In previous years, a phone call of suspicious driving has been utilized in catching drunk drivers nationwide, but as the United States Supreme Court looks further into this, debate on the legality has escalated tremendously.
The specific incident sparking this argument transpired recently after a 911 dispatcher received a telephone call from a California female claiming another vehicle ran the caller off the road thus providing her reasonable doubt that the driver was under the influence of illegal substances and/or alcohol. From this suspected behavior, local officers traced, followed and pulled the alleged automobile over.
Other information pertinent to the case, which was revealed later, indicated that the driver wasn’t in fact driving suspiciously; however police still pulled the car over. The stop transpired into a DUI arrest where the officer believed sufficient evidence was present, warranting the arrest.
The Supreme Court argues that the tip was reason enough to pull the vehicle over, but critics disagree, explaining this is an infringement of our basic fourth amendment rights, protecting U.S. citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures.
Please take note, it’s obvious officers cannot pull anyone over just because they feel like it; they need just cause, which is why Supreme Court is debating whether or not the tip provided adequate evidence.
The legal holding is vital due to the fact that Supreme Court rulings affect California as well as America entirely. The amount of officers pulling citizens over based on anonymous tips is on the rise. Is this constitutional? The resolution has yet to be determined.
The Fourth Amendment plays an essential role in this case. Keep in mind that the officer was just doing his job to keep the California streets safe from preventing any and all accidents caused or related to drinking and driving.
With that being said, the police must be able to defend any arrests with sufficient evidence to back up all claims including physically observing swerving, speeding as well as driving recklessly. If the officer did not witness these acts personally, is he able to utilize an anonymous tip from a stranger to track down a car and pull them over? What gives this anonymous caller credibility? Who this caller is could be a determining factor on whether to take the call seriously or not. Unfortunately, it’s anonymous, meaning the dispatcher doesn’t know who is on the other line, which is precisely what the Supreme Court is currently deciphering.
The court did provide stipulation, and said that most tips rarely provide just cause. Therefore, anyone charged with a DUI solely based on a tip should seek legal counsel immediately to review the case and confirm their legal rights are protected.
The Supreme Court will continue to debate this issue until a decision arises. Until then, the only line of defense California residents and American citizens alike have are to avoid drinking and driving at all costs. Remember to always have a designated driver or a predetermined strategy to avoid an officer suspecting suspicious behavior.