Anonymous Tips Can Justify DWI Stops
A police officer must have a reasonable suspicion that a driver has committed an offense in order to legally stop the driver. For cases of driving while intoxicated, the officer usually must witness driver behavior that suggests that the driver is impaired. A 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling set a precedent that an officer can stop a vehicle based on an anonymous tip, even if the officer does not witness the alleged behavior. If your DWI arrest stemmed from an anonymous tip, your defense can question the credibility of the tip and argue that it did not create enough reasonable suspicion to allow the officer to legally stop you. Your defense will ask several questions about the nature of the anonymous tip:
- How Detailed Was the Tip?: A witness providing a credible tip about a drunk driver should say more than “I saw a drunk driver.” Did the anonymous source describe why he or she thought the driver was drunk? Was the source personally affected by the driver’s behavior? Did the source sound coherent when giving the explanation? The prosecution has a heavy burden to prove the credibility of the tip because it cannot prove the source’s personal credibility.
- Did the Information Create a Reasonable Suspicion?: An anonymous source is likely a private citizen who is not trained to judge whether a driver may be impaired. Some driving mistakes do not reach the level of impaired driving, but the witness still reports it as suspicious activity. The witness may have seen a supposedly intoxicated person walking towards his or her car without seeing that person actually get in the vehicle and drive away.
- How Was the Tip Reported?: Courts find an anonymous tip to be more credible if the person giving the tip believes that he or she may not remain anonymous. A person is unlikely to make a false report by calling 911 because the operator can trace the call. However, that idea assumes that the person knows that emergency responders have caller ID. The defense will question the credibility of any witness who did not wish to identify him or herself to the police.
- Is There a Transcript of the Conversation?: A recorded call of the anonymous tip provides a clear record of what the witness said. The defense can analyze the recording for inconsistencies or evidence that the tip was not credible. Without a recording, the prosecution relies on the testimony of the person who received the tip. The defense can question that person’s memory of what the anonymous source said and how the person interpreted that information.
Police officers will use unreliable anonymous tips to stop drivers for suspicion of DWI. A San Antonio DWI defense attorney at the Law Offices of Sam H. Lock can dismantle the prosecution’s case by proving that the initial traffic stop was illegal. To schedule a free consultation, call 888-726-5625.