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United States Supreme Court Decides When Anonymous Call Can Lead To A Traffic Stop

The Supreme Court recently decided the important question of what circumstances justify the police relying on a 911 call in order to stop a motor vehicle. The case arose from a California case in which a California Highway Patrol officer stopped a pick up truck because it matched the description of a vehicle that a 911 caller had recently reported as having run her off the road. As the police officers approached the pick up truck, they smelled marijuana and conducted a warrantless search of the pick up truck’s bed and found 30 pounds of marijuana. The occupants of the pick truck made a motion to suppress evidence arguing that the 911 call was not a valid basis to stop the truck when led to the search in which the marijuana was found.

The Supreme Court held that the 911 caller’s information was sufficiently reliable to allow a motor vehicle stop. The caller’s information was detailed and gave the police a reasonable suspicion that the pick up truck driver may have been under the influence because running someone off the road is consistent with being drunk. In summary, the Court reaffirmed the principle that under appropriate circumstances, an anonymous tip can demonstrate “sufficient indicia of reliability to provide reasonable suspicion to make an investigatory stop.”

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