a basis for charging you with a DUI if they come back positive. The prosecution may also use the officers’ observations as additional evidence.

Hence, if you have been arrested for a DUI on the basis of an anonymous tip, you’ll need the services of a lawyer. Your lawyer can investigate the circumstances of your case so that they can shed doubt on the factuality of the tip.

Attorney Gary L. Rohlwing is an experienced criminal attorney that has defended thousands of DUI cases. He can help you get the best possible outcome and avoid the more serious consequences of a DUI conviction.

You can get in touch with the Law Offices of Gary L. Rohlwing at (623) 937-1692 or visit his website.

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