Is an Anonymous Tip Enough to Stop a Suspected Drunk Driver?
Over the past couple of years, the issue of Does an anonymous tip of drunk driving justifies a traffic stop has surfaced across the country.
This has forced judges, attorneys, and citizens to consider this issue more seriously. Most state courts and the only federal circuit court to rule on the issue have held that police may immediately stop the driver without violating the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. On the other hand, a minority of states, including Virginia, have ruled that uncorroborated anonymous tips of drunk driving do not justify a traffic stop.
In the states that have upheld traffic stops based upon anonymous tips of drunk driving, most have said that you only need enough information in order to identify the vehicle before the traffic stop can occur. In states such as Virginia, more than a mere anonymous tip is required in order to pull over a vehicle on suspicion of drunk driving.
The Virginia Supreme Court ruled that because the officer failed to independently verify that the driver was driving dangerously, the stop violated the 4th Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. In 2009, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to decide the validity of the Virginia Supreme Court decision requiring police officers, following a reportedly drunk driver, to do nothing until they see the driver do something unsafe on the road.
Although the U.S. Supreme Court declined to decide the issue, the growing trend among state courts is to allow traffic stops based solely upon anonymous tips.
Colorado is currently among those states that have yet to rule on this issue, so it is impossible to know for sure where it will fall on the spectrum of philosophies. That decision may be based upon a number of factors and understanding the case law and arguments from other states and jurisdictions will surely be necessary if faced with this issue.
If you or someone you know has any questions or is dealing with this issue or another issue concerning an arrest for D.U.I or D.W.A.I., please contact Timlin & Rye by email or phone.
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