It is not uncommon for a person that observes someone driving erratically to call 911 to report reckless driving. If a police officer stops a driver based on an anonymous tip, however, and the driver is subsequently charged with DUI, an issue often arises regarding whether a 911 call in and of itself is grounds for reasonable suspicion that a crime or traffic violation was committed. Despite a United States Supreme Court ruling addressing the issue of whether an anonymous tip is sufficient to warrant a traffic stop, the law largely remains unsettled throughout the country as shown by a recent Ohio case in which the court stated it would hear oral arguments regarding whether a bystander’s warning is adequate cause for effectuating a traffic stop. If you were charged with DUI in Illinois after being stopped due to a 911 call, it is prudent to speak with an assertive Illinois DUI defense attorney to discuss your rights.
Facts of the Ohio Case
Allegedly, the defendant was stopped by a police officer and charged with DUI after a passerby yelled to the officer that the defendant was drunk. In response to the assertion, the officer stopped the defendant and noticed she had signs of intoxication, including slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, and an odor of alcohol. The passerby was never identified. The defendant argued that the stop was not justified, as the officer was only acting on an anonymous tip of uncertain reliability and, therefore, did not have reasonable suspicion that the defendant was committing a crime. The lower courts found in favor of the defendant, noting that the tip lacked any details regarding why the passerby believed the defendant was intoxicated.
Rulings Regarding DUI Arrests Arising Out of Anonymous Tips
In Navarette v. California, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a tip provided by an anonymous source in a 911 call was sufficiently reliable to justify a traffic stop, as it provided details regarding the make and model of the car and details regarding the fact that the car was being driven erratically. The Court further stated that because the call made through the 911 system it was reliable because the calls are recorded, and people may be prosecuted for making false reports.
Following the Navarette ruling, decisions in courts throughout the country have been split with regards to whether an anonymous tip provides reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, and whether 911 calls are inherently reliable. Illinois courts ruling on the issue have found that whether a tip is sufficiently reliable to justify a traffic stop depends on the totality of the circumstances, including whether the tip is from an anonymous source. When the source is anonymous, consideration is given to whether the tip provided the police with sufficient information, was sufficiently detailed, and was based on contemporaneous observations.
Speak with a Trusted Illinois Attorney
If you live in Illinois and were accused of a DUI crime following a tip from an anonymous source, it is in your best interest to speak with a trusted Illinois DUI defense attorney regarding your case. Attorney Theodore J. Harvatin, of the Harvatin Law Offices, PC, has ample experience representing people charged with DUI and he will fight tirelessly to help you seek a just result. Mr. Harvatin can be reached through the online form or at 217.525.0520 to set up a meeting.