Many times, police are alerted of possible impaired driving through an Anonymous Tip. Essentially, a caller gives police a tip that something illegal is happening, or someone is doing something that might bring harm to others around them. Importantly, callers don’t have to give their name, hence the name Anonymous Tip. When officer pull someone over based on an Anonymous Tip, it triggers a complex legal analysis.
Three Factors for Weighing an Anonymous Tip
Courts look at three main factors for Anonymous Tips:
- Its accuracy,
- The reliability, and
- The tipster’s basis of information.
Courts also balance the quality and quantity of information in a tip; accurate nuggets of information versus a list of things that may or may not be true.
Anonymous Tip as Basis for DUI Arrest
In DUI cases, an arrest based heavily or all on a tip is often found unlawful. Developing reasonable suspicion requires more than the words of a random person. Generally, police have to verify the tip by finding the car that the caller described. Mainly, they should corroborate, or confirm the tip by making their own observations and developing similar suspicions. Once they find their own reasons, the tip can serve as a supporting piece in their decision to pull someone over – not the main reason they pulled them over.
Overall, know that anyone has the right to call 911 and offer information about anyone else concerning suspicious behavior. That call might be about your unusual driving, and that tip might lead to an arrest. However it is rare that an anonymous tip alone will hold up in court to justify your arrest. Police must use the tip as the start of their own investigation and suspicions before infringing on your 4th amendment rights against unreasonable stops and seizures.