A Supreme Court case involving anonymous tips and traffic stops highlights the possible ways in which people's constitutional rights may be violated. Although in this case the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the State of California (and its law enforcement officers), their ruling still leaves important questions unanswered.
In Navarette vs. California, the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 in favor of the constitutionality of police officers in a 2008 arrest. In 2008, a woman called 911 and said that Navarette had just run her off the road with his vehicle. Police stopped him shortly after. It's important to keep in mind that the police themselves didn't see him do anything wrong on the road, and that at this point they were working off of an anonymous tip via 911.
After they pulled him over and approached his vehicle, they smelled marijuana. They subsequently searched his vehicle and discovered 30 lbs. of marijuana.
The question at the heart of this case is whether the police had reasonable suspicion to pull over his vehicle initially. Was a tip from 911 enough to lead to a traffic stop? (The traffic stop that then led to the discovery of evidence for marijuana possession?)
The five Justices who ruled in favor of the State of California are saying that, in some circumstances, an anonymous tip would be sufficient reason for police officers to initiate a traffic stop. But what are the circumstances in which it's allowable? And when would a 911 call be insufficient, particularly when there's no other evidence or suggestion of a crime? These aren't easy questions to answer.
One of the reasons it's important to contact a reputable criminal defense attorney is to safeguard your constitutional rights. The police don't have the right to search your vehicle (or other property) under any and all circumstances. Whether or not they're allowed to do so can be a gray area. You need an attorney on your side who can advocate on your behalf and make sure that any evidence police obtain has been collected legally.
Since 1999, we have represented several hundred individuals charged with misdemeanor and felony charges, including DUI and Juvenile Matters. Our office is located near the Southwest Detention Facility in Murrieta. If you or a loved one has been arrested in Temecula, Murrieta, Hemet, Lake Elsinore, Corona or Riverside, call us for a free consultation.