Washington, D.C. – The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that police can pull over a driver for reckless or drunken driving based solely on an anonymous 911 tip without an officer actually witnessing the individual’s driving.
The 5-4 decision by justices can be seen as a victory for some, but as Justice Scalia wrote in his dissenting opinion “All of us on the road, and not just drug dealers, are at risk …”
The case before the Supreme Court centered on a California man who was arrested from possessing thirty pounds of marijuana in 2008 after a traffic stop which he claims violated his Fourth Amendment rights.
On that night, an unidentified woman called 911 to report that a pickup truck sideswiped her and ran her off the road. The caller was able to give a description of the vehicle including the make, model and tag number. That was enough information to locate the vehicle.
Police followed the pickup truck for five minutes before they initiated a stop. It doesn’t appear that during those five minutes the driver was being reckless, but he was pulled over regardless. As officers approached the vehicle they noticed a strong odor of marijuana emanating from the truck. In the search, police found thirty pounds of marijuana and placed the driver, Jose Prado Navarette, under arrest for drug trafficking.
Navarette challenged his arrest and charges because he said police did not have reasonable suspicion to conduct the stop. And police did not have could not identify the 911 caller and have no way to tell if the tip was reliable.
Five of the justices however disagreed with that argument and held that police can stop a […]